Confusion and nerves are adequate descriptors of my first jiu jitsu tournament. Although happiness and excitement are probably more accurate. After being in BJJ for six months I decided that I wanted to compete. I’ve been a very competitive person all my life. My determination to win has always been there. It started in soccer when I was five and followed me to basketball in middle and my first two years of high school. It has also been present in “friendly” games of Euchre with the family. With my love of the sport and my competitive nature, I couldn’t see how I could go wrong trying a jiu jitsu tournament.
Preparing for this tournament started in in July about two months before. At this point I didn’t know what to expect. We had talked a lot at the gym and my coach had told stories. I had googled things and watched plenty of videos, but I still wasn’t 1oo% sure what I was getting into. I decided to start running more and lifting weights to try and get my body into better shape. I started researching weight classes and changed my nutrition to be healthier to help my body grow, and to make sure I would make weight.
A month before the tournament training changed a lot more. You could say we started our tournament “camp.” We slowed down on our curriculum after I picked up my 3rd and 4th white belt stripes so that we could really start to dissect moves and positions for competition. We had to learn takedowns. We had learned a couple, but we weren’t focused on competition when we learned them. We were more focused on real life situations, not situations in which the person you are going against knows what you know and also knows how to defend it. Little did we know, we should have focused more on these. We started talking about and working with point systems and time restrictions, something else that was new. Coach had those that were going to compete, two of us who were both first timers, pick 3-5 moves in which we wanted to focus on. Moves we could do in our sleep that would be our “go to.” I chose, arm bar from mount, Ezekiel choke, and a cross collar choke. We worked on those moves as well as others and cleaned things up.
The week before the tournament excitement, and nerves, were really starting to kick in. Sadly I still had to be at school, but it helped to have something else to also focus on. Tuesday the last class before the tournament we rolled light and just went through the motions of things in order to avoid injury. Wednesday rolled around and Jasmine came over to begin the two and a half hour process of corn rowing my hair. We watched a movie, and half of another as she braided my hair. Thursday was full of school, packing, and food prep. My dad and I went through the motions of some moves and chaining, because there was no way I was just sitting still that night. I went to bed with so much on my mind I’m not sure how much I actually slept.
Friday was finally here. The day we were heading the four hours to Cincinnati. But first, I had to get through school. I got out early and drove home so that we could leave. The car was packed and we were ready to go. We left home and after numerous bathroom and gas stops we made it to our hotel in downtown Cincinnati. Let’s just say it was a very unique place that we will most likely not be visiting again due to the untraceable, creepy elevator music playing throughout the entire hotel, the very sketchy gym, and we can’t forget the extra friendly receptionist. The rest of the team arrived shortly after we did. We loaded our bags into our rooms, my family having 3-4x what was needed for the one night stay, and then we all went to eat with a recommendation from our friendly receptionist. Making weight was something I was very worried about. All week I had been a couple pounds under, but it was something that was still worrying me. I wasn’t going to eat dinner, but caved and order the healthiest and my favorite thing on the menu, mac ‘n cheese. For someone who was worried about making weight it probably wasn’t my wisest decision, but it tasted good. We finished off dinner with many laughs, walked back to the hotel, explored the gym whose door had no handle and lots of broken equipment and went to our rooms. Me being me, I forgot to repaint my toes and fingers, so I quickly painted them black, then crawled into bed around eleven as they were still wet.
Tournament day is finally here! We wake up around eight, get packed up and head to the sports complex. We started with weigh ins, I stripped all the way down to my sports bra and spandex in fear of not making weight. I came in 4lbs under, even after all the macaroni I ate the night before. Once weigh ins were done they went over the rules for everyone and then tournament started. We got there at 9, and my division didn’t begin until one. They say to be there early, but we learned to not be too early. We hung out ate snacks and watched the little kids compete. Throughout the day we were called back to the weigh in area trying to figure out matches and all that stuff. For the teen division my options were two boys, one that I had a couple pounds on but he had about a years more experience or a kid that was my same level, but had about 50 pounds on me. We chose the smaller kid.
Throughout the day I went from pacing up and down the mats, stretching, headphones on, headphones off, snacking on stuff, and back to stretching. I was never really sure when my match was going to be so I wanted to make sure I was ready. It turned out I was ready 3-4 hours early. Trying not to get nervous was the hardest part. Music helped to distract me as well as talking through random things with my team and coach and watching the little girls beat the boys helped too.
My first match was nogi and was definitely a learning experience. As I stepped onto the mat I’m pretty sure my hands were shaking when we bumped and slapped hands. Because I wasn’t confident with my takedowns I decided when he went to shoot to try and pull guard. That back fired and he ended in a really heavy side control and ended up winning.When we went to put our gis on for our second match we learned that he was a blue belt. A little bit diffent than someone thats only been in it for just six months. He ended up winning both matches. Being as competitive as I am, losing was disapponting. I cried after my first match out of pure frustration. Looking back on it now, I learned a lot and I wouldn’t change how those matches went. My next class was the women’s class. I had three matches in nogi and gi. I won one of them with a guillotine in nogi in 18 seconds and they won the others on points giving me a second place finish in nogi and third place in gi.
Overall the experience of my first competition was incredible. I learned a lot about my game that I wouldn’t have ever realized without going to a competition and competing. I have another tournament a month from yesterday and I can wait to take everything that I have learned since then with me into battle.