April 12, 2010

Sun, Fun, Kali, Pan Am's.... So Cal

The Samurai lived every moment as if it were their last, in this manner they were always prepared for death. It was important to die with dignity, honor, and leaving nothing behind. No regrets. I saw this age old attitude in play on the back of a modified chair / ski in Warren Millers latest "Dynasty" over the winter, where an athlete had painted on the back of the chair "Die living." This has become my official, unofficial moto in life. And this is exactly what happened to me over the weekend. I was killed. Well... in a sense...

Though I do not hide my intent to compete, I do not go around advertising it either. Most who know me are surprised to hear I am actually rather private and quiet when it comes to most things. I had made a choice around December - January to compete in the Pan Am's, arguably BJJ's most prestigious tournament, this April. In actuality I went down to LA to train with Tim at the new Ace Jiu Jitsu Academy, and it just so happened their was a tourney as well!

I trained hard on Monday and Tuesday with Tim and the crew at Ace. Monday morning was basically a private lesson along with Ellie (Doc Chang's little brother), and late to the party James. Tim helped clean up some of the many holes in my 1/2 guard game, working a series of sweeps from the position which was worth the trip in itself! Thanks Tim, you make it look stupid simple. After the lessons I basically rolled with Ellie, James, and then another one of Tim students for about 2 hours! Taking breaks, chatting, covering technique all the while. We wrapped up and got some lunch to relax most of the rest of the day.

Tuesday I went to Ace's no gi class. A couple of us were prepping for the Pan Am's so the first 1/2 hour was all cardio of various sorts. Asa Fuller led us through intense reps of sprints, sprawls, plyo work etc. utilizing just cones and hurdles. From their we worked on a couple of finishes from scarf hold that were killer! I am not sure if Tim planned it or not, but these fit right into my side control game perfectly, and again the couple of details Tim addressed were well worth the trip itself. After class we rolled for 30-40 minutes before the kickboxing class rolled in.

In free roll I had the opportunity to spar with Asa for the first time. At first he can be a bit off putting, but I think that is solely due to his focus and nothing personal. Now obviously I was not going to do much to the 220# black belt champ, but he played with me for a bit before sweeping me, crushing me, and submitting me rather smoothly. Though only a bit bigger than me Asa is stupid strong! His technique is clean, crisp and top notch. Plus he is a black belt owner of the school who is there rolling and teaching along side partners Tim Cartmell and Chris Thue, all black belts under Cleber Luciano! If you are in the LA area you owe it to yourself to join this growing academy. At least 2 black belts teaching every class!!

My Intro To Kali
Wednesday night I got together with my friend, and older martial brother under Tim, Meynard Ancheta. Meynard is one of Leo Gaje's west coast representatives in Pekiti Tirsia Kali a Filipino system of weapon and empty hand combat, as well as being an official "Dog Brother" (Straw Dog). Some say PTK is one of the most effective arts in terms of learning realistic bladed weapon combat. I studied with Remy Presas in Modern Arnis for 5+ years, and I have been itching to get back into some down and dirty realistic knife work for quite some time now. Overall I have not found what I am looking for locally (many of the teachers in town are WAY down south and hard to get to), so I asked Meynard if he would be interested in teaching me, and he graciously accepted.

The parallels between Kali and the arts I have trained such as Xing Yi, Bagua and just about anything with Tim were uncanny. A lot of it had to with the training style in which Meynard teaches. Again modeling it after Tim, as do I, so I suppose we were both on the same page. Either way I got tons of great material that I will work on prior to bringing Meynard into Sea Town for a seminar later this summer.

Oh, the People You Meet
I took Thursday off to rest and chill before I fought on Friday afternoon. I decided to get a massage (no, not that kind you sick f@#*er's!!) at a joint close to the hotel in El Segundo. My neck and back were jacked and really needed to be pounded out with a hammer. I just so happened to get a Brazilian girl (easy fellas) and she asked me why I was in LA. I answered to train BJJ, to which she replied; "Oh, you hear for the Pan Am's?" Taken aback that she even knew what they were I asked if she trains, and come to find out she is room mates with none other than Rickson Gracie's ex wife, mother of Kron! Small world eh? I took this as a positive omen entering a tournament the next day.

Pan Am's 2010
Arguably the largest BJJ tournament ever (if not the largest, the 2nd largest) with over 2800 competitors signed up. Held over four days I was scheduled to fight in the blue belt super heavy category at 2:50 on Friday afternoon. I had 20 guys in my division, my opponent was Jerome from Ralph Gracie.

In general I felt very prepared for this tournament. I got great advice from my coaches, as I asked Tim if he saw anything last minute I need to address; "Nope. Your cardio is there, your rolling has improved. The fight is already won."
Just before my fight Brian called me (I flew solo on this trip without anyone else from NWJJA) and gave me a great pep talk and reassured me of my level and rite to be at the Pan Am's. It was great having the confidence of my two coaches echoing in my head as I stepped onto the mat to fight.

I need to address a certain something here for those who train in combat sports. You will notice no where in the paragraphs above did my coaches, nor my partners in LA ask if I was "ready." Though loved ones, and especially fellow training partners only mean well in asking, it does nothing but stress out the competitor to be constantly bombarded by "Are you ready? How is your weight? How are you feeling?" etc. etc. etc. If we are ready your questioning it makes things worse. If we are not, we do not need to be reminded. So much of this game is mental, and to be questioned constantly is sabotage from those who mean the most to us! Food for thought if you are around competitors or if a loved one competes.

The whole day is still a blur, and a bit surreal. The event was crazy! Fighters everywhere. 10 mats going simultaneously. A mix of anticipation and testosterone filled every breath. Once I got to the event my nerves were cool, and I started to warm up. I visited with some familiar faces from Seattle as Jeff Bougious was not only competing but also honing his skills as a ref for the IBJJF as well! James Foster was present with a team of guys, so we shot the shit for a bit before my fight. James is a super nice guy, and wished me all the luck in the world.

It was such chaos that when they called me and my opponent Jerome (sorry bro, do not remember your last name) to the bullpen they inspected our gi's and were supposed to weigh us, but completely forgot to and took us right to the mat. Within a few minutes I was ordered onto the mat. Everything happens so fast! Looking back at the video (I hope to post soon) I can dissect the match.

My opponent was about my height and looked a little slimmer. I thought nothing of it as he pulled guard on me and we settled in. Immediately he started sitting up to try and sweep me over in a white belt killer, and as I tried to push him back down I was completely taken aback by how uber-strong this guy was! I mean retard strong!!! In hindsight I can honestly say I have never competed against someone so strong, and keep in mind I got schooled by a strong beast in March at the Revolution tourney! Jerome was VERY strong!

I noticed that he was holding his breath (may have attributed to his bursts of superman strength), and I couldn't get his legs open, so I stood and basically rape choked him in an effort to get him to open up. After a couple of attempts he did open his guard where I immediately built my shield. I was solid and started to work a pass when he flailed his legs and booted me twice in the face, the first time in my chin lightly, the second time I got nailed right in between the eyes hard enough to get knocked back on my butt. This is where the proverbial shit starts to hit the fan!

I immediately attempted a leg attack, but my position was not right, so I pulled 1/2 guard and tried to access the situation. He quickly stripped my legs apart and passed with a pass Brian just showed me the previous week. Jerome is in side control.

My recollection of time is skewed and screwed in hind sight, but as I watch the tape I notice that he is VERY aware of the time, constantly looking at the clock. At this stage there was still approx. 2 minutes left. He was not crushing me, but I was pinned pretty solid as I attempted escape after escape with no success. He actually got called at least once for stalling which I kinda of agree with, but kinda don't. He was riding the clock out pinning me until the last 30 seconds, as he was up 5-0 points wise. He patiently played a competition strategy waiting until it was damn near impossible for me to beat him on points, and then attempted a gi choke which he got and was solid with. I tapped with seconds to go.

I wanted to try my patented Ballard Bridge Sweep, but I was afraid if my arm got stuck outside his body I would not get it back. If i would have known how the fight was going to end I would have tried it.

Both Tim and Dana asked if I was okay when they saw me, as I had a welt right where my third eye would be and was bleeding from the kick. I guess with the adrenaline I did not feel any of it. Bruised ego was all the damage I took. Overall a great experience though. I need to work on my upper body strength as even the "old men" are strong!

The best aspects from the Pan Am's was once again the great camaraderie and sportsmanship throughout. I saw only one case contrary where some douche bag purple belt through a fit by kicking a garbage can all over coming off the mat after losing. I saw later he still medaled. If I were his instructor I would have made him clean it up on his hands and knees. Perhaps next time leave some of that energy on the mat and the outcome will be better!

I had two guys (Dev and Mike, I think!?!?) come up and ask about this very blog! Wow! What a pleasant surprise! Always nice to see my blog is reaching out to those in the community, and is received well. Really nice guys!

Also a big congrats to Brian from Oregon. We met at Tim's seminar I believe in Portland, and he took silver in the biggest division there: blue belt middle adult (100 competitors!!!!)! 7 matches, 5 sub's, one point win, and his final loss was by 2 points! Great job brother!

I learned a lot. Had fun, and got some needed sun. I look forward to participating in more IBJJF events, and pushing myself to new levels. Hopefully next time I can finish my blog entry with a pic of me getting a medal. On to the NOVA Cup next month. Wish Shadow and me luck! No rest for the wicked!


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