On Sunday the 18th of February we took a team of nine to Brighton to compete in the Brighton Winter Open 2018. From these nine competitors we managed to get two golds, two silvers and almost three bronzes (will explain that later).
For a lot of the guys, it was their first competition so although some of these medals where more for showing up I will count these, as your first competition is always a hard thing to get over, mentally and physically exhausting. It is not for everyone and it is a great learning experience. When you first compete you push harder than you ever will again and are constrained by this new fear of getting points against you, which although you have gone over, you still do not quite understand.
A group of us left at eight to get to Brighton for 9:45. We stopped for the obligatory coffee and sausage and egg McMuffin on the way. Deniz wasn’t sure about his weight so had to endure us eating while he couldn’t even drink water. I was my usual moody self before competitions. I have a love hate relationship with them, I hate getting up early to get to them, I hate the drive down and I hate the stale air of the leisure centres they are usually in, but to be honest this is just me getting really nervous for the guys competing or myself. The other guys in the car, on the other hand, were in good spirits. Jamal was his zen self and was coming to watch, Tim was passed out in the back and Poppy was the only other nervous passenger. Andrius was driving telling us stories from his previous competition, which had been his first in BJJ.
We arrived at the venue to the usual crowd of people in tracksuits with massive backpacks full of gis, and snacks. I am pretty sure these bags have got bigger and bigger every year, I think gis are the same size but anyway let's get back on track. Anis, Liam and Fabio from Wave South East and Hamish from West were already there getting ready for their first competition. Liam would be on first. We will go through each person's matches below, well the ones I remember.
Liam - Bronze
His first fight was an exhibition match with my friend Yusouf from Elements Brighton's student. He had a disability and wanted to feel the competition, so I agreed that Liam and he could fight, They both kneeled down and started. Liam got him on his back and managed to mount him. Then he got reversed and passed back. At this point I was conflicted as Liam had lost an advantage and for all his disabilities this guy was good, I hadn’t expected the movements and he was about to mount Liam, I wasn’t sure how much to coach at this point as I tend to get a bit excited and maybe this wasn’t the moment for that. It ended and Liam Won. I was relieved and Liam went on to lose the second fight I think it was on points.
Hamish - Bronze
Hamish fights at Super Heavyweight, he is about the same height as me, so not that tall so you can imagine that is a challenge in itself. The guy he was fighting was at list half a foot taller and stronger. It started really well and Hamish managed to pull off a great Osotogari. Although his opponent managed to get on top of him. In the end, he couldn’t handle the size difference and lost on points.
Sam won his first fight, then had a tough second fight. He caught the guy in an arm-bar and had it on tight, the guy didn’t tap. Sam didn’t want to push it further and let him go only to get caught in a triangle, it was a frustrating fight as Sam has come on a long way and is really on his way to great things at the competition. It also asks the question, do you continue till you injure someone or they tap or do you decide to stop before you injure them? I think Sam did the right thing, but at the same time, maybe the person tapping, or referee is responsible for their own injury.
Fabio - Silver
Fabio had one fight, he got taken down right at the beginning and so was down two points. Then the referee stopped the fight for the first time and said “take off your rash guard”. They resumed and Fabio was going for sweeps and almost getting them, he just didn’t want to open up. First fight nerves wouldn’t let him risk opening his guard. Then the referee stops it again “take off your watch”. At this point, I was really hoping he had an ankle bracelet or something as I have never seen this in competition before. In the end, he lost on that takedown. It was good to see that he was controlling and had he not been nervous it would have been a different story, but first fights are like this. You learn about yourself and will come back stronger in the next competition.
Anis - Silver
Unfortunately, I missed his one fight, I was coaching someone else and this is what happens when you have a lot of students competing. Anis is tough in class and am sure he will be back stronger for the next one.
Deniz - Bronze
Deniz had one fight, this was a lack of understanding of some of the points. Also he fought a very strong opponent who shut down Deniz’s guard. Deniz lost on points in the end. Again this is his first competition and I know he will be back with a better understanding for future competitions.
Andrius - Gold
Andrius lost his last competition in the first round since then he has upped his training. He comes in every day and drills and trains. He also went from being a smasher at the start to understanding the value of the technique. I expected a lot from him going into this, and he didn’t let me down. He ran through the first opponent finishing in a bread cutter choke from side control. In the second fight he fought a strong opponent at one point they were both fighting on the mat next door. This fight was his best as at one point he was in a bad spot and had to dig deep to stop the guy from passing he then got back on top and finished with an arm-bar. The act of coming back cemented him mentally for the final. The final was quick finishing with the bread cutter choke again. It was a great display.
Poppy - Gold
I know how hard Poppy trains, she is a challenge for the bigger guys at the gym and has the balance of a Disney gazelle. As with Andrius, I expected a lot from her, but in her last two competitions, she was submitted in the first round. So when her first fight started I was nervous. She started strong pulling guard as we had practised in class and pulling her opponent off balance. She swept and mounted her and was working towards an armbar. The girl rolled and poppy back mounted her and sunk in a choke, we thought the girl tapped but weren’t sure poppy checked, the girl said no she continued, this time the girl tapped and it was over in about two minutes. As with Andrius Poppy’s second fight was another exciting one and showed calm in the storm. It started well Poppy seemed to be controlling on the feet when she went to pull guard an missed the hip with the foot, giving the girl a quick pass. Poppy rolled her back was almost taken and the girl was sinking in the choke. Poppy stayed calm and easily turned into her guard and passed mounted and was going for her mounted triangle, the girl came on top but the triangle was tight, the girl was tough and Poppy turned it into an arm-bar. The final was against one of my teammates from Roger Gracie Academy Krissi. Krissi was also a tough fight, she pulled guard and Poppy and started to go for X Guard, this is where Poppy’s balance kicked in and she stayed calm and slowly passed. Krissi rolled and Poppy went for her back, Krissi pushed her off so Poppy transitioned for a Kimura and Krissi did a good job of defending until Poppy rolled her into an arm-bar.
Anthony - Bronze (almost)
So we save the best for last. Anthony is a character in the gym. This was his first competition and unfortunately, his fight was right at the end of the day. We were leaving as he arrived and he competed alone. He lost his first fight by three points. He then said he won his third place playoff, but! Got disqualified for swearing on the mat. Again this was his first competition so he will know better for the next one.
I have nothing but pride for all my students. I don’t mind losing in competition, I don’t like it but if you can’t lose there is no fun in winning. Everyone fought until the last minute and never gave up no matter the odds. There will be other competitions and if when you are down you can turn it around a little that will happen sooner in the next competition.
We don’t have the usual full time students. Our students all have jobs and train in between. We are still a small school but we train, we fight and we keep going. As we get bigger and compete more I want to keep this ethos and never forget where we started. These small competitions are as important as all the Europeans and The Worlds this is where everyone starts and Are the fun part of the journey. Heres to the all the competitions coming up this year and a lot more medals for our great little club.