Next Gen Niagara Falls

My second tournament was a lot less stressful than the first. For instance, I woke up and had a bunch of eggs and mushrooms and spinach and turkey bacon because my weight was good. I did weigh myself continuously to make sure this was still the case, but I did not have to jog around for hours in multiple layers to try and lose a few pounds to not be disqualified. We packed a bunch of snacks, got ready and headed out to Niagara with a few members of Team 4Points.

We talked about movies and restaurants and classes on the drive rather than me furiously texting with my coach about my weight and everything I ate in the past few days. It was worse than when the weight watchers lady asked me if I was sure I understood the program, because the goal is to lose weight, not gain it. (Worse as in my shame was greater, listing off my food to them. Their attitude to me at the time had been super encouraging and supportive)

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We arrived in Niagara in time to see one of the ‘kids’ compete, and congratulate a few others who won GOLD. It is worth attending these tournaments just for the team spirit and to see the 4Points Family in action. I am so proud of every single one of us that competed.

Dave and Ayisha went to eat, since they had been there all morning, but we expressly told them that they would not be forgiven if they were not back in time for our matches.

The time we had been given for the 3 girls was 1:45, so at one o’clock we got ready with our GIs on (my weight was still good, I checked) and started warming up.

The mats were super small, so we did very few drills, then found a corner and did the warm ups we had been taught the night before. Jonathon supervised, gave us pointers, and had us work on our entrances and stuff.

Joe told us we were being called for our weigh ins, so the 3 girls went over, and Arsen acted as communications specialist, letting the others know what mats we would be on. I wasn’t technically doing the first match, so he waited with me while Gözde and Dahye were whisked off to their mats. Only slightly awkward that I was left alone with my future opponent for 10 or so minutes. She was definitely shorter than me, but it looked like she was all muscle. Do I smile? Should I do my tough face to try and intimidate her? Should I introduce myself?

Luckily, I was saved from having to figure that out because Gözde’s first match started. She had warned us that she didn’t want us yelling advice or whatever, she wanted to be able to hear Dave and Ayisha, but I was practically miles away so I cheered and whooped my head off because she was killing it. She had vacillated between being numb and nervous today, but your first competition is always nerve-wracking. She dominated the whole time (from what I saw). I would barely have time to be worried when the other girl got something before Gözde was right back on top. She won by points at the end of the roll and I was beaming with pride for my BJJ Sister.

Dahye’s fight I watched slightly differently, because I knew that there was a possibility I would eventually be fighting her opponent. My mindset going into the tournament had originally been “As long as I win one match I get a medal”, then I moved into a lower weight class and it became “I hope I make weight”, then a few days before the tournament I thought, “Maybe everyone else will be newer and smaller or I’ll just surprise everyone and somehow get gold” On the day of, it was a combination of all 3, mixed with “I hope I don’t die”. (Focusing on the weight was probably silly this time, once I knew I would be good, but stressing about something I can do things to control was way more comforting than stressing out about the million things that could happen during the match that I have pretty much no control of at this point)

Gözde was waiting for her second match as mine was starting, but luckily enough Ayisha ran over, because I would have panicked without her. Not that we haven’t trained, but sometimes you blank when you’re out there and them yelling at you what to do is the only way you get through it (I am told). I think part of them coaching me like that is helpful because the part of me that is convinced I can’t do what they’re telling me to, has me try it to show them. But sometimes it works. And it’s good just to know that you have someone there if ever you do freeze.

I have seen the video, but I am going to give more of my recollection of the match, rather than a play by play.

I was awkward from the start. I was pretty sure the referee was telling us to come, but my opponent wasn’t looking at him, so I bowed and got on the mat, but she didn’t, so I almost stepped off, then he motioned for us to come and I did. I felt like I was supposed to bow to him and shake his hand, but she didn’t, then he said to start and I bowed (which we don’t ever do before rolling, Dave specifically calls out “Shake hands and go”. I don’t know why I was being weird), but she went to shake my hand, so I shook hers and it was on. She lunged at me, but I got my grips. Not close enough to confidently go for my takedown, but I probably should have tried instead of waiting and giving her time to work. She tried something, so I wrapped my arm around her head, like I always do (not because I should, it’s just what my brain feels comfortable doing). I heard Ayisha yelling at me to sprawl, so I made sure my legs were behind my butt (I have since ‘clicked’ that sprawl actually means sprawl, as in bring your knees to the ground, not just bring your legs back and hips down. I didn’t mean to half-ass it). I tried an osotogari, slightly convinced it wouldn’t work, then did it again half-heartedly when she told me to try again. I overthink things and figured she heard and knew I was coming. She drove into me and took me down, but I got her in my closed guard.

I tried to choke her with an x-choke, then heard Ayisha yelling to sweep her, so I turned to focus on that, working on an omoplata sweep when she tried to do a standing guard pass. She moved her leg way back, I tried to get it, eventually lost my guard, she tried to take my back, I evaded so she was in side control, my instinct was to hold my hand so she couldn’t Americana me, but I had just been told to not let people get me in Americana rather than trying to defend it, so I tried to get out instead of trying to resist, but she was fast and I heard the pop so I tapped.

I went over to Ayisha and Arsen, feeling completely defeated. They told me I did well, and Ayisha insisted that I know her well enough that I should believe her when she says that, and that there are a lot of things she usually needs to correct me on, and was expecting me to do, that I didn’t do. I said I believed her, but was grateful that Gözde’s second match was starting. She did amazing, but the other girl won.

For my match, I think I was mostly upset because I felt like I did so much better in my first competition, lasted longer, tried more things and resisted more. I also trained more before it, whereas this time I was listening to adjustments we had made in the past week, trying to override the things that have been second nature to me for a year. I also heard every word the other coach was saying and definitely got in my head about it. I was kind of disappointed.

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I went with Gözde to the podium so I could see her get her silver medal, but once there, Dave told us that there were less people in our weight division, so Dahye and I were tied for bronze. I had definitely thought to myself this morning that I would be super happy as long as I got a medal, but in my head I had to win at least one match to get it. It felt like cheating.

On the bright side, getting this participation medal, instead of making me feel like “I got a medal, I don’t have to compete anymore” made me feel like I need to train hard and show up in May and actually deserve the medal I get.

Joe was next, and rolled more than any of us (except for Dahye, who was super motivated and did the exhibition matches), winning his first 2 and getting silver from the third.

I was watching Ali’s match and waiting for Arsen’s mat to be decided when one of the media people asked me to do an interview on the exhibition matches. I told him I hadn’t participated, but he still asked me to say a few words, so I followed him. It was easy to talk about because I think it’s awesome that they’re giving white belts the opportunity to get some tournament experience, with less pressure, even if they didn’t fare so well in their official roll. It gives you the chance to roll with other people, to get comfortable in the tournament setting…it’s an all around win.

If that makes you wonder why I didn’t participate, the pop I heard before tapping probably wasn’t the best thing for my elbow. Once the adrenaline wore off, the pain came on, so I iced it and decided not to exacerbate it.

I missed Ali’s second match, and all of Jonathon’s, but I was back before Arsen was brought to his mat, and made sure the coaches were there once it started. As a new blue belt, I think he wasn’t expecting much, but he killed his first match. The second one was against a guy I have seen at every other tournament we have been to, placing every time. Arsen lost that one, but he still held his own and gave the guy a run for his money, making him work harder than he was expecting to land the submission.

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In the end, there were 14 competitors from 4Points that went to Niagara and 12 of us came back with medals, but every single person fought hard and did amazing.

The adult competitors, the coaches and the 3 gym members who came to support all went to the Copacabana for supper to celebrate before we drove home, determined to train hard and kill it in May.

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