The little things – BJJ 24/7 Liverpool Open 2016

I came back to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu this year after 7 full years away. I’ve clocked in over 150 hours on the mats at Gracie Barra Birmingham, and I’ve received two stripes from my teachers, since I’ve been back training consistently. I hadn’t competed for over 8 years. On Sunday I stepped onto the competition mats once again to represent GB Birmingham and to win as many medals as I could. 

Without giving you all a play-by-play account of getting to the venue and preparing mentally for the competition. The only goal I set myself for the competition was to qualify for the Absolutes (Openweight), through medalling in my weight category, because I thought with a range of body shapes and sizes I may fair a little bit better.

So, let’s get to the scores on the doors:

  • I fought 4 times on Sunday (twice in No Gi, and twice in Gi) and fought both Gold medal and Bronze medal matches.
  • I finished my first fight in Overtime EBI rules by submission (rear naked choke) and lost the final to a triangle submission.
  • I lost my first fight in the Gi in Overtime due to quickest escape and then lost the Bronze medal match due to a straight footlock. 

You can see footage of my fights from the competition here:

Start of first fight – No Gi:

The majority of the first fight, including the Overtime rounds:

My final for the No Gi weight division:

The overtime rounds for my first fight in the Gi:

What this competition taught me was that it’s the little things that make all the difference:

  • Carlos Gracie and Carlinhos’ vision for Jiu-Jitsu for everyone shows that starting BJJ can be tough and that some times students get disheartened because of how tough it is (evidenced in the right image about how many people stay with the sport), which is why Gracie Barra has the programme it does in its schools. I wonder how many students start, stop and then come back off a long lay off? I’m not talking the blues or purples or browns who stop because of having a family and have made BJJ a part of their life but the white belts who start and stop before reaching their potential? At 22 I knew BJJ was for me and I wanted to do it the rest of my life but my life got in the way. At 31, competing again, I know for sure Jiu-Jitsu is where I want to be and there’s nothing going to stop me from training consistently and keeping Jiu-Jitsu a present part of my life.  
  • Going in with no pressure, and some expectations, was good. I didn’t have anything to prove but I was able to do a few things I wanted to – make it till overtime without losing, get a submission, and experiencing a competition submission that I had to tap from. They may not be all great for a story suggesting invincibility but now I’ve done it I don’t need to fear it in the future. I can step on the mat and not think “can’t get submitted for the first time here”. Let’s be clear: I don’t want to be completely laissez faire about it and tap all the time but getting the first one out of the way was important.
  • The competition taught me my half-guard was more functional than I thought it was. In training you can lose sight of how good your technique is because your team-mates are used to it and are improving at a similar rate to you but now I know that if I was in life or death I could use my half-guard to defend myself and that’s not nothing.
  • I’ve picked out a few areas for private study and I know my direction now for the next few months in free sparring.
  • I also got some compliments from the other coaches, and the referee of my bronze medal fight, about my Jiu-Jitsu. That my opponents and I put on entertaining, competitive matches and that you can’t teach heart. That helped confirmed to me I am where I am on the pecking order – belt-wise – and that’s not nothing.

The adulation and celebration of my academy, and my teachers, has been immense also. It may only be amateur competition for fun but it’s still important and it’s kept the fire burning and a desire for Gold next time. Those are the little things that make all the difference.


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