This is a new blog/journal to Onthemat.com where I, Ben Bieker, am going to chronicle my competitions from the perspective of a white belt. This weekend, I competed in the Samurai Pro JJ event that took place at Cal State Dominguez Hills. It was my third event in my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu career after competing two times earlier this year. I hope to compete two or three more times this year, and you gawkers and fans of On The Mat can follow along with me on my journey.
This is the first event I felt mentally and physically prepared for. I had steadily lost weight from my all time high of 202 all the way down to 190. That weight has was made comfortably, but it is still a bit off from my ideal competition weight. For this event I needed to weigh 194.5 with my Gi, and thanks to the SSC 550 from OTM Fight shops I made weight no problem. The problem is, with most BJJ tournaments, do not expect to start on time, and after waiting nearly three hours past the original start time I was hungry and dehydrated by the time my bracket started.
In my mind, before the event, I did not have any nerves. The holes in my game had been closing, I had taken down eight straight opponents at my gym, and slowly I was evolving from learning BJJ to developing my own game. The problem is that I still adrenaline dump. No matter how much I work on my cardio, or roll for many hours straight I always seem to tire out too quickly. I was hoping that would not happen this time as I felt prepared in my mind.
Mishaps started as soon as we weighed in. One opponent didn’t show so the competitors went from four to three, one opponent was over by almost a pound but they allowed him to compete, and the last participant was near six foot three. While the last one does not sound like such a big issue most of my game comes from my legs and hips, and it seem to be negated by lankier opponents. None the less it was time to compete and those issues had to empty out of my head. Unfortunately, I was wrong since there was only three of us, and I was without an opponent. So, I had to face the loser of the first match. That meant I had to sit by and wait an additional twenty minutes while the loser of the first match rested, to face me.
Finally, it was time to compete. I felt overly confident in my takedowns and wanted to complete one, but that is easier said than done. I tried to set it up so I could drop down to my butterfly guard and secure the sweep, but it never came. So, I pulled guard and within the first thirty seconds I secured a sweep. Trying to move past half guard, I raised my hips too much, and my opponent and I were scrambling. Ending up on my back, I locked in a straight armlock by over-hooking my opponents arm. Unable to position myself to finish the submission I let go after I felt myself straining and tiring. From there I was able to lock in an armlock off my shoulder. I had it deep. Unfortunately, I roll with my eyes closed, and I heard a large slapping noise on the mat. I thought my opponent tapped. He didn’t, but with a split second of loosening my grip he escaped the submission. So, I tried to take his back, but only secured another sweep. Once again I was not able to control, and another scramble ensued. I ended up in my opponents guard, and being up 4-0 on points I wanted to ride the twenty seconds left out. The ref told me that I was stalling, but with only ten seconds left I was not going to make a mistake that would cost me a win.
With my first match out of the way I was tired, my joints ached, and my muscles were dead. I should have taken the extra the tourney officials offered, but I felt fine. My opponents at this point had ample rest and as clearly a lot fresher. For some reason, I wanted to go for a takedown again even though most of my game is based off my guard work. He pulled guard on me and I just settled in. I tried my hardest to use great posture and break his guard, but even when I broke his legs apart my muscles were tapping out on me. Eventually, he swept me over to mount. Trying to escape, he took my back. From there I was just in purely defense mode. I tried repeatedly to get his hooks out, but by the time I escaped his first collar choke my energy was gone. Rolling to my back, I tried to get him off by shucking after getting one hook out. The problem was he just spun to put the hook back in when I gave the space, and he locked in another collar choke. Grabbing the hand to give my me space was no option, my body was done, and I was forced to tap. My match jitters had gotten the best of me again.
Talking with numerous experienced BJJ rollers they say tournament jitters never leave, but they do get easier with time. This is only my third tournament, and although I went 1-1 I still secured silver. Next weekend is the North Americans which takes place in the same auditorium as the Samurai event. I will be competing in the same weight class, but the division is exponentially larger with at least eight people competing, but it should be fun. With just a week in between tournaments I hope the anticipation is not as much. From there it is on to Best of The West 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the end of September. If all goes well I should be able to lose the additional weight to make it down to about 180, and that will secure my goal weight. Stay tuned for future editions of tournaments from the perspective of a white belt as I, hopefully, work my way up to a gold medal.