September 17-18, 2016 was the IBJJF Dallas Open. This was my 5th competition. In fact, a year ago, the Dallas Open was my first competition. So, this year getting gold in my division meant that I really found the start of my game as a white belt, trained hard, listened to my coaches, and executed the techniques.
Last year at the Dallas Open I remember being completely scared about being on the mats in competition. I came from a background, especially before BJJ, of not being physically competitive in any way. No team sports, except for when I was a kid, but I didn’t stick with them. I became a musician and theater guy!
Anyway, I get out on the mat and see my opponent, not able to really size him up other than he was shorter than me, and a solid block of muscle on top. Once the match started, we got lapel grips, and his was like an iron bar fixed to my chest. I couldn’t move! Everyone on the sidelines yelling at me to break his grip. BJJ is the game of taking advantage of your opponent’s mistakes, and right then, I made the mistake of planting a foot forward to be able to give me leverage to break the grip. Instead, he reached down and grab my leg, and swept me flat on my back. At that moment all I could see was the bright lights of the gym, and tunnel vision, a complete adrenalin rush, fight or flight moment, and I panicked.
Long story short, I lasted throughout the match but lost to a handful of points. Ever since that one match I was determined to overcome that fear, nervousness, and learn to be a competitor on the mat.
I then did two smaller competitions, lost both of those. Although one of them, there was only two of us in our division and got a second place medal. I accepted it, but didn’t feel like I really earned it.
Then, in the summer of 2016 I competed in the Europa Fight 2 Win competition. I successfully took gold in my division as a 4 stripe white belt. It was the result of really focusing on finding my game and training it hard. Coach Danny Alvarez stayed on me and at the time of the matches, he was right there, and coached me to gold. It felt good!
The next competition was the Dallas Open about three months after. I kept working on that same game, my half-guard, sweeps, and playing a points game. I knew my submissions were not very strong yet and didn’t want to rely on them yet. Being a tall, long legged guy, the half-guard game fit me well.
I had two matches at the Dallas open, both very tough opponents that really made me work for the win!
Match #1 I scored 10-2 to win,
and match #2 I scored 7-0 to win,
…getting me gold in my division!
This success earned me the privilege of getting my promotion to blue belt a couple weeks after.
I know I have a lot to work on of course, and going into the blue belt level is a new focus in my game and further developing my skills, strength, and response time. I look forward to competing more, and as a benchmark competition, see how successful I am in next year’s Dallas Open 2017.