This may sound silly but now that I have two tournaments under my belt I feel confident to say the most stressful part is the lead up. The basics of getting there on time with a shifting start time and figuring out where you need to go and what you need to do are what give me the most stress. Once I get figure out where to go and get successfully weighed in I mainly feel excited to get on the mat and test my skill in such a high intensity environment.
The competition felt a little steeper in this tournament and I started my gi matches facing a four stripe white belt. He pulled guard on me which I actually don’t face very often at my gym so I didn’t have any great counters prepared. I went to step over his leg and begin passing but did a poor job stuffing his knee and ended up getting either locked in closed guard or swept, its a little bit of a blur. The remainder of the match was spent with me attempting to gain some ground defensively. I went through a range of being smashed on bottom to getting stuck in closed guard. I was never in any submission danger and did a much better job progressing my half guard positioning. I left this match feeling solidly defeated losing 0-11. But also like I had improved my half guard pretty significantly over the last few weeks since my previous tournament with getting my knee in defensively and advancing further than just going between mount and half guard. My main take away’s from this match were that I need some highly refined half guard sweeps and closed guard escapes.
My following match was the gi consolation match. We started the match locked into each other standing each making attempts to take the other down to no avail for the first 2-3 minutes. He eventually was able to get the better of me and took me down and followed with a guard pass. This match is almost a total blur for me but I again was never in any real submission danger. I ended up losing this match 0-5 but remember feeling like it was much closer and that I totally had the ability to win this match. My main take away’s from this match were that I need to work on my take-downs and my recovery when I am taken down. It seems like when I get taken down it is really hard for me to recover from that and turn the tides but I know that is something that I can work to improve.
After those two matches I knew that for no gi I needed to get into an offensive cycle. That was my goal going into my first no gi match. This match started once again with me getting taken down. He was holding me down really well but I was not making it easy for him. I was making sure to lock his leg down and bridge to make space and get my knee in. He was doing a good job maintaining position on me and got me locked down in half guard and was just holding me there. I was attempting to free my head by posting in his arm pit and bridging but failed to do so (needed to tuck my head at the same time to make it work).
After probably three failed attempts it occurred to me that I hadn’t tried to bridge the other way and as soon as I did I got the sweep! I landed in top half guard with him flat on his back and squeezing onto my leg with everything he had. I then got into my own way and was overly concerned about losing the position I had just gained and failed to realize I need to post on his chest and pry my leg out with my other leg. My fear in the moment as best as I can remember was him bridging me off while I attempted that but after reflection I realized that fear was unfounded. If he did in fact bridge while I attempting that he would simply be giving me exactly what I had wanted… a freed leg and furthermore my base would have been placed square on his chest which would leave me unaffected from the bridge and likely landing in mount. I ended up losing this match 2-5 and was that one decision away from taking home the victory. My take aways from this match where the details on how to free my leg fully sinking in and that I need to be looking for the path of least resistance more frequently. I mainly left this match feeling proud that I had committed to getting in an offensive cycle and did just that.
My forth and final match felt like an opportunity to get out their and see what I could do. This match I once again got taken down and then got mounted. I was able to get into half guard pretty quickly and advanced from there. I don’t remember how we got here but I ended up in guard and got him down with a dummy sweep. We had a scramble and then ended up in the same position and I got another dummy sweep. This time I was able to take mount and saw an opportunity for a kimura and went for it. I got it set up and locked in and was exerting good pressure and control. I cranked it a decent ways up his back and realized that he was very flexible and began to grow cognizant that I don’t want to over commit to this submission. I don’t recall exactly what happened next but I believe he broke my grip and the tried to stand up. While he attempted that I was able to take his back and sink in the choke. As soon as I began to work the other arm in time ran out and I ended up winning the match 6-2. My take aways from this match were that if I had stepped my leg over his head while working the kimura I might have had enough control to finish him. It felt really good to get a win in and end the day 1-3 instead of 0-4.
These two tournaments were probably a little too close together get give myself adequate time to refine my skills but I am glad that I did them both. I am left feeling like I have improved since my last tournament and got really good indicators as to what I need to focus on going forward. I feel so accomplished in just over coming the fear and doing my best. Facing down these types of challenges just feel so rewarding even without getting a medal this time. I know once I address the gaps the I uncovered from these tournaments my game is going to be at another level.
I am going to continue to work on strengthening my bottom half guard. Focus on mastering some bottom half guard sweeps. Work some escapes from closed guard. And overall just focus on the basics of staying tight, battling harder during transitions and just cleaning up more of the basics.
Thanks for the read, let me know below what your experience was from your first tournaments. Follow the blog to get email updates on when a new post goes live!