Yes, finally: my first competition!
Some time ago I consulted an MMA veteran who teaches grappling and no-gi jiu-jitsu every Friday night at Fitness Unlimited. I told him I wanted to compete in MMA and he gave me some very useful advice: when you’re learning how to drive, you don’t start in a race car.
He recommended competing in jiu-jitsu first, a great entry-level fighting sport, then boxing, then Muay Thai, and finally, MMA.
Yesterday I took the first step down that path by competing in the BJJFP Friendship Games for gi and no gi jiu-jitsu and since I’m just a beginner and don’t own my own properly sized gi, I went with no gi.
These are gis, by the way, and my gi buddies:
As you can see, mine is far too large.
Let’s see, I joined jiu-jitsu and fight form classes at Fitness Unlimited in the third week of August which means I’ve had about six weeks of training two-to-four nights a week.
We do gi training on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and no gi on Friday, which is what I began to focus on in the last week or two leading up to the competition.
A month or so before joining this gym, I did two sessions of submission grappling at Team Lakay in Baguio and two Brazilian jiu-jitsu lessons at B.A.M.F. in Paranaque and that was for my foundation in the sport.
Fortunately, we have some great coaches here at Fitness Unlimited and a supportive, seriously fun group of training partners. We have two purple belts from Atos teaching gi jiu-jitsu and, as I mentioned earlier, a former pro MMA fighter teaching no gi.
I’m truly pleased I joined Team FU and signed up for this competition. Even though I hardly felt I knew enough to be competing in a sport I’d just taken up, I was eager to face a fight and this experience certainly lived up to my expectations.
The competition I joined was hosted by BJJFP, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation of the Philippines, in Mall of Asia. It was a two-day event, with the National Championships on Saturday and the Friendship Games on Sunday.
The BJJ Friendship Games are for novices–white belts who haven’t won any medals yet–so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me test my rolling skills on the competition mats.
I got there at noon, in time to watch the last of the gi matches while waiting for the no gi competition to start.
I was handed a gold medal upon arrival.
Thanks, I guess.
Either no one else signed up in my weight division or they fled the scene upon my arrival.
That moment when you realize you played the intimidation game so well nobody shows up to fight you.
Oh, for some reason I decided to wear my mouth guard in the fight even though I haven’t been training or sparring with it and I forgot that it affects my breathing.
When the gi competition wraps up there’s a short break and the no gi rollers start popping up in their rash guards.
I watch a few of the girls in the other weight divisions compete and then I start my warm up. My team mates, who had all been there since early in the morning, stuck around to wait for my fight and help me with takedown and submission drills.
As winners emerge from the other divisions, some sign up to compete in the absolute category where I had been waiting as the only name on the list with my “participation gold” medal.
My name was called and on went my game face. I was pretty nervous but at that point adrenaline more or less took over and helped me focus.
If there was one thing I wanted out of the fight, it was to get a good takedown. I had been practicing takedowns with a wrestler at the gym and was hoping to get a good slam but alas, my opponent fell into guard every time I attempted one.
If I keep practicing, go for it, and commit, next time around I know can get it. There will have to be a next time then.
Here we go, play by play:
I get in and out of her guard; we stand up again; she falls back into guard, flips over me, and gets side control. I bridge out and attempt side control but we end up back on our feet.
She tries once more to pull me into guard but I pass and get side control, only my base isn’t right so she gets one of my legs and uses that to flip me.
When she gets on top I lock her into guard and hold that for a good minute and a half while attempting a kimura submission. I can’t get it so I eventually go for an arm bar instead but my technique is sloppy and now that I’ve broken my guard she flips around and attempts side control.
I don’t let her get it but now I end up in her guard. She tries the kimura on me but I don’t give her my arm.
I get out of her guard eventually but it takes a lot of energy and as I stand up she kicks me onto my back. I have the energy to keep her from passing my open guard for maybe fifteen second but once she gets side control and puts her weight on me I’m spent.
I try to bridge out like I did the first time but I have neither the strength nor the energy to do so and my futile attempts result in her getting full mount.
With less than thirty seconds on the clock, I don’t give her a submission but it does take everything I have left to focus on breathing and counting down the seconds until the end of the round.
One five minute round and my arms and legs were jelly. The walk back to the bleachers gave me as much resistance as swimming against the tide and when I sat down my limbs were shaking.
What can I say? More than anything, I’m glad I had this experience. Also, I stayed to watch my opponent for up against another girl for the finals of the absolute division and she got her in an arm bar within thirty seconds. That made me feel quite proud of surviving that round with her.
I certainly know what to work on. I didn’t expect much, honestly. I know I haven’t been training long enough to have mastered even the basic submission techniques and I don’t know the points game either but I do see potential and I’m going to keep training.
Let’s see, I need to improve my technique, my base, my breathing, and my energy expenditure, and I need to do more five-minute sparring rounds at the gym.
I’ll happily sign up to compete again in the next month or two before leaving the Philippines but first I’m going to pack my bag and take off to the beach for a couple of days.
I’ll hit the mats again as soon as I get back and I’m also going to seriously consider getting back into boxing. I wouldn’t mind getting back into the ring for an amateur boxing match, since that is the next step in my amateur MMA journey.
Thanks for following!