I had my first ever grappling competition experience yesterday. I have trained far more no-gi than gi and resolved to enter a few comps in both this year. Although I’d enter white belt in Gi competition for obvious reasons, so that there was no chance of being denounced as a ‘ringer’, I entered the intermediate bracket. No-Gi comps, as far as I can tell, are split on years trained and intermediate is 1-3 years experience, clearly though if it was a gi comp, this would actually be the blue-belt division. The rules were as per IBJJF.
It was a good day for our team with a few of the guys taking gold in their respective divisions. But although on reflection I enjoyed the experience, on the day I wasn’t having the best time. First of all the waiting….man…. the waiting!! Got there at 10am and didn’t fight until just before 3pm. 5 hours is a long time to wait around to have potentially one fight.
Secondly the nerves: I have fought Amateur MMA before and am familiar with the adrenaline dump and all that goes with it. But the waiting around makes it ten times worse. Also that whole thing that always goes on at competitions and MMA events of everyone clocking each other trying to work out who their opponent is can be disconcerting. I realised who mine was after he realised his was me. I worked out it was him as every time I looked up I seemed to catch him staring at me!!
My benchmark for the day was just to win my first match, anything else would be a bonus. I competed against Ben Harrison of Phoenix MMA who is a blue belt in BJJ. He was a fair bit smaller than me and younger (if there was a seniors division I would have been in that). The match started with the usual feeling out process. We clinched up and he managed to get a trip but I immediately transitioned to an armbar and it was tight. Hand-on-heart I thought I felt him tap and lost concentration for a second, but no excuses, even if he had tapped I shouldn’t have relaxed until the ref stopped it. After the match he told me the armbar was on but he felt me relax and used that to escape. Competition Lesson 1: Commit 100% to all techniques you throw!
He escaped the armbar and in the scramble caught a leg and went for a knee bar. I triangled my legs to defend and again we scrambled a bit and I caught an overhook and he took half guard. I can’t remember every transition right now, but from there on I almost cinched a brabo choke in but couldn’t quite get it on, had a near mount and had another shot at a guillotine from top, but he defended all really well. I didn’t see the scoreboard during or after the fight, but I must have been up on advatanges at least. Then came Competition Lesson #2: Don’t ignore the basics of each position!! One of the first things I ever learned in grappling was never put your hands on the mat when in guard. Nevertheless when he managed to get to guard, for some inexplicable reason I posted out on my right arm onto the mat with my posture far too far forward and my left hand not placed correctly so as to block his right leg from coming over. This was all he needed and he pushed my left hand through, collected my right arm and threw up a triangle that went in tight straight away. I made “struggling to breathe noises” which only encouraged him to sink it in tighter and that was all-she-wrote. I had to tap. So after my 5 hour wait my first competition experience was done in just over 2 minutes.
I did learn from it, and kicked myself pretty hard afterwards. Although I got beat pretty easy, I did enjoy the experience. Would I do it again: Definitely. Will I make those mistakes again: No way! So I guess in that sense, it was a good education. I will try and add the fight video to this post sometime soon.
*****UPDATED WITH VIDEO*******