Tag Archives: chicago open

More Lessons from the IBJJF Chicago Summer Open

I wrote last week about my experience at the IBJJF Chicago Summer Open and some of the “lessons” I took away from it. This post is just a continuation of that with a few more thoughts on the competing experience. By the way, here’s the “video blog” I put together for it.

Here we go, random and wordy, but hopefully useful to someone out there:

Open Class Excuses

My division was on at 9am in the morning and the absolute division didn’t start until 6pm at night. So there’s about a 7-8 hour wait between the two. That’s plenty of time for my body to start providing excuses for not doing the open class division. I was sore, mentally down due to losing my finals match, and also just mentally and physically tired as anyone would be after a hard training session. I went to Starbucks, relaxed and “forced” myself to not think about jiu jitsu or anything related to competing. I just read a little Camus on my Kindle, and enjoyed an excessive amount of fruit that I bought on sale at a supermarket across from the venue. There was a 5 lbs bag of apples on sale for $2.99. I couldn’t resist.

I went from not feeling like competing any more to being curious about how well I’ll do to wanting to kick some ass! 😉 My mind is a damn rollercoaster sometimes when it comes to stressful things like competition. I just try to ride out the lows, and capitalize on the highs. When I was feeling good, I went back to the venue and just watched jiu jitsu for a while. A couple of hours later they called my division, and I said “why the hell not”. I put on my cold wet gi, and went down to the mats with a stupid happy smile on my face.

I think Bill Cooper said in an interview somewhere that he brings two gi’s to a tournament so that he could put on a fresh gi after he fills the first one with the nervous sweat of the first several matches. I think that’s a great idea, and maybe one day I’ll actually be smart enough to go through with an idea like that.

Tired is Good for Learning, Fun, and Winning

I’d hate to make prophetic generalizations, but based on my experience, some of my most fun and educational matches have been when I was tired from having already fought 4-6 matches earlier on in the day. I stop caring about stupid stuff, and just step on the mat relaxed and confident. The first several matches release the nervous energy that I still bottle up as a relative beginner.

One of the things that I notice mentally is that I stop caring about winning or losing, but care more about executing my techniques to the best of my ability, and working towards a  submission. It seems like an obviously desirable state of mind to go to, but it’s not easy for me to achieve on cue without first getting a few matches in.

Big Competition Teams

I’m just a blue belt, and my opponents are just blue belts, but especially for the finals, some guys have roaming armies of loud supportive teammates. It’s cool to see a sea of Alliance, Gracie Barra, CheckMat, Atos, or Lloyd Irvin shirts all really excited if their guy is winning, and all really pissed off (usually at the ref) if their guy is losing. I like going against guys with a big cheering section, because I feel like it gives me an opportunity to earn their respect as a good clean competitor with solid fundamental jiu jitsu.

It’s cool to have friends and teammates there, but to me it’s not essential for the actual match. What is important is that a coach is there or at least gets to break down the video with me after the tournament. Josh has helped me tremendously by breaking down most of the matches I lost in recent tournaments and specifying the things I need to fix. I view tournaments as learning experiences, and that’s why analyzing video of tournament matches is pretty much one of the most important things you can do as part of that experience.

Reffing Ain’t Easy

As a quick closing note, let me mention that I had a conversation with one of the IBJJF refs after my division was done, and he was saying that after attending many of the ref courses IBJJF offers before the tournaments, he still feels like he has a lot to learn about the game of sport jiu jitsu. It made me realize that people who complain about the rules often don’t understand the intricate details of those rules.

It’s important to learn the rules! You don’t have to, of course, but then you better be dominating your opponents on points, or better yet, submitting everyone.

My Experience at the IBJJF Chicago Open

I traveled to Chicago this weekend to visit friends and to compete in the Chicago Open. It’s put together twice a year by the IBJJF in Chicago. I don’t like to compete that far away from home, but I’m using the tournament as a way to ensure I see my friends at least twice a year. Speaking of whom, to the left is a picture of Matt, Allen, and me half way through the long day.

I was able to get silver in my weight and bronze in absolute (see results page). It’s not the result I came there for, but the experience was great. I got a lot of matches and learned a lot. That’s why this blog post will probably be way too long, and filled with random thoughts. I’ll try to write about the small and big lessons I learned, at least the ones that are easy to put into words.

The best part was being reminded how much I love the people in the  jiu jitsu community. The kind of folks that compete at these tournaments are a rare breed. They come from all sorts of different backgrounds, but all have grounded character, a weird sense of humor, and an exceptional drive to succeed in all aspects of life.

Overall, I enjoyed the matches I won (a bunch, all by submission), but my mind has been going over and over the two matches I lost. Both of them I lost 2-0. Both were against good aggressive guard pullers that play the de la riva, berimbolo, fifty fifty games.

So first, here is the video blog I put together about the experience, and after that, is a bunch of random lessons learned:

I apologize for the monotone and at time ridiculous commentary. I try to let the coffee do the talking but that usually only lasts about 20 seconds. Alright so here are some “lessons”…

Gi Size: Avoid Surprises

Against my better instincts, and general common sense, I competing in a new gi that I’ve only trained in a couple of times. It was a Gameness Air gi, which I bought because of how light it is (like 0.5 lbs makes a difference…). It’s a great gi, generally speaking, but in my experience, what makes a “great” gi is mostly how well it fits on my specific body. I have 5 Fuji A3 gi’s and all fit differently. Anyway this gi was too big on me, especially in terms of the length of the sleeves. I got swept in my first match with the sleeve pulled all the way over my hand which was a new and disorienting feeling. There are technical details here that I’ll have to work on that have to do with left-sided base and scrambling in an entangled gi, but the main lesson to keep in mind is: compete in a gi that has already seen many battles in training (and preferably competition).

Renting a Car is a Good Idea

I always try to minimize the amount of money I spend on a tournament. In the spirit of that, I do things like bring my own food, don’t stay overnight at a hotel, carpool as much as possible, and if needed take public transportation. I usually embrace the chaotic labyrinth of transfers that is the subway and bus systems of the world. But this somehow becomes exponentially more difficult in many cases when used to get to and from a tournament. There are already a million things on my mind the hours before a tournament. The need to keep track of bus numbers and train stops adds too much to think about. Maybe I’m just over-stressing it, and once I get more used to competing at certain venues, public transit will be okay, but at least this time, renting a car helped me out.

This is especially true given that my division was on at 9am, and so I had to leave Matt’s house at around 7:30am. If I was taking a train I would probably need to be standing at a bus stop somewhere at 7am on Saturday morning, wondering why the hell I do such crazy things.

Cutting Weight is a Great Warm Up

When I arrived at the venue (at 8am) and checked my weight, I was 2 lbs over. I was ready for this and partially was hoping I was a little over, because I was also 2 lbs over at Worlds, and the experience was positive then. This may seem ridiculous, but being over by 1 to 2 lbs forces me to have a hell of a good warm up, the result of which I drop the 2 lbs. I calmly changed and waiting until 8:30am. I jogged for 10 minutes and then did about 100 burpees. From experience, I knew that the sweat I built up was more than 2 lbs by a little. I also knew that the test scale was a little heavy. When they called my name 5 minutes later, I was warmed up, awake, alert, ready to go, and 3 lbs lighter than 30 minutes before.

The lesson here is not to come in overweight, but rather that a good hard warm up is important, and very often skipped in competition. People for some reason are worried about tiring themselves out. That’s just an excuse we feed ourselves, and I know I do this a lot. So my goal for the next tournament is come in under weight, but still to go through a good 2-3 lbs warm up.

To be continued…

I jotted down a few more “lessons” in a notebook. This post is already ridiculously long, so I’ll save it for another post.

Overall the experience was great. I saw a lot of of the same faces, old friends, new friends, random facebook friends, and shady hipsters at the many Starbucks I visited to get some programming done.

By the way, I’m trying to maintain a good diet to get rid of some of that summer fat. This was my breakfast the day after the tournament. Roast beef and carrots!

Friends and Jiu Jitsu in Chicago

I grew up in Chicago, from middle school to college, and love to visit there as often as I can. I flew there last weekend to visit Matt and to compete in the IBJJF Chicago Winter Open. I also got a chance to train at the New Breed Chicago jiu jitsu academy.

IBJJF Chicago Winter International Open Championship

I don’t feel like writing too much about how I did this time. I’ve been dealing with it quietly for the past week. People that asked me how I did know how I did.

Nothing special happened. I performed well, but fell short. I’m not proud of my performance, but I’m proud of the fact that I did it. I stepped on the mat. That’s more than I can ever ask of myself.

One thing is for sure, I need to compete more in order to get comfortable with competing.

While performing a knee-cut pass, I took a well-aimed headbutt to my forehead and got a good cut above my eye. I should’ve probably gotten stitches, but superglue was good enough.

In the picture to the right, I just finished my last match, with some blood and disappointment still left on my face. The thing I love about the sport of jiu jitsu, especially in competition, is that it’s humbling in a way that very few things in my life have been. It forces me to be honest with myself, leading to a bipolar ride through a stream of pessimistic and optimistic thoughts… from thinking “what the hell is the point of it all?” to walking around truly happy with a stupid smile on my face.

New Breed Jiu-Jitsu Chicago

Mark Vives is the head instructor of New Breed BJJ Chicago. I had a great class and training session there after the tournament. We drilled a ton of takedowns, passes, and closed guard submissions. Good solid fundamentals. Doesn’t get better than that. Best place to train in Chicago!

He himself also competed, and is definitely one of the black belts that’s exciting to watch. He takes risks, goes for submissions, always trying to improve position. One thing he said stuck with me: “When you compete, you don’t lose. You either win or you learn.” It’s a good way of putting an old adage. He doesn’t force his guys to compete, but leads by example, and as a result a ton of his guys follow him into battle.

Visiting Matt

Matt (pictured to the right with me after an indoor soccer game) has been a close friend of mine through middle school, high school, college, and beyond. We don’t see each other as often as we like, but just often enough that we get to do the essentials: argue about something stupid, discuss impossibly big life questions, and have a bunch of good conversation over beer, vodka, and food ranging from extremely healthy to extremely unhealthy.

We definitely both have gotten older (more injured) and wiser (more cynical), but at the core I think we’re both still the same people. Oh and here are some quick clips of Matt playing goalie at a coed indoor soccer league. It made me miss soccer for sure:

Old School Jiu Jitsu: “You’re My Boy, Blue”

I registered for the IBJJF Chicago Open today and paused for a moment when I saw a note that said I can register for the Masters division if I was born in 1982 or before. I’m just one year away from that.

I have been casually following the winners of IBJJF events (Pans, Worlds, Europeans, Chicago, New York, etc) in the blue belt middleweight division (which is my current division). The people that place (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) without exception that I could find are all in the 18 to 21 year old range.

It’s a reflection of a lot of factors, but in my experience the difference between 18 and 28 can be boiled down to cardio and agility. Whether justified or not, I kind of feel like Clint Eastwood. These young kids might have their tricks, but I got my old school basics. They can run around all they want, but eventually I’ll wear them down with heavy fundamentals and pure guts.

By the way, I’m kidding with this post. 28 is by no means old. I will say though that I think one of the big things that gets in the way as an amateur BJJ’er like myself gets older is the responsibilities I have off the mat. I try not to let work kill me too much, but on many days (like today) it really takes away from my training.

But I draw inspiration from the warriors that never stop fighting, like Blue from Old School. You’re my boy, Blue…

Apparently, Chicago is for Lovers not Fighters

Capone Chicago

The state that brought us Al Capone passed a bill (House Bill 1490) in June banning boxing and full-contact martial arts contests that are not explicitly approved “by the Department” or as it is commonly known “by the Man”.

The event organizers have to demonstrate that they conform to a strict set of rules defined by the government including the requirement that they pay %3 on the first $500,000 gross income and %4 on the rest.

This might not be a huge deal for large events, but for the smaller guys, it’s a major problem. One example is the IBJJF Chicago Open that was scheduled for August 21st and that I was planning to attend with several other people. The event is now on hold until further notice.

Will a respected IBJJF organization be willing to operate in a state that wants it to follow a complicated bureaucratic process in order to host an event that most other states give it the full freedom to do without it?

Chicago is the city where I grew up, in that I went from middle school to college there, and it saddens me to see it give so little love to those that fight. Al Capone would be sorely disappointed.

Black Belts and Fire Sprinklers

My day started at 10am when I was woken up by the sound of running water. My landlord installed fire sprinklers in the building last week. Today, they were testing them by turning the pressure up to “200 pounds” and seeing if any of the sprinklers fail.

One of the ones in my apartment did fail, soaking the majority of the room. My first reaction was to yell “What the f***!” I’m not sure who I was addressing, but it seemed like the right thing to do. Then I heard a voice from downstairs yell back: “Sorry, dude!” Reminded me a lot of Office Space.

I grabbed a cup of coffee, my gi, and went out the door to go train at Jared’s. Every guy there was tougher than the next, including as Mike said: “the world’s two best blue belts”. He was just joking, but when he said that, I realized how much I wish I’d gone to Worlds, and that I’m definitely going next year. Of course, there are many high-level tournaments before then that I really need to start medaling at. Andrew is game for the Chicago Open in August. And I think Jared and a few others might be going to the Boston Open.

In training, I opened up (as I have more and more recently) and tried different guard passes. Even tried lefty passes to help make sure my base is strong no matter what grip I have. X-pass is working well. The part I struggle with is stabilizing side control. I’m most successful when I really force a strong knee-on-belly right from the x-pass.