Tag Archives: new york open

Don’t Watch the Clock

When I competed at the NY Open this weekend, I was twice caught in a realization that I was winning and that there was very little time left in the match. I didn’t start stalling but I was distinctly aware of the thought that I don’t need to score any more points. “Don’t take risks” I thought. What that amounted to was “don’t do anything”.

Depending on your personality, the pressure to win can be counter-productive in the long term, and for me, it very much is. Let me explain…

Looking back at the matches I lost over the last two years, I lost because I didn’t want to “take risks” or (more clearly) I didn’t believe in my technique. That mindset leads to a lot of wins by 2 points, by 3 points, by 5 points. At the brown and black belt level, that’s a solid performance. At the blue belt level, to me, that’s an embarrassment. The good guys in my division submit everyone (including other good guys), except for the 1 or 2 people with whom they have a close war. That’s who I want to strive to be.

When I’m up by 2 points, I want to strive for 2, 3, 4 more points. I want to work for the submission, even if that means I lose the match. Because if I am content to win by 2, I will never develop into the kind of competitor I want to be on the mat.

What’s needed: A supreme confidence that my cardio and guts is tougher than my opponent’s.

How to achieve it: Push myself past the limit of exhaustion often though training, through running, through anything. In other words, refuse to quit. It’s easy to say, hard to do. But I can say that I’ve begun seriously working on it, and will be ready for Worlds.

Long Road Back to Worlds

This is a tough one to write. I’m disappointed; just spent a few minutes looking through the screen lost in thought about life, the absurdity of pursuing goals, setting new goals, etc. I guess you can call these the dark moments after a tournament. I performed worse than I wanted, losing my last match by 2 points. I won’t say anything more about the matches except that I earned a total of 6 advantage points throughout the tournament for almost passing. That says it all to me.

The IBJJF put up a picture of my loss. I made it my computer’s desktop background to remind myself of what I was missing today.

The main reason for my disappointment is that I wanted to win gold as a confidence boost for Worlds in 5 weeks, and the reason I didn’t win is because my heart wasn’t in the match. That’s a crushing realization, and calls for a few changes in my training. It’s time to get serious. I have to build confidence in my technique and my cardio. I know exactly the things that need to be done. Given how much responsibilities I have at work, the things I know I need will be that much harder to get into my schedule. But I’ll do my best.

Thanks for everyone’s support, and congrats to the many new and old jiu jitsu friends that I ran into today. Everyone who I saw compete fought their asses off.

My Experience at the IBJJF New York Open

Today, I competed at the 2011 IBJJF New York Open. It’s a big tournament that I think is envisioned to be the East Coast brother to the Pan Ams.

My division (blue belt, middle) had 37 guys. I won my first two matches, and lost my third. I spent some time on my back, which is a new thing for me, and played a relaxed butterfly guard, getting an x-guard sweep on each of my three opponents. I enjoyed the fact that my opponent’s aggression in every case was not a chaotic beginner aggression, but just spurts of power behind excellent technique. In particular, I really enjoyed the x-guard fight with the last guy who fought it hard, looking to pass as opposed to not get swept.

My loss came to a left-sided triangle that my opponent was looking for the whole match. He kept trying for armbars and triangles with excellent hip movement which made passing his guard a lot trickier since I had to constantly be on the defensive.

I watched his next match against a much more aggressive opponent, and realized that perhaps one (of many) of my problems revealed by this tourney is I was too chill. This kind of aggression (grip breaking, constant movement) seemed to nullify the submission attempts well. Anyway, the guy that beat me went on to win the division.

Overall it was a good experience, not the least of which was the transportation. I took a $15 bus up to NYC from Philly and took the same bus back. I slept almost all of the way there and back. And when I wasn’t sleeping, I was working, so it was productive too! I think being well-rested made the tournament experience more enjoyable. Also I weighed in 6 lbs under (with my gi) after a big breakfast. 181 lbs division is a good one for me for these tourneys. I have too much stressful work that fills my week to be able to make the cut for same-day weigh-ins. Ultimately, I lost because my technique wasn’t good enough, and coming down a weight class won’t fix that. Training harder and smarter will.

Taking Time Off Before a Competition

Last year I competed, on average, every other weekend. Mostly judo, but some jiu jitsu too. What made competition an enjoyable experience for me was competing often and treating it as just another hard training session (where my opponent tries harder than usual). As in most aspects of my life, turning something into a habit makes it much more natural to fit into my schedule which is overcrowded by work-related activity.

Due to a recurring shoulder injury, shift of focus from judo to jiu jitsu, and a change in training regimens and teams, I struggled to get back into the same regular mode of competing in late 2010 and early 2011.

I missed 3 major competitions in 2011 due to the same shoulder injury. I hated how it felt as just another lame excuse. The essential problem is that my favorite technique from the feet is exactly what causes this injury, and even minor tweaks take weeks to heal back to anywhere near 100%.

All that being said, I’ve been really looking forward to the IBJJF New York Open (this upcoming weekend). I was very nervous about the shoulder injury, but training hard twice a day for several weeks leading up to it. Of course, as the gods would have it, I rehurt the shoulder Tuesday night, but not bad, just bad enough where it hurt and felt weak. I tried training Wednesday morning and it still hurt (worse). So I stopped right away and decided to take the next 3 days before the competition off. This is something that many people have said is a good thing to do anyway (even without injury) to let your body and mind recover. And also to get your mind to the restless state where you are itching to get on the mat by the day of the tournament. I never liked this idea, but the injury is forcing me to try it.

I’m not sure where my shoulder will be Saturday, but I’m competing without excuses no matter what. However, I have to be smart about it… With a division of 37 people and more in absolute, if I keep winning, there will be a lot of fights! So while the main goal of any one fight is to win, I have to be very strategic about the set of techniques I go for as to minimize the probability of making the shoulder much worse.

Much like white belts, blue belts are often very aggressive and erratic on the feet, so I just have to relax, be patient, and attack when the opening is there, without forcing anything even if the other guy is going crazy. I believe in the techniques I know, and that very little power is needed to execute them when the timing is right.

The time off from training is giving me a chance to relax and enjoy several productive days (and nights) working.


Training Around an Injury

I got a small tear in my right rotator cuff. There’s pain, there’s weakness. It’s a mess.

So instead of training twice a day, hard, with and eye for the New York Open in 2 months and Worlds in 4 months, I’m forced into the state of limbo that most of us know from having been injured: trying to recover, but not taking too much time off.

A reasonable doctor will recommend to stop all training until complete recovery. I honestly would IF I knew when complete recovery would happen. The problem is that you never really know.

My new program is BJJ for an hour every other day. Then I also do treadmill work every day: one day crazy intense, one day jog.

I hate running, truly, especially the hard interval training on the treadmill. But I don’t have much choice.

So, how am I surviving on just 1 hour of BJJ every other day as compared to 2-3 hours every day before the injury? Watching lots of video, both instructional and competition footage. For example, right now I’m watching the Back Attack DVD from JT Torres. It’s an example of the type of instructional DVD that I can learn from while sitting at home. He doesn’t show anything flashy, just the fundamentals of attacking the back. So I’m watching it second time through and trying to catch the little details, especially of the moves I’ve seen many times before. I find that instructional DVDs help most with moves that I’ve already practiced a lot. So I look for new little details that work for the particular instructor.

That’s the thing about guys like JT Torres. How does he pull off these very techniques on some of the best people in the world? There are two component I think. The first can be taught: solid technique (the details). The other cannot be taught with a DVD and that’s the timing, pressure, speed, etc of the move. So step one is to understand the details that make the technique work, and THAT I can sit at home and visualize after watching instructional DVDs. But then I have to take those ideas to the mat and get thousands of repetitions in. With an injury only the first part is possible, but since this part is often neglected, it’s good to give it some much needed focus.