Rewards of Good Foundations

I have had an incredible year so far! I’ve visited six countries, been inside two world wonders, and brought home two international gold medals (Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and Mexico National Pro). I’m back to full time training, and can actually afford to eat properly again.

I hear the phrase “man you’re really lucky to get to do all that!”, but it’s not really luck. What looks like luck is really the past several years of quiet grinding that no one really sees. Why? Because it’s not shiny, it’s not pretty, and no one really cares about those boring details. It is the slow process of constantly shifting toward my goals that have gotten me into a place now where I am able to once again train full time, travel, compete around the world, and still be able to pay my bills.

If you want something badly enough, you will find a way to make it happen. It might take time but if you stick to it in the shadows, it will eventually come to light and you will find yourself one day waking with the realization that you have been accomplishing goals set years ago.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from this year so far.

Dancing to greet the bride and groom at a wedding in India
Taj Mahal
Wearing sari and eating all the amazing food
Team training: our ladies team is growing!
New fan girl photo with “Chew Jitsu”
Taught a couple of classes in Mexico City
Made it to the #1 world ranked spot
First place in Mexico
Learned to make Pastel de Nata in Lisbon
The Pyramids
Won Abu Dhabi Grand Slam

Abu Dhabi – Wrap Up

Desert Safari:

Itzel and Mel met me up at my hotel and we made our way to the bus station to meet our driver. We almost missed him because I had no wifi to receive calls and I could not locate him. We were eventually wisked away on a 90 minute (or so) suv ride out into the desert.

We eventually reached a crossroad and sat inside while our driver let air out of the tires so that we could drive on the sand. He put on a playlist titled “awesome arabian music” and then the roller coaster began. It is very accurately called “dune surfing” because it feels just like that. Up and down and in circles around, and on these large sand dunes. Photos and videos do not do the experience credit… but I tried! Not a recommended experience if you have any history of motion sickness. I’m usually good, but even I was hitting my limit! Being out in the dunes really made me understand how the feel of Arabian music came to be – it just fits.

At one point he just stopped the car at the top of one of the dunes for a few minutes to try to fix his watch (the strap broke). We did a quick drive by of a camel farm before making our way to camp.

At the campsite, we did a (very) short camel ride and then proceeded to try our hands at sand surfing. I really don’t like the sensation of sand, so I was going to sit this one out. However, the other ladies were having so much fun I just had to try it. It resulted in this amazing video.

We then climbed another dune and took lots of sunset photos before proceeding to do Jiu Jitsu in the desert. Because why not?

We had an amazing buffet dinner while enjoying a showcase of traditional Arabian dance and then tried on some traditional dress and smoked some Shisha before it was time to catch our ride back to the city. The other ladies had to fly out early the next morning and I had to catch a bus to Dubai.

Dubai – Arrival:

img_2933The bus to Dubai was super easy to catch. I just went up to the ticket counter labeled “Dubai” and asked for one ticket. It only cost a couple bucks and a bus leaves every 15 minutes.

When I arrived at the Dubai bus station, I just walked over to the taxi stand and showed my destination to a driver and he took me to my new hotel. I went out to the grocery store and bought some food before turning in for the evening. After the previous day adventure, I was pretty beat and wanted to be fresh for exploring the following day.

Dubai – Explorer Day:

I woke up early and started off with hotel coffee as motivation to get myself going. My actual impulse was to just stay in, relax, and do nothing for the day – being a natural introvert made me less inclined to go face the unknown of the marketplaces… but I knew I would regret missing out on the experience. So I made my way downstairs and asked the concierge where I could go to purchase a metro card. He seemed perplexed that I turned down the hop-on-hop-off bus tour in favor of exploring on my own.

I took the bus until I appeared to be in the general area of the old souq areas of town and disembarked. I arrived just as most of the shops were opening – so I got to have a nice walk around before all the tourist buses arrived. The shop owners weren’t as aggressive as I thought they might be. I remember New York Chinatown as being worse. When I needed a break from them, I just found a group of tourists to pretend to be a part of for a few minutes before going my own way again. I did make a few purchases and had fun haggling in the back room. I know I probably paid more for my items than they were worth but it was a price I was okay with. I had fun and the shop got to make some profit as well. Win!

 

After a couple of hours in the Souq area, I made my way on the metro to see the Burj Khalifa building. It is currently the tallest building in the world! I did not go inside it because the entry tickets were way outside of my budget – but I got some great photos of it and enjoyed the more modern side of Dubai a bit before making my way back to my hotel for the evening.

 

Last Day:

My last day started out rather uneventful but ended amazingly! I checked out of my hotel and then sat in the lobby for a couple hours with the wifi until it was time for me to make my way to the bus station for the trip back to Abu Dhabi.

I had been planning to just go to the airport because my flight was rather early the next morning. However, a friend of one of my team mates (Hi Sidne!) decided to overwhelm me with hospitality. He picked me up from the bus station in Abu Dhabi after he got off work and took me to Jiu Jitsu class – where I finally felt like I fit in for the first time in days. After which he took me to a nice hotel, got me fed, and let me chill for a few hours before taking me to the airport for my flight.

In Conclusion:

This was an interesting trip – getting to compete at one of the most prestigious events in the world, seeing old friends, making new friends, and experiencing a brand new culture first hand. I will definitely return to compete again!

My next trip adventure will be Tokyo, Japan at the end of July for the UAEJJF Tokyo Grand Slam. Tickets are booked and registration is confirmed already – gonna earn myself some more ranking points and $, climb Mt Fuji (finally!), and see what new experience I can find to make myself a better person.

Upcoming Events

Well first off, Merry Christmas to all! And if you aren’t the Christmas type, I hope you had a good day off from work!
The gyms were all closed yesterday, so I went to see the new Star Wars movie again with a team mate. Today it is back to the grind! BJJ gym is still closed today, but I am meeting up my regular drilling partner before heading off to my shift at work. Gotta get those reps in!
The current attack plan for the first few months of 2018 is:

January 15-22 – European Championships in Lisbon, Portugal.

I can only afford to be there for the days that I could possibly compete. Gotta get back to work by the 21st. At least jet lag doesn’t exist to me anymore for a Europe trip (after a few trips to Asia).

February 3 – Atlanta International Open

This is an easy day trip for my crew since it is only a 3ish hour drive from Nashville. I’ve kept my one day off from work as a Saturday – so I can make it easily to these day trip events without having to barter time off from work… I’ll be doing plenty of that already this year.

February 17 – Team Shawn Hammonds Team Training

One of the funnest events of the year! Last february we had over 30 black belts on the mat and so many people that it was just wonderful chaos! I was promoted to purple belt at the 2017 team training and I look forward to seeing all the promotions this next year!

February 24 – Mexico City International Open Gi and No Gi

Past experience has taught me that I need to arrive several days early in Mexico City – in order to adjust to the altitude. I haven’t worked out a flight yet, but it is on! Barring work putting their foot down (I have a pretty flexible job).

My concern here is whether there will be any purple belt ladies competing here or not. But I think it will work out! Plus it will be great to see friends again!

March 7-11 – Pan Championships in California

I’m waiting on the preliminary schedule to be released before I start thinking about booking a flight. Gotta go out there, smash, and then get back to work.

Since I am a part timer at work, I’m fairly flexible with time off. I just have to at least make an effort to find someone to cover my shift and I’m good to go. I’ll be making trips as short as possible though because I do need a cash flow to make all this happen. It’s a balancing act that I think I have finally gotten worked out!

I will hear from the Japanese Embassy in a few weeks about my application. But I’m not gonna just sit on my hands in the meanwhile! Gotta keep moving and trying to be a little bit better every day! (Except for yesterday… yesterday I ate half a pie)

Goodbye, and Hello

Three weeks from tomorrow I will be getting on a plane heading toward Lisbon, Portugal for the European Championships!

I’ve been working really hard through the holiday season on trying to make the cut to feather weight – no easy task since it requires me to get down to about 126 lbs and I naturally walk around closer to 142 lbs. However I have made the weight twice before and, while I hate the process, I actually feel very good competing in the weight class. I’m right on track and should be good to go before I step on the plane!

Brazil

I really wanted to go to Brazil in 2016 as well but I wasn’t sure I would be able to afford the plane ticket. However, I caught a fare sale put on by my airline of choice and got a plane ticket to Rio for the week of Brasilieros for half the lowest advertised price I had seen previously! It is only a week in Brazil, but I hope to meet up with friends, make new friends, and set the stage for a longer visit later on!

Pans

I will most definitely be competing at Pans this next year as well. I haven’t put together any travel plans yet (I’ve been distracted by plane tickets to Europe and Brazil), but I did get myself registered!

Worlds

I’m going to win Worlds this year. I have no doubts.

Asia

It will happen!

The Plan

I have been working an (almost) full time evening job at a local grocery store gas station in order to pay for all my events this next year. I was up front when they hired me that my priority is my training and competition, but I also told them I would bust my butt working for them while I was on the clock in order to be indispensable. I have proven myself and my manager is being extremely flexible in giving me off the nights that I requested in order to get the best training in that I can. He told me that if I need off for events to just let him know and he will handle it. Here is my plan for the first 6 months of the year!

January 18 – Fly to Europe (9 hour layover in Paris, must bike the Seine to the Eiffel Tower)
January 19 – Arrive in Lisbon and check into Hotel
January 20-24 – Compete on whichever day they decide to put my division
January 27 – Fly home and back to the grind
March 15 or 16 – Fly to LA
March 16-20 Compete at Pans on designated day
March 21 – Fly home and back to the grind
April 25 – Take leave from work and Fly to Rio
April 26ish – Take bus or shuttle flight to Sao Paulo
April 27-May 1 – Compete at Brasilieros on my designated day and return to Rio immediately after
May 3 – Fly home (arrive 4th)
May 5 – Pick up Dante and fly to Washington D.C. for Worlds training camp at TLI HQ.
May 31 – Fly from D.C. to L.A. for Worlds
June 1-5 Win on my designated day of competition, then eat acai.
June 6 – Disneyland
June 7 – Fly Home

I’ll return from leave to work after getting home from Worlds and prepare myself to leave for two weeks in Asia. Most likely I will be gone September 8-22 and will be competing in the Pan Asian Championship on the 10th or 11th. A week was not long enough last visit!

That is my grand scheme for next year. The details will likely not all work out according to plan, but I will make it work at the end of the day!

Success!

If you read my last update, you will know that I had determined I was going to be competing in the feather weight division for the first time ever. I’ve attempted the cut several times before, but always quit halfway through. I was determined, and when I hit that wall again this time, I told myself “No quitting. Make it happen.”

I was about a pound over when I arrived at the hotel on Tuesday. I wasn’t horribly worried about it because I didn’t compete until Friday. Dad flew in from New Hampshire to cheer me on, and surprised me with a visit to Disneyland on Wednesday! It is hard to be on a weight cut at Disneyland, but it is also hard to really be sad about it because, hey, it’s DISNEYLAND! I bought some sweets to enjoy later!

Processed with VSCOcam with a4 presetI got to meet Captain America and he gave me some very good pre-competition advice. He told me to not be distracted by other people, focus on the task at hand, and also to remember why I started this in the first place – which is because it’s fun and I love it. Oss Captain!

I stopped in at the venue on Thursday to check my weight on their scale and found myself still a pound over. So for the rest of the day I simply nibbled granola and sipped small amounts of mineral water. By morning, I was a half pound under by my scale – not even wearing my lightest gi, and as you can see by the photo, I was VERY happy about it. This is probably the lightest I have been since before puberty!

Making this weight was one of the toughest things I have ever done. I really don’t know how to express in words how it felt! My official weigh in was 128.2 lbs; 13 lbs less than what I have previously weighed in as, and about 18 lbs lower than my average walk around weight.

After I weighed in, my coach admitted to me that he didn’t think I would mentally be able to do the cut. Hearing that made me smile!

Mike Calimbas is a master of capturing the moment! So many emotions on my face all at once here!

What About The Competition?

Right I suppose I should talk about the actual grappling portion of the competition! I had the luck of drawing my friend Taylor Biagi for my first match. We had both pegged one another as the person to beat in the division and it sucked that we had to meet up in an eliminatory match.

I lost the match, but it was awesome! I have no problem whatsoever admitting when I loose to a superior opponent, and Taylor is a most worthy adversary indeed! 

So Now What?

Since I felt so good making the weight, I have decided to focus on keeping my walking weight down between 130 and 132. Worlds is just 9 weeks away and I feel like I am reborn and rejuvenated! I’m gonna shoot for a little lower of a weight so that I can finally wear my awesome Raijin Fight Wear Gi in a competition!

And now, here are some fun photos from the trip!

With the Captain
With the awesome Taylor Biagi after competing!
Nick Albin aka “Chewey” – cant wait for him to visit my school again so we can roll!
Ketra, Nikki, Myself, and Tara. I always miss out on the group photos, so I insisted on this one!
Ran into Erin! She said it was a nice to make Gianni take a photo of her with someone for a change!
Ran into fellow Tennessean, Eric, also the creator of “JitsGrips”
I had a bit of a cheese and carb overload after competing… I’m still processing this meal I think!

I Can, and I Will

I’ve made several attempts at dropping to feather weight (129 lbs in the Gi), and each time I have hit a wall at 133 lbs, gotten fed up, and given up. I have given myself many excuses for quitting, all of which are logical. 

So yet again, I find myself making the attempt to cut. My goal is to make it to at least 126 to give myself a little wiggle room.

I hit my wall again at 133. This time, however, I have some accountability (hi Taylor!) and after pondering quitting, I decided that I WILL make weight. If for no other reason but to shut up my excuses.

As of this writing, I have made it to 130 and I see light at the end of the tunnel! What is doing the trick for me is an hour of fasted cardio first thing in the morning. I do this by setting a fast walk on a max incline treadmill. It was pretty hard to focus until I found the correct soundtrack that would enable me to just zone out/in and it becomes fairly meditative as I spend an hour just focusing on goals and visualizing outcomes.



It’s odd to wake up and see abs for the first time in my life!

I have started to stall a little bit again with the drop in the past few days, so I am going to change it up again. My shoulder has started feeling a bit loose, I’m adding in my rehab Kettlebell circuit in the afternoons. It has the combined benefit of stabilizing my hypermobile joints, and also acts as a mid-intensity circuit. Here is a quick video I filmed explaining this routine!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlLlssuTqW4 

The Night Before

I am currently sitting in my hotel room in Lisbon. I had a brief nap but woke up and am finding it difficult to go back to sleep. All those pre-competition thoughts and feelings are churning through my brain and body and, for the moment, I am having a difficult time relaxing.

Actually the main problem is that I left my heater running and now it’s just too bloody hot to get comfortable! So while I wait on the room to cool down, I thought I would post an update!

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So yea, I definitely feel my adrenaline is up higher than my normal “just above clinically dead” levels. I went to the venue and hung out for a few hours, watched my old white belt division, and checked my weight on the test scale. My weight was about .5 kg over which is no big deal at all and I’m already down to a comfortable number.

So I’m just sitting here sorting out my brain. I’m not nervous really; just more on edge and ready to go.

I’ve worked hard for this. Over Christmas while everyone else was out, I was walking to the gym in the freezing temperatures and doing circuits and solo drills all day – yes, even on Christmas!

I will be having my three year Jiu Jitsu training anniversary on the last day of this tournament. During those three years, I have completely structured my life around streamlining my training and competition schedule.

I quit a well paying job in order to go into business on my own, so that I would have the schedule flexibility to travel to compete. I live very minimally so that the majority of my income can go into my training. I haven’t had a car in almost two years now because I decided I could just bike and walk wherever I need to go.

The point is, I have come to realize that for me Jiu Jitsu is no longer a hobby. This is my lifestyle. Is it extreme? Yes. Do my parents worry? Of course!

Why do I do this? It started out just as a way to challenge myself and push my limits. It remains as such, and even more! I have gained so much through the process of the drive, that I want to inspire others to try it for themselves! The only way I know to do that is to keep pushing. The more I push, the more I can show to others the lessons I have learned these past three years of my life!

I’m definitely not saying that everyone has to take it to the extreme in order to benefit! In fact, my life was changed before I started the real push! I just want to see people try!

The room has cooled off a bit, so I close with this: these photos are both of myself.

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If You Really Want Something…

Do it.

It was a big goal of mine to make it to the 2015 European Championships but due to budgetary issues it looked like it wasn’t going to work out.

However, I just couldn’t get it out of my head and so on December 9th, I decided that I had to at least try. Even if I wasn’t able to go, I want to make sure that I exhausted every possible avenue to get there so that I could move on with no regrets.

I bought my plane ticket on the 11th! I started with nothing by way of funds and was able to personally raise just over $1,000 in two days without asking for help from other people. My parents raised me to be pretty independent so I prefer to work for what I get. I will however take this moment to thank Roger from twitter who messaged me and offered to help me out – it gave me a little extra fire to know someone was rooting for me enough to want to invest in this trip!

So was it easy? Not remotely! I raised most of the funds by selling hugely discounted holiday gift cards (about 50% off my normal rates) and will be working hard to redeem those for months to come!

The hustle was worth it. It just reinforced my belief that if I want something badly enough, there is always a way to make it happen. I am never able to save up for a competition. I just have to decide that I am going to go and then do it. Money is fluid and it will flow as it is directed.

Oh yea, it is the New Year…

It’s not that much different because to me, every day is the start of a new year with the opportunity to grow a little bit more.

The one big change? My registration form now defaults to “Master 1” division. Thank you IBJJF for making me feel old for the second it takes me to change it back to “Adult”!

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Circuit Training Motivation

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Well I had a great time this morning with my good friend known only as “The Circuit”. I look pretty beat in this picture, but this was actually my less exhausted take. I looked so dramatic in the other ones that they appeared fake!

I did 5 rounds of a 6 minute circuit with a 2 minute rest in between each. This circuit included burpees, prison walks, tire pushups, overhead weighted squats, etc. By the end, I managed to punch out just over 100 burpees!

Halfway through the 4th round, my quads started trying to give out on me. I’m definitely going to feel it in the morning. Shoot, I feel it now!

I’m really focusing on my conditioning for the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pan Ams. Last year I got gassed in the finals, and lost by an advantage. I don’t want that to happen again! I want to go, knowing that I am in the best shape of my life and can trust in the techniques that I drill for hours a day. If that’s not good enough, at least I know I gave it the best that I have to give now. I have no qualms loosing to a superior opponent, but I refuse to lose because I didn’t prepare like I should have.

I found this amazing motivational cd on itunes by “Muscle Prodigy TV” entitled “It’s All On You” – I think it is going to be my new favorite thing to listen to in the mornings. Shoot, I even had it set as my alarm on my ipad! I highly recommend it – you can purchase it on iTunes for just under $10. Best money I’ve ever spent on a digital item before. I listened to it through my circuit, and it kept me pumped up and focused!

It’s a collection of inspirational speeches, with dramatic background music. That’s the kind of thing that gets me going – I’m curious what sort of music/soundtracks get you going! Please comment below!

Hello 2014!!!!

New year, and new look for my blog!

I started my year off with circuit training followed by an hour of drilling the morning of the 1st. Did three massages, and then another circuit. Oh, and I did a cool video of it!

Kudos to you if you watched the whole thing!

My awesome sponsors at Raijin Fightwear liked this video so much that they have requested I start a “move of the week” video series. I’ll be filming some of that this Sunday after circuit training – They are even designing me a cool custom video intro! I’m so excited to get started with that! I am of course just a blue belt, so I definitely still have a lot to learn – but I have learned some good things in the last two years that are worth sharing.

Weight Cutting:
I’m in the process of cutting down to feather weight. I did 2013 at light weight, walking around at about 145 and cutting to 138 for competitions. It was recommended to me that I try feather based on my body size. Currently I’m weighing in at 130 and am shooting for 126 to make 129 in my Gi. Coach says I am pretty close to my limit of what my body will allow me to do, so it’s slow going at this time. I’ll probably post more about this later (maybe a few angry posts).

Ladies Team:
I love my ladies team! It’s slowly starting to pick up a bit, and I am now teaching a Saturday morning class as well as the Friday evening one. Coach says he will eventually have me take over the program – I’m being groomed it appears. I’m very excited that this year we have a confirmed 4 ladies from our school going to the Pan Ams, as opposed to last year being just me.

Training:
I’ve been drilling a lot lately – one good thing about the ladies is that they love to drill! Getting in at least an hour a day on top of class time.
I’m finally starting to feel competent as a blue belt, it took me a few months to get in the swing of it but I’m good now!

Competition:
My first competition of the year will be the IBJJF San Francisco Open on Feb 9. It will be my debut as a featherweight. It’s a bit of a distance to travel, but since the Chicago tournament falls after Pan Ams this year, this is my chance to test my new weight class out before Pans.
NAGA is going to be in Nashville on Feb 22nd so I think I’ll try out the expert and intermediate divisions if they will let me do both – otherwise I may just go to coach and save the money for my Pan Ams trip.

Hmmm I think that is about it for now. I’ll probably think up some other things to say tomorrow. It’s almost drilling time again!