The Reset Button

20140426-224310.jpgAfter returning from competing in Japan this past September, my coach (Shawn) told me to take the rest of the year off from competing. I don’t think I have gone longer than three days in the past 4 years without thinking and preparing for the next event. Now I had to deal with a little over three months completely off from competing.

I definitely agreed with my coach. I need this time off. However I am an addict so I was kind of at a loss. This past year has also put me in a severe budgetary crisis, on top of an ongoing family crisis and the need to move at the end of the year… My stress levels had reached the point where my functioning skills were spread to the thinnest they have been since before I started training. The first few weeks I was definitely depressed and unmotivated – maybe on the mats twice a week. Around week 3 though I started pulling out of it and enjoying myself in class again.

I’ve also made the decision to retire my massage therapy business. It has been dying for several reasons and currently taking more time and energy from me than what it is worth. I took a seasonal position working in the warehouse of a shipping company – they actually ended up hiring me on permanently instead and appear to be extremely flexible with time off to go compete next year. Right now I am working Friday – Tuesday, getting off work in time for evening training sessions (full day of training on Wednesday and Thursday). During the holiday season they are allowing us to work as many extra hours as we desire, so I am doing double shifts on the weekends so I can have a better jump start on the budget for next year.

Where That Leaves Me

I found a round trip flight to Amsterdam in January for $300 and snatched it up! I can get a pretty cheap (under $60) flight from there to Lisbon for the European Championships, and then have a few extra days to explore elsewhere. I haven’t decided yet where. Morocco and Israel are both tempting, but I may opt for the super cheap $30 flight to spend a few days in Rome or Athens instead. I suppose I will base my decision off food and training options at each location!

My new job is extremely active, and I’ve been easily dropping weight – so I’m anticipating competing as a feather weight next year.

20130927-035343.jpgFebruary 2017

I had a debate between the IBJJF Atlanta Open or the UAEJJF Mexico National Pro. The Atlanta is an easy day trip away, I would only need to miss one day at work, and both my teams will have a good turn out there. Mexico won out however since I have a goal to compete at the World Pro in Abu Dhabi this next April. I win a qualifying division in Mexico and they will cover my expenses for the World Pro. I will pay for my own trip to the World Pro if I have to, but it is NOT a cheap place to visit – so I decided to invest in Mexico for my shot at the trip package.

March 2017

Of course I will be going to Pans this next year! I managed to pull out a bronze medal this past year, and I need to upgrade that to something a bit more shiny! I’ll not likely stay for the whole event this year (per my norm) just because I want to conserve my time off from work.

April 2017

It’s World Pro month! I win the qualifier in Mexico, I won’t have to worry about paying for the trip, but either way I am going to be competing in Abu Dhabi in 2017. I actually work with several ladies from the UAE- they have been dropping pointers for my visit.

May/June 2017

The dates have not yet been set for the World Championships in Los Angeles, but I WILL be in attendance. I’m hoping I will be able to get a leave of absence from work to go to train at TLI HQ in Maryland for several weeks leading up to the competition. We shall see!

September 2017

The Asian Championships will be held again in Tokyo, most likely the second weekend of the month. I will either be taking leave from work, or just turning in my notice and signing back on when they start hiring seasonally again (a few weeks after I get back). My sister will be 18 by this time and is planning to postpone starting college in order to go with me to this event. We will then spend about 3 weeks exploring Japan, Taiwan, and hopefully a few other places (Korea and Thailand are definitely on the list!) We both have interest in training our respective martial arts during the trip, so it should be a great experience for us both! Plus I will actually have someone to cheer for my matches at the competition!

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As of this point, I feel refreshed and excited about this next year. This past year has not been so great for me personally, and it showed in my Jiu Jitsu. Taking a step back to deal with some issues has made all the difference and I feel genuine excitement to compete again in January!

Taipei Day 1: Towers, Temples, and Fabulous Food

I arrived in Taiwan around 9:00 in the morning and managed to find the correct bus to take to Taipei Station, a 45 minute ride for just a couple of USD. From Taipei station I walked to the hostel I would be staying in. It hit me rather quickly that I was in a tropical environment and the layers I had worn to stay comfortable on the plane were quickly shed.

The hostel I had selected to stay at for my two nights in Taipei was, I found, perfectly located for exploring on foot or by metro. A very useful thing as it would be several hours before I could officially check in. I was, however, able to drop off my bags at the front desk to lighten the load for the next 6 hours of exploration! Yay!

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Taipei 101 Building – as seen from metro exit

My first concern was food. I had slept at the airport the previous night and had yet to actually eat anything since before then. So I decided to make my way via the metro to the Taipei 101 building and find something to eat around there. I did initially have difficulty with finding a location to purchase a metro card, and eventually just went to a subway information desk. The metro is super cheap and easy to use in Taipei!

It was a rather impressive sight to step out of the metro station and look straight up the edge of the Taipei 101 tower – one of the tallest buildings in the world! I was debating on whether or not I wanted to take the ride to the top, but when I realized that it was only 500 NTD (roughly 15 USD) for the ride to the top, I decided to go for it. I am very glad that I did as it was a fantastic day (the forcasted typhoon was delayed) and I could see for miles!

Beef Noodle Soup
Beef Noodle Soup

I almost had mango shaved ice at the top… but was deterred by the length of the line and the small portions I saw doled out for the price (tourist prices and such). So I decided to wait. After taking a few time lapse videos, I took the ride back down the elevator to the food court. So many options that I circled the place twice before settling on a bowl of beef noodle soup. Exciting, I know. It was good sized and very satisfying though! The seating was all family style so after a little hesitation, I plopped myself down in an empty seat next to several people. I’m going assume the looks I received were ones of admiration for my skillful use of chopsticks… It could also have been that I was the only red headed white girl sitting in a human sea of asian ethnicity… Seriously though – I got so many compliments on my use of chopsticks during the course of this trip!

Elephant Mountain:

It's a small Jiu Jitsu world!
It’s a small Jiu Jitsu world!

I was pretty much winging it until later in the evening when I had reserved a spot in a guided tour. So what better thing to do on a whim than climb a mountain?

Elephant mountain is a very popular local hiking spot. It is a punishing number of steps however – so if you decide to do it, wear good shoes and buy a bottle or two of water from the nice lady at the trail head!

As I was starting on my way up, I saw a gentleman trudging down wearing the staff tshirt from the Asian Championships. He was very focused but as he passed I hollered “Jiu Jitsu!” at him and he turned on a dime with a huge smile on his face! We had a short conversation in a combination of English, Japanese, and Mandrin before he asked for a photo. Of course I asked for one with my camera as well!

Taipei 101 building from Elephant Mountain
Taipei 101 building from Elephant Mountain

It was quite a trek up, and I even stripped to my tank top and used my tshirt as a sweat rag! The view from the top was well worth the effort however! I hung out at the top and explored the trails a bit further – I could have easily spent several hours up there! However, I had to get back to the hostel so I could finish check in and take a (MUCH needed) shower before the tour.

Tour Me Away – Longshan Temple:

So I found a group that does low cost, and free walking tours of Taipei. The group is called “Tour Me Away” and I highly recommend them to anyone visiting Taipei!

It was raining lightly by the time we met up for the tour and it was a large group! So we waiting a few extra minutes for people to purchase umbrellas as needed from a nearby convenience store. First we strolled along an old traditional street and got a peek inside of some of the old marketplace buildings before they were closed up for the evening. I got to purchase a cup of herbal green drink as we strolled down an herb alley – I have no idea what all was in it, but it felt very cleansing.

Polishing the candlesticks inside Longshan Temple
Polishing the candlesticks inside Longshan Temple

After this we made our way to the Longshan Temple where we had a very detailed step by step guide through the entire building complex. I don’t have many photos from inside the temple because of two reasons. Mainly: I always feel guilty taking photos inside temples and shrines where people come to worship. Just because it isn’t my religious upbringing doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to pray in peace. Two: my phone takes terrible night time photos. One day I hope to get a real camera!

Our guides gave very detailed information about how they worship and what each deity is responsible for. For those who wished it, they provided step by step guidance through the worship practices. There was, however, no pressure to participate for those uncomfortable doing so!

After a good amount of time at the temple, we visited the old red light district. It is full of tea houses and other business fronts where you can pay for more than what is listed on the menu. We also visited a “love hotel” where you can pay for a room by the night or by the hour. Then we were off to the night market!

The Night Market:

The most amazing combo ever! Peanut brittle, three types of ice cream, and fresh cilantro!
The most amazing combo ever! Peanut brittle, three types of ice cream, and fresh cilantro!

I had heard great things about the night market culture in Taipei, and in spite of my limited time visiting the country, it did not disappoint!

Custard filled goodness!
Custard filled goodness!

I will say this for the night markets (and really any street food). If there is a line of locals waiting for it, get in that line! Also, this is not the time to be finicky about calories, food preferences, or germs. I know a few people who would get the shakes with the way we were passing around our food and drinks to share with the group. I typically eat a fairly clean diet due to my training routine, but I went after it with a gusto in Taipei – without the slightest bit of digestive distress to contend with.

Now will I hesitate to eat street food in India? Probably. Will I still do it? Again, probably!

I made a few new friends from the tour that I really hope to see again in future travels! After we parted ways, I made my way back to my hostel to get some sleep and prepare for the adventure next day.

In Closing:

I started this post with the intent to write one post for Taiwan, one for Kyoto, and one for Seoul – and then be done with it and back to my normal Jiu Jitsu writings. However, I apparently managed to pack a lot more into each day than I thought, so this is going to be a two parter. Until then…

Tokyo: Temples, Maids, and Studio Ghibli

Well I got pretty distracted and ended up not writing every evening like I had planned. Since I have several hours to kill at the airport while I wait for my flight to Taiwan, I’m going to play catch up now!

 

Wednesday: 
I scheduled a tour of the Asakusa area with someone I found on the Meetrip.to website (I highly recommend them if you are traveling in the East Asia area!) 

I managed to make a doofus of myself by messing up my directions. I got off of the train station at exit #9 when I was supposed to meet her at exit 1. Of course, I just kept plodding along. A few mishaps later, I found her and we went to Senso-ji temple which is riot outside of the train station.

 

Touching the lantern gives you luck! I also got to draw a fortune, and I got “the best fortune” – so I am saving that!

Had some fresh made melon bread (amazing!) and then walked around a few smaller (and less crowded) temples and streets. We settled on a lunch of ramen.

 This was a broth based ramen, which means I have tried all three of the base ramen varieties. Broth, miso, and tonkotsu. My favorite has been the tonkotsu!

  
After lunch, we went to a place for karaoke. It was quite different from karaoke in the states! You rent out your own soundproof room by the hour. Ours had a killer sound system and flashing lights. You can also order food and drinks delivered to your room via your control pads. We had the room for two hours and it was a blast!

I was going to meet someone in Shibuya after this, but she ended up getting stuck at work, so I just went back to my room to sleep.

Thursday:

This was my geek out day! I finally got to go to the Studio Ghibli museum!!! Studio Ghibli could be considered the Walt Disney of Japanese animation… But I think they are better! Most well known films are Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro.

You have to purchase tickets a month in advance, and I was extremely thrilled to get mine when they went on sale last month! (They were sold out in half an hour!)

I traded my sticker for this amazing film strip entrance ticket upon arrival!

  
They don’t allow photos to be taken inside of the museum… But take how amazing that ticket is, and maybe you could get an inkling as to how magical the experience was!

  
I was unable to resist sneaking a selfie from one of the special exhibits… I know, I’m terrible… But it was a LIFE SIZED CAT BUS! Yes, the inside was super soft and squishy! If you haven’t watched “My Neighbor Totoro”, I’m sorry, you just won’t understand.

After spending about 5 hours at the museum, I went to the train station to meet my evening guide.

She took me around the Meiji shrine and I learned a lot of new things from her about the history of the area! She also took me through one of the older, pre-WWII era, neighborhoods. Seriously my favorite tour! I didn’t get too many photos because I was too enthralled with listening!

Friday:

Maid cafe!

  
I can guarantee that my lunch was cuter than yours!

 

It was great fun! I thought I might feel awkward, but I decided to just go with the flow and  enjoy the experience!
On guy was there by himself and was apparently embarrassed. When it was his time to get his photo taken with his maid, he looked like he wanted to run! I thought it was great fun and would definitely do it again!

Afterwards I met up with a fellow BJJ junkie to explore Akihabara. We ended up heading to Harajuku for shaved ice cream, and he approved!

He headed off to go get in line for the new Shoyoroll Gi release, and I headed off to the airport on the last train of the evening, arriving a little bit before midnight.

It turned out, I couldn’t check in to my 6 am flight until 2 1/2 hrs before departure. All of the outer lobby seats were taken, so I curled up on the tile floor behind a big plant and managed to sleep for a few hours until I was able to get checked in.

Now, I am wrapping this up because they are about to start boarding my flight! In just a few hours I will be in Taiwan for the first time! Apparently there is a typhoon going on so they are recommending we use the bathroom before boarding since we may not be able to move around on the flight. Sounds exciting!
   

Tokyo: Robots and Other Tall Tales

Yesterday was quite an interesting experience to say the least!

First order of business was to meet up with Frank. A mutual friend got us hooked up with one another and we decided to meet up at the life sized Gundam robot that guards the Diver City Tokyo Plaza in Odaiba.

  

Food was, of course, a necessity. I went with Takoyaki topped with egg (among other things)

  

Afterwards we wandered around for a little bit. This place was a huge, man made island with these wide open spaces that I had yet to experience anywhere in Tokyo!

  

The debate was then on as to where the next stop would be. I was wanting to go to Akihabara and nerd out until show time at the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. However we ended up heading directly toward Shinjuku instead.

At a train transfer point, something caught the eye and we headed for it. This. Was. Amazing.

  

If the style looks familiar to some of my fellow nerds, it is because this clock was designed by Studio Ghibli star producer, Miyazaki. The clock does a 4 minute show with the changing of the hour and we had just missed it. So we went in search of nearby nerdness to occupy time while waiting for the show. The show was worth the wait, AND I found this…


So! Much! Happy!

Sad I couldn’t get it! But it wouldn’t fit in my luggage allowance for the rest of my trip.

After that side trip, we arrived in Shinjuku with an extra hour to spare before we needed to check in for the show. So we wandered around a bit more…

 

So many Nicholles!

 

So finally it was time to check in for the show! This was something I had wanted to do last year, but I ran out of money and had to choose between the show, and my train ticket to the airport. It was a close call… But I had to do the responsible thing. This time, I made it! And man was it worth it!

This is what greeted us at the entrance! 

 
I would say that the show itself would be best described as: “Lisa Frank on LSD at Carnival in Rio.” I took some pictures… But mainly sat there the whole time with a cheesy grin on my face.  

 

We were on the front row in the center. It was really too close to take any good photos anyhow. Good problem!

Seriously an absolute MUST DO when in Tokyo! The show is campy and cheesy. They know it and work that angle to perfection!

  

After the show, we zoomed out for a quick bowl of Ramen before popping into an arcade. I’m not much for arcades so after about 10 minutes I said my goodbyes to Frank and headed off to wander up and down the streets of Kabukicho on my own.

  

Kabukicho is the closest thing Tokyo has to a red light district (that I know of), but it still felt way less sketchy than walking through my own neighborhood at night. (A sign I should maybe reevaluate a few things?)

  
I didn’t wander for too long since I was getting sleepy… so after about an hour I made my way back toward to my room and passed out.

My next adventure will begin in just a few hours as I make my way to meet a new friend in Asakusa! So ends this update as I need to go get ready! Make sure to follow my Instagram as I will be uploading photos in live time while exploring!

Tokyo – Shrines, Crepes, Pandas, and More

This trip has been so long in the making! I am trying to slow time down and enjoy myself – a strategy that seems to be working so far. I know that when I get back home it will seem to have just been a blink, and all I will have are memories. So I’m making sure they are memorable memories! This post is going to be a long one since I am playing catch up for a few days… I am making up for the length by including awesome photos!
I usually do formatting on the computer at home… so please forgive me if the layout isn’t on par with my norm!

Day 1: The Transit

   
Transit day was loooooooong and rough. I woke up at 6 am in Los Angeles, walked 1.5 miles to the bus stop, waited about 30 minutes past the scheduled bus arrival (expected in LA), and got to the airport a little after 8 am. 
I was unable to check in for my flight online or at the kiosk because apparently they had added my dog, Dante, to my reservation. That requires a check in at the special services counter. That line is usually slower than the regular check in line. Thankfully there was a staff member at the head of the line who got me taken care of so I was able to get checked in and to my gate on time.
My flight left at 10:30 am, was scheduled for 11 hrs, landing at 2:20 pm the same day. Gotta love time zone jumps! I had a window seat next to a couple who spoke about as much English as I speak Japanese (not much). I could pick out general words and slowly got better over the course of the trip. They believe I am a Judoka and I choked on the words to explain Jiu Jitsu… So we settled on Judo. I have some basic knowledge… Very basic knowledge…
  

The first half of the flight was uneventful beyond that. The second half however… Not so good since I managed to develop a terrible migraine. My newly adopted Japanese Auntie was concerned and I had to keep reassuring her “daijōbu desu”. She wasn’t convinced, especially when I had to zoom to the bathroom to puke. Mercifully I fell asleep and was woken up by an airline staff member to receive my breakfast meal. I couldn’t stomach any of it except the crackers and some sprite. Auntie of course noticed and kept offering me her food options (I had ordered a low sodium meal). It was nice to have someone taking care of me!
Upon departure, I thanked her profusely for her help, and then made my way through customs, picked up my mobile wifi unit, and then headed for my airbnb location in Tokyo. My head was most unpleasant and I had to lie down and try to sleep as soon as I arrived around 6 pm.

Day 2: The Great Explore
First order of business: coffee. My head was feeling much better after a solid 12 hours of shut eye.

  I climbed up a small hill near the train station to wait out morning rush hour. I thought it was a park, but it ended up being a neighborhood cemetary. I snapped a quick photo from the edge so as not to disturb anyone visiting.

  I consulted with my brother and determined to first visit the Meiji Shrine, followed by a crepe in Harajuku.

  

Thankfully the shrine wasn’t too busy, although I think I got there before the bulk of the tour groups. The main entrance gate was closed for what looked like some restoration work, but everything else was just as I had remembered it!  

Afterwards, I walked the length of Takeshita Dori to my favorite crepe shop, hidden in a corner on the outskirts of Harajuku.  

Fresh made crepe, macha (green tea) ice cream, a slice of macha cheesecake, whipped cream, white chocolate shavings, macha powder… yea, it was as good as it looks! 

After my crepe, I strolled down to Shibuya. It was relatively non-crowded at the crossing as I made my way to the Starbucks. I had my mind set on a macha frappe (notice a theme here?) but was distracted by their mango passionfruit offering and I just HAD to try it. it was fabulous!

My plan was to go to Akihabara next, but plans change! I made my way back up to Ueno Park and visited the zoo. They have two giant Pandas there and apparently it was feeding time because they were just sitting in their feeding rooms, chewing on bamboo sticks like bosses.

So ended my first full day in Tokyo. I rocked the mad hatter hairdo all day like a boss!

Day 2: Competition Venue

I spent most of the day at the competition venue. Had to get the lay of the land and watch the black belt ladies represent!

In Japan, everyone takes their shoes off at the entrance to the venue. Handy bathroom slippers are provided for use in the restroom – and you be nasty if you try to skip using them!


I have craved this treat since my visit last year! Coffee jelly (jello) in an espresso cream sauce! Oishii!


I like carbs on my carbs. It looks weird, but it is fresh and fabulous!


After leaving the venue, I thought a nice stroll in the Imperial Palace Gardens would be nice. unfortunately, it was closed when I arrived. So I settled for a walk around part of the perimeter before I decided to head back to get some rest for competing the next day.

Day 3: Competition Day!
Stay tuned! Follow my Instagram for my results as they happen! 5 hours from publishing this I will be warmed up and ready to rumble!

The Countdown is On

 

I have been pacing a lot today.

My packing and planning skills have left me with nothing to do today since everything is packed, everything is planned and printed off, I’m checked in for my flight tomorrow morning… So now I am making up things to do.

Currently I am letting a fresh batch of henna soak into my hair. It was just done a week ago, but I’ll take all the extra shininess I can get right now! Dante has been bathed and I am waiting for him to get picked up by the family watching him while I am gone. Hopefully after he gets picked up I will be heading over to a team mates house for a funky hairdo special just for this trip – I have no idea how it will look, but she has skills so I am going to trust her!

Tomorrow is going to be quite full! Flying to L.A., stopping by a shop to hopefully find a specific Gi, then heading over to train at New Breed Academy before checking into my airbnb place for the night. Flying to Tokyo Wednesday morning!

I will share the outcome tomorrow evening of all these pending events. For now, here is an applicable awesome song!

Vegas Recap – Moving On

Well I am finally getting settled back home after being gone for the Master World Championships in Las Vegas… Granted I will be heading out again in just a few days for Japan – so I shall enjoy my own bed while I can!

The trip was long and drawn out. I expected and planned it that way, so no room complaints. It’s all just part of the adventure!

IMG_3298I arrived in Los Angeles on schedule and then made my way to Union Station by way of the flyaway bus service. You pay upon arrival and I didn’t know ahead of time that they required a card payment. Thankfully a nice gentleman offered to pay for my ticket and I gave him cash. I shall remember that detail for next time!It was a little over a 6 hour bus ride to Vegas and I wasn’t able to sleep as well as I normally do on a bus, so I arrived at 5:00 am and was pretty beat. I needed to be at the venue at 7:45 and got the brilliant idea that I would walk from the bus depot to the venue at the opposite end of the strip (close to seven miles) in that time frame. After about two hours of walking, I realized that I was not going to make it in time, so I jumped on a bus and got to the staff check in desk right at 7:45.

IMG_3341Day 1:

I started out working as a ring coordinator. It was chaos in the beginning with my mat being held up for 30 minutes because of people not showing up for their matches. I had to finally DQ three people (out of my first 5 matches), and then I had things running smoothly (and on schedule) until my feet gave out around 1:00 pm. I requested a break and upon return was granted a table assignment since my feet were blistering from all the extra foot work for the day. I checked into my hotel around 9:30 pm and just collapsed, barely able to convince myself that I needed to shower before sleep since I was gross from travel and work.

Day 2:

Today I worked as scorekeeper/table staff until I had to leave to get ready to compete. Thankfully we had a great crew between myself, my friend Liz, and an amazing camera operator. We went through several different ring coordinators and the computer systems kept freezing up, but we finally got a system pulled together that minimized the mat down time.

I left with an hour to spare before my division started and it ended up being a much longer wait since the other mats were having problems with the system freezing as well. So it was a bit behind. My first match was a fun one! I got a sweep, pass, then back control before finishing a bow/arrow choke. My second match was textbook until I got into an awkward leg position and had to tap to a calf crusher. Coach told me afterwards “I saw it, and it looked like it hurt, but you face was calm so I figured you were okay. Then it looked worse. Then it looked like hell.” I told him it hurt from the get go.

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After the medics confirming it was just soft tissue injury, I decided to continue the match from the same position. I was unable to make a come back unfortunately, and coach says I lost by an advantage point. Went off to have my leg iced and wrapped, then hobbled back to work at my table.

Day 3:

Just working the table once again. I checked out of my hotel early that morning and brought my gear with me (one backpack worth). It was a shorter day and we were done at 7:30 but had to wait for them to print checks (money! yay!) so I got out close to 9 pm. I don’t find gambling or alcohol particularly enticing… so I opted for karaoke with friends. I left them at around 11 pm to make my way back toward the bus station to catch my 1:30 am bus to Los Angeles.

The bus broke a couple of hours outside of Vegas. People were cranky, but in the four hours it took for another bus to come pick up everyone, I was able to finally get some sleep! So I was content! This meant I didn’t have time to go visit the beach in L.A. before having to catch my flight back to Nashville, but at that point sleep was more important to me.

My flight landed in Nashville at 10:25 pm, made it to the gate at 10:30, and then I got off the plane at 10:38. I was precise on those times because the last bus of the night leaves the airport at 10:48. I just barely made it! I then had to walk a couple miles home from the central bus station since no other buses were running at that time. So… long story short, I got to sleep around midnight.

 

Next order of business is to recover and enjoy my own bed before I leave for Japan in just a few days. In light of the healing calf injury, I am opting to skip climbing Mt Fuji (weather forecast is thunderstorms anyhow), and go watch some sumo instead. I’m contemplating coming back for another competition next year when the weather would be slightly more predictable and I could do a Mt Fuji climb then.

 

Master Worlds

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I have been deep into travel plans for the past month!

 

In just a few days, I will be in Las Vegas for the Master World Championships. No play time for me though since not only am I competing, I am also working as staff all three days of the event.

 

24 August

5:30 pm: Fly from Nashville to Los Angeles, arrive at 8 pm.
11:40 pm: LA to Las Vegas via bus

25 August

5:00 am: Arrive in Las Vegas. Find food and take local bus to venue.
7:45 am: check in to work until they release us – probably around 8 pm. Walk to hotel and check in (1 mile)

26 August

7:45 am: Work at competition until time to compete, then return to work.

27 August

7:45 am: Check out of hotel. Work at competition.
8:00 pm(ish): Whenever I get released from work, I may wander the strip until I have to head to the bus station.

28 August

1:30 am: bus leaves for Los Angeles, arrives at 7 am. Sleep on bus.
8:00 am – 3:00 pm: Free time (beach?)
5:00 pm: Flight to Nashville, arrive at 10:50 pm. Take last bus of the night downtown and then walk home.

All together the trip is costing just under $350 (including event registration). Flying into Los Angeles and taking an overnight bus not only saved me a ton in airfare, it also saves me two nights in a hotel (and I get fed a couple times a day when I work).

I’m cutting corners as much as possible on this trip since I will be leaving for Japan 8 days after my return home to Nashville. The more I am able to save now, the more fun I can have while exploring Tokyo, Kyoto, Taipei, and Seoul! Yes, I have that trip mostly planned out now. Highlights include: Competition (duh!), Climbing Mt Fuji, Studio Ghibli Museum, Karaoke and Cosplay, Hiking Taroko Gorge, Inari Shrine, Taiwanese street food (inspired by Anthony Bourdain), Buddhist Temple Stay… and much more! I will be making frequent posts during that two week trip so make sure to follow my blog and Instagram page for the most frequent updates!

Into The Storm, and Out Again

Competitions are a roller coaster.

Even before the actual event, emotions tend to just go crazy. Everyone deals with the pressure in their own way. I tend to get easily frustrated and usually have at least one big hysterical crying fit about a week before a major event. I know some people who get angry, others who act like they are in the middle of a bipolar manic phase, and some who just get very serious and turn inwards (those are the scariest ones!)

Playing the numbers, the vast majority of people at an event will leave with a measure of disappointment. Only one person can win each division.

At the World Championships this year, once again I fell short. Even months later, it still stings. Everything I have learned in the years since I first stepped on the mat, and it just wasn’t enough. Quite frankly, it put me in a major funk. Throw some family and personal crisises into the mix, and I just hit a wall of what I could emotionally handle – I just shut down. It was a pretty bad downward spiral.

My biggest issue I finally realized was that I wasn’t allowing myself to properly process everything. Here are a few things I learned in this process:

  • It’s okay to get angry/frustrated/upset when something doesn’t go the way I planned
  • I’m stronger than I think
  • My environment is not to blame for my outcomes
  • There is nothing to be ashamed of when I do my best
  • The people who care about me, will celebrate with me in success, but that doesn’t determine my personal value
  • I’m not alone

So what has changed? Really, not much. All the problems are still present. However, my head is back on straight and I feel like I am finally awake, can see in color again, and am finally able to look forward to the exciting things I have planned!

In just 10 days I will be heading off to Las Vegas to compete at the Master World Championships. Two weeks after that, I will watching the sunrise from the top of Mt Fuji and then competing in Tokyo before setting off on a two week tour of travel, training, and exploring in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

One thing I can say for certain. After failing 4 times at the World Championships, when I do finally succeed, I think that I will appreciate it much more than I would have if I won the first time around. Building anticipation and all.

Now that I think I have gotten out of my phase of depressive writing (there are so many things in my draft folder that I don’t think need to see the light of day), I think I will be able to get back to my normal writing jive – just in time for the trips!

I am looking for an individual or company to sponsor my Mt Fuji climb. I am an experienced climber and will be video documenting the 2 day climb to the summit at 12,334ish feet above sea level. I’m doing it with or without support, but it would make it easier if I could rent gear instead of having to haul mine and then drag it around for the rest of my two week trip. Contact Me if you might be interested!

Planning for Japan

I know that I still have a while to wait (141 days!), but I like to plan ahead for my international trips. I will be leaving on September 6th for Tokyo, Japan and will be arriving in the afternoon of the 8th. So far, I have only booked the plane tickets but I have a lot of plans that I just haven’t solidified quite yet.

I hit a fare sale back in January and got my round trip airfare for about 2/3 the cost of my ticket last year. Granted, last year instead of paying out the cash for the ticket, one of my regular massage clients bartered with me for the airmiles. He and his wife are covered for the next years worth of massages, and I got a ticket to Japan – fare trade!

I will be staying overnight in Los Angeles on the 6th and will likely find a place to train that evening. If any bjj people have a spare couch or tatami, give me a holler!

Settling In:

IMG_5361I will most likely stay at the same guesthouse as I did last visit. The location was extremely convenient, good wifi connection, free tea/coffee/miso soup, and an on site onsen (bath house) – all for just about $20 per night.

I will arrive the day before the competition begins, so I will likely just collapse as soon as I arrive and wake up early the next morning. The 14 hour time difference is killer, but I adjusted pretty easily last visit with just a solid 12 hour sleep right off of the plane.

The Competition:

Last year, I competed on the second day of the event, but I popped by the venue in order to get my bearings, check my weight, and make sure I wouldn’t get lost. It was a little confusing making sure I got to the proper place since if you look it up online, it can lead you to the Nihon Budokan in Chiyoda, about a 30-45 minute train ride from the actual venue location. What you need to get to is the Tokyo Budokan in Ayase as shown below.

The venue is about a 8-10 minute walk from the Ayase train stop and is really quite easy to recognize.

Japan Budokan
Front Entrance
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Bathroom Slippers

One really nice thing about this venue, is that you don’t have to worry about people running into the bathroom without shoes on – since everyone takes their shoes off at the entrance. There are special slippers in the bathrooms that you will put on at the door before you go in to take care of your nervous pees and colon purges.
You can also

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Bathroom Noise Machine

press a button in each stall to play sound effects to cover the noise you would otherwise be making.

 

This is a Martial Arts specific venue. Expect to see people in Aikido and Japanese Jiu Jitsu uniform wandering around to check out what we are doing. There are vending machines with all kind of drinks – although I was desperate for just regular water and couldn’t seem to find it. There are no concessions stands, although there are many places to grab a bite to eat in the surrounding neighborhood. I opted for a bento meal from a convenience store.

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Podium Photo

Most of the announcements were done in English, although plenty of Portuguese was spoken as well as Japanese. I did discover upon checking in that they DO require females to wear a rash guard – which I understand based on what I know of the Japanese culture. It did put me into a minor panic since I was close on my weight (thank you bento box), but I was able to quickly purchase the smallest, lightest rashguard I could find, and I made weight.

 

Those are the only real differences in the competition that I could note as compared with the other events I have been to. I found, as a whole, the Japanese approach to Jiu Jitsu to be very precise and methodical.

Climbing Fujisama:

After I compete, I am planning an overnight climb of Mt. Fuji. The climbing season has not yet been set, but last year it extended for a few days after the competition.

I have not yet decided if I will do this on my own, or do it with a group. It would be more convenient with a group since all my expenses would be included and the entire thing would already be organized. However, it would cost a lot less to do it on my own. Still working on that.

If I go with a group, the first day we would go from Tokyo by coach to the base of the Mountian and then climb to the 7th station where we would then sleep for a few hours and adjust to the altitude. We would then start off late at night for the summit and reach the top in time for sunrise. After the hike back down, we would relax at the hot springs for a few hours before catching the coach back to Tokyo.

Korea?:

I realized recently, that Korea is only a couple hours from Tokyo by plane. Since I’m already that close, I figure I might as well hop a quick flight and see a whole new culture for a few days! I haven’t researched much so far since this is a new idea in my head, but I definitely want to make it happen. I want to eat some good food and train with some new BJJ people!

Kyoto:

I was extremely saddened last year that I wasn’t able to budget for a trip to Kyoto during my time in Japan. This time, I am for sure going to make it down – at least for a day trip! The Inari Shrine has been on my bucket list since before my trip last year!

Sumo:

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Opening Ceremony

Last year, I was able to attend a Sumo National Championship tournament. It was absolutely thrilling! It will be going on once again during this visit and I am trying to figure out how to get some really good seats. Last year I went with a tour group and we had bleacher seats, but
this time I want to be up close to the action! As far as I can find though, it looks like I need a Japanese address in order to buy tickets. I’ll buy from the tour again if I need to, but I would much rather pay for a good seat. If anyone in Japan happens to be reading this and wants to help me order, I would buy your ticket as well!

 

Exploration:

All that I have listed already would most likely be in my first week there. Then I will have a whole week left in order to explore, eat, and visit every Jiu Jitsu school I can find! I will also remember to bring a white Gi this time so I can train at the Kodokan.

I end this with a bunch of random photos from last years trip. Enjoy!