Excited/Terrified: The Thin, Fine Line

I just saw the bracket for my division at the World Championships.

It added a whole new layer of realness to the past year of training and sacrifices. It just suddenly hit me.

The World Championships are this week.

Yes, I’ve know all year what I have been preparing myself for – ever since I lost the quarter finals last year by an advantage point. I got back home with the focus to correct my mistakes and win this time around.

I realized when I saw that bracket, that the feeling in my gut has been the same since I first started competing. It has been something I fight to control – the nerves.

Competition Jitters

I had debilitating competition nerves for the first few years I competed. My heart would start racing and I would have to puke if I ever just THOUGHT about an upcoming event – weeks in advance!

There was a phase where I would just immerse myself in watching a new anime series or reading science textbooks (nerd alert!) in order to keep my mind off th upcoming competition. I would have to take (probably unsafe doses of) sleeping meds in order to get to sleep at night in the weeks leading up to an event. Let’s just say, it was bad.

Then I found that if I just acted like a goofball through the whole process, it would relieve my nerves. The right music at the right time became key as well. I could listen to southern gospel, Andrea Bocelli, Broadway musicals, marching cadences, rock, and motivational speeches – depending on if I needed to chill out or hype up.

Goofball could only take me so far though. 

At the end of last year, my coaches talked with one another and determined that I was too unfocused on my matches and needed to be more mentally present with the intent to win. 

The Balance

To me, the psychological effects of being nervous, are almost identical to being extremely excited. What makes the difference is my perspective and how I handle the feelings. 

Trying to not feel any nerves made me lose my focus and intensity. This year I have made the determination to not consider nerves to be a bad thing, but a necessary tool to keep me sharp. It has been paying off.

So bring on the World Championship! I will be fighting on mat 3 on Friday, the 50th match. I’ve never been more ready, and I am pumped!


Atlanta Pro Ladies Divisions

IMG_4310This coming Friday, I will finish off my last evening at my job and will likely get home at around 11 pm. I will be leaving for Atlanta at around 3:00 am saturday morning, so hopefully I can get at least a couple hours worth of sleep!

The IBJJF Atlanta Pro competition starts at around 9 am next Saturday, but I need to be there at 8 because I will be working at the event. Not only will I be competing for a $400 cash prize, I will also get to collect a small paycheck at the end of the day. Receiving a paycheck makes the entire trip tax deductible as a business expense. Yay!

There is a much smaller turn out for this event than I was anticipating. Registration is now closed and I only have a division of 6, with 28 blue belt ladies total with 21 possible to enter the open division. So that comes down to 2-3 matches in my weight class, and 4-5 possible in the open weight class.

There needs to be a minimum of 4 competitors in order for the division cash prize to be awarded. There are exactly 4 black belt ladies signed up – there were just three a few days ago so I am very glad to have seen another jump on board!

The Black Belt Breakdown

Six prizes totaling $20,000 spread across four weight classes is allocated for the men, and one open division prize of $1,500 is offered for the ladies. If you look at the registration list and do some fun division, you can see the value of each person in each cash division if the winners hypothetically decided to share the prize money equally among all the competitors in their division:

Black Belt Male Feather Weight:

8 Competitors – Two cash prizes = $5,000
$5,000/8 Competitors = $625/Competitor

Black Belt Male Middle Weight:

6 Competitors – Two cash Prizes = $5,000
$5,000/6 Competitors = $833.34/Competitor

Black Belt Male Heavy Weight:

6 Competitors – Two cash prizes = $5,000
$5,000/6 Competitors = $833.34/Competitor

Black Belt Male Super Heavy Weight:

8 Competitors – Two cash prizes = $5,000
$5,000/8 Competitors = $625/Competitor

Black Belt Female Open Weight Class

4 Competitors – One cash prize = $1,500
$1,500/4 Competitors = $375/Competitor

What Does It Mean?

There are enough black belt ladies now to have a good turn out at one of these pro competitions. However, why would any of them ever want to sign up for and travel to an event when they can wait for the event within driving distance of home? The mens division prizes are definitely much more likely to incite someone to travel from the opposite coastline, and even internationally.

Rough cost break down per competitor who would travel to an event:

Plane ticket: $300

Hotel for two nights: $150

Rental Car: $50

Registration Fees: $130

Food and incidentals: $50

So that is roughly $680 out of pocket, before even stepping on the competition mat. Not counting possible lost income from having to be away from work, paying for childcare, etc. If I was choosing between traveling for the chance at $1,500 – fighting in an open weight division, I would definitely hesitate – especially if I had the option of other events within driving distance.

Competing in a weight class, even for a reduced prize money amount would be much more enticing to the female competitor. The IBJJF stipulates that there must be 4 competitors registered for a division in order for any cash prizes to be awarded, so if they happen to have a poor turn out, they still have that option to fall back on.

I would wager that weight class prizes, even if they just split the open weight class into two divisions, would make these events look MUCH more enticing to a female competitor who is planning out her competition schedule for the year.

Here are some more numbers I put together for the event.

One lady next saturday will win 2 matches, and go home with 1,500.

Four men next saturday will win 2-3 matches, and go home with 1,000 each.

Four men next saturday will win 3-4 matches, and go home with 5,000 each.

My Conclusion:

I didn’t even cover the colored belt divisions for the men and women. I’m kind of whatever about that, but the black belt ladies have put in their time and deserve a better opportunity.

I’m not angry and feeling the need to boycott the event. It is just a four hour driving distance from Nashville, I get good matches, and is worth it for me to make the trip to compete. Plus my entry fee feeds the machine and will help to get the coffers full enough that the organization will feel it can start offering better cash prizes for the ladies.

I would like to see them do an experiment for just one pro event: offering an equal cash prize for the ladies and the men. If it flopped, it would shut up all the people nagging them. If it did well, they would know that it could work. I for one would definitely make a point of traveling to support that competition.

I’m excited at how the ladies divisions have been growing in the past few years and look forward to the future! It will take time – but things have been changing a lot, even since I started training. It is all thanks to the ladies who have paved the road before us and we owe them big time!

Fuji BJJ Tournament – Nashville

This past Saturday (July 11), I decided at the last minute to compete in the Fuji BJJ Nashville competition. I am thrilled to report that this was probably the best run regional tournament I have attended thus far! If you get a chance to attend one, go!

The weight classes for women were a little odd. The webpage listed them as:

110 lbs and under
110 lbs – 130 lbs
130 and up

So yea, I was in the “and up” category.

I ended up with one opponent in my Gi division. It was a fun match and I ended up winning with a bread cutter choke from north-south top.

I had more matches in No Gi because I think everyone just ended up all combined. I won my first match with an arm bar, and second by RNC. I was asked by my friend Deanna to do a match with one of her students since she had no one in her division to match up with. Had some fun hand fighting before locking in a guillotine from standing.

I do wish there had been more advertising done for this event. I’m considering making the trip out to their St. Louis event coming up soon!

The Cookie Move:

My coaches definitely know what it takes to motivate me! I was shown a control/attack position the day before the tournament and promised a cookie if I pulled it off at the tournament. I was quite pleased to text my coach to inform him of my favorite flavor! Ginger Molasses (vegan AND gluten free!) awesomeness! Will Sub For Cookies!

On The Road Again

Now I am going to go pack my bags for my flight to New York in the morning. I will be competing this Saturday and Sunday in the IBJJF New York Open. The schedule and brackets are already up so I’ll be starting on Saturday on mat 10 at around 1:20 pm for 4 Gi matches. On Sunday I’ll be competing on mat 8, starting around 4 pm with two No Gi matches to win. At least I can sleep in a bit!

1,000 Burpees In A Week?

I had the brilliant idea that I would start doing a weekly training challenge in conjunction with the launch of my new webpage (more on that next week!)

This week I am tackling 1,000 burpees. I’ve broken it down to 150 a day for the first 5 days, and then 125 for the last two days. This is made more achievable by further breaking them down into sets of 25.

Today is the first day and I decided I would also film them all just so I would have proof to share! I threw in some extra at the end just because I felt like it. Total for the day, 160. I counted 165 but I am calling it 160 to account for the possibility of miscount.

I do have to modify and not do a push up at the bottom because of a nagging shoulder injury, which does make it a bit less impressive I’m afraid. I do promise that my quads and abs are already feeling it though! Tomorrow should be entertaining!

Other Big News!

My gym is in the process of moving! We are consolidating with our other location in East Nashville and have to be moved completely by the 1st.

It is going to be a different layout, but we won’t actually be losing any mat space. The kids will be getting their own separate room as well! It will be different, but I think it will end up being a good thing!

This does complicate matters a bit for me as this means my massage office space will be moving, and the office build out is not completed yet. Also since I do not have a car this meant a hour long bus commute (the bus system in Nashville isn’t the most efficient), or I have to move. I’ve opted to move and just rent a room near the new gym location.

So on the to do list for this week:

Move Gym
Move Massage Office
Move Home
Do 1,000 Burpees

I think I can consider myself busy!

Lisbon – Castles, Food, and Training

IMG_1984Yesterday I spent my day up at the Castelo de S. Jorge. It was breathtaking, and not just because of the long climb up the hill and through the Alfama neighborhood (I took the roundabout route).

In the midst of my wanderings, I came across a gorgeous cathedral and just had to pop in. I sat down for a few minutes then lit a candle before continuing on with my uphill hike.

LisbonWhen I eventually made my way up to the top  of the hill and entered the castle grounds, the view just made me have to stop and stare for quite a while.

I was planning to take the tour but I completely misread the sign. It said the English tour was at 13 which I somehow translated in my brain to 1:30 so I showed up 30 minutes too late. Yea I know, I’m a dunce.

I stopped for a snack at the café before crossing the bridge into the castle itself. This was great fun as I got to climb up and down these steep staircases, many without railings, which made the adrenaline junkie in me very content.

One of my favorite things to do is eat! So you can bet I have been making the rounds! Here are a few highlights!
IMG_1248Pork at O Pote! I had been thinking about this particular meal since my previous trip to Lisbon two years ago! I was a very happy foodie!

The potatoes were a bit different than I remembered, but it was still amazing! Good simple comfort food!


Seafood RiceSeafood Rice at Casa de India! I was able to identify shrimp, mussels, crab, octopus, barnacles, and even a couple of whole prawns! I realized after I ate this that maybe I should have tested myself for a shellfish allergy before this trip but I ended up being just fine!

Just so you know, if you are in a more traditional Portuguese dining facility, you will need to flag down your waiter for the bill. Just something to be aware of if you are used to being hovered over! The service is excellent, you are just left to enjoy your meal in peace until you have a request to make. I rather like it that way!

GelatoI stopped at a yummy looking gelato shop named Amorino and discovered that they will sculpt your gelato into the shape of a flower! You just choose your size and you can choose as many favors as you want. I saw that they had my favorite Dutch spice cookie as a flavor so I took a base of that, plus caramel, and finished it off with chocolate.

I may have to go back tomorrow…

Pastéis de nataOf course I went back to Manteigaria for more Pastéis de nata! I found that they will actually sell packages of them to go, so I may purchase some tomorrow evening and see if they last the trip home!

I also imbibed in numerous sandwiches and other bits of randomness, but I promised just the highlights!


Jiu Jitsu
Today I took a bus ride out toward Belém in order to train at the Royce Gracie Academy. The instructor there is Hélio Perdigão and I highly recommend this school to any Jiu Jitsu practitioner visiting Lisbon! I got some fun rolls in and there are good variety of sizes and experience levels levels present.

In Conclusion
There are so many things to talk about in regards to this trip. The street performers, the architecture, the culture, the fashion, etc. While I am here and not wanting to stay holed up writing and editing, I am just giving general highlights. Once I get home I will start going into more details.

Tomorrow is my last full day here in Lisbon. I have a plan. It shall hopefully prove to be most excellent!


I was asked the other day how hard it is to get over the disappointment of loosing a match in competition.

If my primary motivation were to never loose, I would be devastated and it would crush me. However, this is not my motivation to compete.

My goal, from the first day I stepped foot into my school, has been to challenge myself. I want to see what I can do when I push myself. The only time I am disappointed is if I give up.

I have done it. I’m not proud of that, but I have given up in the middle of a match before.

In the last year, I have been finding my backbone. My mantra before I step on the mats has been “No matter what, I will not quit.” – it seems to be working!

On to Worlds now!


Brain? Check! Body? Not So Much

I have finally managed to nail down the exact reason for the anxiety I have been having during competitions this year! You know that feeling you get when you almost crash your car and die? I live in that “jolt” for every tournament – for a week or two before the tournament even. Yea… I know I need to chill.

Then, of course, I get into this lovely spiral of stressing over the fact that I can’t relax. Sounds really productive huh?

This is not normal for me. I’m usually the one who bounces through the day letting everything roll off my back. Hakuna Matata anyone? The last time I felt like that though was at the European Championship in January. What was my secret?

I’m a goofball.

That wasn’t a joke – that’s seriously the root of the problem. I’m a huge goofball but ever since competing at the European Championship I’ve been trying to take everything so seriously. Without my goofball antics to keep me out of my own head, I just ferment inside like a pressure cooker until the stress becomes debilitating.

I thought I should be more serious if I’m going to be a serious competitor… Forget that! I put this to the test for the last 2 tournaments and the results are in!

Chicago Open:
I wasn’t even sure if I was going to compete or not at this one. I tore a muscle in my right forearm that week and hadn’t been able to really use it much in class. I was working at this tournament and had already booked the hotel so I went anyhow. I got to wear one of the black shirts and work at the podium, as well as occasionally helping out with the inexperienced ring coordinators. Good times!

About 10 mins before my division was to be called, I decided to just go for it – and I had no time to freak out, I’d been busy all day! Ended up taking gold in my division and bronze in the open. My bracket for the open was really weird. There were 5 of us, and I had the extra match – so three on my side, two on the other. I won my first match then learned that a girl on the other side of the bracket had to bow out, giving her opponent a straight shot into the finals. I fought the second girl on my side of the bracket lost by advantage.

So since there were only 4 of us, I got third place alongside the gal I beat in my first match. Confused? I was. Also, the lady who got the straight shot into the finals was team mates with the one I lost my second match to – and she made her bow out to her in the finals… So she got the gold without a single match. That was a sucky messed up draw methinks. Oh well! Apparently once the bracket is drawn up and printed, the officials can only cross names off and aren’t allowed to move things around. For gold I’d have had to beat 3 fresh opponents in a 4 person division. Would have been pretty cool though!

Synopsis: Being unable to post with my right arm made me give up two sweep points in the open which I lost on (annoying!) but with no time to fester and freak out, so it was the most relaxed I remember being at a tournament in quite a while!

Abu Dhabi Pro Trials
I stayed with a friend in Brooklyn the day before competing and he is the one who helped me pinpoint my mental problem. I was wigging out so badly the day before competing (my bday no less!). He got me out of my head enough for me to finally realize how badly I was festering in there. For the rest of the day and into the next I was in fine form, just being a nut – and had no stress.

My brain was finally balanced for the tournament, but unfortunately, my body wasn’t quite there. While applying a choke in my first match, my arm tore more… A truly unpleasant sensation for sure! I froze and she passed my guard. I put up a fight the best I could but every nerve ending was on fire and my right arm was completely useless. So I lost on points. Sucked because she told me afterward that the choke was very tight – too bad my arm couldn’t have waited a few more seconds!

Anyhow, it’s still just a muscle tear and the doc says it should heal with a week of rest. Feels kinda weird, I didn’t go to the gym at all yesterday… I just read in bed all day. Today is the same thing. I’ll have to go in tomorrow since I have massage clients – but no training until Monday. Then I’ll have a week to take off my Gi and get my flow for No Gi Worlds. Yay!

Pan Ams and Team Changes


So… maybe I should give up on being consistent with this?

Anyhow, I competed at the IBJJF Chicago Open and managed to win gold – subbing all my opponents. It was a bit of an adventure, which I shall now elaborate on.

My first opponent seemed to be a bit larger than me – I wondered if I was in the correct bracket! I tapped her with an armbar from guard, which was the first time I’ve ever done that!

Second match was a very tall girl – kind of like Steven – just very long. Had a really good battle with her and finally ended with a bow/arrow choke variation.

After that, I was in the finals. And here comes the adventure….

I was very lightheaded after that second match and couldn’t even hold myself up, had to hang onto the partition to stay upright. My pulse was racing so badly and I remember telling coach I was about to pass out. He asked me if I wanted to call it, or if I’d be ok to continue. I told him “I’ll just finish really fast and probably collapse afterward.”

I willed myself to stay upright when I was called to the mat and I ended her with a triangle in mount. I could tell I was about to go out, but managed to stay upright just long enough for my hand to be raised. Then I collapsed.

I don’t think I actually blacked out, I just couldn’t stay up any longer. The medics came over and when I couldn’t even hold myself in a sitting position they called the paramedics. Turns out I was having a pretty severe irregular heart beat so I was carted off on the stretcher and hooked up to a heart monitor for about an hour until I stabilized.

We narrowed it down to my electrolytes being out of wack. Once they got a couple of bottles of watered down gatorade into me, i was all good. So from now on, always gonna take pedialite with me to tournaments!

All this was less than 2 weeks from Pan Ams!

Skipping to Pan Ams…

I figured after doing Europe by myself, Pan Ams would be a breeze since I’d have my team mates with me. It was so much easier mentally!

I had 17 in my division, so 4 matches to win. My first match I won with a guillotine choke at right past the 1 min mark.

Second match I went against a feisty, slightly older woman. I guess she would have been in a masters bracket, but there wasn’t anyone else in that division . She gave me some trouble with passing her guard. I ended up going all Kenny on her – standing knee on chest guard pass. I got an Americana from side control locked in, but she wasn’t tapping, so I cranked it… Found out later that I actually broke her radius and ulna! Didn’t know that at the time so I just moved on to my next match.

I didn’t get much rest time before my next match. My opponent’s coach was a ref and has apparently competed against my coach before. So no pressure right?

She was good at avoiding my sweeps for sure, but I managed to lock in an armbar from guard. She tapped and I started to let go, but the ref didn’t see, so she started fighting again. Thankfully I still had it and rolled belly down to finish (again).

After that, the mat coordinator informed me that I had won 1st place. I was severely confused as I was sure I had 4 matches. At any rate, I changed into another Gi and decided to hang until I was called either to the mat or the podium.

45 mins later it was back to the mat. We went the full time and I ended up losing 3 advantage points to 4. My team mates say I legitimately won the match because I didn’t get points for an omoplata sweep, but whatever. I haven’t seen the video yet, and all I know is this: I did some good Jiu Jitsu and am proud of myself. Neither of us were able to stand afterward – wish we lived closer to one another so we could train together occasionally!

She got her blue belt on the podium so I won’t get a re-match at Worlds in May. Kinda bummed about that, but I’ll catch her next year!


The Jiu Jitsu community has been buzzing about the Lloyd Irvin cataclysm. I’m so sad over the whole thing – my coach has been under Master Lloyd since he was a blue belt, but we had to break away when it looked like we were gonna lose our affiliate schools.

Chicago was my last tournament under TLI. Pan Ams I was under TAC Team (Jared Weiner).

Honestly, I believe innocent until proven guilty and there is so much dirt chucking and heresay… this is the story I’m sticking with:

There will never be another TLI organization. What he has done for the Jiu Jitsu community will never be replicated. When I was in Europe, the team welcomed me with open arms just like family – and I still consider them as such. My school separating from the team was simply a business decision – not an act of condemnation.

That said – no matter how the storm settles, I’m gonna just keep on doing Jiu Jitsu. I honestly don’t care about team organizations, all the politics, and whose refs are screwing who – I’m here for the love of Jiu Jitsu. I’m not going anywhere!

European Opens 2013 Results

First match!
First match!

I’m feeling egocentric at the moment, so I’m gonna dive right into how I did. There were 16 women in my division, so I was thrilled to death that I’d have 4 fights to gold – the more the merrier right? I had a good amount of jitters, but I sat back in the bullpen reciting my mantra to myself until I was focused.

1st match:

Pulled guard and worked my tripod sweep. I then passed to side control. She rolled into me and I circled around, thinking of taking her back – almost diving in a reverse triangle. I was a bit too slow though and she stood up so I had to pull and sweep again. This time I pulled Kenny’s favorite “shin on biceps” trick and then kimura’ed her from side control. It was a fun match!

2nd match:

All i can say is “wow!” I didn’t feel overly threatened, but man did she wear me out! We spent the entire match with her trying to pass my guard and myself trying to sweep and shoot triangles at her. Man, am I glad for those training sessions with the kids – teaching me how to move and re-guard quickly! I started to feel a bit tired but then noticed she was breathing harder, and that bolstered my confidence. It ended up going to a ref decision since neither of us scored at all. I remember thinking to myself “What? All that and no points? Please pick me!” And he did!

3rd match (semi-finals):

I immediately pulled full guard and we spent most of our time there. I immediately started working my cross choke in on her, and instead of defending she started trying to choke me from my guard. I remember thinking “Really???” She was trying to force it without either grips deep enough so it didn’t really bug me. She finally started defending her neck and trying to break my guard. When she reached back to try to grab my leg behind her, I caught her in a triangle. The rest is history.

4th match (finals):

I made a huge mistake here. I watched the girl compete on her side of the semi-finals, and became more concerned with avoiding her game, than implementing mine. So I came out a lot less aggressively than i should have. She pulled guard first, passed, and spent the rest of the round in mount on me. I’m irritated with myself for the mental break, but I’ll do better next time!

Silver Medal Baby!

 So I ended up with the silver medal! I was really hoping I would earn gold, but hey, it’s a pretty decent start! I really wish I could do the open and have more matches, but that will have to wait until I get my blue belt. All good things…

I really am proud of myself for coming out here to compete in my first big boy tournament. It has been an amazing time so far just getting to be immersed in this big melting pot of languages and cultures. I don’t even know how many countries and languages were represented, but we all had something in common.

I was hoping to update this more regularly while I am in Lisbon, but the wi-fi was acting up at my hotel. I’ve moved to a different one for the next few days, and it’s working now! It is fairly late (or early) here, so I’m going to sleep. I don’t head back to the states until Wednesday evening so I’m hoping to visit some Jiu Jitsu schools while I’m over here!

Off to Europe!

Well I’m sitting at my gate in the Nashville airport. I’ve got about 90 minutes to kill so I figured now is a good time to put in an overdue update!

I competed 2 weeks ago in my first submission only tournament. Won my division and had a total of 4 fights – not too shabby! I made a mistake in the open finals and lost to an armbar from guard. I stood when I should have stacked… Not gonna do that again!

The last month has been some pretty high intensity training! I feel ready to do this! Had a private lesson with my coach yesterday morning and he ran me through my game plan. I love drilling! It’s what makes a move look effortless!

Flight Plan:
I’m flying from Nashville to New York. I’ll be changing to an Italian airline there and flying to Milan after a 3 hour layover. That 3 hours will probably be just enough time to make my gate by boarding call. I’ll have to change terminals, check in at the front, and go through security again.

I’ll arrive in Milan at about 9:00 am local time. I have a 9 hour layover (by design!) So I’m gonna take a train into town and walk around. I’m good on weight so I’m gonna allow myself some gelato!

From Milan, I fly on (yet another) airline to Lisbon. I’ll arrive close to 8:00 pm (or 20:00) and am gonna try to figure out how to get to my hotel by bus instead of taxi. I’ve got maps of where I need to be – so it’ll be an adventure!

I’m sharing a hotel room with another Lloyd Irvin team member. We will both be competing the day after we arrive. My division isn’t scheduled until about 3:30 – she’s before noon I think.

I’ve been awake all night. My way to combat jet lag is to stay awake the night before, and sleep on the plane. I wake up when we land and then stay up until nightfall. Works every time!

Due to my sleep deprived condition, I’m gonna stop now before this turns into a never-ending ramble of magnificent proportions!