Abu Dhabi World Pro Recap

I just made it back to the states after a very interesting 10 days in the United Arab Emirates. I will work on a few other blog posts detailing some of the non-competition experiences (food, desert safari, shopping in local markets, etc) – for now I will just be sharing about my adventures leading up through the competition event itself. So… prepare yourself for informal story time!

I booked my flight before the schedule was solidified, so I ended up arriving in the Abu Dhabi airport at around 3 am local time on the day I was to compete. No day before weigh ins for me – so I was very hungry and thirsty. Female hormones decided to time their surge during this critical stage, so I did not have the planned wiggle room for my weight.

I hung out at the airport for about 5 hours, charging my devices and staring with thirst envy at everyone else who happened to take a sip from a water bottle in my vicinity. Occasionally, I would stroke my bag of sports drinks and whisper a “soon my precious, soon”. When time finally came for me to make my way to the venue for weigh ins, I purchased a metro card and made my way out to the bus stop along with my suitcase and bag. I missed the proper metro stop and therefore ended up walking about 1.5 miles in the desert heat, dragging my suitcase over cobblestone (R.I.P suitcase). When I finally arrived at the competition venue and weighed in, I was a full pound under weight thanks to that desert stroll – so all’s well!

I had about 90 minutes before my division was set to begin, so I proceeded to down a bottle of electrolyted liquid and lie down with my feet up in the warm up area. At this point the giddiness began to kick in because I realized I had made it happen and I was really going to get to go out and compete.

img_2551My match was meant to be the 5th one in my division, but since it was the first match that the coordinator found, it got bumped to the first event of the day! So this means being escorted past the curtain out to the side of the mat while the tv commentators are talking and the crowd is starting to rumble in the background. I was grinning like a fool. So happy to be there after all the work I put in to make it happen. This was going to be me showing my best game.

Finally, the referee gives the motion to start the match and everything else fades away to a pinpoint of focus. I go from grinning fool to focused animal in the drop of a hand. My opponent came at me with fury and powerful technique. I responded instinctively, just doing what I know how to do (so many inversions!). When we reached 1 minute left I looked at the scoreboard and saw that I was up 2 advantage points and could coast the last bit if I wanted. However, that is how I missed out on a finals match in Cincinnati, so I kept going. My opponent knew she only had to pass my guard in order to advance to the next round and I could feel her determination and drive. Suddenly I saw an opening and managed to lock in a submission, rolling to mount to finish in the last 30 seconds of the match. It was honestly one of my proudest matches. It was a war from beginning to end with a worthy opponent whom I would love a chance to match up with again!

I was as elated and made my way back to the holding area when the adrenaline dump kicked in like it never has before. That along with the lack of sleep and recovery time hit all at once. I was very close to throwing up and had to lie down on the floor with my legs elevated. Thankfully since I ended up being the first match of the day, they had to process through the rest of my division before they came back to me again. It was a full 30 minutes before I could sit up without nearly blacking out and I have not been that close to backing out of a match before. However, I owed it to my first opponent to continue on and do my very best! So once I could sit up, I focused on projecting a strong solid front to any of my opponents who might be watching me. Just because I feel like I’m going to pass out, doesn’t mean I need to let people see that.

My name was called for my second match and I kept that mask on as I went out. I wish there was a triumphant resolution to this tale, but alas, I was immediately pulled into a triangle and had to tap to the pressure on my neck. I kept the mask on afterwards, thanked my referee and made my way back to find ice for my neck.

All in all, this was one of my favorite tournament experiences and it was an honor to participate in it! I also earned enough points to be ranked #6 in North America! I will be back. What I will do differently next time is just book a flight arriving much earlier so that I can have time to do the day before weigh ins and recover more completely. Mentally I was more focused than I have in the past year – I feel like I am starting to be confident in my game again. I will continue to improve and make myself better every day. My next goal will be to hit as many of the Grand Slam events as possible (Tokyo is in July), and also to wreck some havoc at Master Worlds.

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!

I Think I Have A Problem…

Hi.
My name is Nicholle.
I am addicted to Jiu Jitsu competition.

Now while you’re planning my intervention, let me tell you my tale…

My First Time

I didn’t want to try it. Honest! But all my team mates were doing it, and I just wanted to fit in and be accepted as part of the group. I just figured, what harm could one try do? So I put my money on the table, signed the “I will not sue you if I die” paper, stepped on the scale for the first time, then found a corner to shake and wait in.

Not gonna lie, the first time was terrifying.

With barely a smudge of sweat build up on my brand new, snow white belt, I got pitted against a blue belt twice my size. Somewhere in the middle of trying to support her in the air using just my foot in her hip, I thought to myself “This is crazy! What am I doing?” I remember my team mates yelling “Sweep! Sweep!” and myself thinking “What’s a sweep?”

When it was all over with, I was exhausted and thinking to myself how crazy the whole experience was.

Funny thing though. After it was done; I ended up winning a match, earning my first medal, going out to eat with my team mates for a victory dinner, and finding myself wanting to do it again. I wanted to learn what this magical “sweep” that I could have won the match with was – I wanted to do better!

Today

I look back on my first competition experience and am so glad I gave it a try! The friends I have made in the past three years competing have made the journey worthwhile just by themselves!

Other than all the awesome people I have met, I’ve gotten to visit some amazing places in my quest for expanding my competition horizons! I’ve competed from Los Angeles to New York, and even went to Portugal twice! I hope to make it out to Japan next year!

I’ve never thought of myself as a competitive person. I still don’t really. I just want to know how far I can go when I push myself. The beauty of it is that there will always be the “next!” factor at play. Win or lose, before I even leave the event space, I’m already thinking about my next goal.

The community I have become a part of fuels me. Any place in the world I go, I can find a mat to step on, and all language and cultural boundaries fall away and I am immediately among family.

My team is an awesome support group. We are a big crazy family and even coming from all different walks of life, we have a common cause of improving and learning every class. Police officers, convicts, lawyers, personal trainers, stay at home moms, chefs, doctors… We are all under one roof and coexisting! Bad days and breakdowns are forgiven and forgotten. It’s very freeing!

In Conclusion

I would like to request that you cancel plans for my intervention. I think some things are worth being addicted to.

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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Disappointment?

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!

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The Mental Battle

Before every major tournament, I have my mental battle. I win or lose in my mind every time – before I step into the venue. Here is my open book, mental war I face each time. I don’t think I’m the only one here… If I am, oh well. At least you know I’m human!

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I have straight up, irrational self-doubt. The kind that ignores reality and works to sabotage everything I try to put effort into. It’s one of those “I know better” kind of things – but easier said than done.

I’ve done so much in the very short time that I have been practicing Jiu Jitsu – as a white belt I got up to ranked #1 in my weight division! I took home a second place team award – as a sole competitor! I’ve placed at all but one of the 14-16 competitions I’ve entered in!

Does this make a difference? Nope. Instead of focusing on making excuses for why I “lost”, I make excuses for how I “won”. I just believe that every achievement was a fluke and at any moment people will realize what a poser I am.

Again, I know better…

 

 

I’ve got 4 big tournaments coming up in the next few weeks:
Sept 28 – No Gi Pan Ams
Oct 12 – Chicago Open
Oct 19 -Abu Dhabi Pro Trials
Nov 2,3 – No Gi Worlds

For me, my hardest competitor will be the one inside my head. I always have to fight the “You can’t. You’re a fake. You’re a failure.” I don’t win or lose the battle with my opponent. I win or lose the battle with myself.

I’m flying out on Friday for the No Gi Pan Ams. I’m going to prove the “you can’t” wrong so that, in the future, I can refer back to this point. I’m calling it out now…

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