Chasing Challenges

I have been out with a knee injury for the past several months.

It has sucked pretty badly.

I saw all my friends training and competing in events. While I was happy and excited for them, I had sub-feelings of envy and frustration that I tried my best to shove when issuing congratulations or encouragement to people. It’s not their fault that I was sitting out and I didn’t want my feelings to color their experiences. I have had some of my experiences soured in the past by other people doing just that. I won’t be that person.

I’m super happy to announce that my Dr was not horrified at the thought of me returning to competition next month! So I have been cautiously training this past week – getting back into shape sucks. I’m up 8 lbs from my normal competition weight and my cardio sucks so badly that I can’t sit down after class because I know I might not get back up for hours.

I love it.

During the time off I have been planning out my approach to this next season and doing a lot of searching for my own motivation. I took it back to my day 1 roots and realized that my motivation has remained the same – I’m chasing the challenge. This is why I got into Jiu Jitsu. I was overweight and unhealthy – but was bored to tears just working out at the gym because there were no concrete hard goals. I remembered how much I enjoyed doing TaeKwonDo and Hapkido as a teen and decided to find something similar to push myself with.

It was pretty hard. And there are so many layers of difficulty! Once I could make it through class all the way without nearly passing out – I decided to try a competition. I won 1 out of 4 matches and got hooked. I made measurable progress and worked my way up to a silver in both the European Championships and the Pans. Just as I started to get comfortable and see an end goal come closer (gold at one of those events), an awesome thing happened!

I was promoted to my next belt rank and started all over at the bottom of the divisions – losing most of my first matches (badly) and scrambling for improvement once again. I went through the “blue belt blues” – trying to readjust my mentality to focus on long term improvement while dealing with the bubble pop of going from the “top white belt” to “bottom blue belt”. This is where I really started branching out to compete in different countries around the world in order to test myself in as many different ways as possible. With each test, I learned a little bit more about myself and became better.

Again, just as I reached the level of comfort, I was promoted once again to my current belt rank (purple). This time, however, I anticipated the bubble pop and did not let it get me down. It is just a period of mental adjustment to a new level of intensity and goals. The main difference I’ve noticed is that people take me a lot more seriously as a purple belt than as a white or blue belt.

So here I am in my purple belt phase. I wouldn’t be able to summarize it properly until it has past and I am looking back at it. But I’m going to enjoy it and milk the entire experience for as much as I can get out of it.

It’s all just practice for my black belt anyhow – so it’s okay to try things out and mess up. The failures aren’t as bad as I think they are, and the successes aren’t as glorious either. They are rungs on the ladder of improvement.

So now that I’m back into active training, my first order of business is to get my cardio back so that I can train effectively. I’m still at a high risk for re-injury so I am being very cautious who I train with and how. I also need to drop back down to competition weight, which shouldn’t be too hard now that I’m cleared to train again.

During the time off to heal, I focused on my mental game and also on building my own personal business. Now I have a strong foundation to work from and I can’t wait to see what I can do! I’ll be testing myself once more at the Master Worlds next month in Vegas – it’s going to be awesome!

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

Just A Minor Breakthrough

I’ve started having another of those shifts in thinking in the past month about Jiu Jitsu. There have been many, and they are always super simple things that just open up a whole new world of “ah hah!”

I came to the realization that if I believe that I can execute a move, I can do it. This has been especially applicable to things such as; going after arm bars from guard, and positional escapes.

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First Week of Training

What made the difference was realizing that people were escaping from my side control using the same movements that I know how to do – but that I never actually commit to doing. Maybe I’ve spent so many years being smashed that I just don’t believe in my ability to get out from under someone once they have gotten past my guard. That realization is starting to shift my thinking. It works for people I spar against, so why wouldn’t a move work if I go after it – believing it will work?

Always improving, always trying to broaden my mind to see the bigger picture. It is a very mental game as well as a physical one – and both my body and my mind must be strong and work in harmony in order for me to be my very best every day.

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Oh, in other news: my instructor, Shawn Hammonds, gave me my 3rd stripe on my purple belt this week! I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious!

Nashville Winter Open Team Information

I have written up a list of who is competing on which mat, and their approximate start time. Please keep in mind that the times update in real time on this website.

I have had matches start an hour before the original start time, and up to 2 hours after. It really just depends on how quickly the matches before yours go. I have included the match number first so that you can track how quickly the matches are going on each individual mat. I wrote a blog post a while ago about how to help streamline your competition experience, check it out here.

Make sure to check your weight on the test scale in the bullpen area before going to the official weigh ins. There will be a lot of us there, so if you have a question just ask. The instructors and senior students will be doing their best to coach every match, but if they don’t make it to yours, know that they are doing their best.

Here is part of a rather candid video with our head instructor, Shawn Hammonds, from training this morning. I missed the first part, but the rest of it is still good.

Jason Mattherly, Madison Sperry and Kenny Cross don’t have anyone in their divisions (they scared off all opponents), so they will wait until the open class divisions later in the evening.

For blue belts and up, after collecting your medal at the podium, make sure to sign up for the open weight class immediately. The sign up is usually right next to the podium. Only two from each team will be allowed to compete in the open, but give Shawn options so he can select the chosen ones from the list. He can’t add you if you don’t sign up, and sign up is usually due right after you get your medal.

It is a long day, but if you are able to stick around until the team awards at the end, absolutely do so! You don’t wanna miss being a part of the big team photo on the podium!

That all said, here are all the matches in order for each mat. Use the times as a general guideline – I find the match numbers more useful myself.

Mat 1

#4 – 10:06 – Bryan Tidwell – Black Adult Feather

#6 – 10:30 – Eric Ingram – Black Adult Middle

#7 – 10:42 – Chad Hardy – Black Adult Middle

#14 – 11:57 – Javier Arroyo – Black Master 1 Middle

#15 – 12:05 – Matthew Maskovyak – Black Master 2 Super Heavy

#30 – 1:50 – Andrew Pardee – Purple Master 1 Feather

#38 – 2:49 – Wyatt Baxter – White Adult Middle

#48 – 3:59 – Jacob Taylor – White Master 1 Middle

#49 – 4:06 – Christopher Gardner – White Master 1 Middle

#52 – 4:27 – Brenton Meadows – White Master 1 Super Heavy

 

Mat 2

#2 – 9:38 – Matthew Bush – Blue Adult Middle

#8 – 10:26 – Charlie Alexander – Blue Adult Middle

#9 – 10:34 – Taylor Cross – Blue Adult Middle

#15 – 11:23 – Chance Miller – Purple Adult Middle

#24 – 12:42 – Alexei Pergande – Blue Juvenile Middle

#31 – 1:33 – Alex Holguin – Blue Master 2 Medium Heavy

#33 – 1:47 – Shannon Goughary – Purple Master 1 Light

#36 – 2:09 – Jonathon King – Purple Master 1 Medium Heavy

#43 – 3:01 – Paul Jeong – White Adult Medium Heavy

#46 – 3:22 – Cole Gordon – White Adult Medium Heavy

#49 – 3:43 – Griffin Hill – White Adult Medium Heavy

#51 – 3:57 – Michele Czech – White Adult Light

#54 – 4:18 – Kyle Haack – White Master 1 Heavy

 

Mat 3

#1 – 9:30 – Keith Roberts – Blue Adult Feather

#3 – 9:46 – Russell Bracey – Blue Adult Feather

#14 – 11:06 – Nichole Herold – Blue Adult Super Heavy

#24 – 12:40 – Nicholle Stoller – Purple Adult Light

#25 – 12:49 – Anthony Cairns – Blue Master 1 Medium Heavy

#35 – 2:01 – Rob Gortney – Purple Master 1 Ultra Heavy

#51 – 3:57 – Breana Kenworthy – White Adult Feather

#57 – 4:39 – Erin Mercer-Swayze – White Master 1 Light Feather

 

Mat 4

#1 – 9:30 – Troy Yang – Blue Adult Light

#4 – 9:46 – Aaron White – Blue Adult Light

#9 – 10:34 – Brittany Dickman – Blue Adult Light Feather

#14 – 11:15 – Joseph Kaiga – Purple Adult Feather

#21 – 12:16 – Guerin Lewis – Purple Adult Medium Heavy

#22 – 12:25 – Andrew Kordower – Brown Adult Middle

#37 – 2:19 – Paul Gibson – Purple Master 1 Middle

#38 – 2:26 – Kevin Patterson – Brown Master 1 Middle

#41 – 2:49 – Jimmie Hayes – Brown Master 3 Heavy

#42 – 2:56 – Robert Wake – White Adult Light

#46 – 3:25 – Ray Mullen – White Adult Heavy

#48 – 3:39 – Connor Ridings – White Adult Light

#49 – 3:46 – Caleb Tenpenny – White Adult Heavy

#53 – 4:14 – David Hall – White Master 1 Medium Heavy

#56 – 4:35 – Michael Rohus – White Master 2 Light

#60 – 5:03 – Zachary Hudson – White Master 3 Heavy

 

Mat 5

#3 – 9:46 – Will Caplenor – Blue Adult Medium Heavy

#21 – 12:18 – Kevin Harmon – Brown Adult Light

#27 – 1:08 – Palmer Gibbs – Blue Master 1 Heavy

#28 – 1:15 – Michael Kenner – Blue Master 2 Middle

#35 – 2:04 – James Harrison – Purple Master 2 Ultra Heavy

#36 – 2:11 – Johnathan Hill – Purple Master 2 Ultra Heavy

38 – 2:25 – William Wolf – Brown Master 4 Medium Heavy

#45 – 3:14 – Jackson Mena – White Adult Rooster

46 – 3:21 – Christopher Corey – White Adult Super Heavy

#47 – 3:28 – Jaylen Bolling – White Adult Super Heavy

#50 – 3:49 – Preston Akers – White Master 1 Light

#55 – 4:24 – Kyle Moffett – White Master 1 Ultra Heavy

#57 – 4:38 – Bojan Jovanovic – White Master 1 Ultra Heavy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inconceivable!

Last week something happened that got me all kinds of riled up. I still don’t even get why someone would try to do this, but they did. This is the tale.

The Nashville IBJJF Open is coming up this weekend and everyone is doing their final prep work and weight cuts. I am one of those people who check the registration list several times a day to see if any new ladies have signed up in my division. For the longest time it was just myself, and one of my team mates. I signed up for master 1 and she signed up for adult – so we could share the love with as many people as possible in the open weight class divisions.

Finally, someone else signed up in my weight class, but in the adult division. So I just moved back to the adult division for the match up. Another lady signed up to make us three. We all know and have fought with one another before and it amazes me how hard we can work to kill each other while still being friendly.

It was looking like it would just be us three when a fourth lady signed up the day before the registration deadline, and I  was super excited (one of the guys at the gym said I was like a kid at Christmas) until one of my team mates commented. “What her? Didn’t she get her brown belt last month?

A quick look at her accounts and confirmed that she had indeed been promoted the previous month. My rage set in as I debated on what I should do. I decided to give the benefit of the doubt and waited until after the athlete correction deadline – just in case it was a paperwork or registration mistake. With that deadline past, I sent an email to the IBJJF along with screen shots and photos. Here was my closing statement:

“I hate accusations but if this is true, it is disrespectful to the other opponents in the division as well as her team, coach, and the spirit of Jiu Jitsu. If I am wrong in this accusation, I will personally apologize to “_______” and to you all for making you invest time in looking into this.”

A day later, I received a short reply thanking me for my email and to let me know they were looking into the matter. I also then heard from one of the other ladies in the division who had noticed the same thing I had. Her team head was looking into it as well.

So she ended up getting pulled from the competition. I don’t know what happened at that end of the discussion, but I don’t really care to dig into it.

Here’s what I don’t get…

There aren’t an overwhelming surplus of ladies in my area that are above blue belt. I think we have three female black belts within a 2 hour driving radius. It is a small, close knit community with good camaraderie and sportsmanship all around. I don’t understand how someone could think that we wouldn’t notice that someone was cheating. Whatever the intention, mis-representing your belt rank is cheating.

I fought a brown belt when I was a blue belt, but it was an open division and there were no shadow games going on. I will stress that I don’t care what actual belt rank someone is; I will fight whoever wants to slap hands with me. However, someone who cheats in this way, does not deserve a match.

I also can’t get over how someone would go back and put on their old belt when they spent all that time, sweat, blood, and tears to earn that new rank. It is just a piece of cloth, but the value is priceless because of what I have spent to earn it.

In case you couldn’t tell, I purposefully left the name, and team affiliation out of this post. It has been dealt with and I don’t see the point of spreading internet filth. Think of this as a “Big Sister is always watching” cautionary tale.

My New(ish) Job and Training

I’ve spent a good amount of time and money in 2018 investing in getting my financial legs under me. I went back to massage school and completed the required coursework in order to reactivate my massage therapy license in the state of Tennessee. It was a long and drawn out process, as with most things that go through a government office, but I am now working minimal hours and being paid more than I was at my previous full time position.

I currently work just two evenings a week (Sunday and Monday) at a spa near my house. My manager has told me that they would give me any and all hours that I want, but my current schedule frees me up for training and travel – while still paying all my living expenses. So I’m disinclined to commit to more hours right now.

It is an ideal lifestyle since most competitions are on Friday and/or Saturday, which means that I don’t have to take any time off from work in order to make it just about anywhere in the world and back in time to clock in. They are also very flexible with time off if I request it in advance. Monday morning, and the rest of the days of the week I am able to train my little heart out, and then get huge discounts on a bi-weekly massage for myself.

Thanks to this new freedom, I am hitting the 2019 competition circuit hard. (scroll down for summary)

In January, I will be flying out from Nashville on a Tuesday (the 8th) to compete at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi on January 10-12. I will fly from there to Lisbon for the IBJJF European Championships where I would be competing on the 16th or 17th, flying home on the 18th, and then back to work on the 20th (Sunday). I will miss two work days.

Also in January I will go to the U.S. National Pro in Miami, Florida. This competition is on  a Saturday so I can fly there and be back Sunday morning without missing any work. Plus I have a friend to visit in Miami and flights are currently super cheap.

I will work that Sun/Mon (27th and 28th), and then leave on Tuesday for Mexico City where I will visit with friends and compete at the Mexico National Pro that Saturday (Feb 2). I have to go out early and adjust to the altitude a bit. Past experience has taught me that it’s a good three days before I start to feel normal at that altitude. I could fly back and make it work right after the competition, but I want to have a little fun and the training is good there – so I have that weekend off work and will hang for a few extra days.

February 23 and 24 is the South American Continental Pro in Bogota, Columbia. It is a similar altitude to Mexico City, so I will be flying there again on a Tuesday to adjust to the altitude and have that weekend off work. I have never been to Columbia and hope to make some new friends and train a bit while I am there. I am considering flying to Peru and visiting Machu Picchu as well.

TL/DR

Jan 10-17 – Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and European Championship – 2 days off work

Jan 26 – US National Pro – no days off work needed

Feb 2 – Mexico National Pro – 2 days off work

Feb 23-24 – South America Continental Pro – 2 days off work

In March the Pan Am Championships will be held in Los Angeles, CA and I will most likely be able to do that event without taking off any time from work. April will be the Abu Dhabi World Pro and I will take off a couple days for that. The World Championships will be at the end of May and I am not sure if I will take off work to stay for the whole event or not.

In an ideal world, I will be able to fly out to DC for training camp with my TLI team mates in the weeks leading up to the World Championships. I would have to fly in on a Tuesday morning and fly back home Sunday in time for work. I will know by the beginning of the year how feasible this would be.

In the Meanwhile:

The only scheduled training sessions that I am missing out on are Monday evenings. All other days I have the entire day free for training, and I also do some extra massage work on team mates after classes. It is an ideal scenario, made possible by knuckling down this year and making things happen. Special thanks to my parents who loaned me the money for my state required continuing education! I am going to make it worth the investment!

 

Weight Cuts – What’s the Deal?

Before I started competing in Jiu Jitsu, I never owned a scale. They were not allowed in my house growing up and I just never felt the need to purchase one.

When I announced my intentions to compete for the first time, I was asked the big question of which weight class I would be entering. Honestly, I looked down on the whole process of cutting weight as a stupid, unnecessary thing. I remember making an inward vow that I would never drop weight for a competition. Logically, I would feel best at whatever my normal walking weight is right?

Wrong.

Now first, I will say that I know people who have done very stupid things in order to make weight – and in a last ditch effort, I have done stupid things myself. If done properly, however, dropping to a lower weight class can give you an extra edge in more ways than just a size difference.

My normal walking weight is about 145 lbs. With a Gi on, that would be roughly 148 lbs and put me in the middle weight division for an IBJJF competition. I have competed in the middle weight division and it was not a pleasant experience. Over the past four years of competing, I have determined that light weight is my sweet spot. This requires me to drop about 7 lbs over the course of 4-6 weeks. Please note that most often, my weigh ins are done just a few minutes before my matches, so no huge water cuts for me.

I think this actually ends up being a very good thing for me physically and mentally.

  • I have a smaller body frame and have more likelihood of matching up with someone of the same size in the light weight division.
  • Planning out the weight drop in advance forces me to adjust my eating habits and increase my cardio – which makes me physically feel better and stronger.
  • The mental discipline required to keep me on track with my eating and training really helps to keep me focused and feel on point at the actual event.

So What?

 My advice I give to people about weight cuts, is to experiment with it. Don’t do anything crazy as a white belt. You may see high level competitors doing large weight drops for the world championships, but keep in mind that they have been doing this for years and have worked out their system and acclimated their body over time to be able to make their selected weight class without falling apart.

Everyone has a different body type, metabolism, and environmental factors. This is why I advocate experimenting with different weight classes to find where you feel you fit in best. I have actually made feather weight twice (125 lbs) – but just because I can, doesn’t mean that I should.

 

How do you know if it is your weight class?

Just ask yourself a few simple questions after your matches. Did you feel strong, did you feel focused? How was your speed? Did you gas out? How was your muscular endurance? If you felt good, then stick with that division for a little while and see where it takes you.

It’s not all about size

 Quite often, I run into opponents who are larger than me in my weight class. One of my friends saw my weight class podium photo from the 2016 Pans and thought it was the open weight class, due to the size differences represented on the podium. The size of your opponents doesn’t matter so much as does your own physical and mental conditioning. I see making weight not as trying to be the biggest in the next weight class down, but as making sure I am physically at my best before going out to compete.