Note to anyone Googling "bristol open": this post is about the Bristol Open from August 2007, so you're probably looking for a more recent event of the same name (they do a bunch of these every year). I had the exact same problem when I was doing a search, but that should be less of an issue now that they've changed the name, to UK Premier BJJ Championship. ;)
UWE Centre for Sports, Bristol Open (Competition), Pedro Bessa, Bristol, UK - 05/08/2007
First tournament, first loss. Not that any of these affected the eventual outcome (I lost because the other guy successfully applied his technique, whereas I didn’t), but I do wish I had a better two weeks in the run up to the event. Kicked off with the minor irritation of losing my gumshield on the Thursday, followed by the rather more serious irritation of finding my parent’s house had been burgled on the Friday. I then managed to fall ill during Monday, which I hadn’t quite shaken off by the time the competition rolled around on Sunday.
I think its likely my illness - which is the second I’ve had in a fairly short space of time - was brought on by cutting weight. I’ve been maintaining between 60-61.5kg for over a month now, which probably wasn’t healthy. So next time, I reckon it would be more sensible to simply try and eat properly, not merely eat less, and then compete at whatever weight I am on the day. For me, that’s normally 64-65kg, so the -70kg category would mean I don’t have to worry about the weight of my gi. Ideally, I’d manage to pack on a bit of muscle and get up to around 69kg in a gi, but with my weedy frame, crap diet and lack of discipline, that’s very unlikely.
Anyway, enough whining: I arrived at the UWE Centre for Sports about 10:00, my girlfriend kindly providing the lift. Took me a moment to spot them, but I eventually noticed the rest of RGA sitting on the tables outside. There was a fairly large group of us (which as far as I’m aware is normal for RGA), which made the whole occasion pleasantly sociable. I was also pleased to see Dominique and her husband Gary there, as they’re two people I often chat to down at the Academy. Dominique had decided to compete late on, Gary coming along to give her and the team in general some support.
Pippa handed round the registration forms, which meant we got our swish Bristol Open t-shirts. Hopefully the screen print will last on these: whatever company Pedro Bessa used, they did a good job. A few people were weighing themselves to check if they needed to sweat a couple of pounds off or move up a division, but I was pretty confident I’d make weight. I already knew I was below target due to the flu (I’d dipped below 60 the day before), so didn’t have any worries about topping 64kg in a gi.
The event was due to kick off at 11:00, actually beginning around 30 or 40 minutes after that. As the lightest, my super featherweight category was up first, which I definitely preferred to a long wait. Nick G, who had come along to coach us, told me to go warm up with Liam. That consisted of a few drills with light resistance, after which I stretched out.
My name was called out (or rather, the usual mispronunciation that inevitably results from its confusing spelling), along with three other guys. I made a point of introducing myself to the rest of the super featherweights and shaking their hands, as I like to keep things friendly and polite. However, still only remember two of their names, Dave and Steve (both of whom I think have competed before. Steve said this was his third tournament, and I think Dave crops up here - that could be someone else, though). Turns out the weight wasn’t such an issue, as the organisers decided to add on a kg (I think Dave was about 65.2kg or so). I was the lightest white belt male there, at a measly 61.8kg in my gi, whereas the others all either made exact weight or were slightly over.
Steve fought first, although I didn’t watch him win his match. That meant I was up against Dave. I had little idea what to do from standing, just gripping Dave’s gi and arm in the manner of the throwing drills I’m used to, until Dave pulled guard. My normal tailbone break didn’t really get me anywhere, and I think it was at this point I somehow ended up underneath Dave trying to grab his legs. I could just about hear Nick telling me to base out on a leg, but Dave managed to drag me down and wrap up my head. It wasn’t comfortable, but I also wasn’t stuck in any kind of submission. Hence when Dave then disengaged and stood up, I assumed we were being moved back to the centre of the mats. To my surprise, that was apparently the end of the match, Dave’s hand being raised.
I’d been feeling pretty crappy during the bout, so while losing is never fun I was happy for the rest. Having walked over to the other RGA fighters, they asked me what happened, to which I could only reply I didn’t know, as I hadn’t tapped. I thought maybe I’d been choked out or something and not realised, but couldn’t remember Dave securing any hold. I don’t remember this at the time, but I was told later that my RGA team mates protested that I hadn’t tapped, and this resulted in Dave and I fighting again.
It wasn’t Dave’s fault, as I’m informed what happened was that the ref tapped Dave’s back to indicate he’d got an advantage. Dave thought the ref was telling him to stop because I’d tapped or something, so stood up. Its entirely possible that Dave might have gone on to secure some kind of choke, although at the particular point we were stopped, I didn’t feel in immediate danger.
Restarting, I decided that this time I’d pull guard. Apparently because Dave got a hand on my leg as I did so, I lost a point: something to be careful of when pulling guard. I’m much happier in that position, so I started to try and work for a submission. My initial thought was to go for a sit-up sweep and then perhaps fall back for a kimura, but instead I ended up trying for the armbar. I had Dave’s arm and my legs in position, but he was able to twist and keep his arm bent, eventually moving into side control.
I settled into a defensive posture, then heard Zaf shouting for me to bridge. Unfortunately, my escape didn’t go quite as planned, meaning that Dave had a good try at pulling my arm back for the submission. I resisted him for a while, but Dave eventually managed to get the arm straightened out underneath him, as he faced the floor. The arm was completely isolated and it was clearly a matter of time before Dave got the sub. I was worried that maybe with the adrenaline I wouldn’t notice the pain in time, so tapped rather than try to muscle out – that proved to be sensible, as the arm did twinge a bit afterwards.
I much prefer to lose to an armbar than the unusual circumstances of the first part of the match, and I’m also glad I did at least get the chance to go for a sub of my own. Gary estimated that the whole thing took about seven rather than the five minutes limit for white belts, though if that’s the case, definitely didn’t feel like it. Unfortunately, that lingering flu (I assume it was flu, perhaps adrenaline and nerves also playing a part) hit me with a vengeance once the adrenaline wore off, so I had to have a lie down on my bag. As there were only four of us, I thought I might have to go do another fight, which I really didn’t feel up to, but fortunately I wasn’t called. Dave went on to win the division, so I did at least lose to the champion. No bronze medal play-off meant I could go get changed and then enjoy everyone else’s fights.
While getting into my new t-shirt, I met one of the guys I’ve seen on the EFN forum, Pege Leve. He and his daughter recently got their blue belts: had a good chat with him about his training, how he got that nickname (means “take it easy” in Portuguese) and general stuff on competing. Putting some faces to names is one of the things I was hoping to get out of going along to Bristol, so glad I got that chance.
I’m not totally certain of all the RGA results, but I saw Oli win his division, Christina and Joanna splitting the gold and I think Pippa also triumphing in her category. A guy I haven’t had a chance to speak to yet, Dominik, stormed his way to victory, and Liam clinched the silver after a whole bunch of fights in his group.
Oli's quarter final:
Oli's semi final (against a pro MMA fighter, IIRC):
I was also pleased to watch Dominique go one better than SENI and beat her first opponent, coming close to defeating the second too. Yasmin fought in the same division, managing to get the bronze in her play-off bout. I think Gavin, another guy I haven’t had much of a chance to chat to, won his division, or at least won a bunch of his fights. Of course, the results will be up on the main Roger Gracie site anyway, so that will confirm it. I missed the absolutes, as I had to leave early, so could be that provided RGA with additional medals.
Andy Roberts winning the purple belt division:
I should probably compete again some time (think I’ll limit it to places I can get to easily, like London and Birmingham, or if a bus from RGA is available), but I’m in no great hurry. I’m glad to have got the hurdle of my first tournament out of the way, especially experiencing the adrenaline dump. Hopefully I’ll feel a bit healthier for my second competition (worth mentioning that I wasn’t the only one feeling sick: IIRC, Dominique and Christina were both also coming off an illness).
Passing guard is something I definitely still need to develop, and escapes remain a priority. The advanced class should help beat that into me, so we’ll see if I can make any improvement by the time I come to compete again.
Update: Full results are up on EFN – turns out I got a bronze (the ‘nm’ in my surname frequently gets misread as ‘mn’, which I’ve always found interesting from a linguistic standpoint) because I lost to the eventual winner of my division. Zaf kindly picked it up for me at the event, passing it on to Pippa to give it to me tonight. Nice to have a medal, even if its technically a medal for losing. ;D
Non-RGA fights Brown belt superfight (Otavio Souza):
White belt male light (Neil Cooper, I think)
White belt male heavy (Dean Aplin):
White belt female heavy (Sasha Hook):
Purple belt male (Darren Yeoman):