Horizon Academy, Roll Models (Competition), David 'Morcegao' , Stoke-on-Trent, UK - 05/07/2015
Competition has never been a major part of my BJJ journey, but it's got lots of useful advantages, especially from my more recent perspective as somebody running a club. Perhaps the biggest is that it enables me to see if the jiu jitsu I'm teaching is applicable outside of my club, when Artemis BJJ students face unfamiliar opponents who are trying their best to stop them applying their technique. There is also the social side, both internally for the group heading to compete, as well as externally, meeting people from other teams and reconnecting with old friends. Then there's the experience that students bring back to the club, meaning the lessons learned from competing can help all of those back home.
I was therefore excited to see what would happen at our first competition: I've only been to two BJJ competitions before, firstly the Bristol Open in 2007 (still the one and only time I've ventured onto a tournament mat myself), then the Boca Raton International Open in Florida last year. The three students bravely stepping up to enter Roll Models were Kirsty, Steve and Ross. None of them had trained BJJ for more than a few months: Steve began last October, Ross started in January and Kirsty has been with us for three months.
Kirsty is the person responsible for motivating everybody else (she even drove us all there and back, despite competition nerves). As soon as she decided to enter Roll Models, she immediately set about encouraging the other students. The best thing about Roll Models is that they clearly care about having a good gender balance, just like I do at Artemis BJJ. To that end, women could enter their inaugural competition in Stoke at the Horizon Academy for free. Very cool decision by the organiser, David 'Morcegao', a well known figure on the BJJ forums.
The venue was a swish school sports centre, with tiered seating, a good bit of mat space, clear acoustics, changing rooms and showers. Upon entry, you were given a form to fill in along with a wristband indicating whether you were a competitor or spectator. A high level of organisation was evident throughout the day. Morcegao was running around with a microphone, announcing divisions, making sure the walkways stayed clear and highlighting the event sponsors, Valor Fightwear (who had a stall at the back of the hall).
For the spectators, there were three superfights towards the end of the day, with a particularly entertaining clash of the titans between Wayne Samways (aptly nicknamed 'Silverback') and Stuart Austin. You also got to watch a massive projection of a recent BJJ comp on the wall. Handily, that projection was also used to let people know the wifi password, as well as display information about divisions (pretty much all ran on time). Morcegao's humour throughout helped establish the laid-back, friendly atmosphere of the competition, perfect for the white and blue belt market it was targeted towards.
I was impressed by the attitude of the refs, judging by the two guys I saw at close hand while coaching my students. The mat 1 ref gave out helpful advice to competitors after every single fight I saw him officiate, a cool bonus for the fighters. The chap on mat 3 was also welcoming and cheerful, exactly the kind of person you want to be in charge of nervous first-time competitors.
My first student to get stuck in was Ross, in the featherweight white belt division. Over the last month and a bit we've been doing comp prep on most Sundays, which for me was mainly a chance to practice my coaching. The main lesson I learned from that was to keep it simple, as in the heat of competition not much is going to get through. That's even more the case when you come to the real thing. I therefore was shouting single words like 'Posture!', or short sentences like "Stay on your toes!" Repetition seems to help too, as if they don't hear the first time, they will normally catch it after the third or fourth time and jog their memory.
I was really pleased to see that all of the Artemis BJJ team looked calm (whether they actually felt calm is another matter, but I thought they looked it ;D) and were able to put into practice plenty of what they had been taught. Ross hit a lovely double ankle sweep, most importantly coming up and driving forward straight away. He was able to win his first fight on points, doing well in the second, but eventually getting caught in an arm triangle. Laura kindly took a load of video (as well as being official Master of Bags when people were heading off to compete), so I'm looking forward to analysing that later to see if I can offer any pointers.
Next was Steve, who looked really dominant in his fight. He also looked calm, doing well through the stand-up phase despite an injured knee, then almost successfully landing a clock choke I showed him a few weeks back. He would have won if he had established his hooks in back mount. Naturally it's cool to win, but I don't care as long as they manage to test what they've learned. Steve certainly did and to my eyes he passed with flying colours. I'm sure he'll do even better in his second comp. :)
Finally it was Kirsty's turn. We've been developing a specific gameplan for her, which she executed with aplomb on both her opponents. After a narrow defeat in her first fight (against a tough competitor from GrappleThon stalwart Chris Paines' school), she won a hard-fought bronze in her next mach. I know how much she has worked to prepare for this comp, so it was a great moment to see her get that medal put around her neck. Well done Kirsty, great job by Steve and Ross too! :D
Update July 2015: Here's some video, showing Kirsty's medal-winning match.
We're planning to be back at the next Roll Models, then before that Hereford. I've got a list of upcoming competitions within reach of Bristol on the Artemis BJJ website: if I've missed any, drop me a line or leave a comment. I'll be updating this post once we've got some video, depending what the students are happy for me to publish. ;)