Sunday, September 28, 2008


Edited for misspelled names.

I am writing this in Bangkok, where I just competed in the 2008 FBT Thailand BJJ / Submission Grappling Open.

I got to Bangkok the day before and spent it walking around, trying not to drink too much water. I was still a bit nervous about my weight and the not knowing was killing me. I did manage to meet Allen and Sam, friends from BJJ Borneo. They were here with the Tiger Muay Thai team, who sent quite a significant contingent.

Dinner was a barbeque chicken salad, the "healthiest" thing I could find in the Paragon food court. Everything else looked incredibly delicious but I was scared to death of eating it. I bought some Gatorade and chocolate bars for the competition, as well as some bananas. Later that night I met up with Aziz when he arrived.

The day of the competition started pretty early for me, I was up by 7. I was staying at the Golden Palace hotel, which was offering a special deal for competitors, as well as a shuttle to the event. I went down to the waiting area and met Rob, Aziz and some guys from Singapore: Melvynna, Mitch and Justin. Pretty sure they are all with Kreation BJJ. I also met Luke from BJJ Asia, who was there to help organise.

The shuttle ride took about 20 to 30 minutes and we found ourselves at Futuremall, a smallish shopping centre. The competition would be held in the central courtyard-type area. There were loads of guys already there and I got ready to weigh in when I ran into Adam. I actually didn't see him because there were so many monsters in the room! It was great to catch up, I hadn't seen him in a really long time, maybe close to a year. I also saw Sebastian there, who I had last met in Singapore.

Anyway, weigh-in. I'll cut this part of the story short and just say that I needed to be 69.9, and that's what I clocked in. All that stress and disgusting "health" food paid off! From the weigh-in at the Machado Nationals 2 weeks hence, I had lost at least 5 kilos, which isn't that impressive but it was my first time dieting, let alone dieting to make weight for a BJJ competition.

When I got to the mats to warm up, I found out there were only 4 guys in my division. The absolute, however, was jam packed solid.

It was really a lot of fun just hanging out with the Singapore bunch, and we were also joined by Charles, who I believe also trains at Kreation and is a super funny guy.


MATCH 1: Blue Belt <70 division v. Momon Fortich, from New Breed BJJ in the Philippines.

I'm going to be honest, I really don't remember very much about this. My memory of this match is very fuzzy in a lot of places, and it almost just happened.

I recall him starting by jumping to guard and then trying to sweep me repeatedly. He wasn't able to, but he had my arm trapped at an awkward angle so I couldn't work for an ezequiel. At some point I think I got halfguard but was quickly pulled back to closed guard.

I couldn't get around his arm that was trapping my own and I guess I took too much time trying to figure it out because the referee gave me a warning for stalling: I had 20 seconds to move, or else. Fine, so I give him more room to move and I feel him trying to pull my left calf into him, to try and push me over. I kick that leg out and somehow end up in halfguard.

So now I go for the ezequiel and I get it - partially. I wasn't able to finish the hold by grabbing my arm with the choking hand. That let him roll me onto my side and fight his way out of it. He then jumps to my back and gets his left hook in, while trying for a rear naked choke. I see it just in time and get my right arm back to block his leg.

We roll around for a few seconds and I'm able to get back to guard. Here is where it gets fuzzy. Somehow, from there I end up (let me see if I get this right) in side-back control - with him ON TOP. I reach around his neck and get a rear naked choke.

Result: Win via submission (rear naked choke). I was leading with 4 points because I got mount at some point, but for the life of me do not remember when.

After I let him go I just rolled on my back and stared at the sunroof of the mall, all I could see was a really bright light, which was kinda cool. But man, I was completely destroyed. I was just hoping that my next match would be much later.

Before the next match though, I was able to chat with Momon and his friends from New Breed. What a cool guy! He was also going through some of the same problems I was having, namely having to make weight. He told me more about their gym and gave me an invitation to go train there when I'm in Manila. Sweet!

As it turns out, my absolute happened before my division final. And as luck would have it, my opponent was to be Sebastian! I remember thinking that in Singapore I would have loved to roll with him but never got the chance.


MATCH 2: Blue Belt Absolute, v. Sebastian Desvignes, from EMAC in Bangkok.

This one started with Sebastian really going for sleeve grips on me. He managed to get me in a really awkward position but when he went for the footsweep I could keep my balance.

Memory not so great on this one as well, he pulls guard pretty early and spends half the match going for a cross lapel choke. He never got past my chin but man, trust me this guy is strong. He went for a couple of sweeps but I managed to block his attempts. He pulls guard and I try to set up an ezequiel but his legs are way strong and he pulls me back.

He pulled guard and went for more of the cross lapel choke. Again he never got past my chin but I couldn't move! Again, his legs were just too strong. So now I get another warning for stalling, which I found really funny actually - I mean, like I could have done anything. I remember that around now he almost gets me with a triangle, but he couldn't isolate my arm so he couldn't finish the choke.

Aziz is now yelling at me that the score is still 0-0 but I'm in the lead with an advantage (wha??). He lets the guard go and stands up, taking me with him. We get sleeve grips and he shoots in. I see it coming and I actually get the sprawl - but he lifts me up like a sack of rice and puts me on my butt for the points, and passes my guard right away. He tried a kneeride that I blocked but time got called.

Result: Loss via points - Me: 0 points, 1 advantage. Sebastian: 5 points.

Not bad for me being outweighed by 15 kilos! It was so excellent to roll with Sebastian, it totally did not feel like a competition match. There were a couple of times we just had a moment to laugh, usually after he let a choke attempt go and I start sighing in relief. He was very cool, a great guy and I'm happy to know him.

About 45 minutes or so later, I get called for my division match. It would be with a Japanese fellow, we shook hands and exchanged a couple of pleasantries before the match.


MATCH 3: Blue Belt <70 division, FINALS v. Ozaki Shigeharu from Axis Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Japan.

So my memory of this is a bit better, mainly because there wasn't that much variation in the match. He pulled guard early on and when he wasn't able to sweep me, he went for a cross lapel choke. We were, and I'm not kidding, here for at least 3 minutes, maybe 4. He was really going for it but he had not got past my chin at all.

So anyway. I'm trying to open him up but I simply can't because he has a deathgrip on my head, and his legs are locked tight. At least I didn't get called for stalling again. I hear Adam yelling at me with updates on the time.

At close to the 5-minute mark, I feel him open his legs, and after a brief scramble I get halfguard for a little while but I get pulled back to guard. He lets me lurch forward and get my arm around his neck so now I'm going for an ezequiel but time is called.

We get up and I'm really dreading the outcome. I'm under the impression that the score is still 0-0 and I'm not sure who was more agressive in the match. I did not remember anyone telling me otherwise, everyone was just yelling updates on the time. Also, I'm shortsighted and do not wrestle with contacts so I can't see the scores. My hand is raised.

Result: Win via points - Me: 0 points, 1 advantage. Shigeharu: 0 points.

Talk about cutting it close! After the match some of his team were a bit confused about the result but after some discussion they were cool with it. It was really good talking with them as well: Ken and Yoichi (sp? - he did really well too, he won the <64 Blue division AND got 3rd in the absolute!). I also got invited to train at Axis if I'm ever in Tokyo. They were such cool guys, I don't see how I can't if I'm in Japan!

The competition was so much fun. I was completely blessed on the day because not only did I meet so many awesome people, everyone I rolled with was very cool. Thanks to the organisers and sponsors, who made the medallions we got possible. Those things are actually really heavy! I also picked up some really nice t-shirts, one of which (they ran out of my size, bah!) has writing in Thai on the back which says something like "BANGKOK BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU", I thought that was a brilliant idea.

After the presentations, I said my goodbyes and went to catch the shuttle back to the hotel. I ended up in a taxi with Taki (who won his brown belt division) and Kubo, a couple of cool Japanese dudes who run Kowloon BJJ in Hong Kong. Yes, I also got invited there, yes it was very cool!

It's also worth noting that the political situation in Bangkok is, as the organisers tried to tell everyone, very much the victim of media hype. The amount of sensationalism pumped into the happenings of late seem completely crazy when you actually go to Bangkok and have a look around. I was taking the MRT and Skytrain all around the city, walking through side streets to find weird Lebanese restaurants in German hotels with Aziz, and hanging out at Paragon. No riots were observed, sorry.

It was excellent seeing Adam and Jem again, that alone made my trip. By far the best part of the trip was having Adam in my corner for the finals. Also very cool was meeting Sebastian, and Luke - a good guy and a great BJJ player!

This marks the end of my first ever real tournament cycle: 3 in a month's time. Singapore to Australia to Thailand. Thanks to everyone who gave me encouragement during my training, and also on the actual competition days. Special thanks to my friends at KDT, Aziz, the Bangsar Sports Centre Judo guys, and all the excellent people I met during my travels.

Thanks to my wife, who I couldn't have done this without, and to Jesus, who made this possible for me - the glory that I won is all His, I'm just holding on to the medals for now.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Blogger is being a real pain about uploading photos so the pics from Melbourne will have to wait.

I'm flying to Bangkok tomorrow for the BJJ competition on Saturday. Kinda nervous about my weight. Been trying to watch my diet all week so I can lose the approximately 1.5 kilos I need to be OK for the <70 division. Hopefully I can make it, if not I'm hoping they'll let me join the <80 division. But we'll see. Anyway, I'm also signed up for the absolute.

Won't be bringing my Macbook so on the off-chance you were at all curious, you'll have to wait till next week to read of my glory/mediocrity/humiliation/non-action. Further bulletins as events warrant.

EDIT 10.45pm: Just got back from BJJ class. Weighed myself with a heavier gi than normal and with belt I'm right at 70. Which is sweet, now I know I can get there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Pictures coming later, I'm feeling pretty lazy about my camera right this minute.

This past Saturday, I took part in the 2008 Will-Machado BJJ Australasia Championships. I competed in the Male Blue Belt Lightweight division (60-70 kg). Loads of people were here, not sure if there were more spectators but definitely more competitors. There were 8 guys in my division, compared to the middleweight division (70-80 kg), which had like 20 guys.

The adults were scheduled to get going at 11 am; my wife and I arrived at around 10, when we met none other than Aziz, from Kreation BJJ! He decided to take the plunge and make the trip out here from Singapore, and this would be his first tournament as a blue – something about which I do know a little (the 2007 Machado Nationals was not only my first tournament as a blue, it was my first-ever tournament). Aziz was signed up for the middleweight division.

The three of us spent the time leading up to the matches chatting. We had some time to kill – Aziz’s division was only scheduled to begin at 12.45, and mine was set for 1.45. We just sat there and had bouts of nervous laughter looking around at all the huge Australian guys. I do not know what they feed these people but it is unreal. I mean, we knew they were mostly white belts but come on.

We had a light roll before Aziz’s first match to get the jitters out. He asked me to be his corner man, something that I was honoured to do (during the Singapore tournament he acted as mine). Unfortunately, there were just so many guys in his division that mine started before his first match! There was also a women’s division that was running concurrently on the same mat as Aziz’s, which didn’t help.

I had weighed myself just an hour prior to my division getting together and clocked in at a kilo under the limit. Sweet. However, when I got on the scales with an official watching, my weight was DIRECTLY on the limit, I literally made it by the skin of my teeth. I actually thought I was over. All I could say was “…uhh?” to which the official replied “it’s ok, you just made it, you’re alright. You were ****ing bricks for a second there, huh!” I managed a weak smile and staggered off to sit down and get my head right.

Mine was the 3rd match in the division so I had a bit of breathing room. Just then Aziz came up to me. As it turned out he ran into some bad luck, he got armbarred in the first round. I saw the guy Aziz had to fight and will very gladly vouch for the fact that he was huge. Not necessarily a genetic freak (debatable) but still scary-looking (not debatable).

Now to the actual matches – I apologise in advance, as I was really bad with last names on the day.


MATCH 1: v. Joel

I started the match by getting a sleeve grip. His response was to shoot for a takedown. I got a really sloppy sprawl and we lurched, as one, towards the edge of the mats. What ended up happening was that I managed to push myself forward and land on top, in his open guard.

He kept working the hip bump sweep – kimura – guillotine combination but since he was leading with the sweep I was able to stop it by getting up on my knees, pushing forwards and locking my arm. I worked my way to halfguard, but it is unclear whether he also wanted this for his own game, as I heard some guys telling him to lock my leg down. No complaints from me, I stopped worrying about the leg and went for an ezequiel.

I didn’t get it, as soon as he felt my arm around his neck he went for a cutting armbar but my arm was bent too far, giving me the time I needed to slip out. He was still going for the sweep, after a few attempts he went for the guillotine but I knew it was coming as I heard his corner yelling at him to do it. I blocked it, got my leg past his and took mount. At this point I think he was starting to tire out, I went for and hit an ezequiel.

I do want to say that Joel and I had a quick few words before the match – nice guy, with a great attitude.

Result: Win via submission (ezequiel choke). I was also apparently leading in points.

After this match I was really zoned, it always amazes me how much tournament matches take it out of me. I can only imagine what high-level athletes or professional fighters go through, especially at the start of their careers, it must be crazy.


MATCH 2: v. Paul

I was pretty nervous about this one. We (the other guys in the division) were all watching Paul’s first match – which he ended in less than a minute with a very smooth armbar, so we knew he was still fresh. I was still feeling wrecked from the previous match and honestly wasn’t sure I could win.

This one started with me trying to get a sleeve grip, he was trying to circle around. I was actually trying to clinch him and use that to push him down, but he never let me get the first necktie in.

Like the first match, he shoots in and I sprawl. Unlike the first match, he gets out right away and we scramble, ending up with him getting hook guard. At this point I hear a voice yelling, “He likes to play fast! Slow him down! Slow him down!” I stopped myself from asking Paul if that guy was talking to me or to him.

He immediately begins to work a cross-lapel choke. He got past my chin at one point but my neck pulled me through and I held out long enough to push his hands up. He was still really going for it though, so I was happy.

He spent the next part of the match trying to hip escape away from me as I was working for the halfguard. However, in almost a mirror image repeat of the first match I pushed his leg down and took mount. I went right to secure my position for the points. He tried to sweep but I hop up, let him roll and took his back.

Around now I hear the same voice going “Albert! Albert!” (So I know it’s for me) “You’re smashing him on points, just don’t do anything crazy! Don’t do anything crazy!” I was really puzzled, because I know nobody here actually knows me but John, Aziz and my wife – and it wasn’t any of their voices.

He tries to roll me off but I hang on and try to stretch him out. He got on top of my right leg and tried to escape but I saw it coming and countered by pushing my left leg over and taking mount. At this point I start looking for the tap. He defends the first ezequiel but the second one gets him.

Result: Win via submission (ezequiel choke). I counted 12 points for myself, possibly 14 or 15 as my first mount was also a guard pass. It’s possible I didn’t get points for the second mount, though, as if I remember, the transition was mount - back - mount.

After the match I was first congratulated by one of the other guys in the division, Matt (who would be in the finals next with me). I found out he was the guy pulling for me! What happened was: he looked around and saw there was nobody in my corner while everyone who was yelling was giving Paul instructions. He asked if anyone knew me, nobody did so he goes “OK, I’ll go for him!”

I was so amazed by that; he definitely went above and beyond and I really appreciate it, and plus his instructions actually did help to relax me during the match. He was really cool to me and we talked for a little while. We wished each other good luck for the next match.


MATCH 3: Male Blue Belt Lightweight Finals, v. Matt (I know how to pronounce his last name but for fear of butchering it, will not attempt to spell it), from Dominance Mixed Martial Arts Academy, in Melbourne.

This one was almost completely unlike the first two matches. We were standing for what felt like half the match. We were each trying to get sleeve grips and he was trying to pull me around to his side, and didn’t want to shoot in.

It was kind of weird as he was using his head to try to unbalance me, but I managed to stay on my feet. After some effort I manage to get myself on top of his shoulders and try to sprawl him down. He stays on his feet, bent double. I’m trying to grab his belt and pants to push him over, when he rushes forward and goes for the takedown. I was hopping around for about 10 seconds but he gets me down for 2 points.

Immediately he starts setting up a kneeride but I saw it coming and blocked his knee with my elbow. I roll away from him onto my knees, trying to get him to go for my back. He does and I roll him off me. We scramble and he gets me in hook guard.

I hear a voice telling us we have one minute left. I’m not sure how I distract him but it seems I do (I think I was faking a choke but I just do not remember) – I manage to push his knees down with my hands and jump to mount. He knows he has to do something so he’s really going for the reversal but I block it and get the points.

I’m also working hard for an ezequiel but he blocks my first few attempts. I actually was almost about to get it when time is called.

Result: Win via points – Me: 4, Matt: 2.

That’s the first time I’ve ever won on points – I do not think in terms of points and much prefer to work for taps, using position as a means to open up the submission. Honestly I wanted to win with the choke but that’s how it goes. Matt got up and we shared a good, brotherly hug.

During the prize presentations I was checking out what each winner received. Second place got a backpack and first place got a goodie bag. At first I was actually bummed because the backpack looked really cool. Then I looked inside MY bag and found out that all first place winners received coupons for a free pair of shoes(!) from Globe – AND a FREE GI from Virtus (I’ve already given the gi a test-drive and it feels pretty nice)!

Some other highlights of the day:
*There were enough brown belts this year to have 2 separate divisions (both won by Dave Hart).
*There was even a black belt competition this year (last year there was only 1 black belt exhibition match), won by Cameron Rowe (who was also really cool to me).
*Steve Perceval (who I believe is the only official UFC-certified referee in Australia) received his black belt from John.
*Dave Hart received his black belt from John. I can literally not wait to come back next year and watch THAT division.

The event was very well run, very smooth. Last year there were 220 competitors while this year there were 270 – and it was actually smoother than last year. They really had their game together and it was a very awesome time. And it wasn’t all about the tournament. Sunday morning saw Rigan give seminars at Dominance, where I saw him teach some really cool stuff from his “secret stash” and met some great people from New Zealand (Dom, Sarah and Geoff – if you’re reading, hi!).

Thanks to John Will, Melissa Will and their team, to Rigan Machado and to everyone, especially the sponsors who donated such fantastic prizes, who worked to make this tournament what it was. This is NOT a normal competition. To me, and I say this as an almost total outsider, in many ways it’s more like a big family reunion, with the attitude and the atmosphere. I am so glad I even made it here.

Thanks Matt, for showing such coolness and kindness. You’re a real credit to your gym and this sport. Cheers mate.

I want to give a special shout to Aziz. I know what it feels like to get on a plane, go to a faraway place where nobody knows you and compete, with no home support, in a huge room with hundreds of people watching, that you know are not in your corner because they have no idea who you are. It can be really scary and to take that step usually requires either clinical obsession (me) or serious, serious guts (Aziz).

Special thanks also to my wife, who was always right there with me. She was always ready with a bottle of water or a banana or extra tape, whatever I needed. She made the day a lot more special just by being there. She also SMS’ed our parents for me – thanks, baby!

Finally, who else should be thanked, but The Ultimate Sports Psychologist, who deserves all glory and praise for my performance.

Winning the Machado Nationals has been something I’ve really, really wanted for a year. As soon as the last one ended I had made up my mind that I was going to come back. I can’t describe how this feels, really, to have won a competition bearing the names of two guys I respect so much. It’s a great feeling – and all I can think about is coming back here next year.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Some pictures from the competition (only a few were usable):

Match 1

Here I am, about 2 seconds from being pulled back to his guard.

Here I am, about 1 second from being pulled back to his guard.

Here's me thinking, "He's not letting go, why won't he let go?"


Match 2

He couldn't get the hook sweep but it still counted as an advantage.

Here's something I forgot about: at one point I had side-back control on him, and I got his lapel under his chin. My choices were to either try and take his back or to attempt a choke. I went for the choke but he escaped.


Match 3

He shot and I sprawled. We were here for a good while. The ref never cautioned us for lack of action but he did look at his watch a few times.

Here I am going for an ezequiel, again. It felt like we spent almost half the match like this.

Finally, here's me with Yu, after the medal presentations. He was cool to me and I got a great impression of him. I hope to be able to roll with him again, even though it was a competition it was really fun!

Thanks again to the organisers of the competition, especially Albert Tan and one other guy (sorry man, I realise I never got your name, I think you were wearing the baseball cap). It was their second competition and considering the region we're in, I thought it was an encouraging turnout. I'm looking forward to the next competiton in Singapore.
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