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.