Edited for massively misremembered names.
In Bangkok now with a few minutes of free time. It's Monday morning and I've just spent the weekend at the awesome FBT Thailand Open, competing in gi and (for the first ever time) no-gi.
It's also the first time I've ever brought students to compete. There were times when I was more stressed about them than myself! Did they get on the flight, did they make weight, how are they doing, etc etc etc.
This year's competition was held in Lumpini Hall, which IMHO is a totally rocking venue. Someone told me that it looks like it was MADE for this event. Which, if you look at the setup, is true!
DAY 1: Blue Belt, >70kg & Absolute
Match 1: Division 1st Round, v. Katsuhiko Hibino from Alive Academy (Nagoya).
The match starts with him going for a tomoe nage. He doesn't get it as I'm able to handstand and drop to my knees. He immediately gets up before I can stop him, grabs my lapel and dives for a rolling loop choke. He's pulling with everything he's got and I felt a lot of pressure. Fortunately the lapel was on my chin.
He abandons it as I get up to my knees. It gets a bit fuzzy here as I'm writing without my camera present so I can't look at the video. I remember it went like this: he tries to kneeride but I bump his knee off, I can't move because he's still controlling me. We scramble and somehow he mounts me. I try to flip him off but no success and he's got 4 points.
I dig for both underhooks as I buck him forward, scooping him off me. We're scrambling again but he's still on top, I can't get him off. I manage to create enough space to pull halfguard. He tries to pop my legs open but I grab an arm and he can't. He stands at one point and I start grabbing his leg in a koala guard. I start standing, and he's pushing my head down but manage to get up. As he turns and pulls his leg out I jump for his back and lock my hands round his waist.
I feel him going for a kimura on my right arm so I fall to the side and try to secure my hooks. He blocks one of my feet so I just barely miss out on the 4 points. He blocks my lapel choke attempt and is able to spin and face me. Time is running out and I'm trying everything but he postures really well up. Wristlock, no good. Ezequiel, no good. Cross lapel choke, no good. Time is called.
Result: Loss via Points. Me: 0 points. Katsuhiko: 4 points. Think he had a couple of advantages and I had 1, not sure for what.
So I'm out of the division. Disappointed but what can you say really, he was really good. I never felt like I couldn't win, and there were opportunities for me but I couldn't make the most of them.
Match 2: Absolute 1st Round, v. Tom Woodfin from MMA Chiang Mai.
The match starts with us playing more of a standup game, with him getting the better of it. I'm holding my own for about a minute but he rushes in and double legs me. I'm in halfguard, but he gets a deep crossface with very intense shoulder pressure on the right side of my face, that I am unable to get off.
I'm underneath the whole match. I defended a kimura attempt, I manage to escape the crossface briefly but am unable to go to deep half. He replaces the crossface and I am shut down for the rest of the time.
Result: Loss via Points. Me: 0 points. Tom: 2 points.
DAY 2: No-gi Intermediate >70kg & Absolute.
Before matches start I see that in the absolute seedings my first match is with Murase Yoichi, who on day 1, won his purple belt divison, and the purple absolute. Yay! I'm looking forward to testing myself against him but of course, there's a saying about wishing for things, isn't there.
Match 1: Division 1st Round, v. Major Overall, from Team Taiwan/Tough MMA
The match starts with us going some gripfighting. We're both trying to tie up with a clinch. He drops and rolls me with an armbar attempt but I base and stack him to escape. I immediately try to pass his guard but we are scrambling until he pulls guard. He tries a triangle which I posture out of, and an omoplata which I posture out of.
When I escape the omplata we are back to scrambling and at one point I pass his guard. From there I get to mount. He was baiting it to try and roll me off, but I secure the position. I can't finish him and he does get me off with a buck and push. We go back and forth but I end up passing again. He baits another mount and when I go for it he does get me off.
He's way behind and his corner is yelling that he needs to finish me. During the next few exchanges he starts going for my legs. He tries a kneebar and a toehold but can't finish either one. The referee stands us up and he starts pushing the pace. He dives for my legs and is trying to finish both a toehold and a reverse triangle but I defend both and time is called.
Result: Win via Points. Me: 11(?) points. Major: 0 points.
After this match I find out that 1) Yoichi is in my division. 2) Yoichi is in my bracket. 3) Yoichi has to win one fight before he goes with me. 4) Yoichi's opponent is a no-show. When I say hi to him, his friends are there. Katsuhiko is among them and when I tell him about my next match he starts laughing and shouts, "good luck!"
Match 2: Division 2nd Round, v. Murase Yoichi, from Axis Japan.
The match starts with us gripfighting. He's trying to go for my legs but is unsuccessful. He also goes for a couple of guillotines that he can't get. He ends up pulling guard. He unbalances me and sweeps me, I think it was from halfguard. He goes to pass my guard with a knee cut across, but I block it. We're struggling and he goes for my back. He's trying to choke but I block his hooks and he's not able to get enough leverage for the submission.
I spin around and am in his guard. I push forward into his halfguard and he can't get me off. However, I don't take enough time to secure the position. I try to mount him BUT he takes advantage of a lapse in my balance and sweeps me. He's trying to finish me with a choke but I don't let him get it, and the match ends soon after.
Result: Loss via Points. Me: 0 points. Yoichi: 4 points. Not bad for me having just went with the worst possible guy!
I was getting ready for round 2 with Yoichi, because I felt like I would have a really good chance to beat him on points at least. However, a lot of guys ended up pulling out of the absolute due to time, other commitments or injury. Unfortunately Yoichi decided to bow out. That's alright though because I got another tough guy.
Match 3: Absolute 1st Round, v. Martin Persson, from Tiger Muay Thai.
He starts the match pulling guard. I knew he was going to do that. Just like I knew he was going to try a kimura. I thought I would be fine until at one point I try to get my attacked arm to a good position and he pulls it out. He is going for it but I manage to reach behind me and grab my hand to stop the submission.
After a minute of him going for it, he lets it go and I'm unable to stop his sweep. He ends up on top with me in halfguard, he has a deep crossface with very intense shoulder pressure on the right side of my face, that I'm not able to break. It felt pretty painfully familiar. The match ends almost exactly like my absolute match yesterday.
Result: Loss via Points. Me: 0 points. Martin: 2 points.
So that's it and I'm done for the weekend. Speaking strictly in terms of results, yes I'm disappointed, especially because I think I could have won my division matches, and would have fared better in the absolute with a different strategy. However, in terms of the experience, I can't complain. I got to test myself against some really good guys. Most of my losses were against the worst possible guy, or arguably so.
I feel my performances were respectable. My losses were by small point margins against very high quality opponents and I was not submitted. I have a lot of stuff to work on, and I'll make sure to shore up those weak spots before the next competition.
I'm also VERY proud of my guys! Ivan and Tony both went undefeated on the Gi day, closing out the White Belt >80kg division, and Ivan also took gold in the Absolute! All the hard work paid off, and they thoroughly deserve this. I felt like a complete mother hen the whole weekend. Especially since Tony finished at least 2 of his fights with the Ezequiel :)
Studio 23 Jiu-Jitsu Team went for a combined 20 matches over 2 days without anybody losing by submission. Every loss was either by a 2 or 4 point margin, or referee decision.
To sum it up: I thank God for an awesome time. Adam, Luke and their whole team did a really great job of putting this event together. The T-shirts were fantastic. I'm going to go back and work hard to come back here and win another of those beautiful gold medals!
I thank God for awesome opponents. I could not have asked for a tougher bunch of guys and I really learned a whole lot. I'm sure my game will improve as a result of this, both physically and mentally.
I thank God for Jiu-Jitsu. Without it I would never have met such completely cool people like the BKKBJJ team, the Taiwan BJJ team, and Stephen Kamphuis, who came in just to referee. Of course I'm not forgetting all my friends in the small but now definitely greatly improving Malaysian BJJ scene! It was definitely great to catch up with my friends in the Check Mat Malaysia team, who also brought back some serious metal.
Later today Adam and Dan Simmler (who had one of the greatest matches I've ever seen yesterday, beating Rodrigo Caporal on points) will be doing a seminar at Bangkok BJJ. Time to go get ready for that.