Submission Only Richmond, Dec 7, 2013

The absolute highlight of the day — Laurie Porsch tracked me down during the gi divisions to tell me that reading my blog was one of the things that helped her decide to start training BJJ. That is probably the best thing I have ever heard.

While I was at the tournament yesterday, two other significant things happened: my teammates Robert & Kellie got married, and my former teammate Nick Liaskos got his black belt from Ricardo Almeida.

Short version:

  • Nogi, advanced, weight class: 2nd (of 2)
  • Nogi, advanced, absolute: 2nd (of 2)
  • Gi, blue belt, weight class: 1st (of 3)
  • Gi, blue belt, absolute: 2nd (of 3)

Most matches were around 8 minutes or under. My first match in blue belt, though, went about 30 minutes. Yeoooowch!

I. Made. Weight. 124.5 on the nose. (There would have been fewer pounds to cut and/or the whole process would have been easier if I had had fewer slices of the homemade carrot cake during Thanksgiving…. I regret nothing!) I don’t have far to go to reach that; my walking-around weight hovers just under 130 these days (except after Thanksgiving *ahem*), but my body is very resistant to giving anything up. Also I like to eat and do not like being hungry.

Looking back over the results brackets now, though, it likely did not matter. In nogi I was combined up anyway because there were only two of us; in gi, it appears I would have been the lone person in my weight bracket and would have most likely been moved down, as there were fewer women there than the weight class above. Oh well, that’s how it always seems to go — you don’t cut and there’s actually a weight class there (and so you end up with bigger women), or you do cut and get combined up anyway.

US Grappling has a bunch of new things they’re doing on the organization side of the tournament, and it made a HUGE difference yesterday in how the tournament was run. Their Submission Only tournaments always run well, but this was better. There are now minions, and minions with minions, and better communication among staff which makes for better communication to competitors. Everything seemed to be moving along more quickly, even for the hour+ matches (and there was even apparently a 2.5-hr match). And also, this time they got to use an auxiliary gym, which is where they started the kids’ matches and eventually moved some of the adult matches, as well, which gave them an additional 4 mats.

Nogi, Advanced, weight class

Mary Holmes, who I last fought in Greensboro. I knew she liked armbars, so my goal was to not get armbarred. Instead I got head-and-arm choked. She’d set it up a few times and I’d managed to get out, but that last time, I knew I was sunk.

Goodness, I look so slow. And there are dumb things I did or let her do that I know better than to do. Gah.

Nogi, Advanced, absolute

Me and Mary again. Goal was still not to get armbarred. And also to work on all the things that Andrew and Liz had pointed out to me from the first match. We were sent to the auxiliary gym, and since my guys were either competing or coaching in the other gym (same for Mary), there was no one around to tape our match. It was over more quickly, though this time I did fix those things that Andrew and Liz had said, and I avoided her armbar, and I avoided the head-and-arm choke (by virtue of avoiding the position where she was throwing it because Andrew told me to) — and I got off the bottom and in her guard and thought I was doing decently well. And then she triangled me. Doh. (She was working for the armbar on the trapped arm, but it was the triangle that got me.)

Gi, blue belt, weight class

Long wait to gi, at least as far as waiting for women’s matches goes. We always used to finish nogi and then almost immediately get told to check in for gi; now there’s a built-in recovery time (not so much for us, I think, as to give them the mats to start cranking through Beginner and Novice male divisions). I didn’t fully understand the concept at the time, though, and so didn’t rest as much as I could have (every time the loudspeaker came on, I thought I was being called), but I will definitely work with it in later tournaments. They moved all women into the auxiliary gym for gi.

Jen from BETA first. ~30-min match. Holy cats was she ever scrappy! There were so many times I thought I had her done, and she’d buck and twist and just will her way through something. She seemed to get stronger as the match went on. And I heard later that she had already done a very long match in nogi! I did finally secure an armbar. Several times when we stood up during this match, I started getting light-headed. Bad. At the end of the match, I had to lean on the ref; he was good-natured about it, though. And then my forearms were cramping up.

(Video starts a bit late, but we batted around on our feed for a few seconds and then she pulled guard hard.)

{Okay, here’s a funny (Chrissy will laugh) — as I’m watching this video, I’m realizing that we are the same size. All during the match I thought she was so much smaller than I am!}

{Also, why is my butt so high in the air?! C’mon, man! Or stuck to the ground. And you can see me looking at spider guard like “WTF is this?”}

I am so grateful that I had Andrew there to coach me. For one, I would have given up long ago, but he kept telling me to stand up or “do this thing” (and “breathe! breathe!”) and the habits of the academy meant that I did what he said. And two, because my brain stopped knowing jiu-jitsu very shortly in, and he just kept patiently reminding me of what I know until I could finally get it done.

Chelsea from Team ROC next; I’d last fought her at NC State Championships. She still has that amazing bridge, but she had also had a very long match in nogi. She did not feel tired to me, though! I finally managed to do the things that Andrew was telling me (and it was mostly repeats from the last match, so my brain almost knew what we were doing by now), and finished another armbar.

Match ~5min.

[I may have video of these last three matches later. Someone else filmed them, not on my camera.]

Gi, blue belt, absolute

Three in the division again — me and Chelsea, and one other. (So two from the smallest bracket, and only one from the other two brackets, both of which had at least 3 women. C’mon ladies, do Absolute! The rest of us are dead at this point, too!)

Chelsea first. Same deal as before, though this time I secured a cross-collar choke that Andrew had been trying to talk me in to earlier.

Match went for 8:16.

Colleen next. Andrew was busy coaching one of our purple belts across the room, but I don’t think it would have mattered one bit. After fighting the small girls for so long, I completely failed at what to do with someone so tall. And when she set up the bow-and-arrow, I watched it, knew it was coming, and absolutely could not summon anything to do about it. Also at that point I just wanted to be done with all this and eat. (Although then Chrissy pointed out that if Chelsea beat Colleen, they’d redraw the bracket and we’d all have to go again. That did not happen, and though I am not happy that Chelsea lost, I am happy that I did not have to fight anymore. I might have really passed out.)

Match went for 2:33.

[Edited to add a conclusion so you’re not just hanging out waiting for videos]: I am so sore! Yesterday and still today. Spent yesterday in fuzzy pajamas eating junk food and playing video games. Now I have this week off, the Hillary Williams seminar in Richmond (again) on Saturday, and then only two training days next week before two full weeks off for Christmas/New Year.

US Grappling’s 100th Event – June 22, 2013, Richmond, VA


  • 6 matches. Lost all 6 by submission.
  • Heel-hooked in first Advanced match. Knee popped. The “good” knee.
  • Americano cranked in first gi match. Elbow popped.
  • Weight cutting: no weight lost. Stayed exactly the same. Pfft.
  • “Operation: Be More Assertive” was a no go: I scored 0 points.

Advanced Nogi

Because I’ve been training for over 5 years, I’m now in the Advanced division.

Weight class

Leah from Fifty/50:

The one thing I did not want to happen in the Advanced division was a heel hook. The first thing that happened was… a heel hook. (And yes, I do absolutely see exactly how I just handed it to her. I finally got my sweep, but at what cost?) She didn’t crank it, but I still heard and felt my knee pop before I could tap. That is my right knee, the one that had the LCL sprain a few years ago. This is not an encouraging way to start the day…


Megan from Fifty/50:

I was absolutely not going to let her near my legs. So instead I jumped right in to her triangle. There might be a flaw in this plan… I could only just wiggle the tips of my fingers on the arm that was trapped, so I kind of had to squeeze her leg a few times to tap; the pause at the end is her pulling back to ask if that was a tap, and me saying that it was.

Third place match, Leah again:

Andrew had already pointed out that I should not be trying de la Riva and other hook stuff in nogi, so I was trying very hard not to.

Blue Belt

Weight class

Laurie from BETA:

I nod a lot in this match, because I’m hearing what Justin is saying but am half a step behind in the execution, so I’m nodding to say that I’ll do it next time. She had an americano with her legs and bridged hard, which popped my elbow. So I had to sit around with an ice pack (and a handy tourniquet to hold it on that Justin fashioned out of my belt) until the next match.

Melanie from BETA:

She had a death grip on my sleeve in the opening minute, and at one point had stretched my gi so far that my arm, fully extended, was only around the normal elbow point. At the end here, I didn’t actually tap; I was posting in reaction to her kicking me in the head trying to get me over for the omoplata. But the ref thought that I did because I had posted twice in a row. So, yeah…


Michelle from Dave Trader:

I knew what was coming every step along the way, but I could do nothing about it. That was in tight and deep and fast. Lol, air-tapping because I couldn’t think or move fast enough to find a surface to tap on, and the lights were gonna go out fast.

My elbow was stiff & aching since the moment it was popped and kept that up all day. But it seems to be fine and will recover in a week or two. The knee… it felt “off” all day long, and became increasingly stiff, with some areas of pain, as the day went on. I spread on the Tiger Balm after my matches. (Lol, and then as I walked through the venue, I heard people saying, “Dude, what is that smell?!” “Wow, that smells like a lot of Tiger Balm!” Yeah, hi, that’s me.)

I am so very disappointed in myself. I couldn’t even score a single point. I did nothing about takedowns. I couldn’t do anything that even resembled grappling. My brain was only working in half-finished sentences, getting so fixated on the first half of something and completely neglecting the second. Thank goodness Justin and Andrew were there to coach me, or it would have been even uglier than it already was.

And now my other knee might be messed up. Last night I had to sleep with the most restrictive brace on it because any small movement was painful. It’s just so frustrating. I finally get to the point where I’m not worried about training after the first knee and I’m starting to work on being assertive and not just passive, and now this. All I want to do is curl up somewhere and cry.

Well, definitely a week off from all training. Then, we’ll see how the knee is doing and figure out where to go from there.

Meet my jiu-jitsu

So humid last night, it felt like walking through water. Ugh. (Also in the 90s, so hot as well.)

Two new girls came in to train last night. One of them has trained before, down at LINXX in Virginia Beach; the other, her friend, has not.

Tim had us start off drilling a sequence of armbars, building off the overhook armbar and inverted armbar from Monday night and the two others that they did last night. I worked with the girl who had trained before while Jen worked with her friend. Drilling took most of class.

Rounds to finish up. I went first with the brand-new girl for two rounds, and just showed her some jiu-jitsu. She was great, as she kept stopping and watching, saying, “No, keep doing that — I want to learn what you’re doing.” Also, she was nailing the hand placement on that inverted armbar every. single. time. Just bam, spot above the elbow every. single. time. (*pout& I wish I could do that…)

Then a round with Bobby, and I was still in “meet my jiu-jitsu” mode, which is not a good place to be against that scrappy kid. He jumps on anything and everything that you leave out. Then Lauren, and still in “meet my jiu-jitsu” mode, with a little extra dose of side control and mount so she could work on framing & escapes. A final roll with the other girl, the one who’s trained before. Still in “meet” mode.

Lauren had a couple questions about half guard and side control/mount, so I worked with her on those. Then dragged my sweat-drenched body (and much bedraggled hair) back home.

Girl Power

Friday night — Nogi Fundamentals

I woke up yesterday morning to the soothing sound of rain. I reset the alarm and rolled right back over to sleep.

Evening class: short warmup that was interrupted by a biohazard cleanup (white belt bleeding all around the perimeter of the mats). So Justin bunched us all in the middle of the mats to drill pummeling first, then added breaking them down, then the front headlock, then the takedown. By the time we got to the takedown and needed more room, the outer edges of the mats were dry again so we could use the whole mat again.

Second class started with rolling. Dmitri and Buddy. Then we picked back up the drilling, now adding a spiral ride to back take to choke at the end to finish it off.

Open Mat after, and Janet and Jen said they’d help me with tournament rolls. My brain immediately switched “on.” It was pretty awesome. Two rounds with each of them. Fast pace from all of us, good pressure, good movement. Assertiveness in action. There were still some things I noticed in there that need more work, but mostly I was moving, working to pass or sweep, working to not be passed or swept, hunting submissions, having a grand time actually doing some jiu-jitsu. Janet and I also landed in some funky 50/50/spider guard/twisted something or other at one point that we were both curious to see how we would eventually work out of.

I need to roll like that more often. As soon as they said “tournament,” everything was suddenly ready to go. I think it helped that I knew that they knew what to expect.

Saturday morning — Nogi Open Mat

Janet & Jen had volunteered to come in and help me work from standing this morning, so I got up and went in. Jen got stuck with some work for school, though, so Janet put me through my paces.

The timer today was set for 10-minute rounds. We took one round to warmup. Then a half round of pummeling and a half round to drill the sequence from last night. Then a round of a single leg takedown that I worked on (and used once!) for the last tournament — 10 minutes is a long time to work that! Then a break, because I was exhausted. Then we did a half round of guard pulling from standing, immediately transitioning to some sort of attack (omoplata, ha!). Finally a half round of live takedowns. My brain kicked in after a minute or two and started actually attempting (and hitting) takedowns, which is nice.

Okay, now I’m exhausted…

White Belt Tale of the Day:

New guy last night. Wearing rashguard and compression shorts only. (Yeeeaaahh, immediately off my list of people to train with.) During warmups when we got on the wall, I noticed that there was a trail of blood all around the mat where we had been jogging; looked to be someone’s toe bleeding. Everyone checked for blood, and it was this guy. He left the mat to deal with it (somehow turned out to be his finger? I have no idea how that happened), so Justin had us all bunch up in the middle of the mat to avoid the blood while Tim started mopping the outer edge of the mat.

When he did come back, he was miming everything that Justin was doing or saying. E.g., Justin said that this position is good because you can sprawl, and the guy threw himself up and back as if he were sprawling on someone, though he stopped before he hit the mat. I was trying not to giggle. And then he tried to argue with Justin about how “in wrestling it’s done this other way.”

But then, there was the smell. He stunk. I was on the opposite side of the mat, near the door, and I could smell him quite strongly. As Tim was mopping, he suddenly looked up and sniffed. He paused the mopping to get some air freshener and start spraying that discreetly around the entire academy. (And then once the guy left, he sprayed a lot more. Yowza.)

As the guy was leaving after the Fundamentals class (said he had to go to work), he told Tim that he was disappointed in the class because “I’ve already done years of front headlocks. I was hoping there would be… something else.” Tim pointed out that this was our Fundamentals class and that we just drill here but that we roll in the other classes. (Also funny because he didn’t seem to have a clue during drilling.) “Yeah, well, I was hoping for… something else.”

Snow again! And Team training

Snow started yesterday. Since temps had actually been cold the previous week — below freezing — the snow stuck quickly. So class was cancelled for last night. I had about 4 inches at my house.

This morning was team training here in Blacksburg. The guys from Salem came down to train with us here; there were over 50 people on that mat!

The training was supposed to be gi and nogi, but at the last minute they decided to make it gi only (far too many people to be trying to change). I had planned ahead, though, and worn my nogi stuff under my clothes so I could toss a gi on and off… but then we just did gi, and I was stuck with extraneous clothes that got me overheated. (Of course, you know if I’d just prepared for gi that we would have had to change. Just how it works…)

The morning started off with promotions, including two long-awaited (and, frankly, quite overdue): Janet to blue and Jaime to purple. Couple of kids’ promotions to yellow and green; blues (Emily, Karl, Travis, Rob); purples (Matt, Ryan, Robert, Big Mike, Big Tommy); and even two browns (Navid and Daniel). There are a few more that I was expecting, though they should come by the next team training, at the latest.

Then we went in to drilling, a pop-up armbar from side control, then eventually adding a far-side armbar and a roll-though to armbar/kimura. That made things interesting with 25 pairs going every-which-way on our mats, lol! At the end, some rolling — half on the mat at a time, which still made for some tight quarters.