I am so average.

Photo and video at the bottom of this post.

Tuesday was the Copa South Japan BJJ Cup. I entered both my category and the absolute, and lost by submission in both of them.


I have no excuse other than I just wasn’t good enough. I did quite a lot of training for this, in the dojo and out, and felt ready, but my skill and my conditioning just wasn’t up to par. I was tapping people of all belts out left right and centre in the dojo but on the competition mat it wasn’t nearly so easy.

My coach always tells me about when he was starting out. I think he said he didn’t lose a fight at all at blue belt. There’s someone unique. Me, I’ve lost all four of my fights so far… I think I’m resigning myself that blue belt is going to be a long hard slog of painful averageness. It’s just going to be a question of putting the time in before I get better.

My pace, my pace, as they say in Japan.

In the first fight, I thought I had him in the first minute. I sunk in a pretty deep triangle almost immediately and squeezed for all I was worth. But he was slippery, and managed to escape in the end. On video the fight looks quite close but he scored a lot of points on me after that. Then choked the shit out of me. That was really annoying. It was frustrating to be so close with the triangle and unable to finish. I need to work on my finishing.

In the second fight I was a little scared. I was up against a 90-kilo monster in the absolute. (I’m about 67.) I just watched him wrench an 86-kilo guy’s leg till something went pop. It was the first time I became quite worried about being injured.

I went for it though and when I got my hands on him he didn’t seem to have the godlike strength I imagined him to. I was able to work from guard for a bit, threaten with a couple of sweeps, but then he started to pass before going for a leglock. That was pretty surprising, it’s the first time anyone has ever gone for my leg in a comp. I was able to defend but he was so big I couldn’t take his back. He switched to the guard and triangled me. I held off for a gentlemenly few seconds and when I started to feel blackness closing in, I tapped. And tapped. And tapped some more. But the fucker didn’t let go.

He only held on for a few extra seconds but with somebody that big squeezing your head a few seconds is enough. I felt like I was going to sleep but managed to muster up the energy to slap him on the back a few times so that it was very obvious I was tapping.

He had held it because the ref hadn’t seen that I tapped. He held it until someone saw it.

I think that was unnecessary. Even if nobody saw it I would have acknowledged that I tapped and he would have won. Still, I guess the guy wasn’t taking anything for granted and if it meant nap-time for me then so be it.

Lessons learned:


2) I need to be physically stronger.

3) Train, train, train.

I really don’t have the slightest bit of an imposing presence on the mat, whereas most of the other guys there look tough and mean. I don’t have that going for me, so I need to make sure my strength and skills are up to par to be able to compete. Still, even at this local competition, and only at blue belt level, the winners are serious motherfuckers. Everybody who won on the day was ripped when they took their shirts off. No hobbyists here. These guys are in the gym lifting when they aren’t on the mat training.

There is another competition in June so I’ll treat this one as a tune up and do my best in the next one.

Oh, and I had the pleasure of meeting Patrick (and his girlfriend), author of Murasaki BJJ, a fellow jiu jitsu blogger. He is a blue belt himself but currently too far away from a dojo to train regularly. It was great to meet him and I hope to see him at future competitions. I forgot to ask… what weight are you dude? I don’t want to fight you, I have a losing record against Hawaiians!

On to the video.

I was feeling so good in training that I started making a video. I was enjoying this epic song I found (Last Man Standing by Hybrid) and so started making something epic. Then I turned out performing pretty crappily, so the video is kind of aborted… still, enjoy!

Tournament places are released

I’m competing at blue belt level, in both my weight class (pena – up to 70kg with the gi) and absolute.

In the 13th match of the day, I will be fighting my weight. In my weight class, there are two fights to get to the final. Three for the gold. In my first fight I am against a 35 year old 65 kiloer.

In the 22nd fight of the day I will start my absolute run. It is looking pretty stacked. My first fight is with a 29 year old 76 kiloer, so no joke. Three fights to get to the final, four for the gold. Bit of an epic task…

If I win either fight the next will be fights 30 or 27 respectively so not much time to recover, but that’s good, I hate hanging around all day.

Wish me luck!

BJJ April 26 & 27

My cough/cold/allergy/plague thing threatened to resurface during the last week, plus my ear felt like if you so much as breathed on it it would pop and shower your face with blood and gore, so I didn’t train. I went back last night with some mild trepidation but everything was still in order. My small measure of skill had not disappeared into the ether and I still feel ready for the competition.

There is something… I don’t know. Wholesome? Satisfying? Supremely geeky? About training late into the night on a Saturday with a group of people who share your love for your sport. While most young men and women are out pickling their livers with multicoloured, overpriced drinks, we were in a sweaty little dojo training our underpants off.

The black night outside the windows, the occasional drunken reveller on his way home weaving to the window and then weaving away again, mystified, with 1970s punk blaring out of the stereo, we trained hard. There was a blue, a purple, a couple of whites, and our coach the black belt. I worked on my takedowns for the competition, with some success.

I’ve christened my first move the Cross Pick. I have no idea if it is a real move, being out here in the bubble, but basically I armdrag across my body. This brings my opponent closer to me, hopefully planting their foot in front of me. Then I drop down and across and pick the leg and work the single leg. I was actually able to do it on my instructor last night, but he does weight 20 kilos less than me. My backup plan, kind of like a suicide move, is the uchi mata, a judo flip basically, which leaves my back exposed but if I commit to it hard enough, and follow up with something else, it shouldn’t be too high risk. They will have to work on defending it before they can counter it.

I was able to collar choke a purple belt but he is quite a laid back kind of guy who has “retired” from competition so I don’t think he was too bothered.

That was last night, and I decided to go today, too, as I had been slack the week preceding. Today was much more laid back. I rolled with two young kids who I think enjoy rolling with me, basically because I am a foreigner. They are fun to roll with. A brother and sister. The sister is actually tougher than the brother and moves really well. She will be good when her body develops and she has some strength to add to her technique.

My instructor leant me his earguard because my ear is really painful. I figured I would be safe with the little girl and not need it.

Big mistake. At the end of rolling, I was moving into side control and she suddenly sat up and headbutted me square in the fucking ear. I can’t tell you how excruciating it was. Imagine having an ear that feels like it has been inflated to bursting point and that the slightest breeze wiffling over it causes your nerves to spasm like so many retarded jellyfish (?). Now imagine someone headbutting the crap out of that ear. OUCH. I tried to laugh it off, I think she felt pretty bad, but it was incredibly painful. Suffice to say I used the headguard after that which turned out to be pretty useful.

The ear may be a problem in competition though… I had to tap out to the Whitebelt Headlock (TM) today because my ear hurt too much. Hmm.

Just found out that Ao-san will also be entering the competition in May. It’s great to have another person from the dojo coming. Not so great is that he is seriously good and competing in the same category as me! Shit-flaps! Maybe we can meet in the finals…

Training, early Feb.

jiu jitsu training

Things are going good. I think the combination of getting over my cold, keeping up my rudimentary strength training routine, and twice a week BJJ / once a week judo is really starting to pay off.

The last few times I’ve been to training have been “good days” where everything just slots in place. I feel that I’m at a good level already, and I still have a month until the comp. I hope I can crank it up further before the comp. I always hear the coaches in the MMA interviews talking about how they ensure their fighters peak at the right time before the fight. Well I’m going to try to do that for myself.

The plan is to keep doing what I’m doing now, which has given me big improvements, and add to that at least one hardcore jiu jitsu session per week. These are the late night classes where you get pushed really, really bloody hard.

I’m able to push and attack for the whole six minutes at the moment. I want to be able to go harder though so I will make sure that I am working all the time during class. No slacking off!

I’m able to finish people at the moment, too, which is good. Sometimes my subs don’t work for me, especially against some people, but lately they are working pretty good. So I hope I can keep this up for another month, and then I’ll be ready for the comp.

Plan of Action

I want to compete in March.

I want to compete, and I want to win.

It’s far away (an hour and a half drive, I think), and it’s already a quarter of the way through the year, so I have to start my winning ways.

I don’t want to come home without a medal.

So I have just over a month to prepare. My last performance (my first at blue belt), I lost via submission in a few minutes in the first fight, and lost a close match on points in the absolute division. So I have a big leap to make if I want to do well this time.

Where I am at now.
Here’s the situation now. I’m just getting back into regular gear after a few months of on and off training, time off, and illnesses due to the shitty cold weather. I’m about a kilo away from the pena weight limit (up to 70kg with the gi) so losing the weight should be no problem at all. Just cut out deserts, donuts and biscuits for a few weeks.

Conditioning wise, my job teaching kids is hard work, I cycle and walk every day, and even during quiet periods I train a couple of times a week. So not too bad. But, I definitely don’t have the juice to go 110% for the full six minutes, which is my aim.

Strength wise, I’ve been sloppy at using my weights and chin up bar lately, so I’m not as strong as I could be.

Skill wise, I feel I just clawed my way into blue belt by the skin of my eyeballs, but since then, I’ve settled into it. So I believe I’m an average blue for now. I can triangle people and scissors sweep people and armbar people, but if I get caught snoozing I get swept on my butt, my open/spider/butterfly guard needs work and I can only think of about 3 things at a time.

Pumpitude wise, I’m pretty low.

How to fix it.
I’m going to basically headbutt the wall a few times, watch lots of jiu jitsu fights, watch my old jiu jitsu fights, punch some trees in the mouth, kick a few dogs, read some wing chun forums until I get nerd-rage, and generally claw at random passers-by to increase my level of pumpitude.

Jiu jitsu: push myself at all times until I can go for six minutes at a time, all out, maybe five or six times in a row. Attend at least one circuit training class (10 to 11:30pm… yikes.) a week. Judo: keep up the drills and randori on Wednesday nights. Make every push up, sit up and pull up count.

At least twice a week, push myself to use my chin up bar, my free weights and my exercise ball. Stick to basics, fifteen or so reps, 3 or so sets. I’m not exactly trying to be Arnold Stallone here, just a little to improve my strength. That’s along with the usual zillions of pushups and situps at jiu jitsu.

Watch a bunch of fights and instructional DVDs, pick my instructor’s brains, but basically just keep it simple and come up with a gameplan.

Standup work
The Wednesday night judo practice is doing wonders for my confidence. Before, the single scariest thing about competing was the standup. I had no fucking idea what to do. So even though I know I’m not going to judo flip anyone on their head, at least I won’t be quivering with inexperience when the guy yells “combate”.

The gameplan
Watch this space. But basically I am going to work in broad strokes beforehand, and leave the fine details to paint themselves in on the day.


Noma Judo

Judo is great. After training the other night, the black belts sat down and gave a speech. This is after we’ve done the communist-style communal exercise complete with ritualistic chanting, and bowing to about ten different places.

One guy, Maraiga-san (who is also a BJJ blue belt) gave an excellent speech about how a kid’s work is to study hard, train judo, and help with his or her parents. About half of the members of this small judo class are kids from about 5 to 14 or so. He then asked them if they had all done their homework, without a hint of comedy or irony.

All the while, one of the other blackbelt’s kids, himself a pretty good judo-er, was choking back sobs. His heart, his spirit, had been so affected by a particularly intense training session in preparation for an upcoming competition that he was spontaneously crying. When you are around people who always talk of spirit, of heart, kokoro, it becomes a very believable and tangible thing. The act of pushing yourself to your physical and mental limits, under the strict, harsh-but-fair guidance of a senior, in a group environment… I’m not surprised the kid was sobbing.

I’m really enjoying the different side, the, dare I say it, more traditional side that judo proudly holds on to. It is a refreshing change from the dudes at jiu jitsu lying around scratching their balls and clipping their toenails (which is also charming, in a different way.)

In other news, I bought some awesome reversal t-shirts, and a new gi from Keiko Raca. I need to buy some patches from the dojo, put a few pennies in my coach’s pocket, and get the missus to sew them on for me.

Jiu jitsu is going well. This year should be a good year, I’m going to shoot for my purple belt.

I plan to compete in March, so I have January to ease myself in, February to train hard and lose a couple of kilos, and March to get my face squished in. Should be great!

I’ve also invested in a gym ball and some latext tubing, and have been doing all kinds of weird and wacky exercises to help build my strength. I’m using this weird, bright-green metal chin-up bar contraption, donated to me by my mother in law, too, and I have actually noticed an increase in strength since I started using it about two months ago.

Lastly, things are looking good on the writing front, but more news on that later.

Competing tomorrow…

After only a few months as a blue belt I decided to enter a competition. It’s the first All-Kyushu BJJ competition (Kyushu is the large island on the southern end of Japan.)

Apparently my first fight is with the favourite to win it, some battle-hardened veteran dude. Hmm. Not good considering I’ve paid almost 10,000 bones to enter and it will take an hour and a half to drive there.

Because of the above fact, I decided to enter the absolute category, too, just to give myself another opportunity to fight.