Aloha everyone. I've been wanting to do a "bjj journey" type post for some time now, but it seems like they got really popular really fast, and I decided to wait until a better opportunity arose. Well, it's here: tournament season. I'm two weeks out from the Hawaii Triple Crown, held on Oahu, and I wanted to share my preparation with you guys, from training, to weight cut, to "fight" (I hate it when people call it that) day.
The Hawaii Triple Crown is a set of three tournaments that determines the "State" champion in each division and weight class for that year. Your points carry over from each tournament to the next one; the person with the most points after the three tournaments is the winner. The first leg of the HTC is being held on April 14, 2012, on Oahu. This tournament was introduced by Romolo Barros, Rickson Gracie's first black belt. We do not have a ton of tournaments in Hawaii. In fact, the number of tournaments varies every year. Besides NAGA, these tournaments are often the only tournaments we have to look forward to besides the rare occurrence we hold one here on the neighbor islands.
If I place in this tournament I will continue these all the way through all three tournaments.
I'm a blue belt under Ermin Fergerstrom. Ermin is a black belt under Romolo Barros and also a fairly experienced MMA fighter and trainer. I've been training under Ermin, beginning with approximately six months of private lessons, for about 2 years now. I train at Maui Martial Arts (MMA) where we have a ton of great training partners and instructors. We have 2 black belts under Romolo Barros, as well as an assistant instructor that joins us on occasion; a Machado black belt.
I started in martial arts by doing wrestling in high school. I was a fairly decent wrestler but had a body type completely different than I do now. I then went to judo for a short time, followed by BJJ. The only thing that really transferred from my wrestling and judo experience is my base and my work ethic. Everything else was brand new to me when I began my BJJ training. I have, however, gained a ton of experience with weight cutting and tournaments as it was common to do 3-4 tournaments per month in wrestling.
I try to train at least 3-4 times per week in the gi and 2 times per week under "no gi". Regardless of how many times I switch between gi and no gi, I try to make sure I get at least 5-6 solid training sessions per week. For this tournament, I will be competing strictly in the gi division. Despite my ever-improving guard game I would consider myself a top control guy and the gi grips are my favorite way to slow the game down and control/pressure my opponent. I will also be dropping a weight class for this tournament and look forward to utilizing my size as one of the bigger guys in my division.
Two weeks out from the tournament the pressure gets put on. Our school is in "tournament mode" despite the fact that only myself and two other guys are competing. We are like a family (as in most schools) and everybody gathers around to put their efforts into helping the guys competing. The warmups are harder. We get more "pep" talks from the coaches about what it means to be a martial artist, represent a school, and compete as a humble, yet brutal competitor. Cardio is our focus, but so is technique and gameplan.
Now is the time to decide what type of battle we choose to engage in. Are we going to pull guard? Are we going to rush the takedown immediately, or set it up with a fake? Do we fake high for a trip and then drop for the double, or are we going to stomp our foot to fake the shot and then grip the gi and hip toss? We all focus on not giving up points. We need to get into the best position to run our game and not just go in there to "see what happens". Our guys are known for tournament success and it's time to prove who we are.
Like most schools, we start with a warmup. We then do some techniques for the day, and then engage in "free training" or "free rolling". Our rounds are typically 3-4 minutes depending on how many guys we have that day. We are now at five minute rounds. Our classes are supposed to end at 8; we are now rolling until nearly 9. Tournament mode is in full effect.
My diet will somewhat correspond with my weight cutting section that I intend to add to my next installment (next Monday). However, since I am strictly in diet mode right now there is no need to make a separate category about my weight cut yet.
I decided on competing in this tournament about 5 weeks ago. At the time my weight was about 189. The weight class I was going for was the 173 class (middleweight). I took a good hard look at my diet and overall physical condition and decided that was going to be too easy. Now, don't get me wrong, I typically don't recommend cutting weight for jiu jitsu if you don't have to. Your body gets used to moving people around a certain way, using leverage points that change as the structure of your body changes. Losing too much of what you're accustomed to can drastically change your game. However, I was coming off the holiday eating season and if I was to just "up" my training and not change my horrendous diet, I would've ended up weighing in about 169-172(ish) which would leave me one of the smaller guys in my weight class (assuming everyone cuts at least SOME weight). I need to hit the 162 class. Yes, 27 pounds.
My pre-tournament diet consisted of ....... well...... everything. I ate what I wanted. Every weekend I had shots of patron with my lunch and would drink about 5-8 beers on a Sunday afternoon at the beach.
No more. I've cut out alcohol completely. My diet is lean: fish and chicken, vegetables, a ridiculous amount of fruit, vitamins. No rice, no bread, no sweets. TONS OF WATER. As of this writing I am down to 168 pounds. This is without cutting out water intake, number of meals, or portions; only content. Six pounds to go, and this is where I intend to stay until two days before the tournament. I'm about 6 feet tall, so I'm looking pretty skinny already and I don't have much more than water to lose anyway at this point.
I'm feeling focused. My body is pretty beat right now but I feel ready. The changes in my body have brought some subtle changes to my game. There are holes in places where there used to be fat/extra muscle/etc. I'm having to adjust my positions ever so slightly to compensate. I move faster but don't feel as heavy. This changes my mindset in the sense of "do I have time to make these adjustments"?
I intend to win this competition. Obviously, nobody shows up to lose; yet, with this training planning I feel like there is nobody out there at my weight and experience level that's going to put me in positions I don't want to be in. There is always the chance that we have some 5 year blue belt sandbagger, but I won't be losing for lack of preparation. I've purchased my flight for my girlfriend and I and I've pre-registered for the competition itself. No going back. I'm bringing home the gold.
As I said earlier, I'm a top guy. I'm going for the takedown from the opening whistle. I want to get around the legs if possible but if I end up in half guard I am more than confident. I have great transitions and submissions from half. I'll focus on not giving up positions (as we are a submission heavy school from all positions) and focus on getting control and loading up my points. If the opportunity presents itself, you better believe I will be latching on until somebody pulls me off. Six minutes? I can go balls out for six minutes. I hope the other guys are ready to do the same.
That's about it for this installment. There might be things I want to add later. If anybody has some tournament tips or stories they want to share please feel free to do so in the comments. Thanks for reading.