One glimmer of hope for me, an amazing windfall for Team Awesome.
I put a lot of pressure on myself before North West Open. I was sick of coming last in a race that I knew I could do better in, so I made a seriously conscious effort to prepare before Sunday. I upped my time in the weights room, I did some intensive cardio and really honed in on aspects of my game that I wanted to improve. I worked hard on and off the mats to ensure that I did myself proud, regardless of what happened.
I had five in my no-gi division (someone had dropped out) and six in my gi (again I think someone had dropped out), so I knew I’d have a fight on my hands to even get onto the medal podium. That’s enough about me, however, for a while because I have to firstly talk about Team Awesome. Yesterday we took the largest team we’ve ever taken to a comp – including thirteen competitors. It was supposed to be fourteen, but one of our members unfortunately couldn’t make it. Our team included a lot of competition “virgins” and they didn’t pick an easy one to begin with! I’m so proud of everyone who came down to compete. The photo below shows our team, minus two competitors (Lucas + Kasia) who’d already had to shoot off by the time this was taken.
With a team with that many competitors in it there was naturally going to be people competing at the same time, so it was difficult for me to keep tabs on what was happening all the time.
First up, however, was our coach, Michael Wood in his no-gi division. He won both his fights without having any points scored against him. His first match was a lesson in technical half guard for all us spectators. His second match had one hairy moment for his spectators where we thought there could be a potential triangle, but Michael being a total pro, was already out of danger by the time we’d even noticed.
Medal Tally: 1 gold.
At this point I had to stop watching my team mates because it was my turn to hit the mats in the no-gi <56.5 ladies division. I had a mini mental breakthrough on Saturday and so I was focused and ready to hit the mats. I still got a little bit nervous and had to listen to some pump up songs to get myself ready to go, but I knew what I had to do.
My first match went well, with a final score of 9-7 to me. I got a sweep from half guard within the first minute or so and then proceeded to pass, so the score was 5-0. At that point the match was very near the edge of the mats so we were stopped to move back towards the middle. At that moment, horribly, I suddenly felt extremely sick and had to take a few deep breaths whilst we were resetting to make sure I didn’t throw up (pretty sure vomiting on the mats counts as a tap!). Anyway, the match re-started and I got swept, so the score became 5-2. There must have been a reversal in there at some point because I ended up on top again but received no points before taking the back and scoring my next 4 points, taking the score to 9-2. In order for my opponent to get the next five points she must have swept and passed me at one point, or perhaps it was knee on belly after a pass. I honestly don’t remember. I was just trying to survive because I knew I was ahead on points. At one point she attempted an armbar that I escaped. The thing I took away from that match was that I need to work even more on my intensive cardio so that I can keep attacking for the full five minutes. I did well when I was actively on the attack. The second I was on the defensive and feeling sick, I started to get points scored against me. Anyway, in the end it didn’t matter and the final score was 9-7, with the ref saying that was one of the most exciting matches he’d seen in a while.
My second match didn’t go as well! I did a great sweep from half guard, but then got caught in a guillotine after successfully defending a triangle attempt from over/under. I was extremely annoyed with myself because after the extremely promising beginning I fell swiftly to a tight submission that I ultimately could’ve avoided if I’d been a bit more careful. What I take away from that is now that my sweeping is (relatively) okay, I need to work on what happens once I come up and staying “defensively responsible” whilst I secure my position.
My teammate Kasia was also in my division, having been bumped up from her weight category (<51.5) due to a lack of competitors in that division. She was paired against Becky in her first match and did extremely well considering that Becky has a least eighteen months training on Kasia. Kasia was aggressive and didn’t give up until Becky secured a very deep armbar. We both knew that that would be a tough match and I thought Kasia held her own well against a tough and seasoned opponent.
So I took bronze in that division. I was happy though because I’d acquitted myself a lot better than in my previous two competitions and my approach to it had changed. This was the first glimmer of hope, I can do it, I just need to keep building on the foundations I laid during this competition prep.
Medal Tally: 1 gold, 1 bronze.
Whilst I’d been competing a lot had been happening for Team Awesome around the venue and I spent the next couple of minutes catching up with what had been going on. Ze was well into his weight division in the blue belt category, Kam had won a gold medal in his category, Joe was currently steaming through his weight division at white belt. Lucas and James had unfortunately lost out to tough competitors in their respective divisions. James had been up on points after some great sweeps and got caught in a chance submission; Lucas’ story was much the same. Laurence had lost his matches in his divisions but had walked away with bronze anyway and decided to try white belt absolutes. Simon, who has admitted he was nervous and acquitted himself amazingly well, had also fought in his no-gi category and walked away with a silver medal.
Medal Tally: 2 golds, 1 silver, 2 bronzes.
Then it was the girls again. Kaizen had taken five girls yesterday which I imagine was one of the biggest female contingent from any singular gym at the competition yesterday. Laura was competing in the <61.5; Andreana and Aimee in the <66.5. It was Aimee and Laura’s first competition and they both stepped up to the challenge extremely well. Laura fell to a deep armbar in her match which would see her injure her elbow, but she still did the gi division later in the day. She took home a bronze. Andreana and Aimee ending up fighting each other in their division for the bronze medal. I had no idea who to cheer for from the sidelines so I made up a new name: Aimdreana. It’s gonna be a thing guys. One thing to say for them both was that they absolutely went tooth and nail for it, despite the fact they’re team mates. There was no backing away and they had an awesome match. The ref said it was one of the most brutal matches he’d seen that day! In the end it was Andreana who came out on top with a final score of 9-4, and she took home the bronze.
Andreana and I both signed up for white belt absolutes, but I fell to an armbar in my first match to the same girl who’d taken Laura’s right arm home with her. Clearly that was her thing! Mine wasn’t as bad as Laura’s but it still needed a bit of bandage support for the rest of the day and has been giving me a bit of gip today, but nothing a few painkillers can’t sort. Andreana took bronze in the absolutes!
Whilst I’d been watching/competing with the girls Ze had stormed to gold in his weight division with an amazing display of Jiu-Jitsu. Joe had also taken a bronze medal in his division after injuring himself in the semi-final match, denying himself a place in the final.
Medal Tally: 3 golds, 1 silver, 5 bronzes.
I then had a bit of break until my gi division in the afternoon in which I watched Laurence smash his way to gold in the white belt absolute division and Ze to the same outcome in the blue belt absolutes. Ze was disappointed that someone had managed to score 2 points against him in the whole competition. You just won 2 golds Ze, chill out, ye’ did good. That was it for the no-gi excitement of the morning/early afternoon, and suddenly a lot more people were walking around in pyjamas than there had been in the morning. It was time for the gi divisions.
Medal Tally: 5 golds, 1 silver, 5 bronzes.
I was up almost immediately in the gi. Competing in the gi is still something I’m relatively new to, but I thought I’d have a crack. I was up against a girl called Rihanna, who I found out was only 14. Don’t be fooled, however, it was like trying to fight Sonic on speed. She was so quick and her movement was insane. Apparently she’s been training since she was seven, and it showed. At one point she was doing stuff with her gi jacket that I had never seen before. She was trying to tie me up in it and I didn’t really know what to do (having only been training in the gi for a little while), so I ended up just hand fighting her to get out! She won 12-0 in the end. I don’t begrudge her her win at all – she was amazing and she’s going to go far. I couldn’t even get hold of her! In the last thirty seconds I knew I wasn’t going to get any points back so I dived for a footlock in an attempt to get the sub, but I didn’t get it locked in quite deeply enough so lost out. She took the well deserved gold overall.
Also in that division was a match up between Emily Smyth and Becky Bursnoll. Emily isn’t normally in my weight category, she’s normally up one, but she’d managed to come down for North West and she was matched up against Becky. I was really looking forward to watching the match because I think they’re two of the best female white belts in the UK. Emily came out on top with an aggressive and dominating performance. It took her quite a long time to finish the submission, but she had a locked down for a long time before finally getting the tap. Laura also competed in the gi in her category, but narrowly lost out on taking home a medal.
Joe was also competing in the gi and his division was absolutely stacked! There were fifteen in his category (white, adult, <79.5), and he had to have five fights to reach the final. Joe’s passing game is en pointe and his pressure is insane, so he managed to dominate through to the final with a variety of americanas and RNCs. He also won the final by Americana after passing into a dominant position. It was very well deserved and he’s now, hopefully, onto… bluer… pastures. Simon also fought extremely well to take home bronze in his gi category.
Then there was only one category left for Team Awesome and that was Michael’s gi category. For some reason they’d put his no gi at the very beginning of the day and his gi at the very end, which is a little bit annoying. He took gold in his division after another dominating performance.
It was a fantastic day for Team Awesome and we did so so well. We came fourth in the overall team rankings with the three teams above us all being franchises (meaning that there were multiple gyms representing the team). I think that is absolutely fantastic. Our final Medal Tally was 6 golds, 1 silver and 6 bronzes. We had amazing supporting members there was well yesterday with both Luke, Cosima, and Adam providing great cornering advice and support. Nilla was also there, cheering everyone on, along with Aimee’s boyfriend Ian (I am so sorry if this isn’t his name, I’m crap remembering names!), and Georgia appeared to wish us all luck in the middle of the day.
It was a fantastic day and a great way to end my competition season for 2016. I’m taking some time off until next year to just train for training’s sake, let my body and mind rest a bit and come back fresh and raring to go in the new year. I have new goals and targets for 2017 when it comes to competition.
Well done Team Awesome.
Until next time,