So after Kleos, I had two competitions in quick succession. This was not a good month for me, the month of September. I went to Glasgow and to Liverpool to compete. I lost every single match. I learned an awful lot about competition mentality and different approaches I needed to take. I had some close matches, some which were won on advantages only by my opponent, but in the end that’s still a loss for myself. Yet, as I said, I pulled through and I learnt a lot about myself in the process. I know that’s a cliche thing to say, but it’s true, and it made me change the way in which I approached competition and my training regime.
Then after that came the North West Open. This went a lot better for me, because of the losses I had suffered the month before. I changed the way I mentally approached the competition. I had a brain wave regarding how I should be thinking on the mats. Rather than being a passive reactor to my opponent, I knew that I would do a lot better if I was active and aggressive. Most of the girls I compete against are bigger than me, sometimes by quite a big margin – this means I can’t afford to be passive, or on the back foot. I have to be applying my game and my pressure at all times. It paid off at North West and I won one and lost one to take bronze. Even though it was “only” bronze, it proved to me that I was heading in the right direction with my new mentality.
I told myself North West would be my last comp in 2016. It wasn’t. I headed to Newcastle in December and came away with four medals, all the matches I lost being to the same girl (looking at you Sarah!), so I was really happy with my performance there.
As you can see from my competition sidebar, I already have two competitions in the books for 2017, which will hopefully be many more once I can fund them. I love competing and I love jiu-jitsu, I’m really excited to see what 2017 is going to bring!
I remember talking to some BJJ girls when I went to a camp at Fighting Fit Manchester in Aug 2015, and they were talking about the competitions they’d done. I distinctly remember saying that I would never have the guts to do that because it sounded utterly terrifying. Well, eighteen months and eleven competitions later… I guess I’ve gotten over that fear! I also meant to do this a while ago, but I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t as the sneaky Newcastle Open entry came up this weekend, so it would have been incomplete.
Anyway, here’s a look back at the events of this year, my reflections on my competitions and how things have changed.
It all started back in February, when I went to an inter-club competition at Positive Options gym in Ilkley. The gym instructor is brown belt Fred Greenall, and he sometimes comes to Kaizen to train. It was a nice introduction to competition. There was supposed to be a girl from a gym in Leeds coming to compete, but unfortunately she had to drop out due to an injury, so it was just girls from Kaizen who were competing. To say that my idea of competition was very different then is an understatement.
Needless to say; I lost. The physical pressure of competition was just too much for me, and I had no sense of a developed game. I didn’t know what I would play, and my matches were mostly reactive – wait and see what they would do, and then react. Not the best way to go about trying to achieve a win.
I went to an inter-uni competition in March, that was organised by Hull University MMA Society. This was the first time I would be against girls who weren’t from my own gym. I remember that I was seriously nervous, because the rule set was sub-only and there were various aspects allowed that were outside of IBJJF rules (not that I really knew what these were at the time!). Slamming, for example. This was because most of the competitors were MMA fighters, so their natural game was tailored towards that end.
Anyway, the matches were ten minutes, with EBI overtime rules if no sub was achieved in that time. I won my first match by armbar after a few scrappy moments. I remember the girl I fought was double jointed, so the armbar was so deep. Apparently, according to my teammates standing on the sideline it looked absolutely disgusting, and I definitely felt her elbow pop before she tapped.
My second match I won by RNC, but it was a proper war. I really had to scrap for it I remember, and I think I got the choke somewhere in the eighth or ninth minute. So I came out on top that day, and won my first (and so far only) gold medal.
Then came the first Newcastle Open at the end of April. This was a bigger competition, even though the women’s divisions were still small. I was only doing no-gi at this point (I don’t think I even owned my own proper BJJ gi) and it was certainly the side of the sport that I felt most comfortable with.
I headed down with Joe Butler (whose spotlight piece you can read here (insert link)), who since has become my oftentimes companion at competitions. It was great to have some support there and he did very well. I was winning my match, by way of two sweeps, when I got swept into mount. Therefore she got six points and won the match in one move. I was very annoyed at the time. Looking back I realise that I could’ve stopped that by having a slightly better appreciation of the rules of BJJ. I can’t be too hard on myself though, it was my first “big” comp, and I think I did well to score points at all.
I took what I could from it, and didn’t get too upset. I prepared for the Manchester Open which was coming a few weeks later.
This was even bigger than Newcastle Open; there were over 300 competitors at the event. There should have been three people in my division, but one of the girls didn’t show up. So it was just me and Becky Bursnoll.
She beat my by Kimura, but once again I wasn’t too upset. My coach told me that he was very experienced and had been competing for a long time.
I then decided to do absolutes, so I would get more matches. I can’t remember who I fought, other than Oyinda, where the final score was 0-0, and she won because she was more aggressive in top position. You can read my full write up of the day here.
Kaizen Academy Competition
I both organised and competed in this competition. I’ve decided that this is something I wouldn’t do again. I loved organising the competition, but if I’m going to do that side, competing as well is a bit too much. My mind wasn’t focused on the personal competition aspect at all, because I was too busy worrying about whether everything was in order and who needed to be where at what time.
As such, I didn’t win a medal. It was my only competition this year that I didn’t pick a medal up at it. I wasn’t too worried though, because the event was a success and we’re looking to do another one in 2017.
I had had no intentions of doing Kleos, because it was so far away from Lancaster. I was convinced by Maia Holmes into doing the event. I was very glad I did in the end and picked up a silver after winning one match and losing the other. It was a bit of an odd set up because I had to fight the same girl twice. I had a lot of fun though and the medals are absolutely badass. It’s definitely my favourite one so far.
There were also three Bryony’s at this event in the women’s blue/white division which is amazing. I rarely meet one other person with my name, never mind three of us at the same place! The other thing that amuses me when I remember this event, is going through the videos with my coach Michael Wood afterwards and him saying ‘You should have won all of them’ but apparently “I didn’t move fast enough” – cheers Michael!
I couldn’t find anywhere to wrestle in Lancaster, so decided to start BJJ! After a couple of years wrestling in Manchester while at uni there, (minus some time where I broke my leg after a dicky takedown), I was hooked on grappling. I was aware of BJJ through watching the UFC and having a few friends who were competing in MMA, however, I didn’t really know about submissions, or that whole side of the game that unfolds on the ground.
After university, I moved back to Lancaster, and there was about a year where I was doing no martial arts, just lifting and running, Then I discovered that Kieran [O’Brien, Kaizen co-founder], was putting on some MMA classes at Lancaster University Sports Centre, and out of boredom and a desire to fight, got involved. Shortly after that Kaizen begun, and I’ve been training BJJ exclusively ever since!
What has BJJ come to mean for you since you started?
After starting with nothing but good fitness and the positional control that comes from wrestling, I’ve fallen in love with BJJ! Any kind of fighting/training to fight is fun, but the prolonged, smothering wars of attrition and limb chess just suits me down to a T. I enjoy it much more at this point, being good enough now to really experiment with no ego and string together far more stuff on the ground.
How do you think it’s changed you (if it has)?
I’m aware, more than ever, of the huge distance in front of me in this BJJ journey. I’m excited about meeting people far ahead down that road, which, if anything, has been extremely humbling.
What advice would you give yourself a year ago, if you could?
Experiment more, risk letting yourself get tapped in rolls more. Casual rolls are exactly when you should be out of your A game, testing new things, and getting beat all the time before you master it.
Tell me about your gym/teammates
I train at Kaizen Academy, Lancaster. It’s a great group of people and a great atmosphere. There’s some people I’ve been growing with since I begun, who I compete alongside and have risen with together, each of whom provide a unique aspect as a training partner. I can always count on having rolling partners on my level, and those who are both more and less experienced. On top of that Michael Wood, our head BJJ coach, is pretty much everything I could ask for in a trainer; his extremely logical, almost video game like approach to BJJ, is something I really feel like I thrive under. Also, I guess like everyone who does BJJ for long enough the gym becomes a social hub too!
What have been you best/proudest achievements to date?
Being one of the first “Kaizen” blue belts after a year obviously! Every competition gold… Not vomiting and quitting after getting kneed in the balls in the no-gi for the BJJ 24/7 NW Open, and then going on to get gold in the Gi!
Oh, and cutting my hair.
You just got promoted to blue belt, talk about what that feels like.
It’s just a refocusing basically. This is the path I’m on, no doubt anymore. Time to think ahead and plan accordingly, work on new areas.
What aspect of your game is the best?
Top pressure, guard passing. Things I learnt in my wrestling days and use to my advantage.
What aspect do you need to work on?
Guard, leg stuff. I even pull guard now, something I would never have dreamed of a few months ago!
Where do you want to be in a year’s time re: BJJ?
I want to have a series of wins under my belt (pun firmly intended) at blue.
What’s your favourite sub/guard/sweep?
Have you been to any seminars/other gyms?
I dabbled around some MMA gyms in Manchester for a little bit, and went to a couple of different classes here and there. I even trained for a few weeks in London while working the bar at a festival, under a really chill Brazilian black belt doing a class at a nearby gym. I’ve trained in some nice, friendly places, and in some more egotistical, stereotypical, “MMA douchebag” type places. Nowhere really has had the sheer breadth of experience and knowledge that I’ve found at Kaizen though.
Gi or no-gi?
Probably no-gi, coming from a wrestling background, but Gi has really been growing on me lately. Lasso guard is pretty decent and I like me some bow and arrow chokes.
What are you hoping to accomplish in the next calendar year?
Grow my hair back!
I want to move down a weight category so get down to 73.5kg. It would also be sweet to dominate some blue belt comps like I have white.
Written by Joe Butler,
Edited by Bryony.
With thanks to Laura Jenney Photography, James Karlsen-Davies, and others for the photographs.
Went to compete in the Newcastle Open yesterday, after a last minute sign up. I decided to sign up because there were new names on the girls roster that I’d not seen before. It’s pretty rare for that to happen at smaller competitions because the same girls seem to have the fire for competition. Either way, I was excited.
I had to get up at 5.15am to get to Newcastle which was super fun, but without a little bit of discomfort we don’t get to do these awesome things. So anyway, we arrived in Newcastle in good time for weigh in, and I decided to have a mini power nap before gi-ing up. I was lying in the stands with my gi jacket over my head and I vaguely heard a small child asking why there was a pile of clothes there, and his mother saying “shhh! there’s someone underneath that!” which made me smile.
I weighed in at 54.5 with the gi on. Seeing as my category was -65kg in the gi I was (once-again) easily the smallest in my category. It doesn’t really matter, I’m pretty used to it by now. Anyway, before I was up my team mate Tim was on the mats. He won his first match with a great technical display and control. Unfortunately he lost his second match to take silver in the division. This was Tim’s first competition, however, and I think that’s a pretty epic start!
After that I was up for my first gi match. The girl I was fighting was quite a lot bigger than me and pulled into closed guard straight away. She tried to go for a gogoplata from closed guard, but rather than having her hand across my neck she had her forearm across my nose and just decided to crush my face. I’m fairly sure this is illegal, cause you’re not allowed to attack the eyes or the nose. There was blood everywhere about 0.3 seconds later and it took quite a long while to stop. Unfortunately the ref didn’t actually see the action when it happened, so she got away with it. I’m sporting a lovely black eye today though!
Anyway, after I’d cleaned myself up and got myself together again I took to the mats again and went on to win my second gi match by points and take bronze. The girl stood next to me with a bronze is the girl I managed to defeat, but I’m glad she was on the podium too as this was her first comp and she was pretty nervous to begin with. Didn’t show on the mat though!!
I then did gi absolutes and lost to Sarah Greenwood (centre in the pic above) by some submission or other. I genuinely can’t remember, I need to watch the videos again to see what happened. I think it might have been a guillotine..? I took bronze in the gi absolutes, but not before the girl who’d busted my nose earlier stormed off in a strop because apparently the girl she fought had been cheating. Hahaha…. pot, meet kettle.
I then had a bit of wait for my no-gi division fights. It was only Sarah and I in the no-gi division, and she subbed me with a nice Kimura. I was being a bit nooby and failed to hide my arm effectively whilst I was in deep half guard – oh well! Will learn that one!! I then signed up for no-gi absolutes. I fended off a deep triangle choke by Sarah and survived a lot longer only to get caught in something or other (again, I need to see the videos to figure out what happened), but then I went on to win my second match by 18 points to 4. I was really chuffed with this because the girl I fought was significantly heavier than me, and it was a tough match. I was able to follow my half-guard game though and sweep before taking the mount and back. She fended off an RNC attempt to reverse, but I took half guard again and was able to sweep and pass again, so the points racked up. It was a good match and I was super pleased with myself; I am making gains!
Ze and Kieran from Kaizen also competed and took home two silvers after some tough matches, with Kieran competing in the Advanced category against a seasoned purple belt.
All in all it was a really great day and I thoroughly enjoyed myself (other than getting my nose crushed). It was also super nice to hang out with some of the girls I’ve met before matside, and to meet competitors who’ve I’ve not seen before.
We might be competitors, but we’re all their for the same reason, and we’re all BJJ girls, so it’s lovely to get to have a chinwag and catch up on the matside.
Anyway, this was the final tally from yesterday’s competition. Soon they’ll be some lovely shiny gold ones to add to that, but I’m really chuffed with how I performed yesterday and am looking forward to working on my game even more.