I know it’s been a really long time since I last posted, and I apologise for that! I’ve just been really busy with my new job and everything. I will try and schedule time to blog about my training exploits, because I’ve got several more comps coming up this year and I’m excited to see what they bring.
The purpose of this post, however, is to wish belated congratulations to everyone who went to Euros 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal, and especially to my friends who managed to pick up medals!
Previous Saturday Spotlight participant Maia Holmes came away with gold in her category(!). Huge well done Maia!
Francisca Nelson won a silver, well done Fran!
Huge well done to everyone else in my extended BJJ fam who stepped up to the plate and put it on the line at Euros including Emily Smyth, Walter Barnes, Sarah Greenwood and Krishnan Chaunan.
I hope to head to Euros next year – it looked like a lot of fun!
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!
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.
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.