More on the tourney and my week in Chicago
Here are some pics from Fri afternoon after we went shopping.
We tried to escape from the van many times during the 20+ hour trip out to Wisconsin. We failed every time.
Me, looking all scoldy at Mikebyrd with my camera, and Brian, looking all Brian-like.
The morning of the tourney came wicked early, like it always does. By 6:30 am we were all piled into the van and James’ rental car to head over to the venue. The mats were right where we had left them: rolled out so they could flatten overnight, but still impossibly heavy. Fortunately, there were many more people to help with them in the morning (including a bunch of Marines), leaving me free to tote Joe’s Bad Ass Coffee and Sam’s NHBgear boxes to one end of the venue. Then Anahi, Lindsey and I set up for registration, which got underway a little after the official start time of 8am.
By this time, Anahi had pegged that Midwestern accent pretty well (just watch Frances McDormand in Fargo, William H. Macy too, to get a feel for it), so she was making me laugh. There were no major problems with registration, so Anahi had things well in hand when I went to the refs’ meeting.
Andrew ran us through the rules, which I had gone over previously, multiple times. I started to get a leetle nervous then, because there were 10 refs at the meeting and only yours truly was female. But then I reminded myself that that’s pretty much the story of my jiu jitsu life, being the only chick. So I took some deep breaths and remembered I was there to challenge myself, that I’m fairly intelligent (no comments from Marcel, please), and that it wasn’t a life or death situation.
Then there was the rules meeting for the competitors. Rudy and I got to show the positions as Andrew explained them, which means I got to hip toss Rudy, take Rudy down with a double leg, get the mount on Rudy, and put Rudy into a guillotine. (The day could have stopped there and I would have been happy.)
My first matches were kids’ ones. They were easy but not necessarily because of the no submissions rule. Unfortunately, they were easy because frequently one kid completely dominated the other and the dominated kid ended up on the verge or past the point of tears. Fortunately, there was a mercy rule, where if one kid was up by 12 points or more, I stopped the match. I used this rule a couple times.
Then it was on to white and blue, gi and no gi, men’s and women’s matches. My table workers were James, a white belt under Andrew, who kept time, and Jeff, a brown or purple belt under Lloyd Irvin, who kept score. So James would holler out the time at different intervals and when the match was over, he’d throw a little beanbag at me so I could stop the competitors. Jeff used a flipbook to keep track of the points I awarded. The flipbook had two sets of numbers, one red and one green. I had a red and a green wristband and the competitors wore a red or a green band around their ankles for no gi, and attached to their belt for gi. I signaled 2 or 4 or however many points (or an advantage, which is awarded when one competitor comes very close to successfully completing a position and is used to decide a match if the point score is tied) using the hand with the wristband color that corresponded to the ankle/gi band of the competitor who pulled off the move.
James and Jeff also kept me sane, reminding me of the number of minutes for each match (this varied by skill level), making soothing noises when I screwed up, and laughing at my dumb jokes. Thanks to James and Jeff! I hope we get to work together again at the next tourney (which, actually, is in Richmond the 3rd weekend in March—my father’s birthday weekend! It’s an all kids’ tournament.).
Speaking of mistakes, I did make some. But for the most part, I did all right. Here are the mistakes, the things I’m happy about, and things that were not mistakes but that I want to fix for next time:
1. In one of the men’s blue belt matches, I missed giving knee on the belly points to one competitor. I was on the other side of him and he was very low, so it didn’t look like he was on his knee on his opponent’s stomach. I didn’t know I had missed the points until Henry “The Monkey” Matamoros, a Pedro Sauer black belt with an academy in Milwaukee, said, “Ref, he’s been in that position for quite a while now.” So then I saw that I had missed it. Fortunately, the guy was racking up points and went on to win by submission.
2. In one of the men’s white belt matches, I announced that wristlocks were not allowed, when they were. This came as kind of a surprise, because wristlocks are not usually allowed for white belts, but the point is that one competitor said he had a wristlock on the other at one point during the match and would have tapped him with it, but he pulled back because of what I had said. And the other person ended up winning by advantage. Whether this is true or not, the point is that I announced that a legitimate submission was not legitimate, so in one competitor's mind, I made a mistake.
3. In another men’s gi match (blue belt, I think), one competitor got the other in a really tight triangle, so tight that the trapped guy started to gurgle. But then he stopped and I figured he had found a pocket of air. But THEN, he started punching his opponent in the stomach (he was kneeling in his opponent’s guard). At first I thought he was tapping vehemently, but he was actually pretty much out; I think his fight or flight instinct kicked in. He didn’t hurt Roger, the other guy, but he was really dazed and I had him sit down and called over the EMTs. He was okay, but I think the next time I hear somebody gurgling I should call it.
4. In no gi matches, there is absolutely no grabbing of clothing. In one of the novice matches, one of the fighters pointed out to me that his opponent was grabbing his clothing. So that’s another thing to watch for that I wasn’t paying close enough attention to. It wasn’t a disqualifiable (is that a word?) offense, but it was still irritating and wrong.
5. One of the most explicitly covered rules was no slamming. Slamming is when you pick up your opponent and bring him/her back to the ground hard. Takedowns don’t count as slams. A slam is when you’re already on the ground and you pick up and put down hard. It’s supposed to result in an immediate disqualification. Well, in retrospect, in one of the white belt gi matches I reffed, I think one of the guys slammed the other. He didn’t lift him high, but he brought him down kind of hard. And I think I was so surprised that somebody would do that that it didn’t really compute. Again, in retrospect, I’m pretty sure this same guy used a can opener on his opponent (a can opener is when you’re in your opponent’s guard and you pull on his head to put pressure on the neck to force the opponent to open his/her legs). Not allowed. AND, this same dude walked out of bounds while in his opponent’s guard, which amounts to fleeing competition, which also should result in disqualification. So to the guy who fought this dude, I apologize. I made the biggest mistakes in that match, and I will never make these particular mistakes again. And that dude needs to learn some sportsmanship.
THINGS I DID WELL
1. I did a pretty good job of explaining rules to people before they competed, my wristlock mistake notwithstanding. In particular, I emphasized that people needed to stick their positions for 3 seconds before they’d get their points.
2. I blocked out the noise around me and wasn’t influenced by the fact that sometimes my friends or people I knew were coaching the people on my mat. For instance, Jeff said there were some imposing Brazilians yelling at me to give points, but I counted the 3 seconds before awarding the points instead of being intimidated by them. (Frankly, I don’t remember them—it’s probably just as well.)
3. I gave a crap. I really think people can tell when you care and when you’re phoning it in. Not that the other refs didn’t care, but maybe some of my greenness was counterbalanced by the fact that I really wanted to do a good job, and I’m hoping that came across.
THINGS TO CHANGE FOR NEXT TIME
1. This time around I just held up my fingers so Jeff could see who got points, so competitors had to rely on their coaches to know whether they got points. Next time, I plan to call out the points, like, “Two points, red!” in addition to holding up two fingers, so competitors can know the score while concentrating on the task at hand.
2. I need to be more uniform when awarding advantages. I always awarded advantages for people when they passed to half guard and established a secure position, but I wasn’t always as consistent with submission and sweep attempts. So I have some work to do there too. Advantages are extremely subjective, so I need to figure out some of my own criteria for what constitutes a true advantage and then apply those criteria to every match. That way, even if people don’t agree with my criteria, I’ll be able to explain them and to assure everyone that they are being applied uniformly across competitors and matches.
3. Stalling. I don’t really think anybody was stalling on my mat, fortunately. But I heard there was stalling on other mats. So I want to watch some footage and/or talk to people about what constitutes stalling so I can call it when I see it.
4. I was pretty nervous, and I think that came across as matter-of-factness. There’s nothing wrong with that, but especially with kids, I want to focus more on how competing is supposed to be FUN. So next time I’m still going to be professional and objective, but I’m going to smile more and wish people luck more consistently.
So there you have it, my reffing experience.
As far as other aspects of the tourney go, there were also two 8-man professional divisions in addition to the regular divisions I and others were reffing (professional in that the competitors stood to take home some money if they won). One division was for guys who weighed 160 and under, and the other was for 205 lb and under guys. The 160 and under division was full of my friends: Johnny, Jimmy and Rudy (who both flew in from LA and were not happy about the 10 degree weather), Mark Vives, and Andre Leite from Carlson’s. Ryan Hall was supposed to be there too but the airline had other plans.
Congratulations to Scott Bieri, Cobra Kai brown belt, who won the whole thing, beating Johnny by points in the final. I had met Scott in November when I trained at Cobra Kai; he was working at the On The Mat store there. He was as friendly this time around as he was back then, and I was glad for another chance to say hello, especially because this time I remembered to get a picture with him:
One of the crappy things about being a ref is that you have to pay attention to your mat, even if more interesting matches are going on elsewhere. Fortunately, they stopped the action on all the other mats for both professional division finals, but I didn’t get to see much of the qualifying matches. So I didn’t get to see Rudy and Andre’s matches, among others I had wanted to see. There will be video, though.
I’m also so happy for my friend Natasha, blue belt under Carlson and Carlson, Jr. She competed this past weekend after a year-long hiatus, and kicked butt. She beat both her opponents, including a tough purple belt. Natasha works her ass off at BJJ and, as she puts it, has an anger inside that can’t be taught. Obviously, these two things together make a winning combination.
Tourney cleanup was worlds easier than setup—thank you and Semper Fi, Marines! I spent a little time walking around talking to people including Pete the Greek and his awesome wife Patricia, Moike, Yeshua (Carlson blue belt), Aaron (Carlson black belt), Fredson, Scott, Ryan Gregg (newly minted Rigan black belt and On the Mat guy), Joe and Alexa of Bad Ass Coffee fame, Johnny. Even after doing the pro division, Johnny had a superfight against Henry “The Monkey” Matamoros at the evening MMA event. We all went back to cheer him on, though the crowd was so big he didn’t even know we were there.
Papa John, right, holding court with Justin and Trey (also mid-blink--sorry Trey!)
So after my half beer I was ready to sleep, as were my roommates Anahi and Rick (Lindsey stayed out). Some of the group did the same, and some of the group stayed at the bar drinking Jaegermeister shots courtesy of Jeff the scorekeeper.
The next morning, James, Justin, Klint and Lindsey left ass early, so Anahi, Rick and I watched TV and ate granola until it was time to check out and go to breakfast with the rest of the group. Yes, we ate breakfast before we ate breakfast, and then we headed out: dropping Rick and Anahi at the Milwaukee airport and then me and Jimmy at O’Hare. Jimmy flew back to LA, never to be seen in the Midwest again, and I took the El into town to catch up with Andy, Laura, and Laurie and to start my visit in Chicago this week.
They went to the movies and to sushi and I dinked around on my computer at a Starbucks until they were done. Then we went back to Andy’s, in my old neighborhood, where we had ice cream and Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies for dinner. Well, for me it was dinner. A great training dinner. Not really, but I’m 36 and I get to do whatever the hell I want. So that was my dinner. And then we spent an inordinate amount of time at the Carl Winter site I blogged about earlier. He’s a USDA scientist who has put his thoughts and beliefs about food safety to music; he has written some original pieces, but mostly he changes the words of pre-existing songs to reflect his conviction that You’d Better Wash Your Hands (I Wanna Hold Your Hand), It’s Fun to Work at the USDA (YMCA), and Stomachache Tonight (Heartache Tonight). Check out the site. There are videos too. (No need to thank me. And by the way, he is available for professional engagements.)
Monday was Presidents’ Day, so Andy had the day off. (When you don’t have a job, you tend to forget what day it is, let alone when the holidays are.) So he and I went to this awesome restaurant/market on Southport that I had always wanted to try. There was a little bit of a wait, so we went to the CVS to read US Weekly and check our blood pressure. I willed mine down within 15 minutes from 123/83 to 117/71, while my pulse stayed steady at 49. I think Andy’s diastolic pressure was lower than mine, but my systolic pressure AND my pulse were lower than his. In your face, Andy! And yes, it was demented and sad, but we had a good time.
In the evening I trained at Carlson’s with Issac, Natasha, Amy, TK, Tony the Tiger and other old favorites, and then Natasha and I went to dinner at Dunlay’s, a restaurant near her place that has this awesome chocolate chip cookie a la mode that’s served in a cast iron skillet. I laughed so hard with her that my stomach hurt. I miss that a LOT, laughing with Natasha whenever I want to. And when I got back to Andy’s I shot the breeze with him and fended off insults about my reffing from an internet troll, an internet troll who 1) didn’t actually see me ref and 2) is a good friend of mine. I was laughing my ass off about it, and what’s nice is that several people asked me if I wanted them to kick this guy’s ass. I do, but not because he was trolling me about my reffing. But I have good people in my corner.
Tues was a noon class with Kedar, lunch with Natasha, coffee with Fat Tony, training at New Breed. Busy busy! Sparring with Kedar was awesome, and in the evening I got to spar with Chuong, my loyal reader! Sadly, there are no pics of me with Kedar or me with Chuong in my triangle. Just pics of me with Mark Vives and Johnny, aka Mr. Sweatybritches. Would you learn BJJ from this man?
Wow, I look chunky. Thanks to Mark for a great class, and congratulations too; his fiance may be giving birth to their daughter even as I write this!
The rest of this post is just quick observations that I’ll flesh out later. Just want to get them online, though.
At New Breed, we covered 6 submissions from high guard. Before that we did the warmup, which was no prob for me because I’ve done it a ton at the SFS NB. These guys weren’t happy, though. Then more nighttime QT with Andy.
Wednesday, breakfast with Colette @ Maxim’s, lunch with Gary at Keeffer’s Kaffee, chatting with Felicia, walking and shopping, dinner #1 with NT at Frances’, and dinner #2 at Cornelia’s with Eshanthika. Love them all! Best More eve QT with Andy, though I was pooped.
Thurs Junior showed up at class! He taught a sweet knee bar from a sweep. I got to talk to him re: LA and get his blessing. Training with Kedar, lunch with NT, coffee with Brooke. This weekend spending some time checking out Craig’s list, and I get back to LA on Sunday.