Looking back and looking forward
Okay, before I forget, here’s what happened at the No Gi Pan Ams. The NGPA was an event held the Sunday before the FILA tournament, on June 3, in Long Beach. I had decided I wanted to jump into that tourney to get some practice before FILA, and it turned out to be really great that I did. That’s because nobody entered my division besides me. So Ryan gave me the option of fighting up a weight class or letting some lighter women come up to my division. I decided to fight up a class, figuring it would give me some practice for FILA. I didn’t realize at the time that the next heavier weight class than mine, 150 and under, was “and up.”
So I had basically agreed to fight anyone heavier than 150, and there were 3 other women in that category. Before we fought, a woman came up to me and said, “Are you Valerie?” and when I said yes, she said, “Dammit.” Turns out she was Lana Stefanac, a decorated and seasoned grappler and MMA fighter who is one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. She also weighs 220 lbs. So there was a bit of a weight discrepancy. But it was harder for her to fight me than vice versa, because she didn’t want to use her weight advantage too much.
I managed to hold her to a scoreless tie in regulation, and then in overtime she kimuraed me. I had to yell at her because immediately after I tapped, she apologized for throwing on the submission hold. I yelled at her because you’re SUPPOSED to go for a submission, and she was just doing what she’s supposed to do. And then she apologized for apologizing. So I had to get mean. Not really, but it just tells you what a great sportswoman she is that her first concern was about my well-being and about a perceived advantage.
We got to chat a little bit after the fight and Alicia took some pictures of us, so I’ll be posting them eventually. Meantime, congratulations to Lana! It was a real pleasure and honor to fight her, and I look forward to hearing more about her career as it unfolds.
So after I fought Lana, I thought I was done until they called my name again. Carlos, who was working the table, asked me if I wanted a third place match and I immediately said yes. And meant it. I was excited to fight again. This is REALLY cool. Even a couple months ago, I would have hemmed and hawed and not wanted to do it. But now, I’m excited to fight! It’s fun for me. As Chrissy said, the more I just go out and have a good time, the better I seem to do. That’s useful information, in addition to just a nicer way to live my life.
My second fight was against a woman who was a little smaller than Lana but still about 200 pounds. I can’t exactly remember what happened, but I think I kinda sorta took her down and then took her back. So I spent most of the match on her back and mounted on her and was going for a rear naked choke when time was called. My opponent was very tough and really nice, and it was a pleasure to fight her too! I’m grateful to both my opponents, because they gave me a good psychological boost for FILA; I figured that if I could hang with these larger women, then I could easily hang with the 158-pounders.
So all in all, it was a fun tournament. I won one and lost one, and I learned a crapload that helped me at FILA. As my mother said, it was a gift to be able to compete against those larger women. So I’m grateful for that!
And here is a picture with me, Marcel Louzada, and Carlos. Marcel is a tough black belt under Leo Vieira and Carlos is a white belt at New Breed. In this pic, I had just won my division and Marcel had just won his. Carlos looks thrilled for both of us. :)
In other news, here’s what has happened since last Sunday:
1. On the ride home from Vegas, I was a terrible co-pilot. I slept the entire way while Rudy drove and Jimmy kept him company. Both of them had to work the next day, and probably earlier than I did. We got home around 3am.
2. I ate a lot of sugar.
3. I worked at the store.
4. I put on a gi for the first time in weeks (getting ready for the Mundial in addition to the FILA tournament) and trained in it, as well as some no gi.
5. I ran stadiums and pulled every muscle in the back of my legs. Ouch. Johnny ran them too and is in similar pain.
6. My mom got a clean bill of health from the hospital! Hooray Mom! My dad says she is deliriously happy and that these are the times when he sleeps with one eye open.
7. I talked to my friend Chris, who is at our 15-year college reunion even as we speak.
On that front, this weekend is my 15-year college reunion! Holy crap. So right now, to use the vernacular we used to speak in back in the day, I could be raging (partying) at the Gate (Bones Gate, a fraternity lots of my guy friends were members of), doing a ladle (a ladle full of beer), playing pong (ping pong with beer) or fooz (foozball), or potatoing (lounging around) in the tube room. I could be eating some Hop fries (spicy French fries from the dining hall in the Hopkins Center, the cultural arts center on campus), or looking askance at some randoms (people who don’t go to my school but who have come to rage at the Gate, either because they have friends who go here or because it’s a big weekend like Homecoming, Winter Carnival, or Green Key. Hmm. I wonder if they still have Winter Carnival and Green Key).
I know that me talking about my feelings is everyone’s favorite feature of this blog. So you’re in luck because I’m feeling contemplative again. Here’s another list explaining why:
1. It’s my 15-year college reunion this weekend. I decided not to go because I didn’t know how I’d feel after FILA. But reunions always make me—and I think most people—consider where they are in life relative to where they thought they’d be by now.
2. It has been almost a year since I left Chicago. This means not only that my blog title (bjjvisionquest2006) is woefully out of date, but also that it’s a good time for me to think about where I am compared to where I was a year ago and where I’d like to be a year from now.
3. I still routinely freak about becoming an Angeleno, but I will be staying here at least through September so I can prepare for the Mundial and FILA. It raises some identity issues for me, truthfully. I identify with the smart-ass-ness of the east coast. Even though I don’t know them well, hanging with people like the Migliarese brothers and Rob Kahn, who are from Philly and New York, is so familiar and comfortable because of they way they joke around and who they know and how they interact with people. And LA doesn’t have that. It’s different. And far away from my family. But the training is so good. So for now, here I am.
Being contemplative is something I have to work at because life gets in the way of it. Now that I have a regular job (and am working on another one—the online teaching) and a schedule for pretty much every day, you could argue that I’m back on the grid that I wanted to leave behind in Chicago. It’s a grid in a different place and it’s more on my terms, but it’s still a routine that has the potential to turn into a grind if I let it. And I don’t want to let it, so I have decided to set aside some time every week to work on it. And I want to meditate regularly again, too.
So I intend to be vigilant in making sure that I stay on the path toward the things I want for myself and don’t just fall into a routine because it’s easier than making the time to be introspective. As Natasha and Adamarie frequently remind me, this trip was about living the life I want to live and that may take some work to orchestrate, not the default life that puts itself in my path. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m sure some of it will involve me talking about my feelings and about the things I want but don’t yet have, so be forewarned.