The PanAms are over. I am finally caught up on all those pesky making-a-living things I had put on the back burner while I was busy crapping bricks for 4 days in anticipation of competing. Let's see if I remember anything of note.
Of course I do. I reread my description of the PanAms, and it's pretty fitting. On the days I didn't compete--Thurs and Fri--I ran around supporting our guys who competed, chatting with friends who were in from out of town, and eating acai. I saw some really good matches, missed some others, and did some pretty sweet people watching. I just love tournaments. Love, love, love them.
And hate, hate, hate them.
Well, more accurately, I love and hate competing. It's amazing how polarized I am about this whole competition endeavor as it relates to my own participation. Because competition in the abstract is an amazing thing, and I get how important it is to individuals and to the human race, for building character, helping us learn about ourselves and each other, and, equally importantly, for providing incredible entertainment. I don't mean to sound holier-than-thou or elitist, but I really do feel sympathy for people who don't know what they are seeing when they watch a high-level grappling match between world-class athletes. Because what they are watching is beauty, resolve, devotion, heart, and most of all, strategy and intelligence.
Okay, if I'm going to be completely honest, sometimes what they are watching is stalling or playing the points or poor sportsmanship. I know that. But throw me a bone. Those of you who DO know what you're watching have had the experience I'm talking about, of seeing matches that just leave you breathless, stunned at the risks some will take, amazed that people can be that good at jiu jitsu--and mildly depressed that you aren't that good. (Well, I should speak for myself on that last part.)
But then there's me and my personal competition experience. When I first started competing (after I'd been living at New Breed for a couple months and become part of that community, a community that puts its shit out there), I'd become Mr. Hyde weeks before the tournament. I'd hate life, I'd hate myself, I'd hate everyone who was dumb enough to come within restraining-order distance of me. And I'd wonder why on earth I competed. Pray to get hit by a car so I'd have a graceful and face-saving way to get myself out of it. Count down the days with growing apprehension and contemplate making a getaway to Saskatoon or Ashtabula. During those times, if I had been a comic strip character, my dialogue bubble would have been just a huge black scribble. I'm sure I was a total asshole to most people.
And then after competition, I became a different person. The flavor came back to my food. The color came back to my world. Win or lose, I became smiley again and felt like I'd gotten a pardon. It is in the after phase that I remember why I compete: Because it feels so good to stop.
Okay, not really. Because it really is fun, challenging, and in some ways what it's all about. I have to get more articulate about why I compete and what I get out of it, but I do know that it's good for me.
And now that I've had more experience doing it, the Mr. Hyde phase lasts for a shorter and shorter time. I still go to the dark place, but only for a day or two rather than weeks. And I'm always glad I did it, win or lose.
And this past weekend I had both the losing and the winning experience. I competed against Hillary Williams in the open division on Saturday. I pulled guard and she settled into top half. Then it was 10 minutes of her doing a really great crossface (resulting in a pretty shiner and a big chin scrape for me) and trying to pass my half guard and me defending the pass and trying to sweep. Neither happened, so she won by advantage. The next day, after my shiner had started to come out and the huge scrape on my face came up, we ran into each other and she said, "What happened to YOU?" And I laughed and said, "YOU happened to me." She felt really bad, which was unnecessary--as Carlson Jr. is fond of saying, "Jiu jitsu ain't ballet!"--and we hugged it out.
So, I learned some good stuff from the loss, not the least of which is that I'm still a delicate flower--all you have to do is look at me funny and I bruise. (But that was obvious, that I'm a delicate flower. You can tell by my jackedness, my beanie, and my t-shirts with slogans like, "New Breed Grappler" and "Team CrossFit Academy: Red Militia Solder.")
The next day, Sunday, was my "weight class." I use the term loosely, because my body is doing weird things weight-wise. Many of you know that I refuse to cut weight, even a few pounds, because I'm a woman and I live in the US, which means I have an unhealthy preoccupation with dieting and being "fat". Normally I walk at about 150, so with a gi I weigh about 155. This means I compete in the middle heavy division, with a cutoff of 163. Some people think that's crazy, because the cutoff for the next weight class down, middle weight, is 152. But as I said, I don't cut weight. So I usually give up some pounds, but it's not generally an issue.
But lately, I've been walking closer to 145. I'm eating the same and training and CrossFitting the same. The only difference is in HOW I'm CrossFitting--I'm doing a lot more Olympic and power lifting--clean and jerks, snatches, heavy squats, deadlifts, presses. Maybe that's got something to do with it. I love it, by the way. Lifting is incredibly fun, challenging, and stimulating--and if my strength and conditioning during the tournament are any indication, it's friggin' effective. I owe my CrossFit coaches Eric, Vanessa, and Kellie a huge thank you for their support and instruction.
Anyway, even though I have been walking lighter, I went ahead and signed up for the middle heavy class, for a couple reasons. First, I didn't know whether my weight was going to decide to jump back up to what had until recently been normal. And second, there is a very tough female black belt on my extended BJJ team who had signed up for middle weight, so it made sense to spread the wealth.
But when I weighed in, I laughed because I was at 149. With the gi on. Three pounds under the cutoff for the next lower weight class. So it might be time to consider a change. I've already chatted with my teammate, who might be going down a class. We'll figure it out.
So, the division. The brown/black women's divisions were 3-6 people this year, though I am happy to say the open had 18 people in it, at least at the sign-up. I don't know how many people actually participated. Get this, though: the women's purple belt open had something like 30 people in it. So what that says to me is that in a couple years, as these women advance and get promoted, we're going to get some bigger brown/black women's divisions, and maybe we'll be able to split them! I'm really happy about that! For many reasons, particularly that I'll probably be retired by then.
There were 3 of us in my division, and they did it round robin style. My two opponents fought each other first, and then I fought the loser of that match. So, A and B fought. A won, so I fought B. And I beat B as well. So that put A and C (me) in the final. Someone asked for a play-by-play of my matches. Here's what I remember (another interesting thing about competing is how trancelike it is and how my perceptions don't necessarily always match reality). First match: She pulled guard, I passed to half, then I spent some time passing to full mount. She tried to recompose the guard but gave up her back in the process, so I got her back on top. And then I was able to get a short-hand rear naked choke. I don't know how long it took.
Second match: I pulled guard, got a half guard sweep ("old school") and spent some time trying to pass. She had a very good spider guard that I had to fend off. I eventually got the pass, got the mount, and finished with a mounted head-and-arm choke. I was debating dismounting to put more pressure but decided to see if I could finish without having to give up position. I don't know how long that took either.
I have lots of observations about competing, especially in a finals match, which I will share later today or tomorrow. And there's other cool stuff going on too, so I'll write more. But I wanted to get this out there for now. Thanks so much to everyone for your congrats and good wishes. I'm the most fortunate delicate flower I know.