Saturday, 14 March 2009

Competition Motivation

The Carlson Gracie guys are organising a UK Masters & Seniors Tournament which I think is a great idea and one that I would like to support if I remain relatively injury free, healthy and more importantly whether I can get motivated.

My problem now seems to be with my motivation, why is it so hard to get motivated to compete these days. Various factors make up the competitive experience so I’ve analysed each one to see where the problem may lie.

Dieting for a tourney can be tough if you are unrealistic in your weight goal, I am naturally around 73kg so I could compete comfortably in the lightweight without any weight management and is only a small step down to featherweight so that is not a problem. An occasional diet is pretty cool anyway for shedding those pounds that creep on.

Extra cardio or conditioning for the tournament? No, the best training for a competitive match is to have as many competitive matches that you can in your gym in my opinion. Extra training means extra Judo and extra Jiu Jitsu which is a pleasure (usually) not a chore.

What about resources, time and money? Well I am working full time again now but with a little effort and some scheduling I can get 3 or 4 X Jiu Jitsu and 1 X weight training session per week which is sufficient for me, gone are the days when I could train every day.

Is cost a factor? A lot of people cite cost as being one of the reasons why they don’t compete and in some cases it’s true but in other cases I feel it is just another excuse. Especially the guys that complain that £30 is a lot of money to enter a tourney but would spend at least double this on a night out! It’s all about priorities.

Is it nerves? I doubt it, if I get to feel nervous at all which I don’t usually do then I remind myself that I am here by choice, that this is my hobby and is no different to having a game of squash or football and the result has no real world consequences, it’s not like I will lose then die!

Maybe the fear of losing? Losing holds no fear for me at all and I really can’t understand how people can be afraid of losing unless you define yourself as a person by how many matches you have won or what belt you are or some other such nonsense. You have to accept that in a sporting contest there is a 50/50 chance you will lose but they are the same odds of you winning too. When you accept this there is no pressure.

Add into the mix that there are some really good brown belts my weight in the UK, guys that have competed and won all over, losing to one of those would be no disgrace anyway.

Haueter always says that when you are preparing for a competition or a match, train as if it is the most important thing ever and then on the day detach yourself from the result. Train your ass off, do your best and move on. If you win, cool but if not, no big deal.

My friend Leo Kirby, 2 X Pan Ams champ, NAGA gi & no gi champ, books a restaurant for the night of the tourney and whether he wins or loses (although he hasn’t lost for years) he follows the same ritual, go out and celebrate. You have done the hard part now reward yourself.

There is also the argument “if you are doing what you truly love to do, have you ever lost?”

Have I lost the competitive drive? This could be a part of it but I still love to go to new places and competitively roll with new faces, it keeps everything fresh. I have another trip booked that will take me into a completely new environment where I haven’t trained before and really relish the challenge of taking on all the new sparring partners.

So could it be the competition environment itself? This could also be a reason; the long days sure are a pain in the ass. If you have waited a long time to compete can sap your enthusiasm a little especially if you have other guys to coach and sort out too but I guess this is all part of the process and needs to be experienced.

So what the hell is it? Writing this I have thought of all the competitions I have been to and what the problem of my lack of motivation may be and I may have the answer. Maybe it is my longevity in competitive combat sports, I have trained for a little over 20 years and began competing within 6 months of starting my first style.

I started fairly late (22 years old) in the martial arts world and am not naturally a fighter so have had to push myself to compete every step of the way. I set myself a goal of having 50 matches in a variety of styles that gave me the necessary experience to pass on to my students and to provide a little inspiration showing that if I can do, they can do it.

For me, competing was always about beating myself. If I can deal with the voice inside my head telling me that I am going to lose or be embarrassed in front of everyone and still get onto the mats then I have won. I remember John Machado saying that “he doesn’t mind losing to someone else but he would never lose to himself”

Well, the target of 50 came and went so I slowed down with the competitions (injuries helped too) and in retrospect, which was probably the beginning of the end. I guess 20 years of preparing for and competing would test anyone’s motivation.

Saying this, I still hope to see you at the UK Masters And Seniors.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Why Aren’t You A Black Belt?

>How many times have I been asked this question? It all started with “why aren’t you a purple belt?” and went from there.

I’ll explain why not....................

1998 brought me into contact with my coach Chris Haueter and trained with him whenever possible when after a couple of years, my wife and I were both awarded our blue belts (Jan 2001 I think). With Chris’s blessing we opened a class where I took the role of coach whilst Helen mainly just trained, this making the big difference as I was to find out later.

Built up a great club and hooked up with SBG Pres Matt Thornton which worked out great because not only being a very knowledgeable and cool guy, was also a student of Haueter’s so we were on the same page regarding training so to speak. After a few visits Matt promoted some of our guys which became the norm, eventually 3 of them being promoted to purple belt whilst I was still a blue, these being Pete Guest, Varqa and Helen, all of them very well deserved purple belts in my opinion.

I then started to have discussions and telephone conversations with various people from outside my gym, that went something like this:

Person: I hear (Pete, Varqa, Helen) got purple belt

Me: Yes they did

Person: Are you a purple belt

Me: No I’m blue

Person: How does that work then?

Me: How does what work?

Person: With them being higher grades than you, who’s going to take the classes?

Me: I will continue to teach class, I taught these guys so I am maybe doing a good job.

Person: It just might look a bit funny if you are taking class and there are higher grades than you training.

Me: I doubt anyone will care.

Fast forward to 2008 and more than a few people have asked “are you a black belt” and when I answer they follow up with “how come Helen is then”

My stock answer is that she is better than I am. Whilst I have always done the gym coach route she has always trained hard and sparred with everyone. That is why she is better than I (and I am a better coach) because that is what we have mainly done over the years respectively. Would I trade places? Not on your life, the amount of satisfaction I have had from coaching is far better than achieving any belt.

One time in the USA at the Machado Academy Helen rolled for an hour straight with 2 outstanding female black belts in Cindy Omatsu and Felicia Oh, only getting caught once in an hour. Could I do that?

She also had an awesome sparring match with Megumi Fuji at our gym where neither lady subbed the other.

On top of that she is 50kg and will train with anyone, the closest guy in weight at our gym is still 68/70kg which is a massive +40% body weight difference. Imagine if everyone in the gym was way stronger than you and everyone outweighed you by at least 40% of your bodyweight, how would you do every session.

She exemplifies Jiu Jitsu, the smaller guy beating the bigger guy and that is why Helen is a black belt!!

As for me...................the short answer is I’m just not ready yet.

The Champions IV - Return Of The Chicken Legs.............

The ups and downs of MMA were in full force for me on Saturday, where to begin?

When guys from our gym want to compete, whether it is MMA, sub grappling or Jiu Jitsu, I have 3 criteria.

  1. Make sure you turn up, if you say you are going to do it, then do it, no excuses.
  2. Make weight, there is no excuse for not making weight.
  3. Do the best you can and try to enjoy and learn from your experiences.

So Jonny Smith, Andy Krlic and Andy Lanes all turn up as they say they would so off to Bradford we go. We arrive in good spirits, see some old faces when we arrive at the venue then go to weigh in.

All 3 guys make weight easily so that is 2 out of 3 on my list satisfied although I am always on edge until I know that our opponents have arrived. My edginess was not necessary as all the opponents turned up and made weight. I am now a happy man knowing that as soon as we get through the rules meeting we will be going out to eat.

Rules meeting and pre-fight interviews out of the way we head off to the Asda to stock up on food. The fighters, who were all starving by this point picked various foods to gorge (I may have been included in the gorging I don't remember now) then back to the hotel.

As we are sat eating I noticed Andy Krlic devouring exceedingly pink chicken, I commented how a good vet could have got the chicken back on its feet but he was hungry so ate it anyway. I put that to the back of my mind and continued getting some down time before the medicals.

Then it started...........Andy felt bad and began his toilet inspired shuttle runs, each time feeling worse and worse.

Went to the medicals with Andy still feeling bad, Jonny went first everything ok, resting pulse 60. Andy Lanes next, everything ok, resting pulse 72 (the guys are nervous so the pulse will be up a little) Andy Krlic gets on the stool, pulse 107!! He asks what the resting pulse rate will be and they replied that it was his resting pulse rate. Normally having a resting pulse rate of low 50s, something seems wrong.

Then the nausea starts. Damn, this guy is due to fight in the 2nd match and I'm doubting that he will live that long.

So the runner comes up for us and we are on our way down to the ring with Jonny, I see Andy attempting a warm up with Ben but clearly he was not up to it.

Jonny climbs into the ring and calmly waits for his opponent Daniel Bowes from Team Akurei to make his way down and join him in the ring. We don't know anything about Daniel so the game plan was to work around Jonny's strengths and take the fight to him. Jonny had been training some big pick ups so was looking for an early slam to get the crowd going. The fight started with both guys landing some shots, Jonny moved into clinch eating an uppercut on the way in but picked his opponent up, got the slam that he wanted and started to work his ground game. Both guys ended up back on their feet where Daniel started to shoot that Jonny sprawled out of and reversed it into another big slam. This time working knees on the ground to soften up the opponent before transitioning to mount. Jonny worked patiently towards Rickson position where he transitioned into taking the back and sunk in a rear naked choke for the win.

Great fight to start things off, both young guys deserve a lot of credit.

I had momentarily forgotten about Andy but true to his word he wanted to fulfil #1 by doing what he said he was going to do, that was he came to fight. Having watched his opponent, James Anderson, against Caged Steel fighter Phil Hoban we had devised a pretty solid game plan that I was convinced would give us the 'W' only I hadn't counted on Andy being sick. All through the first round he was implementing his game plan just with no power, he was going through the moves but unable to truly unload even when he caught James in his favourite achilles lock position he had no strength to finalise and ended up with one of those both-going-for-footlock moments. End of round one, Andy with a 10-9.

As he came back to the corner he was really in no state to continue and we should have thrown in the towel but he had come to fight. As round 2 wore on Andy got worse and James got the better of things landing some shots and taking it to the ground, at one stage James had a point taken off so by my reckoning if Andy could hold on to the end of the round he would win by j/d. Andy was now mounted and was desperatelt trying to defend and with a final burst of energy attempted to escape but fell right into a guillotine with only 30 seconds remaining and had to submit.

I mean no disrespect to James or his team (who I am friends with) but that wasn't the real Andy who was in the ring that night and I, for one, would like to see a re-match.

Our last fighter for the evening would be Andy Lanes who after only 6 months of training was to take on the tough Peter Rejdovjan. Based on Peter's last fight against Billy Glossop we thought he was going to come out like a steam train but came out a little cautious instead. After a feeling out process Andy Lanes threw the first combination that Peter counted with a thudding leg kick. Using that as the trigger point Andy Lanes stepped in for a single leg to try take the fight to the floor. Peter managed to catch Andy Lanes in a guillotine but he kept trying to take the guy down. Remembering the drills we had been doing for the past month, as Peter went to sit back into guard, Andy tried to block off the legs and pass on the way down. He almost had it but didn't complete the pass as Peter readjusted his grip and sunk the guillotine tight leaving Andy Lanes no option but to tap. Although disappointed with his first outing, he will be back. Congrats to Peter he took the chance very well.

In conclusion, a real rollercoaster day, one guy won in the first round, one guy lost in the first round and one guy lost in the Asda...............