Monday, 18 April 2011

The High Wycombe Newaza Championship 2011

As I mentioned in previous posts I had already withdrawn from the London Marathon due to new family commitments but this did mean that I was able to compete in the High Wycombe Newaza Championships for the second year running which was more than a good substitute.

Oli picked me up around 7.30am as we had to weigh in before 9am in High Wycombe and despite taking the wrong exit off the M40 we made it with about 15 minutes to spare.

With all the training that I had been doing for the Marathon I was in pretty good shape and a fair bit lighter than I was the previous year, or so I thought. Last year I weighed in at 93.5kg and had to fight in the under 100kg category but because the over 100kg was a little short on competitors they merged them in with the under 100kg’s. This meant there were some guys who were 5-6 stone heavier than me in my category. Seeing as I had, only a few weeks earlier, been weighed at 88kg I was confident that I could keep that weight and fight in the under 90kg category thus ensuring I didn’t come up against the Judo equivalent of Brock Lesnar. The previous day I passed on Cake and Chocolate and beer whilst I was dinning at a friend’s house with my wife to further ensure I didn’t needlessly put on extra weight, but when it was my turn to step on those scales at High Wycombe I was gutted when the lady told me I was 1kg over.

So here I was again being the lightest in my weight category and again being a lowly 5th kyu fighting in the 3rd kyu and under division I was one of the least experienced. Oli weighed in and only just made his weight of under 90kg but he was fighting in the Blue/Brown belt division. We walked in to the dojo and scanned around the stands looking for Ryan who had made his own way here with his daughter, Rachael.

Once we located Ryan we made our way up to him and Ryan quickly confirmed that he also missed his weight and had weighed in at 93kg, so both Ryan were still to be fighting in the same category. It was at this point when I started to scan the dojo for my potential opponents and it was then that I saw Godzilla walk in wearing a Judo gi and a green belt. Yikes, this guy was huge and being a green belt would likely be in my category. I was silently hoping that Ryan would have to fight this guy instead of me.

We all managed a quick 5 minute warm up before everyone was called off the mats. The head referee then went over the rules and etiquette and shortly afterwards my category was called out to mat 2.

It was now that both Ryan and I were able to see who we would likely be fighting. As suspected Godzilla was in our category but there were also some other large looking guys, maybe not as tall as Godzilla but certainly wider.

After only a couple of fights my name was called and I was told to wear the white belt and wearing the blue belt would be……………Godzilla. Now if you want to win these types of tournaments you have to, at some point, fight the best but you really don’t want to have to fight them in your first match.

On the hour long drive up to High Wycombe I was discussing tactics with Oli as last year I favored pulling guard as I was fighting guys considerably larger than I. This year however I was expecting to be the heaviest in my category so all my tactics had been based around attacking my opponent and looking for pins and or submissions should they arise. I favored a Mune-gatame, with the option of grabbing an arm and going for an Ude-garami should my opponent start to escape, however all this had gone out of the window with me missing weight and I was back to the “pulling guard” and hoping they made a mistake tactic.

Both Godzilla and I took our position on the mat and bowed and then stood on one knee. The referee shouted Hadjime and Godzilla attacked me straight away by grabbing my gi collar and pushing me back thus forcing me to pull guard. He postured up and tried a cross lapel choke but I was never going to be submitted with that whilst he was in my guard despite it being very uncomfortable. I tried in vain to pull him down as his posture was so strong and still he was trying this cross lapel choke on me. After a little while the referee called matte due to inaction and made us start again and Godzilla did the same thing, just literally charged me and pushed me down forcing me to pull guard. I grabbed his gi collar with both arms and actually hung in mid air whilst trying to pull him down but he was so strong he was able to keep his posture still. The referee again made us restart and I was beginning to lose heart a little as I was quickly running out of ideas as to how to beat this guy.

When we restarted I decided attack was my only option as pulling guard would have just meant Godzilla winning on points. I went for grips and tried to push him over but Godzilla was able to get me off balance and he ended up in side control and quickly got a kesa-gatame hold on me. As if the hold wasn’t enough he grabbed the collar of my gi and pulled it across my neck, applying a very uncomfortable choke and much as I tried to not tap, I had to as I was starting to get that feeling of drifting off to sleep.

The only positive thing I could take from my first fight was that unlike last year I was not completely drained. In fact I still felt pretty good. The only problem was that everyone looked bigger than me so I couldn’t see any easy fights for me.

I then watched Ryan struggle against someone much larger than him and despite Ryan having a very good guard he was not able to do anything off his back and he also lost his first fight. I asked the scorekeepers what the format was and she told me that as I had lost my first fight I would have to fight against another guy who had lost and that I would have to win that in order to advance further. The guy I did eventually end up fighting against, although heavier than me was not as tall. This fight followed a similar pattern to my first fight. He attacked and pushed me over on my back where I pulled guard and from here he was trying cross lapel chokes on me. Does anyone ever have any success with these whilst in someone’s guard??

Unlike my first fight he didn’t posture up, instead preferring to keep close to me. I attempted a flower sweep but he was wise to my efforts. I tried to push one of his arms out to get a san-gaku-jime but he was having none of that either. The referee re started us a couple of times for inactivity and with about 1 minute left of the fight I could see he was tired so I attacked him and got him on his back. I quickly passed his guard in to mune-gatame and got the hold on. Unfortunately he managed to escape after about 17 seconds but in doing so he gave me his back. I got the hooks in and turned him on his side ready to go for a choke but the buzzer went and I got the referee’s decision. I was delighted that I had won as I did fear that I might lose all my fights. Now I could relax and enjoy my remaining fights.

Ryan’s next fight was against a very stocky looking guy wearing a blue gi. He powered through Ryan, pushing him back and eventually passed Ryan’s guard and pinned him with Kesa-gatame. I chatted to Ryan’s victor afterwards and it turns out that this guy fights MMA and has a 3-1 record.

Rather surprisingly I was told that I was in the semi-finals and that I would be fighting the MMA guy. Ryan warned me that this guy was very strong and coming from Ryan, who as a tree surgeon wrestles tree’s for a living, I knew I would have my hands full.

As soon as we started Mr MMA attacked and tried to get side control. I managed to defend with my legs and pretty soon he was in my guard. He didn’t posture up, in fact he was quite low down in my guard, just where I wanted him so I decided to try and sweep him with the flower sweep but as I grabbed his right arm he shock my grips off and started to try and pass my guard by pushing down on my thighs. I grabbed the sleeves of his gi and went for spider guard control. He postured up and got one hand free and slipped it under my leg to pass to my right. Seizing the moment I went for a San-gaku-jime but he managed to get another arm out so I again grabbed his sleeve and had a sort of spider guard but I knew it was only a matter of time before he passed my guard properly as he had both arms under my legs.

I tried to hold on hoping the referee would restart the match for stalling but he kept active enough and eventually he got to Kesa-gatame which he held for the full 25 seconds to get the Ippon. I had no complaints, I was beaten the better man who knew the techniques I was trying on him and was able to defend them. Mr MMA fought well but lost via submission to Godzilla in the final so I was beaten by the best two guys here so I take some comfort from that.

The award ceremony for my category was shortly afterwards and I got a trophy for finishing joint 3rd which was very satisfying indeed. The chap who presented me with the trophy seemed to recognise me and he told me that he would like a word with me latter to discuss my blog. I wasn’t quite sure whether this was because I had maybe insulted someone I shouldn’t have or whether he was just enjoying the reading, I mean someone has to right? It turns out that my blog entry on last year’s tournament actually helped promote this years and quite a few Judoka entered on the strength of reading my write up, which has actually inspired me to continue with this blog. Still I would appreciate the odd comment just to let me that someone other than my wife actually reads it :)

Anyway, I could now sit back and relax and watch Oli compete in his category and Ryan compete again in the Open division.

Unfortunately despite winning a fight Oli wasn’t able to medal and Ryan was unable to win a fight in the open division, which when you consider was full of big heavy dan grades was not that surprising.

One thing the organisers had improved on from last year was announcing some of the fights, for example if there was a final in a particular weight category it would be called out. Still I think they could improve this more as only the people on a very near the matted area could hear this and I think if they had a loud speaker system and called out when each final took place it would create a lot more interest from the people watching.

One other small gripe was that there were no practice mats in which to warm up on, although I couldn’t see any obvious space where one could be placed quite a few people who were fighting in the divisions that fought later in the day remarked that they had gotten very stiff sitting about waiting and fighting when you are not warmed up means you can easily get injured.

On reflection the standard of competition had definitely gone up a notch from last year. I noticed several people wearing various BJJ and MMA related apparel and whilst that alone does not mean that they train BJJ or MMA the fact that Ryan is a BJJ blue belt and that one of my opponents trained MMA probably means there were a lot more people who cross trained than previously. Of course that’s not to say a pure Judoka cannot win these Newaza tournaments, on the contrary I think Ryan’s BJJ passive style of Newaza was proved not suitable to the explosive Newaza found in Judo and I think Ryan needs to be a lot more aggressive next time.

Of course the biggest lesson I have learned for next time is to make sure I make weight. Fighting guys who are almost 10kg heavier is not a smart thing to do. Either I need to bulk up to 95kg + or I need to stay lean and cut 1-2 kg a few weeks before hand. I also need to improve my sweeps from the bottom and my escape’s from the various pins but basically Kesa-gatame and Mune-gatame which at my level are most used. . . Overall another very well run tournament and one I will certainly be back for next year, London Marathon permitting/

Oli (left) Me (middle) and Ryan (right) With my medal
On the podium

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The De la Riva Sweep. BJJ Nova Forca

With my Judo Club being closed for the Easter holidays and the Newaza competition coming on Sunday the 17th April it was obvious what I would need to do and that was to go back to Nova Forca for some Newaza BJJ style.

Oli accompanied me again and we were greeted by some familiar friendly faces on our arrival and we made ourselves known to Ricardo who welcomed us back. The warm up was unusually easy tonight but I wasn’t complaining as I had come here for some groundwork as I feel my cardio is pretty good at the moment.

Ricardo wasn’t wearing a gi tonight as he was mainly focusing on teaching some of the guys MMA style techniques. The vast majority of us however were wearing gi’s and we were shown by another Black Belt a De la Riva Sweep. Now I have heard of this sweep but it wasn’t until I read Meerkatsu’s post on his excellent blog about Ricardo de la Riva’s recent seminar in the UK that I realised that it was named after a person, who obviously invented the move.

The technique involved the person on the bottom using the spider guard, a technique I have wanted to learn how to use since Ricardo used it against me when I rolled with him last summer and made me feel totally helpless. The only problem with the technique that we were shown last night was that it involved Uke standing up, something which is not allowed in Judo Newaza, thus making the move redundant. Still it was a very nice sweep to learn and the mere fact that I got to play spider guard made it very worthwhile.

Following this sweep we worked on some variations and by the time we had drilled those we were almost 2 hours in to our 3 hours class.

For the last hour we got to spar and first up for me was Oli. I decided not to do my usual, which is to pull guard and instead attacked Oli and got him on his back and ended up in half guard. From here I struggled to get my other leg out and all the time Oli was attempting to sweep me. I remembered something that Graeme showed me many months ago in Judo which was a technique to get out of half guard by lying on Oli but sort of on my side and across his body so that he cannot see what I am doing. I then proceeded to work my leg free and had full mount. I was then looking for an armbar but unfortunately Oli defended this ended up in my half guard where he then attempted to pass. The rest of our roll mainly consisted of me on my back whilst Oli tried to pass my guard. I think he actually got the mount on me when we were told to change partners.

Next up was Ryan, a blue belt and fellow Judoka Red belt. This time I decided to pull guard on Ryan and he was quick to posture up. I tried Spider guard on him and as he attempted to free his arms I could hear his gi ripping. He said not to worry about it as the gi was very old so we carried on regardless and the more he struggled to more ripping noises I could hear. I eventually got Ryan close enough to me to attempt this pass which I was shown last September by Ricardo. Ryan sensed the danger and defended himself and slowly but surely got himself free of my guard and eventually got full mount on me. From here he attempted an armbar but luckily I defended this and I ended up in his guard. I then concentrated on keeping a strong base so that he could not sweep me and time was called quickly afterwards.
So after two rolls with a Judo Brown belt and a BJJ Blue belt I was yet to be subbed, which is not bad.

Next up was a senior white belt who pulled guard immediately and tried spider guard on me. I managed to break his grips but then he played the rubber guard, a move only the very supple can pull off. It did feel weird to be held in this guys guard with his legs around my head and it was the first time anyone had ever done this against me. Still I did manage to posture up and break free of his guard but in doing so he threw up a triangle. I managed to get both my arms back inside his guard but he was then able to sweep me and had full mount . Time was again called quickly afterwards.

I was now starting to feel pretty tired but after a short time sitting out I was ready to go again. I scanned the room and found a small looking white belt and figured I might have an easy roll with this guy. We started and he pulled guard quickly but I never indulged him and controlling his legs I passed to side control or Mune-gatame. I stayed in this position for a little while as I was trying to grab his arm for a Kimura or Ude-garami. Sensing this he kept his arms close to his body so I quickly got full mount and slowly worked my way up his body in preparation for getting an armbar. I grabbed his right arm and slowly got in to position and viola I had my first sub of the night.

We started again and this time he seemed reluctant to pull guard, preferring instead to wrestle with me. I then grabbed him close and actually threw him with a sort of Uki-goshi where I ended up in Kesa-gatame. He seemed a little surprised by this, maybe because BJJ’ers don’t normally try this sort of thing but I do know that a couple of the guys sitting out suddenly took notice of our little tousle.
From Kesa-gatame I turned in to Mune-gatame and from there I was able to submit him with a Kimura or Ude-garami.

I was pretty pleased with my two submissions against this guy even though I was a lot bigger than him but next up was a guy who was at least my size and a Blue Belt. Again he pulled guard and was able to control my posture and sweep landing in the mount position. I kept my arms close by as I didn’t want to give him any presents and then tried to bridge and roll but in doing so he grabbed my arm and went for an arm bar. I managed to escape by turning in to it but he was then able to take my back and he then got a body lock on me. He was squeezing pretty hard around my waist whilst trying to get a choke on me and as I was defending his choke I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to throw up. I quickly tapped and he could see I wasn’t feeling great. I actually had a mouth full of vomit but not wanting to make a mess I swallowed it down and excused myself. There was only about 10 minutes of the class left at this point but I as I couldn’t get the taste of vomit out of my mouth I decided it would be wise to sit out the remainder of the lesson.

So I have learned that it may be possible to last the distance should I fight Ryan on Sunday but I am unlikely to get the opportunity to attack him and therefore would lose on points.
I’m still not sure whether I should pull guard in my first fight and try for the old faith full San-gaku-jime or if I should try and get them down first. At least if I am on top it looks like I am being the aggressor.

A good lesson tonight despite being sick and this morning I am as usual covered in bruises and feeling a little stiff. Hopefully this is good preparation for Sunday.

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Guruma's

Both Ryan and Big Stuart were absent this week along with Mark who hasn’t been in a while and Troy, who is currently injured but comes and watches anyway, due mainly to the fact that Ynez, his significant other was taking part. It was also nice to see that Jamie was back after a 1 month hiatus. With the warm up out of the way we went in to Newaza and I paired up with Oli. Graeme mentioned that we would only have a few rounds of Newaza and that the duration would be one and a half minutes, which is half the length of the matches in the upcoming Newaza competition that I have entered. I decided I wasn’t going to pull guard against Oli and instead pushed him back and attempted to pass his guard. I managed to get one leg out but he trapped the other one. Whilst I struggled to release my leg Oli went for a double color choke but as I was in half guard I never felt threatened by this and continued to try and work my way leg free. When I did finally pass Oli’s guard he turned in to me and immediately got back to full guard and at this point Graeme called matte. Next up was Black Belt Stuart but this time we were told to start with one of us in the turtle position. BB Stuart turtled up first and when Graeme told us to begin I decided to try the Jimmy Pedro turnover in to Juji-gatame that I have seen a few times on YouTube. Amazingly I got this to work first time and I think BB Stuart was quite impressed. He allowed me to try this same technique a couple more times on him before Graeme told us to swap over which meant it was my time to assume the turtle position. I quickly decided that I would try and roll out and get to guard and when Graeme told us to start I did just that. BB Stuart tried to pass my guard a couple of times and did manage to get to half guard before I was able to recover to full guard again. He commented after that I had good defense from my back.

My last roll was with Jamie and being a white belt and a new white belt at that he doesn’t know much in the way of technique. This time one of us had to start flat on our backs as though we had just been thrown with the other person kneeling between our legs. When we started my intention was to quickly sweep Jamie but although he wasn’t quite sure what he was doing he resisted my efforts to turn sweep him. He was clearly using all his strength against me and I wished that we could have had a 10 minute roll as he would have then realised why that is not a good idea. Still he didn’t give me much to work with and because he didn’t attempt to move even my old trusty favourite San-gaku-jime didn’t work on him.

We then swapped over and as soon as we started I passed his guard and quickly got mount and was looking to get a tate-shiho-gatame hold on him with the intention of finishing with an arm triangle but he was again using all his strength and actually grunting and straining and making all sorts of noises usually associated with weight lifters. As he was pushing me off with his arms I grabbed one and started slowly applying Ude-garami, again he screamed and bucked. I told him to tap if it hurt be he didn’t so I cranked some more but annoyingly I couldn’t quite get the leverage from full guard to finish but once I thought about passing to side control he got his arm out. Realising that time was running out, and still in the mount I moved up his body and tried to isolate one of his arms again to go for a Juji-gatame but again I was too eager and although I had the arm he managed to squirm out and he ended up in my guard but was now in a perfect San-gaku-jime position but before I had time to apply it Graeme called matte. Jamie looked knackered whereas I was just a little warm, which is a good sign that I am fit enough for this upcoming competition. I was however slightly annoyed that I wasn’t able to submit Jamie. I really didn’t want to resort to using my strength against him but with him using all of his I realised that my technique was slightly lacking or maybe I just didn’t follow the old rule of “position before submission”

On to Tachiwaza and we learnt two new throws tonight which were Hiza-guruma and O-guruma (This Tenchique is not listed on the BJA website so I will try and add a video at a latter time. I was paired with Peter for these two and with Peter being fairly heavy and strong he’s not the easiest person to throw so if you manage to throw him you must be doing something right. With the Hiza-guruma, after a couple of amendments to my foot placement and the position of my body, remembering to step across with my left foot so that it was almost in line with Peter’s feet, I was able to throw him quite well.

With the O-guruma I think my arm movements were not right as I was trying to replicate the movement you would do with a Tai-otoshi instead of the wheel movement that I should have been doing. Unfortunately we never really had the time for me to perfect this before we went on to Randori.

Now, normally I would provide a blow by blow summary of the Randori I did last night and with whom I did it but I honestly cannot remember which could mean a couple of things. Either nothing of note happened and due to being in a permanently tired state at present which is all down to the broken sleep my daughter has introduced me to, I have forgotten. Or I got thrown hard on my head and have lost my memory. I’m gonna go with the first one as I don’t feel any pain in my head.

One thing I do remember is that Graeme mentioned that next week is the last lesson before the Easter break when the club will be closed. Not good timing when you have a tournament coming up. Still I will now definitely do back to BJJ for a couple of weeks which actually works out ok as I will be able to brush up on my groundwork. It will be interesting to see how much more advanced the white belts have gotten since I last rolled with them especially the likes of Seb who started when I did. I’m guessing I will get owned by most of them but it will still be good fun nonetheless.