Before I get into the whole weekend, I'll give my personal results: I lost. I got caught in a tight arm-bar in my first fight. I was fit, ready, my head was right, he was just better than me. It happens.
The rest of the weekend was fantastic. We flew into Long Beach Thursday morning, and hopped in a van and drove straight to Gracie Barra America. I trained a bit. I rolled with Hector from L.A. and John from Florida. Had some good rolls, felt good. I had some rib issues, but they didn't bother me, so I called it a day. From there we got some lunch, and checked into the Hotel. We lounged a bit, then headed back to HQ. I didn't train (wanted to take it easy on the rib), but got to watch some of the best black belts in the world roll. I met Master Carlos Gracie Jr. and really started to understand jujitsu.. more on that later. From there we dispersed. The young guys and folks who weren't competing went to In and Out burger. Matt, Brian and I went to Chilli's (Which is horrible, but Matt's weight was close, and Brian and I wanted to get some vegetables). From there I went straight to bed.
We got up early in the morning Friday. Matt, Louie, and Keith all fought in the morning. My bracket started at 1:20. Matt went first, he put up a good effort, but lost his first fight. Keith ran into an absolute buzz-saw who transitioned from x-guard, to abandon ship, to a nifty arm-bar in a blink. It was amazing. Louie had a great run, submitting his first two opponents with chokes before running into the same buzz-saw.
I ran back to the hotel to get my stuff, and was on deck at 1:20. I did a light warm-up, and checked my weight (217 in the gi, 4 lbs under) I reported to the bull pen.. D. and Sam waited with me. 10 minutes. I loosen up a little. I'm getting nervous. So I take a walk around the pen. 30 minutes in the pen. I shoot the breeze with D. and try to stay relaxed. 50 minutes.. come on! let's go.. just under an hour in the bull-pen: it's time. I get flagged because I'm weiring a shirt under my gi. I toss it to one of the guys from G.B. Florida, and ask him to hand it to one of the Ballard boys. Official weight 217.2 they measure my gi, it's all good (I had to tug my sleeves a little bit, but no big deal.. stupid monkey arms) I walk out to my first fight. I'm a little nervous, but I'm ready.
The fight starts, I start working a take down. Get my grips. Don't rush anything. I'm feeling good on my feet, and my opponent, is less than enthused. He pulls guard and immediately gets a sweep. Crap. This is exactly where I did not want to be. I start working. He starts to pass, I abandon ship, he covers, I turn in and drive through. I end up back in turtle, he starts working, I try a Gramby, he pulls his arm out. I turn back in, and try to suck in his leg, he hits the arm-bar. I am in trouble. My arm is already straight. I push my arm to his hip and turn out, he pulls the arm. I think about tapping.. nope not going to do it. I turn in and try to stack him. Almost got it when he hooks my leg and flips me over. I feel my bicep start to strain and tear.. I tap.
I have no idea how long the match took could have been 2 minutes could have been 4:55. I was embarrassed. I was taken out of my game and beaten roundly. I was fit enough, I thought I was ready, I just didn't get it done. I wanted to show the Professor, and all the guys who've taken time out to show me this or that that I've learned. That their time was well spent, instead I got whupped. The guy who beat me ended up taking third.
Now with some time and perspective: I just have to work on my game. I never stopped moving. I never stopped working. I was always trying to improve my position, I just didn't have the answers this time. Next time I will.
I change, and head to the bleachers. The blue belts had a rough go of things. Sam got beat in the first round, by a hair's breadth. Honestly it was such a technical match that I couldn't say where things went wrong. Tristan, Brian and Drew all finished out of the medals, with Drew losing in the second round the others going out in the first. Erik had a great win in his first fight, and nearly pulled his second out at the end. It was a long day sitting on the bleachers. Only Griff had yet to go. We got some burritos and headed back to the hotel.
Griff went first thing in the morning. My feet had been killing me the day before. I just brought some cheap flops, and they were blistering my feet to no end. I got up early, walked over to Target and bought some cheap converse. Then met up with everyone to watch big Griff fight. Griff had a great showing in his first match, and then lost a tough one in his second. The second was a judo match with neither Griff nor his opponent wanting to give up the takedown. It ended in a tie with the ref giving the advantage to Griff's opponent, a hard way to lose to be sure. Griff took third, and really could have taken second.
Saturday we watched a lot of upper belts compete. It's a whole different sport. Black belts pass guard like a glacier moving over each other. They inch and inch along slowly and inevitably. That is the biggest thing I learned this weekend, is be tight and heavy, and precise, and things will eventually happen for you.
That night we went to the On the Mat store as a team. I picked up some sorely needed white Gi pants.
Then we all went out to dinner together.. to some brew pub (Hale's Ales I think). It was a lot of fun. I genuinely like everyone in the group, and after this weekend I consider them all my friends.. even Jeff. Before this weekend I sort of felt like an outsider. Too old to be one of the young guys, too new to be one of the old guys. I've found how I fit. Hopefully they feel the same. Sunday, I finally got some sleep. The beds in that hotel stink. We watched the brown and black belts fight. Kron Gracie won the brown belts going away. He was truly amazing. We headed out a little early, went to Tacos el Unico in Compton (best tacos EVER) then some of us oldsters went to Hollywood. We went to Legend's gym. Not much to see (it was closed). Then to Ripley's believe it or not, which had lots to see, and had a blast. From there we went to a sit-down dinner. I had a mediocre Neapolitano style pizza and a fantastic tiramisu. Monday, Micah drove Michelle and I to the airport.
It was a great weekend. I realized how much I've learned from all of these people, and how much more there is to learn. This was their world, and has become mine (hopefully I can add half as much as I have been taught). I get it.. I think. Jujitsu is a journey. Tournaments and the belt system are a way-points to check to let you know how far you've traveled, but the big thing is there is no destination. I am going to compete more. I am going to keep training hard (more on that later) and most of all I am going to spend time with my friends.