My journey to a black belt world championship continues. This time around I found myself in Lisbon, Portugal. There was a lot of anticipation building up to this tournament, as it was the first IBJJF tournament of the year. Personally I felt great; on weight and well rested. At crazy 88, we have preparing non stop for the rigorous 2010 tournament season. My trip to Europe was six days long. I left Baltimore Monday night and made my way to Europe. I had a nine hour layover in London. My teammate Roberto Torralbas was getting his wedding suit made from a world reknown suit tailor Andrew Ramroop. After exploring the Harry Potter-esqe streets of London (I must say I felt right at home) for nine hours, it was time to make my way to Portugal.
I arrived in Portugal almost 36 hours after I left Baltimore. Lisbon is a very different place. For starters every single taxi cab was a Benz, and everyone spoke the non-Brazilian Portugese (which kind of through me off). The hotel was a nice American style facility complete with high priced internet and 24 hour room service. Everyone was watching their weight so we would all had to keep a close eye on what we ate. The first day came and went just like that. Al Washington, Keith Cebula, and Tye Murphy all competed the same day. Everyone had great fights with a lot of good fighters. I was very impressed with what I saw from the lower belts at the tournament. After the day of fights we all went back to the hotel to rest up for yet another day of fighting.
My teammate Roberto Torralbas and my self were up the second day of the tournament. Our brackets were suprisingly tough. Roberto ended up loosing his third match by a VERY questionable call. I received a BYE first round. Second round I fought Tulle Edman (Nacka Dojo) who was very very tall. I ended up winning the match 12-0. In the third round I was matched up with the returning champion Janne Autio (Alliance Europe). The match started with me pulling guard. Right away I could feel that my opponent was very strong but also very calm. As I was getting into my deep-half position my opponent went for an arm bar and I made a move to take his back. During the scramble transition I was able (for a split second) to attempt a double leg. He defended it well. I pulled again and went back to the deep half position. My opponent was very tight on top, although I am used to this I was rushing a lot of my normal movements from this position. As I was trying to transition around my opponents leg, he was able to secure a good kimura grip from the top of half. I tried to stay calm and set up a sweep from the position I was in, but he was able to secure a strong kimura. He went on to win the weight class (again) and placed second in a very large absolute division. I know it sounds cliche, but a loss is only a loss if you do not learn anything from it. I must remain focused and learn from anything and everything on my journey to a black belt world championship. This was not my first loss and it will not be my last, I am only a purple belt and I have to think long term!
All in all my experience at the European Open was awesome. I got to fight very tough opponents and watch very high level matches, I picked up on a lot of new things. Also I have to give Europe credit. For the longest time people have been telling that the Europeans jiu-jitsu is untested and questionable. Well, from what I saw that was not the case. The Europeans are game, and very tournament savvy. I can not wait to fight in Europe again. Next up: Houston, California, New York, California (again), and Brazil. That will take me all the way to July.