Something like a paleontologist excavating his first fruitful site or a young astronaut making his first step on the moon, my dedication, sacrifice and embracement of the brazilian jiu jitsu lifestyle had culminated into a great opportunity. I was headed to Brazil to compete in the Brazilian Nationals, better known as the Brasilero’s. Every serious bjj practitioner dreams of an opportunity to test themselves against they who created, cultivated, refined and dominate our beloved sport and my chance had arrived.
When preparation meets opportunity, success is highly likely and I was ready. My body was strong from early mornings and late nights of training on the mats supplemented with a strength and conditioning regimen. My focus was unwavering leading up to the tournament. Meditation and visualization are powerful mental tools I employed to give me an athletic edge. I was prepared. A Swiss vault could not bottle my excitement to compete. The beach, beautiful people and the tropical climate were just an after thought, a mere luxury to enjoy after competition. It was time to put my blue belt on the line.
Day 1 saw me off from BWI to ATL and then an over night flight directly to Rio de Janiero. We landed early in the morning, collected our bags and headed off to find Roberto Torralbes and Mike Fowler. A cab driver correlated Jon’s bleach blond hair and his jiu jitsu t-shirt with Fowler’s signature look and he whisked us away to Barra Bella, the hotel that the team was staying at. After much confusion and a serious language barrier we landed an apartment for 4 days, 3 nights and put our luggage in the unit.
Roberto, Mike and crew were nowhere to be found so we hit the beach for some sun and to test the waves. Lets just say the waves owned us. They sucked us up, tossed us around, crashed over us and showed us who was boss. It was fun though. Heading back to the hotel we found the team and we stopped at a local food and drink spot for some fresh coconut water directly from the fruit and some icy cool acai. They are two amenities that you have to have when visiting Brazil. Acai blended with banana, granola and honey serves as a great meal replacement when watching your weight for a tournament. I am convinced that Jon can live off of it.
After the beach we cleaned up, visited Barra shopping, stopped at Bibi Succos for a bite to eat, trained at Tata’s to work off the calories we consumed and then ended our night at Copacabana in the flea markets looking for grass root souvenirs for family and friends. We turned in early that evening to rest well for competition.
We woke early to head to the venue. We had a 45 minute drive up and around the mountain through some beautiful scenery to reach the venue, Tijuca Tennis Club. It was a long day at the venue as the kids and teens hit the mats prior to the adult blue and purples. You could feel the deep rooted tradition of many a battles waged on those signature green and yellow mats when you walk into the arena.
I sat in the bullpen for an hour after they called my weight class. There were many competitors and I had a first round bye so I sat for a while, warming up, stretching and visualizing my game plan. My first opponent was tall, athletic and nimble. I bullied my opponent on the feet to which he jumped guard. I opened the guard still standing and pressured passed. The match went as such: pressure pass, to half back, to the bottom, an x-guard sweep and back on top, a guard pass, back to the feet, another guard pass and finally a back take for a big point win. You can check this match out on my facebook page, search me as Tye Ryan.
My second opponent was observant and pulled closed guard immediately. The match was uneventful in that he was cautious not to open his guard and I worked diligently to do so. The match ended with me opening the guard, smashing down in half and then a scramble to finish. No points or advantages were awarded to either player and the decision was contentiously handed to my opponent.
Reflecting on my experience brings me both frustration and motivation/inspiration to make the trip again. The middle weights in Brazil play a different game than their American counterparts. My opponents were quick, not so much muscular as they had lean wirey frames and the game was about mobility and technique. I found myself having to cut off the ring and stalk my opponents and once the match hit the mats the guards were intricate and a pleasure to dissect. My opponents were patient and calculating. There was little barbarism in their game. I must admit that even in defeat I enjoyed the competition and various styles I was up against.
In retrospect I truly believed that I was going to win my weight class. I left it in the hands of the referee and I was not the hometown competitor. I must refine my transitions to dominate positions and execute finishes more fluidly and more frequently. I felt great physically but I can be better. I was mentally prepared but I can still push the limits of my mental game to new heights of concentration and focus. I left Tijuca with an internal fire of desire ablaze inside me. As we descended down the mountain back to the hotel, I soaked up the scenery knowing that I would be back soon to perform and to perform better as a better me.