Wed, June 2, 2010
Cathy and I left for BWI for a direct flight to LAX. I suffered a neck injury the week before and thus packed in my carry on all the niceties I felt I would need to cure my neck during the five-hour flight. Slathered with Arnica (for those of you who don’t know what this is, see me), tiger balm, dosed on Ibuprofen, and with ice packs taped to my body we got on the plane. Coincidentally, our Crazy 88 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teammate, Tom Shrum, was on the flight as well.
Cathy, Shrum and I were set to fight June 3, the next day, and thus wanted to get down to business and get mentally preparing. We checked into our very nice hotel suite and on our way to get a bit of salad for dinner, as we were all exactly on weight, found Bro Huffman (15 year old teammate from 3rd Law) wondering the streets of Long Beach outside our hotel. Of course, we picked him up and took him with us to get lettuce and tour Los Angeles. We got some salad on the waterfront in Long Beach and then went to Hollywood (to take a picture in front of Michael Jackson’s star on the walk of fame) and then to Rodeo Drive to get some quality American Express points.
After an enlightening tour of Los Angeles, we went back to the Hotel and all hit the gym for a last minute weight cut. We each ran approximately three miles and cut around four pounds. Kim Rivers made it to the room around 7:00 pm and as Roberto Torralbas (3rd Law proprietor and figurehead) was stuck in Atlanta and was in charge of the second room, we all hunkered down in the Zwanetz suite making makeshift beds. Shrum, forever taking crap from all of us, was left without blankets and slept wrapped in our GIs on top of two couch cushions, he says, to help foster a subliminal edge for the tournament. I fell asleep listening to a murder mystery book on tape and had insane dreams as the voice of the author piped scenes of gore into my ears while my subliminal mind refused to let go of the stress and anticipation of the pending tournament. I woke up at 4:30 am thinking I had missed the Worlds and was on the run from the law.
Thursday, June 3, 2010 – White & Blue
We arrived at the famed Walter Pyramid around 9:00 am. When we pulled up to the giant blue structure the reality of what I had been working for set-in. The giant staircase in the Arena’s front brought us into stadium’s upper deck. Upon walking in, I stood at the top looking down on the immaculate 12 ring set-up with impeccable iconic blue and yellow mats. 5000 empty seats surrounded me as the staff, reporters, photographers, and vendors scampered to prepare for the biggest four days in BJJ. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins and the thump of my heart against my sternum.
We went immediately to the scales in an attempt to get at least one of our many concerns out of the way. All in our group were on weight (due to our running the night before). We placed our bags in the area of the stadium that the famed Alliance team would own the very next day and throughout. From 10:30 am I sat and pondered my game plan – mentally battling my way through the nineteen-man bracket. My body felt good, my cardio had been tested through six weeks of circuit training, my hands were immaculately taped, and my ipod was shuffling through a playlist made weeks before for this time (a schizophrenic mix of sonatas by Frederick Chopin, hits by Lil Wayne, and oldies by Phil Collins). Minute by minute the bleachers began to fill and the divisions began to be called. Finally, at 1:00 p.m. on June 3 “the voice” called all blue belt Rooster/Galo weights to the bullpen. I don’t think a needle full adrenaline delivered directly to my heart by Vincent Vega himself could have produced the surge of life that those words produced. Off to the bull-pen I went.
After waiting in the bull-pen for what seems like a day, I heard my name and saw the representative from Mat number nine waiving me to the scales. My Gi was checked and my weight was verified. Three pounds under despite the Acai bowl I ate to quench my hunger pains only two hours before. I was escorted to my mat and on the way was able to make eye contact with the team that ran to the rails to coach. “Fighters are you ready,” “do you have any questions before you begin,” “shake hands,” “fight.” I establish my grips and sit-guard, a small scramble ensues but I am able to quickly stand, reposition, and re-pull, I slap on my left hand overhook, and begin to fish for my opponents right wrist. I can hear instructions from Julius and Jon and see nothing but my opponents forearm across my face. I feel a space on the right side and latch on a triangle (the focus of my plan). I pull my opponents head and squeeze my knees so hard that I feel random cracking of joints. I remember hearing the reassuring “AYYYY” coming from my teammates as my plan progressed. Then I felt what I had been waiting for “a flurry of taps on my thigh.” I had won a match at the Worlds. There is no greater high than the traditional hand raise that comes with a win.
My second match went exactly like match one. I was one step closer. At this point I had to have a teammate massage the lactic acid from my arms. The second my third match began, I knew it would be different. The grip position that had worked for me in the last two matches was torn off by my opponent in a quick controlled burst – he was fast and strong. I immediately switched to my plan B game plan centered around sweeps. Match three was a battle! Master Lloyd’s distinctive voice along with familiar voice of Julius guided me through the match. After seven minutes of high pace action I prevailed – winning on two points. I was entering the finals at the 2010 Mundials.
I was told that I would have ten minutes to prepare. I could do little more than shake-out my arms and rehydrate. The match began with a double guard pull, something that we had worked repeatedly during the training camp. I immediately popped up for the advantage and was able to score another two during a scramble. Just as things were going my way, my opponent locked on a kimora. With the fierceness I would expect in the Finals of the worlds, my opponent wrenched my arm backwards. I attempted to roll out of the move and in mid-air I could feel my tendons stretching against my opponents’ push and my counter pull. Simultaneously I heard and felt a pop – my shoulder popped clear out of its circular cradle. Fierce pain followed and just like that my run at the title had ended. Medic to mat eleven.
I did not win gold at the 2010 Mundials. However, I learned more in my four matches than I could ever express in any blogpost. I became a more confident in my jiu jitsu and overcame many hurdles relating to the mental aspects of competing. The experience I obtained, the lasting memories that will forever help me in all things that I do, are the real value that I attribute to my trip to the Worlds. The silver medal is an amazing tangible reminder of what went into Thursday June 3, and the years before. However, the most important thing that I see when I stare into the shiny medal is my own reflection. I have always said that “when one points their finger at someone else they should pay very close attention to the four fingers are pointing back at them”. When I look into my medal, and stare into my own eyes, I am reminded that I won three matches in the biggest tournament in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but also reminded that I lost one as well. This image, these fingers point back at me, are going to assist me in this new season prepping for the Mundials 2011, where I will again leave it all on the mat yet again and get one step closer to the ultimate goal.