Las Vegas Pt.6: Lessons From The World Master Championship

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Thomas Edison

Saturday, August 25th 2018. Competition day. Like the night before the Las Vegas Open a couple of days back, I didn’t manage to sleep well either. Another 3 hours at most maybe. On top of that, my nerves were going on overdrive. It’s not a good combination. Luckily, I still had to sew on the team patches on my Gi… So, in an effort to calm myself down, I started to hand stitch everything with a coffee and croissant breakfast by my side.

After that was done, I thought to myself… well that was quick. Now my mind was back to how my performance was going to be on the mat. Packed again, 2 Gis, one short, one rash guard, spares, belt and my flip-flops into a 45L bag, then I made my way to the Championship venue. CFS Black Belt Steve Payne was again my company for the day. The nerves were going on and off, I always wonder why people get nervous before a competition. Is it a performance issue? Is it because you’re scared of losing? Is it because you don’t want to disappoint yourself or your coach? People tell me, nerves are good, it means you care. For some reason… I was ok up to the night before and then… doubt. The ‘What if…’ questions started going around in my head.

warming up 02

Purple belt up to this point has been a very challenging journey in terms of competition. I have lost more than I have won, and most of them were to a submission. But, I dove straight in again and signed up to the bloody Worlds anyway regardless. I trained for weeks and weeks, I did strength and conditioning, made sure I eat properly, take supplements, and went through a horrible hip flexor injury and a few others in the process to be here at this tournament. In fact, the injury was exactly 2 weeks before my first ever sub only match at Battle Grapple 2 (3 weeks before the Worlds). I couldn’t walk for 4 days, and almost pulled out a week before the match, but I didn’t. The result was disappointing on my part, I made a mistake which cost me the match. The nerves however bad on that day was nothing in comparison to this moment at the Worlds.

I started doing research as to why people have this nervous feeling, and perhaps how to deal with it. Found a video of Firas Zahabi, which explained pretty well some of my own thoughts on this video below. At 2:01 he explained about what scares a fighter is not the fight itself, but the camera, lights, and people’s judgment on you. No one is perfect and you will have a bad day, what if that day is the one people remember and count on record? He’s right. That’s one part of it, now how to deal with it, is still a working progress.

I took a long warm-up that day, tried hard to visualise what I wanted to do and thought about what Jimmy Pedro was talking about yesterday on Saulo & Xande Ribeiro seminar (read here). After the weigh-in and gi check, I went into the bullpen and like always… tried to zone everything out, to just focus. I never listen to music before a match, I don’t have a specific routine to do (other than warm up), over the short years of competing, I simply learn to quieten all the noise around me. The more competition I go to, the better I am at this, too bad the nerves are still there though (one day). Until that moment I was worried, I knew I had a very tough opponent ahead, but I also told myself… all the training won’t be for nothing. She’s tough, but so am I, she’s strong but so am I, she may have more experience than me but no matter… I will fight. All the time I was in the pen, I kept repeating that in my head until they called my name. Steve and Yas Wilson (World Champion, Roger Gracie Black Belt) were on the side mat sat down and were ready to coach. I couldn’t be more thankful for the support 🙂

me and steve - 02

6 minutes. Was all I had. The match started and straight away my opponent pulled guard, but that was ok. I’m quite comfortable with guard passing, or so I thought… I spent more than 3 minutes trying to pass her guard, 1 minute of that, was me trying to fight out of a triangle. It was exhausting. The triangle was tight, but there was still room to breathe so I kept trying until I escaped (or she let go I’m unsure, it’s tiring to keep a tight triangle for a long time though so who knows).

After that, something happened which I didn’t realise at that time is a major fault when competing. Frustration. I was frustrated that I couldn’t pass her guard, this… clouded my thinking. Rather than calmy think, ok what now try this, feel where the blocks are, what are her legs and arms doing, I began to get… annoyed. Why.. why… why. A terrible mindset. It was a high paced match, both of us were very active, and I was getting more and more tired. Writing this now with a clear mind made me see a lot and this is something I have to make sure will not happen again. Experience is a great teacher, if I didn’t go and compete, I would not be able to see things that can help me improve.

My opponent won the match, at one point I was able to pull off a sweep but she was athletic and had a perfectly timed counter to the sweep. It was very good, but hey, when you’re fighting the Master World Champion, you expect a tough fight and that’s what I had. So I’m grateful even though I lost. After the fight, I ran off the mat and cried. Like… big time cried. It was such an emotional hit. I mean, regular competition when I lose, I immediately will just think ok, so what now. But this was something else. Everyone who came to the World Championship will have trained hard, or even harder than me. They’ll have put in the hours, work through injuries, the emotional ups and downs, the funds and everything into this so… it’s understandable why there were a lot of tears today. Both the silver medalist and the World Champ cried straight after their match as well, for different reasons I’m sure but still… tears. It is an emotional journey, and everyone wants to win.

So the lessons from this were:

  • Sleep and rest well (in my case perhaps I need to take some sort of aid like Reishi mushroom or something to help with sleep, or some herbal remedy)
  • An extended warm-up is a good thing to work off the nerves
  • Work on mental toughness
  • Never ever get frustrated

My Coach Martyn Cahill (1st-degree black belt) has prepped me well for this competition, I was physically in the best shape and I felt strong. My cardio was also surprisingly good considering lack of sleep and jetlag. For this, I am forever thankful. He commented on techniques that I need to work on and improve, so now I just need to regroup and train hard again for the next one!

Las Vegas Journals (Pt 1, Pt2, Pt3, Pt 4, Pt5).

Las Vegas Pt.4: A Silver Medal & A Seminar With A Multiple World Champion

“Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.”


Richard Branson

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018. It was the day of the IBJJF Las Vegas Open. The first competition on the trip and a 3-hour sleep was all I had. Woop. I’m always a nervous wreck before a competition and often, I don’t eat until it’s done because it would make me feel sick. But the more competitions I go to, the more accepting I am to this condition and I make sure to always eat and drink, whether I want to or not. The body needs it. There is a coffee shop on the ground floor at Westgate serving food and drinks 24/7. I ordered the croissant with egg, bacon and cheese with a bowl of fruit salad and a Cappuccino. I think that all came to just under $20.

CFS BJJ Black Belt Steve Payne came down to coach me that day, as we walked through the hotel, he taught me some breathing techniques to help calm my nerves. When we got to the venue, I quickly got changed, as my division started first thing at 9:30am. My weight was also spot on at 47.5kg with my uniform on. All was going well, now, on to the warm-up area.

I always start with a good stretch. Hips, shoulders, and neck before going on to the actual warm up. Sprawls, bridges, sit-throughs, star jumps, shoots etc. A lot of people were on the mat though, so movement was quite restricted. But, you’ve got to work with what you have… right?

The matches for Adult Purple belt is 7 minutes. My first match went all the way with me winning on points. The girl was tough, she fought very hard and didn’t give up until the end. I had a couple of sub attempts but couldn’t finish them. Like this guillotine attempt below (jeez).

Something to work on for sure. The second match, unfortunately, didn’t go my way. Most of the time I was trying to get out of a close guard and ended up in a triangle with an armbar 😦 I felt good overall though, sure I was fatigued but my performance was ok, and to finish the competition with a Silver Medal is a definite bonus.

After receiving the medal at the podium, I thought it was a good idea to treat myself to something sweet and cold. I’ve been looking at this Acai stand and was impressed by the size and also the price. I choose the Berry Bowl, which was $12 and you get granola, acai, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries, goji berries and banana. I have to say, it was pricey but worth it.

As well as the Las Vegas Open, the 2nd day of the World Master was in full swing. Today, the free seminar was with the multiple world champion Romulo Barral. I was really excited about this. We had to line up really early because the line was long and they had limited spaces. It was a bit surreal looking at people you watch on all these social channels in front of you. So many famous BJJ individuals in one place.

The Professor showed us Spider Guard techniques that day, with some drills using double sleeve also collar and sleeve grip to retain guard. He taught how to control the spider guard with possible situations and options from the Spider Guard also a combination with the Lasso Guard. It was a full mat, and it was a great opportunity to be there and learn from one of the best.

Me and Romulo

Las Vegas Journals (Pt 1, Pt2, Pt3, Pt 5, Pt6).

Las Vegas Pt.3: Welcome To The World Master IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” 


Lao Tzu

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018. The World Master Championship has finally begun. I had to leave the very comfy bed at the Venetian (part 2) for a more convenient and budget-friendlier hotel nearer to the championship venue. The Westgate. From Venetian, I took the Monorail from Harrah’s and bought a one day pass which cost $13. It was nice to see the view of the strip on the rail and it only took a few minutes to arrive at Westgate.

monorail-map

Once I got there, the first thing I noticed was the amount of Jiu-Jitsu people at the hotel reception. Jiu-Jitsu branded everything! Hats, t-shirt, bags, shorts etc, and they were all talking about training and the competition (I was listening yes). So, unfortunately, I arrived too early.  The check-in time is 3pm, and if you want an early one, it will cost you $25. Luckily they have a bag drop off area where they can keep your luggage for free. After sorting that out, I went straight to the Convention Centre next door to check out the venue. There is a shortcut from inside the hotel which you can take to get there in 5-10 minutes. Really convenient.

schedule

What a massive venue! The whole event is called Evexia Fit Fest. It’s a 4-day event which hosts BJJ championships (5 in total), seminars (also 5), bikini & physique contest and had 30 exhibitors selling products from BJJ apparel, CBD oils, wellness aid and much more. Oh my goodness, the Gi stands… if only I could buy them all… I would. But alas, reality sucks, I was on a budget!

The first thing I always do whenever I go to an IBJJF competition is to get the free goodies! I’ve entered 2 competitions in Las Vegas so I got 2 bags. What you get is a t-shirt and a cardholder inside an IBJJF branded drawstring bag. Until now, I don’t understand why IBJJF don’t have an XS size for their free t-shirt? What about us Rooster weights?

At this point, I was still watching my weight so I couldn’t buy much food yet. But what was there in terms of food? There were 4 food stands, selling hot and cold variation and drinks, one of them was an Acai stand. Water, coffee and tea were all I drank when I was there prior to the competition, the prices vary depends on where you buy them from. For example, in the venue, a bottle of water would cost $3, same when you buy on the streets in the Strip. In the hotel, they are $6, and in Downtown Vegas, you can get one for 99 cents.

A little mention: 

Today was also a birthday celebration of a CFS BJJ Black Belt & Coach, a good friend to myself and our team at Fighting Fit Manchester (where I train) and just a generally cool guy who came here with his family, but still made time to coach and look after me during my stay here. I was also mind blown by how many people he knows in BJJ ha! So here he is, Mr Steve Payne.

me and steve

After the little tour we did of the venue, we went to visit Sergio Penha’s gym. Steve has arranged for us to go down and train there for a bit, so we took a Lyft taxi again (easiest way to get around). It is 3.2 miles from the venue to the gym, around 8 minutes drive and cost us $9.41. The gym itself is nice, good space, nice mats, and everyone were so friendly… like, they came over to me, shook my hand, introduced themselves and made small talks. My goodness, I need to follow this example more. I got to watch some of the higher belts roll and in the end rolled with a super cool purple belt.

After the gym visit, it was time to head back to the hotel and get me checked in. How much did the Westgate cost? 5 nights + resort fees + taxes > £140.67 + £149.99 = £290.66. They will also charge a $100 refundable deposit when you check in. I took a quick video of what the room looks like below, literally lots of motion going on ha… well, I was suffering from jet lag :p

Las Vegas Journals (Pt 1, Pt2, Pt4, Pt 5 Pt6).

Las Vegas Pt.2: Exploring The Luxurious Venetian

“A little bit of this town goes a very long way.”

Hunter S. Thompson

After the plane landed at McCarran Airport (part 1), I was picked up by a friendly Lyft driver. He talked to me all the way from the airport to my 1st destination, The Venetian Hotel & Resort. As a first-timer in Las Vegas, he was very eager to tell me where to go for cheap food, what attraction to see and where not to go. It was a very pleasant drive so I gave him 5 stars and with the Lyft app, you can also tip the driver. This is cool, I love technology.

Las-Vegas-pt-2-illustration

“We’re heeerreeee”, he said. I’ve been in awe even before we got to the Venetian. So many things to see, so many mental notes on where I wanted to go. I got out of the taxi, and I was even more in awe… the exterior of Venetian is impressive. Before I went I did some research on YouTube, but really… you have to see it in real life to appreciate it. The design inspiration for this hotel like the name itself, is Venice, Italy.

venetian_reception

The interior artwork, marble floors, polished pillars are just some of the things welcoming you to the hotel reception. Renaissance artwork, hand painted by famous Italian artists are on display on the frescos decorating the ceiling. Have I said I was in awe? So enchanted I was I forgot to take pictures of the interiors.

Let’s see the hotel room…

I booked a standard room through Hotel.com, it gave me an option to upgrade to a room with a view (£20) but I wasn’t too concerned about a particular view so I didn’t bother. I was planning to go explore anyway so I’d rather save the money for the resort fee.

venetian hotel room_lounge

My room was the Luxury Suite, what’s included in this were:

  • 1 King Bed
  • A separate sitting area with a sofa bed, chairs, a table, a small dining table in the corner and a work area in the other corner
  • Wifi access
  • 2 x 46inch flat screen TV, premium channels and PPV
  • Bathroom – bathtub, separate shower, private toilet, vanity set
  • 24-hour room service and minibar
  • Wardrobe – hairdryer, ironing board, iron, safe box, bathrobes

I should’ve rested after all that journey from the UK, but, I was too excited all I wanted to do was explore. So, with a map in my hand, off I went to find the Gondola ride.

venetian gondola ride

There is an indoor one which is located at St.Mark’s Square and an outdoor one (see map). I just love how everything is a replica but in so much detail it’s amazing to take in. There are so many restaurants and shops here, but the darn thing about going to a competition in the next 2 days meant I had to watch my weight. I’m 2 kgs under but I will take no chance by indulging in food yet just in case (cries), this is torture… for a foodie, this is horrible torture.

So then I went outside, and the thing I remembered the most is how blue the water was on the outdoor gondola ride. It was a very hot 40+ degrees and the sun was reflecting on the water, the Gondolier was singing a song. He was good. The facade on this part is a reflection of the Doge Palace, so beautiful. I just stayed there for a bit taking everything in and then again… food, cafe and restaurant signs everywhere. Damn it. I started to walk towards the Rialto Bridge and walked away from the Venetian towards Harrah’s. It’s quite funny as people here just drink alcohol casually on the streets at 4pm. Cocktail slush for sale on the streets, it’s very different, slightly peculiar but it was fun to explore so I kept on walking.

vegas guide book

See more pictures of the Venetian on my photo journal here

Las Vegas Journals (Pt 1, Pt3, Pt4, Pt 5, Pt6).