The week leading up to the tournament was quite hectic as my training schedule was thrown off by visiting customers and my sister moving to Bangkok from Singapore. So with multiple groups to juggle, my training got a little watered-down the last week but I believe I had put in the time beforehand and wasn't too worried. The last two days was just messy cause it was the last scramble to get this and that in prep for the evening setup on Friday. While we rented the mats for the competition area, we also had mats laid out in a private room for the teams to rest and warm up in. these mats were lent to us by the American School of Bangkok and the Zendokai Karate school. Thank you to both locations for their support in lending us the extra mats. So Friday night was relatively easy and the brackets were being setup that night as well.
I did not sleep. Before any competition I get a little antsy but it's good to feel that without letting it get the better of you but on this occasion we were responsible for more than just competing. Waking up before my alarm went off I got myself going with packing my gi and camera for the long day ahead of me (us).
The weigh-ins were already underway when I got to the event and brackets were being amended to account for weight changes. By 10:30am, things got started and soon the place filled up with spectators and competitors. Especially in SEA, the lighter brackets brought out the larger numbers while in my weight division, there were about 3-4 of us. Asian guys, eat yer wheaties! My first match was with my buddy Francis from Newbreed Philippines. This was a match that I'd like to describe as sumo-jitsu as it was almost all stand up between two heavy guys, fighting for grips and the take down. At the end, I won by a single advantage 2-1. Francis had beaten me by points at Copa De Hong Kong in the no-gi so I was excited to meet him again on the mat this time around. I feel very fortunate to meet so many cool guys that can fight with so much heart and still be buddies win or lose. This brought me to the finals for the heavy-weight division against another friend, Mathew Jones (Jon). At least in the heavier categories I know almost all the guys competing and we're all good friends. So this was not the first time fighting Jon and taking silver to him a few times before. Which made me pretty hungry to beat him this time around. Not exactly how I had pictued my win but this one was by verbal-submission. Jon had my leg and was setting up for the takedown. I decide to jump to guard, pulling Jon with me. As he collapsed I felt his weight come directly over me, I pinched my knees and pulled his shoulders over, landing in the mount. What I didn't know was that Jon had taken my weight over his knee while it was fully extended and he felt it hyper-extend. He called to stop after I had secured mount and the ref declared the match finished. Jon turned out to be OK and continued to tear it up both in the gi and no-gi.
Next was the blue-belt absolute. My first two matches were no-shows due to them being injurred in previous matches. So my next fight would be with who else but Jon. Determined to make up for the previous loss, this turned out to be another stand-up war. My left ear is pretty jacked up I have to say but thankfully no caulis. The entire match is was just back and forth. I had a hell of a time establishing my grips and defending Jon's shoot for the double and single. If you see us stand side by side, Jon is 1-foot taller than me, hahaha. I need to lose weight and get to a lower division. He's got tremendous pressure and will to win as he fully demonstrated in the no-gi day as well. By the last 30-40 seconds it was still 0-0. He made a final shot and got the take down he wanted. With him in my closed guard, I tried scrambling for the sweep and getting up but time ran out. Jon won 2-0. Next time I'll do better. Oh, and Jon won the blue absolute so congrats to Jon.
This left me to fight for the bronze with, if remember correctly, Murase-san from Axis Jiu-Jitsu (JP). Now this guy was definitely a character with some intensely colored tattoos all over his body. The most prominent one being a portrait of Gandhi over his belly in a neon-green. He later showed me a portrait of Helio Gracie on his right inner-forearm in oranges and reds. Really nice work but that's besides the point. Anyways, I knew he would fake me out for the shoot so I wanted to lay on the pressure fast for the take down. Running him off the mat several times, he finally pulled guard and settled in his half. From open he tried for the cross choke but kept things tight. I did manage a pass, getting the 3 points but he got back up and it started over again. Another scramble and settling to the ground I worked for the same pass, single over and under. If I remember correctly I wanted to shift for a knee-slide but postured too high. He quickly got my arm and secured the armbar. I couldn't roll cause my shoulder and hips were twisted and started to feel my elbow go. I tapped and he won. Had I just chilled out, and played top with his open guard it might have gone differently. For a small guy he's really strong and has very sneaky hooks. It was so difficult to keep him pinned after the pass and that is what brought us back up. Murase-san I believe won his weight division, took the bronze for absolute and faired just the same in the no-gi day as well.
So in between my matches I was MCing the event with the worst mics in the world as they constantly cut-out, rendering them useless unless I was just a few feet away from the PA. Running between the bracket station and the mats. All the while taking pictures for the blog. I believe Lilly from Kylin Jiu-Jitsu has a picture of me in my gi, with microphone in hand, taking a photo of someone's match, haha. I probably resembled a headless chicken, running around calling for competitors to fight. A few hickups here and there but most of them were resolved before the end of the day and got even better for the no-gi day with more help. I have to give a big shout out to Mark 'Vesuvius' Simmerman for his work in organizing the refs, checking the mats for fights as well as competing in both the adults and masters divisions. We all knew that we were doing something for the benefit of the competitors cause that's what we are and couldn't help ourselves but to compete as well. This goes for Sebastien, Niti, Amps, Ing, Tomi, Carlo, Paula, Doe and more. Perhaps a bit more tired for our efforts but well worth it, I think.
We were excited to have a full representation of competitors from white to black-belt. As the larger divisions (white & blue) were finished, more competitors had a chance to watch the purples, browns and blacks. Very impressive performances from Philip Yeomans, Dimitrios Tsitos, Tony Eduardo, Christopher Hermanstad and Malik Mawlayi to name a few. The team from Bahrain brought a very strong element to the competition for all most all belt levels, amping things up a bit. These guys had just competed in the Ramadan tournament with two-days rest before arriving in Bangkok for our tournament. So thank you to Reza's team for making it all the way out here.
The day ended not too late, around 6:30pm. Besides the tournament dinner, there was some time to see the Bangkok nightlife but most guys that were looking to compete the next day called it early.
I had posted earlier that I had taken almost 900 photos that first day and while loading them onto my computer Sunday morning, iphoto crashed and erased the last 100+ pics. So pics of my own fights, the trophies, candids and god knows what else are forever gone. I'm still pissed and my iphoto at home is still crashing as I try to load the no-gi pics. This time around I learned my lesson and kept the originals on the card till the upload was 100% good to go. I'll be working on these pics in the next day or so and post with a link to flickr. You guys are welcome to use these just be sure to give bjj-asia some credit.
Tomorrow is the recap for the no-gi.