It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

I had an awesome day of training yesterday. I went to a women’s open mat at another gym which consisted of a cardio circuit, a little bit of drilling (flying armbars, watch out world!) and then a bunch of rolling. There were 8 women there total. A brown belt was running it and there were 4 blues and 3 high level whites. It was amazing. Something very interesting happened as well but before I tell you that story I must first tell you the story of my most upsetting defeat in a tournament ever.

Let me transport you back in time to July of 2012. “Call me Maybe” was the #1 song on the Billboard top 100, the Philadelphia area was in the midst of a heat wave and there was a certain wide-eyed optimism permeating the BJJ tournament scene at the time. OK July 2012 was not that long ago, most likely you remember it.

I had decided kind of last minute to participate in a local tournament. I had not trained for almost the whole month of May because I had gotten a concussion in a tournament (on May 5th last year…yesterday was my concussion-iversary!) and I had eased back into training in June. I wasn’t sure I was ready to compete but circumstances lent themselves to going so I figured what the heck.

There were only 2 people, including myself, from my gym competing at this particular tournament so there was no one from my gym there when I got there. My coach was coming but in a weird twist of fate, the tournament was running ahead of schedule and my gi division was ready to start. This was not a huge deal to me. As a woman, I am used to going first and this was not my first time competing without anyone in my corner. I lost my first match by getting triangled and then I had a second match to fight for 3rd place (the joys of women’s divisions).

So my second match started and was going very well. I don’t remember all the specifics (it was almost a year ago and I have no tape of it) but I know I got to mount, I got a sweep, I took her back, I was doing everything right. During a scramble I saw that there was a little over a minute left on the clock and realized I was about to win this fight. I don’t remember how but my opponent got to mount. I was not worried because I had a ton of points. I could hear her corner telling her that she had to submit me to win so I was happy to just coast the rest of the time. She got a grip inside my collar and then quickly tried to go for an x-choke. I realized this was not great but I figured she wasn’t going to be able to finish in the time left anyway. And then I did the stupidest thing ever. I tried to peak at the clock to see how much time was left. I peaked at the clock. I lifted my head. I GAVE HER MY NECK. She got the x-choke in and I tapped. When we got up I saw that there had been 12 seconds left. 12 FREAKING SECONDS!!!

I was so upset and humiliated. I couldn’t believe that I had just given a match away. I am not saying she didn’t deserve the win, she was smart to capitalize on my stupidity but I had let my guard down by first letting her get to mound and then not defending the choke better. In another cruel twist of fate, as I was walking off the mat hating myself, my coach came in the door saw me and asked how it went. I waved him off and went to go sulk in private.

To this day that loss haunts me. I was so upset afterwards (that whole tournament was awful) that I was considering taking more time off of BJJ and never competing again. I actually had an awesome moment of motivation on my way home that day that I will save for another post (ooo, suspense!) and in the end I went back to BJJ right away. It ended up working out fine for me because my coach worked with me on some stuff I was doing wrong (he got to see my no-gi division) and it was a good learning experience. I took gold at my next tournament in the gi division and all was well. But I get an awful feeling every time I think of that match.

OK so fast forward to yesterday. “Just Give Me a Reason” was the #1 song…well you probably remember yesterday too. I was getting ready for open mat to start when two people came in the door. I knew I recognized one of them but I couldn’t remember from where. I felt like it was a negative thing and I was trying to think if I didn’t like her for some reason. I think I was staring at her trying to figure it out a little too intensely cause she awkwardly said “hi” and then I felt like a jerk. I figured I had probably just seen her around and shrugged it off.

Well you very smart readers probably realize that this was the woman who had x-choked me in July. I eventually realized it as well, about halfway through the cardio portion of the open mat. As I was drilling the armbar with a teammate of mine I told her who the mystery woman was (most of my training partners have heard the story of that tournament several times). I jokingly said I hoped I got to roll with her so I could get my revenge.

Well as it turns out, we did get to roll together. I didn’t know if she remembered me or not and we were just rotating and rolling with little break in between so we didn’t really get a chance to talk before. We started the roll and I got on top and worked my shoulder pressure. I went for an arm triangle and couldn’t finish it so I rolled up and transitioned into a bow and arrow for the tap.

As we were getting ready to reset I told her that I hoped I hadn’t been too much of a jerk with the shoulder pressure. This is something I worry about with everyone. If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know I love me some shoulder pressure. If you’re one of my training partners you definitely know! I constantly am at war with myself about how nasty to make it though. I want to be aggressive but I don’t want to be the jerk who mashes everyone face in and no one wants to roll with. I have recently decided to just go for it and stop worrying but I still feel pangs of guilt on occasion.

She told me that I had been fine and then paused for a second and said “you know you’re the reason I still do this”. I was puzzled by this and asked her what she meant. She said that doing that tournament (and I presume having an awesome victory) had made her realize that she could be doing more worthwhile things with her life than sitting on the couch and watching TV.

Huh…well how do you like that? My darkest hour in BJJ might very well have been her brightest and we both got something we needed from it. She had learned she was capable of more than she thought and found the motivation to continue training. I had to learn to deal with the self-doubt and anger that came from that tournament and find the strength to move past it instead of giving up.

When things don’t work out the way I want I try to think that everything happens for a reason. What seems like the worst thing today is probably leading me on a path for something better. Sometimes it’s hard to keep that positive attitude though, like when you get x-choked in a match with 12 seconds left because you tried to look at the clock. Every now and then though you get a reminder.

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4 responses to “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

  1. Jarrod says :

    That was GREAT!!! You are a maganificent writer. I guess I cant think of you as just the girl with crazy shoulder pressure anymore

  2. Mom says :

    great Story 🙂

  3. The Lazy Grappler says :

    Brilliant piece, and I’m glad you’re now able to look back on your darkest moment and at least see a bit of light. Jiu-Jitsu is awesome.

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