Hello to you, esteemed reader of thoughts. Sit comfy, this is bound to be a big one. As was the case only two weeks ago I found myself doing the hellish 360 mile round trip to Newcastle and back again. This time someone else drove, which is ace as on Friday night I felt a bit under the weather and the thought of that drive was not sitting well with me. We were off to The Hurtlocker again to visit Speedy and his band of merry men on grading day.
Speedy decided this year to do things differently. He does an annual grading, but is often happy to promote people between if worthy. This was a different format to the norm. We were to compete for our grades.
I shat myself there and then. I don’t compete, I’m not a competitive person unless playing something like Call of Duty on the ol’ Xbox. A couch potato warrior if you will. We were weighed and placed into brackets ten kilos apart. I was in the 70-80 kilo blue belt bracket, weighing in at 74.6 kilos. The rules were simple, 10 minute rounds, submission only. If it met the limit judges would decide.
Four guys (myself included) were in my division, so basically a semi-final and a final. I expected to lose hard because Speedy’s guys are so good, but somehow I prevailed in both fights. Spoiler alert! Sorry guys.
The first was a slog against a young guy called Shaun (I think). I ended up getting caught in a tight triangle. I’m not sure what was going on around me, but I’m sure I heard a few say it was in. I kept my cool, and waited for the right opportunity to break out of it. Pushing his knee to the floor. Once out, I tried to work some sort of offense. I’m sure I swept a few times, and tried a few submissions to no avail. I fluffed an armbar attempt as I was so knackered by this point I could hear my own pulse deep inside my ear canal. I hate that feeling. The round finished after the full ten minutes and I was decided the winner by the judges. I didn’t agree with this at the time, because I thought he had my number. They know best though, and I’ve been showered with positivity since, so I’m not sure; maybe I did win. Being self deprecating isn’t easy.
I then sat exhausted hoping the next fight wasn’t for a good twenty minutes to catch my breath. A good friend of mine was fighting the guy I would go on to fight next. He snuck an Ezekiel choke in from Grant’s guard. Grant was defending, but it just suddenly went deep. Grant was understandably disappointed, and went on to beat the guy I fought in the semis by an evil cross collar choke.
The final was against big Phil the aforementioned Ezekiel destroyer. Again going in, I felt nervous. This guy had just tapped a friend of mine, so his honour needed to be defended. I pulled out a samurai sword and cut his head off there and then, holding it up to the shocked crowd. No wait, that’s not what happened at all. We bumped fists and got going. It felt like Phil’s was a good bit taller than I, or at least his reach was a lot longer and he had this strangely awkward strength. When he kept me at distance he was controlling the fight well, passing my guard easily with almost a straight arm attack from the knees. He’d just flatten my legs or run around to side. I’ve gotten a lot more resilient of late at fighting back to guard. Rolling under myself, etc. He tried his patented Ezekiel choke a few times but I kept defending. This was a back and forth scrap that I really enjoyed. I started to work his right lapel over his back to the left side, to try and steal a nasty cross collar choke but it didn’t work. He popped his head out, in doing so though the lapel was around his arm, essentially trapping it. I used this to set up a tight armbar to win the fight. I was so fucking happy at that moment and the following moments when my hand was raised. One thing though, Speedy’s son Tyrone shouted out a good bit into the fight, “Ten minutes left Baz.” The perplexed/disgusted look on my face here threw me off my game for a split second. He has a distinct ability to fuck with me. Bastard.
I came to Newcastle expecting to get my head kicked in, as is he norm with these guys and somehow the stars aligned. Incredible. My friends that I travelled with were Grant, Euan, Paul & Andrew. Grants fights I’ve already mentioned. Now onto the others.
Euan fought a white belt that is an absolute beast. Euan defended well throughout, but this guy’s movement for his weight was scary. Very controlling, aggressive & a fast top game. Great to watch. Euan came away happy with how he performed and wants to compete more. The guy recently performed well in the Manchester open, I believe.
Andrew’s our resident club mascot (well, we have a less affectionate name for him), he’s strong as hell and catches armbars and triangles from anywhere. This is due to his ‘mascot’ strength. He fought a guy that was clearly also strong as hell, as his patented armbar didn’t work off the bat. He tried a few things though, an Achilles lock, a Japanese necktie but the guy kept defending. There was a scramble to the feet and the other guy landed a trip that was met with one of Andrew’s triangles, he made sure to overextend the arm at the same time and the guy tapped. A great victory.
Next up was Paul. I couldn’t mention it to him beforehand, but his division were a group of straight up murderers. He fought in the 80-90 kilo blue belt category, likely being the lightest there. Each of his three fights were tough. He had one with with one of the Hurtlocker’s legends, Scuba Steve. It was neck and neck, both guys clearly strong and controlling one another. Steve won by Triangle. He also fought another guy called Steve, this time by the alias of Foz. He fought Foz twice, but I only seen one of them. Paul was defending well until he was caught by a nasty little bow & arrow choke. He wasn’t happy with himself at the time, but has since made peace with his performance, and there’s a reason for that coming. Plus, he bought a new hat so that’s good.
There were many great displays at this inner club tournament. Speedy’s son fought in the purple belt division, and locked a triangle up with a knackered ankle whilst his opponent held him in up the air. It looked tight. Really fucking tight. Jamie vs Dom, Tyrone vs Dom & Jamie vs The Daddy (I forget his real name), were all a treat to watch too. I want to be there one day. That’s right, getting mauled by purple belts.
After the mini-comp had finished we moved into the actual grading. We all lined up by belt, stripes, etc. and there were a lot of promotions handed out. First of all there were a ton of stripes handed out. Notable ones I can think of were to Andrew getting two on his white belt, Euan received his first stripe on his blue, Paul received his second stripe on his blue, Grant received his third stripe on his blue and I received my third and forth on my blue. There were many more than I forget, I’m sure Phil got a stripe or two but aside of that I’m unsure of names, people etc. Oh! Tyrone got his fourth stripe on his purple belt.
Next up, the belts. Three blue belts were handed out. One to Euan’s opponent, one to a guy who’s name I’m not sure of, and one to Captain Redbeard. Yes, that’s right the man with a slightly ginger beard is called Captain Redbeard. He’s a monster, physically strong, dominating and also very technical. I hope to never have to do battle with him.
‘Foz’ a longstanding blue belt was awarded his purple finally. He’s been a blue belt for over ten years I believe, not due to lack of skill but because he trains fucking everything. He’s one of them ex-army ninjas that drop out of planes. ‘Scuba’ Steve also received his purple belt. Deservingly so, in the short time I’ve seen him, he’s just looks straight up dangerous and strong to boot. These were the monsters Paul had the misfortune of fighting. Poor fucker.
And last but not least, it got emotional. Dom, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, got his brown belt. This guy is an inspiration, overcoming things that have turned him into one tough son of a bitch. I near shed a tear when the belt was wrapped around his waist, just like I did when I watched him get his purple belt only a couple of years ago. It’s hard to describe the sort of emotion you feel at these gradings. Each bit of progression in this sport is such an absolute joy, you’re being validated for doing something you love and that’s pretty special. People don’t do Jiu-Jitsu to pass the time, they do it because they’ve fallen in love with the sport, and I guess that’s why BJJ players bond so quickly, we instantly have something in common. We become a family of limb destroyers and choke artists. It’s oddly poetic. Here’s some pictures, now fuck off.