Conquering Demons.

Hello again y’all.

If you’ve read this blog before, or have been following my ramblings for a while you’ll know that I have the occasional bout of competition anxiety. I consider myself lucky that my anxiety is entirely rational, as I know people that have bouts of anxiety that they just can’t control. A feeling of unrest over a seemingly random event. I don’t get that, thank Jebus. I can at least relate my bout to something in front of me at that very moment. I step onto the competitive mats and immediately fill my pampers with shit. Thinking the absolute the worst.
It takes me out of the moment, and can often affect my performance poorly. It’s not nerves or that, it’s a properly derailing experience when it happens. I just don’t deal well with the unknown in that moment. More competition experience is obviously required.

This comes from my lack of confidence as a grappler, and my knowledge of what a good grappler is. My brain will always compare me at my worst, to them at their best. It’s a losing battle, and one my mind regularly trips me up upon. I know you’re only meant to compare yourself to yourself, but when you know the people you’re up against; it’s very hard to do so. So I go all wobbly in the brain.

On Saturday the 22nd of April, I found myself down in Newcastle again for another of Speedy’s patented inter-club competitions. The Origin Team from the North East and beyond comes together in one spot to have a good laugh with one another, support one another and see how we fare in the throws of pyjama battle. It’s a great day out amongst family and friends, depending on how you view all of this Martial Arts stuff. I consider these people a family. That’s what Jiu-Jitsu or grappling is; I know that these people at least understand that part of me, and I understand that part of them. A shared passion for the art of breaking limbs, and choking one another. It’s rare people get on this well with their own family, so it’s a special feeling. Politics, music, tastes etc all go out of the window. We share a common ground, which happens to be covered by mats.

This time around, I made a considered effort to try and coach from the sidelines. It turns out I didn’t really need to, because Origin Tayside excelled themselves. The matches put on were competitive, fun and brilliant to watch with our team doing incredibly well. I’ve already told them how well they did, so I’m not going to give them the shout out they probably deserve. Fuck ’em. Fuck ’em all.
I will however mention how important these days are as a team. When you’re training day to day, you do not see the shift in a person’s game. Assuming the world is fair, and attributes are even, you’ll all move at the same pace, progressing at the very same speed. I’ve created a false positive there, to dumb down reality. We’re dealing with a game of variables here, but that aside you just don’t know whether Tom has improved over Dick, or whether Harry has improved at all because you see these cunts every single day. You catch them, they catch you, etc. On these rare inter-club days, you see how far they’ve come and get to appreciate the side of their game that you miss in class because you don’t have to focus on your own shit. You can simply focus on them doing what they do, against someone else trying to do what they do. It’s fucking crack-a-lack-ing, as Snoop D. O. double Gizzle would say.

Once the white and blue belts had done their thing, we took a breather from competition to focus on Andy Bell. He’s a blue belt that had a motorcycle accident leaving him paralysed from the chest down. Speedy, Scuba and Tyrone all had a roll with him, with their legs tied up and the agreement that they wouldn’t use their hips. This was incredible to watch. You got to see the grit and determination of Andy, who is still a super competitive grappler regardless of his paralysis; and you got to see how immediately ineffective brown and black belts are without their hips in play. Suddenly a blue belt who doesn’t view this form of grappling as foreign, is getting the upper hand. He knows how to move, because it’s an entirely natural movement for him. It was a constant back and forth battle and really interesting to watch, but it also served another very important purpose. The room was fed a healthy dose of perspective.

Speedy always starts these inter-clubs by reminding us that we’re all friends and family, so this isn’t a serious competition. Now, whilst that remains in the back of our minds, we’re still doing our best to put on a good show for those that are judging us. Matches rarely do, but they can get heated. It’s a difficult to balance on the day, I guess – but Andy put things into perspective for me at least, and many of the other purple belts who were there. We had the most relaxed and technical matches of the day (Billy and Ant’s match was an incredible watch, an absolute feast of Jiu-Jitsu technique). The purples should be better to watch because of their technical understanding of the game, but I think it was less to do with that and more to do with the weight we had lifted before we were matched.
I looked at my opponents and knew that the worst that could happen was that I’d lose. That’s it. I’m not fighting at the Mundials, I’m no longer in the position where I’m getting battered all over the mats. So what did I have to worry about? Nothing. It was freeing. Andy lifted my spirits that day, and I think I performed better as a result.

With that said, earlier that day we were told it was not only absolute for the purple belts, but James Bland would be joining us. Origin’s Big Daddy himself, and brown belt supremo.
I was first matched with Jimmy, who’s probably my size or a little lighter. So naturally he proceeded to batter me all over the mats. The aim is to get the submission, and Jimmy wasted no time in firing them at me. The match is a bit of a blur. What I can remember is he took me down and started working his passing game from standing. I’m rarely bothered by being passed, because I can usually recover. Jimmy worked an armbar and a reverse triangle at one point (probably picking up on how Mighele finished me last year), but I was able to free myself from his shackles. I know for a fact that the decision wasn’t going my way, so I had to do something. Speedy’s always telling me to be aggressive, but I play the defensive game against purple belts a lot, due to my previously mentioned confidence. I almost nailed him with a loop choke, but shifted my hips when I should have held my position, he started to gurgle but escaped like the crafty man that he is. As the match neared the end, Jimmy sat back into an achilles lock, rather than continue to pass my guard. This was Christmas for me. I moved my hips slightly, sat up and locked up an achilles of my own. I had the boot on so that his own achilles lock was nulled, and proceeded to squeeze my own before putting my foot into position on his hip. The reason I didn’t put my foot on is hip, is so that I could step over if he turned away from me. The squeeze was tight enough, and I got the tap. A surprising end to a mostly one sided fight.

My next match was against longtime training partner Paul. I haven’t sparred with him in yonks, because we have different goals and we train different days currently. He kept his legs out of play, because he knows I’ve been working leg locks for weeks now (stupid fucking Facebook). He passed and used pressure a lot (shoulder of justice), we grip fought from guard, and again my loop choke was thwarted. Eventually he worked a head and arm choke after a reset, and I didn’t have the space to escape without hurting myself. He’s a powerful dude, and it was a good fun match.

So one win, and one loss. Better than I’ve faired in recent inter-clubs, and whilst there’s room for improvement I’m not actually disappointed with my performances. Both of my matches were really fun, and that’s what I’m there to do. Have fun with people I respect, and then reflect on the results afterwards.
I had some good chats with the guys around the mats, positive vibes were exchanged throughout the day, and that’s what this day is all about.

There were plenty of gradings handed out on the day. I won’t list them all but point out the two that I think had the biggest impact to the people involved.
The most deserving/long overdue of our lot, Tony finally got his blue belt. He’s been smashing guys in the gym for a while now, and anyone that walks through the door and saw him as a white belt, had no idea what they were letting themselves in for when they rolled with him. That mystery is gone, as he proudly dons the colour blue. It suits him.
Danny was given another two stripes on his belt, which means at the next grading he’ll either get his blue belt, or a shotgun slug in the face. You never can tell. Part of me hopes for the latter, because y’know King Prick.

Myself, Paul and Grant found ourselves in a very stripy position. We all have four stripes now. With each additional stripe at purple belt, the responsibility gets heavier. It’s time to conceptualise and create where appropriate, evolve creativity and refine the basics. Use ebb and flow to create that tight invisible Jiu-Jitsu we all long for. The next grading is months off and just around the corner at the very same time, so I’m going to make each second I can count. Since Saturday I’ve been to two classes, fuck resting.

Right, that’s enough. I’ve went on for far too long, and it’s getting late.

Today was a cracking day at the inter-club grading. I had two tough matches, won one and lost the second. In my first match, I had trouble dealing with Jimmy's passing game and hip control. I came close to getting my patented loop choke but it wasn't to be. There were scrambles where I could create them. That's where I'm comfortable, scrambles and flow. In the closing minute he instigated the leg lock battle, which I've been working a lot of recently. He took an Achilles, so I paid him back in kind for the tap. He complimented me afterwards as I did him. It's been too long since we've sparred or fought against one another. My second match was against Paul P, the eventual finalist. I haven't rolled with Paul in ages, he's a big scary Judoka. He told me afterwards that I frustrated him in the grip battles, so that's ace. I again went for my patented loop choke but he was wise to it. Handsome bastard that he is. He bested me with a tight arm triangle in the closing seconds. It was a fun fight. I'm glad he didn't Uchi Mata me through the Earth's core. I feel great about today; regardless of the win or the loss I fought well, which for a while just hasn't been the case. I wasn't crushed by anxiety and I was able to just have fun. I think I was helped immensely by seeing Andy Bell sparring with Speedy, Scuba and Tyrone before the purple belts went to war. He's paralysed from the waist down from a motorbike accident, but it hasn't stopped him. He's an inspirational guy, with all the grit in the world to just keep pushing forwards regardless of how difficult it may be. It squashed whatever doubts I may have had about myself, and allowed me to just look at this for what it was, a chance to show off some good Jiu-Jitsu. I hope I did that today. Some of the BJJ on display was incredible. I'm incredibly impressed with the Tayside lot, who far exceeded my expectations against a tough group of guys. I train with these guys all the time, so I don't see the progression until these big days. There were promotions galore. I got my fourth stripe on my purple belt. Which means squeaky bum time. I need to shape up and sharp. #BJJ #BrazilianJiuJitsu #Grading #Interclub

A post shared by Barry Lewis (@thelazygrappler) on

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