As I mentioned in previous posts I had already withdrawn from the London Marathon due to new family commitments but this did mean that I was able to compete in the High Wycombe Newaza Championships for the second year running which was more than a good substitute.
Oli picked me up around 7.30am as we had to weigh in before 9am in High Wycombe and despite taking the wrong exit off the M40 we made it with about 15 minutes to spare.
With all the training that I had been doing for the Marathon I was in pretty good shape and a fair bit lighter than I was the previous year, or so I thought. Last year I weighed in at 93.5kg and had to fight in the under 100kg category but because the over 100kg was a little short on competitors they merged them in with the under 100kg’s. This meant there were some guys who were 5-6 stone heavier than me in my category. Seeing as I had, only a few weeks earlier, been weighed at 88kg I was confident that I could keep that weight and fight in the under 90kg category thus ensuring I didn’t come up against the Judo equivalent of Brock Lesnar. The previous day I passed on Cake and Chocolate and beer whilst I was dinning at a friend’s house with my wife to further ensure I didn’t needlessly put on extra weight, but when it was my turn to step on those scales at High Wycombe I was gutted when the lady told me I was 1kg over.
So here I was again being the lightest in my weight category and again being a lowly 5th kyu fighting in the 3rd kyu and under division I was one of the least experienced. Oli weighed in and only just made his weight of under 90kg but he was fighting in the Blue/Brown belt division. We walked in to the dojo and scanned around the stands looking for Ryan who had made his own way here with his daughter, Rachael.
Once we located Ryan we made our way up to him and Ryan quickly confirmed that he also missed his weight and had weighed in at 93kg, so both Ryan were still to be fighting in the same category. It was at this point when I started to scan the dojo for my potential opponents and it was then that I saw Godzilla walk in wearing a Judo gi and a green belt. Yikes, this guy was huge and being a green belt would likely be in my category. I was silently hoping that Ryan would have to fight this guy instead of me.
We all managed a quick 5 minute warm up before everyone was called off the mats. The head referee then went over the rules and etiquette and shortly afterwards my category was called out to mat 2.
It was now that both Ryan and I were able to see who we would likely be fighting. As suspected Godzilla was in our category but there were also some other large looking guys, maybe not as tall as Godzilla but certainly wider.
After only a couple of fights my name was called and I was told to wear the white belt and wearing the blue belt would be……………Godzilla. Now if you want to win these types of tournaments you have to, at some point, fight the best but you really don’t want to have to fight them in your first match.
On the hour long drive up to High Wycombe I was discussing tactics with Oli as last year I favored pulling guard as I was fighting guys considerably larger than I. This year however I was expecting to be the heaviest in my category so all my tactics had been based around attacking my opponent and looking for pins and or submissions should they arise. I favored a Mune-gatame, with the option of grabbing an arm and going for an Ude-garami should my opponent start to escape, however all this had gone out of the window with me missing weight and I was back to the “pulling guard” and hoping they made a mistake tactic.
Both Godzilla and I took our position on the mat and bowed and then stood on one knee. The referee shouted Hadjime and Godzilla attacked me straight away by grabbing my gi collar and pushing me back thus forcing me to pull guard. He postured up and tried a cross lapel choke but I was never going to be submitted with that whilst he was in my guard despite it being very uncomfortable. I tried in vain to pull him down as his posture was so strong and still he was trying this cross lapel choke on me. After a little while the referee called matte due to inaction and made us start again and Godzilla did the same thing, just literally charged me and pushed me down forcing me to pull guard. I grabbed his gi collar with both arms and actually hung in mid air whilst trying to pull him down but he was so strong he was able to keep his posture still. The referee again made us restart and I was beginning to lose heart a little as I was quickly running out of ideas as to how to beat this guy.
When we restarted I decided attack was my only option as pulling guard would have just meant Godzilla winning on points. I went for grips and tried to push him over but Godzilla was able to get me off balance and he ended up in side control and quickly got a kesa-gatame hold on me. As if the hold wasn’t enough he grabbed the collar of my gi and pulled it across my neck, applying a very uncomfortable choke and much as I tried to not tap, I had to as I was starting to get that feeling of drifting off to sleep.
The only positive thing I could take from my first fight was that unlike last year I was not completely drained. In fact I still felt pretty good. The only problem was that everyone looked bigger than me so I couldn’t see any easy fights for me.
I then watched Ryan struggle against someone much larger than him and despite Ryan having a very good guard he was not able to do anything off his back and he also lost his first fight. I asked the scorekeepers what the format was and she told me that as I had lost my first fight I would have to fight against another guy who had lost and that I would have to win that in order to advance further. The guy I did eventually end up fighting against, although heavier than me was not as tall. This fight followed a similar pattern to my first fight. He attacked and pushed me over on my back where I pulled guard and from here he was trying cross lapel chokes on me. Does anyone ever have any success with these whilst in someone’s guard??
Unlike my first fight he didn’t posture up, instead preferring to keep close to me. I attempted a flower sweep but he was wise to my efforts. I tried to push one of his arms out to get a san-gaku-jime but he was having none of that either. The referee re started us a couple of times for inactivity and with about 1 minute left of the fight I could see he was tired so I attacked him and got him on his back. I quickly passed his guard in to mune-gatame and got the hold on. Unfortunately he managed to escape after about 17 seconds but in doing so he gave me his back. I got the hooks in and turned him on his side ready to go for a choke but the buzzer went and I got the referee’s decision. I was delighted that I had won as I did fear that I might lose all my fights. Now I could relax and enjoy my remaining fights.
Ryan’s next fight was against a very stocky looking guy wearing a blue gi. He powered through Ryan, pushing him back and eventually passed Ryan’s guard and pinned him with Kesa-gatame. I chatted to Ryan’s victor afterwards and it turns out that this guy fights MMA and has a 3-1 record.
Rather surprisingly I was told that I was in the semi-finals and that I would be fighting the MMA guy. Ryan warned me that this guy was very strong and coming from Ryan, who as a tree surgeon wrestles tree’s for a living, I knew I would have my hands full.
As soon as we started Mr MMA attacked and tried to get side control. I managed to defend with my legs and pretty soon he was in my guard. He didn’t posture up, in fact he was quite low down in my guard, just where I wanted him so I decided to try and sweep him with the flower sweep but as I grabbed his right arm he shock my grips off and started to try and pass my guard by pushing down on my thighs. I grabbed the sleeves of his gi and went for spider guard control. He postured up and got one hand free and slipped it under my leg to pass to my right. Seizing the moment I went for a San-gaku-jime but he managed to get another arm out so I again grabbed his sleeve and had a sort of spider guard but I knew it was only a matter of time before he passed my guard properly as he had both arms under my legs.
I tried to hold on hoping the referee would restart the match for stalling but he kept active enough and eventually he got to Kesa-gatame which he held for the full 25 seconds to get the Ippon. I had no complaints, I was beaten the better man who knew the techniques I was trying on him and was able to defend them. Mr MMA fought well but lost via submission to Godzilla in the final so I was beaten by the best two guys here so I take some comfort from that.
The award ceremony for my category was shortly afterwards and I got a trophy for finishing joint 3rd which was very satisfying indeed. The chap who presented me with the trophy seemed to recognise me and he told me that he would like a word with me latter to discuss my blog. I wasn’t quite sure whether this was because I had maybe insulted someone I shouldn’t have or whether he was just enjoying the reading, I mean someone has to right? It turns out that my blog entry on last year’s tournament actually helped promote this years and quite a few Judoka entered on the strength of reading my write up, which has actually inspired me to continue with this blog. Still I would appreciate the odd comment just to let me that someone other than my wife actually reads it :)
Anyway, I could now sit back and relax and watch Oli compete in his category and Ryan compete again in the Open division.
Unfortunately despite winning a fight Oli wasn’t able to medal and Ryan was unable to win a fight in the open division, which when you consider was full of big heavy dan grades was not that surprising.
One thing the organisers had improved on from last year was announcing some of the fights, for example if there was a final in a particular weight category it would be called out. Still I think they could improve this more as only the people on a very near the matted area could hear this and I think if they had a loud speaker system and called out when each final took place it would create a lot more interest from the people watching.
One other small gripe was that there were no practice mats in which to warm up on, although I couldn’t see any obvious space where one could be placed quite a few people who were fighting in the divisions that fought later in the day remarked that they had gotten very stiff sitting about waiting and fighting when you are not warmed up means you can easily get injured.
On reflection the standard of competition had definitely gone up a notch from last year. I noticed several people wearing various BJJ and MMA related apparel and whilst that alone does not mean that they train BJJ or MMA the fact that Ryan is a BJJ blue belt and that one of my opponents trained MMA probably means there were a lot more people who cross trained than previously. Of course that’s not to say a pure Judoka cannot win these Newaza tournaments, on the contrary I think Ryan’s BJJ passive style of Newaza was proved not suitable to the explosive Newaza found in Judo and I think Ryan needs to be a lot more aggressive next time.
Of course the biggest lesson I have learned for next time is to make sure I make weight. Fighting guys who are almost 10kg heavier is not a smart thing to do. Either I need to bulk up to 95kg + or I need to stay lean and cut 1-2 kg a few weeks before hand. I also need to improve my sweeps from the bottom and my escape’s from the various pins but basically Kesa-gatame and Mune-gatame which at my level are most used. . . Overall another very well run tournament and one I will certainly be back for next year, London Marathon permitting/
Oli (left) Me (middle) and Ryan (right) With my medal