I was strangled unconscious in the finals of 183 lb (and under) Blue Belt Division! Wait, wait, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here.
An Abu Dhabi Pro-Trial Tournament was held in San Antonio Texas on November 26th, 2011. I trained for the better part of five or six weeks for the competition, including copious amounts of exercise off the mats and some control on diet.1 On the grounds of full disclosure, I feel I should inform my audience that I used the word ‘some’ loosely.
Anyway. My first match-up was against a representative from my old team, Pat Hardy’s Texas Punishment Crew. I had never met my opponent personally, but I knew that TPC always brings the heat tournament-side with their stable of incredibly humble, hard-working, jiu-jitsu-loving guys.2 This fact known to me, I had set my sight on finishing this match (and all my matches) as quickly as possible.
Despite my intention to dominate the competition like a flaming, golden hawk descending upon all opponents in an eruption of lightning and Higg’s Bosons from Mount Olympus, my match turned out to be a completely even-sided affair. We traded both a few submission attempts, alternatively putting one another in trouble, and one guard pass each.3 Toward the end of the match, exhausted, I managed to score two points and the win with an over-the-shoulder sweep from guard.
Later in the day my opponent, Mr. Johnson, and I were speaking about just how close the match was, and he informed me that he made it four matches deep at the 2011 Mundials. The man’s talented, no doubt about it. And then I realized that because these Pro-Trials were being held the weekend of Thanksgiving, all the casual grapplers must have decided not to participate. All the brackets in all the divisions were really quite small, all things considered. Instead what happened is that everyone who believed they were talented enough to have a legitimate shot at winning the trip to compete at Abu Dhabi stepped up to the plate. While there were only 13 people in my division, I am pretty sure that almost any one of the 13 could have (and has) won a local tournament of their own. Everyone was tough. Everything was a struggle.
My second match was with a Ralph Gracie representative (I think), who was as wide as he was tall. I took a deep breath and pulled butterfly guard, summoning all the flaming, golden hawk energies from Valhalla to help vanquish this proto-Zangief.4 I managed a strong, early lead but he came back with the vengeance and the fire to finish me. He trapped my head and nearside arm between his legs, and my vision was in sepia the whole time. Just in the interest of full disclosure, I was really, really sick that Saturday. But I toughed out his attack, made it through, and won.
My opponent, a representative of Marra Senki and stand-up guy (I discovered later), pulled guard on me. Finally, or so I naively believed, someone had made the one unforgivable mistake. Time to use the flaming, golden talons to rip a still-beating heart from his butchered, collapsing chest, turn my wings skyward to soar into the sun, and take my first oozing, red, victorious bite!
While on the cusp of the pass, he secured a choke which I decided to neglect. “He can’t strangle me from side mount.” But the choke suddenly got tighter; and I decided, in an obviously delusional and feverish reverie, to double-down on his gamble. So I tried to slap an armbar on his far-side arm while he was strangling me. “He’s going to have to let go of the choke, or I’ll catch this armbar easy as Sunday mornin’.”
And the next thing I remember is looking up at a stadium ceiling with a ref holding both my legs in the air. I was babbling nonsense (more than usual) as he lifted my opponents hand, and made me sit down on a chair for a while. Apparently getting strangled unconscious is confusing for a brain…even the brain of a flaming, golden hawk demi-god. Who knew?5
So I did pretty well and got second place. It was not quite the showing I had wanted, due in part to circumstances beyond my control. But competition is about rising above the challenges set before us, by both chance and circumstance. Period.
Many thanks to my opponents, especially the guy in the finals who took first place in the division, strangled at least four people unconscious that Saturday (but would take a seat and wait for them to be revived before expressing any emotion or celebrating whatsoever – pretty classy, if you ask me), and ended up taking second place in the absolute division. Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch up with you, my audience, next week.—————–
Oh, one last thing. For my loyal readers, I must apologize for not updating last week. As you might have guessed, it’s been a pretty hectic week. But I’m going to continue to…well, aspire to update once a week. Sorry, and thanks!
1. Five or six weeks ago, I could hardly do 14 push-ups before collapsing in a giant heap of Pathetic (as I previously mentioned). Now I can do around 25. Progress, people. This is called progress.
2. Modeled after their instructor, Jason Ebarb.
3. I don’t need to be exhaustive with the details, as I am almost certain all my matches were taped. As soon as I get my hands on the tape, I’ll post them for your viewing pleasure.
4. I changed imagery because I’m listening to Led Zeppelin now.
5. I probably knew.