Tales from Bouncing: Part 1

It’s past 2 am, and everyone still at the bar is being told to leave by the guy on the microphone. A regular whose face I know but name I do not comes up to me, “Hey, they’re fighting in the restroom.” I know the guy well enough to know he’s not lying, and signal to the bartender.

“Hey, grab that flashlight and don’t let anyone through this door,” I yelled at her, pointing at the Maglite. “And if they don’t listen, hit them with the goddamn thing” Goddamn is probably my favorite word. I knew she would do it, too. Some bastard was going to rue the day he crossed my Russian.

I rushed through the crowd and discovered one person pinning another person with knee-on-belly. Both are identically dressed. One of them I know for a fact, is a good friend of mine, and employee.1 But it’s dark, the person on top is hunched over the person on the bottom, and – for the life of me – I can’t tell who is who…so I stymied my impulse to enter the melee with a flying knee to the person on top. All our bouncers do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Fighting, as a result, is not tolerated at our bar.

The mystery person on top leans forward, and I catch sight of the bar towel stuffed in the back pocket of the person on top – the bar town a kind of sign among all the industry workers downtown. I know who is who now; and it looks like we have control of this situation. “Alright man, let him up,” I said to my friend, tapping him on the shoulder. “Let’s get this fucker out of here.”

Situations like this are so chaotic. Just two weeks now past, and it’s hard to recreate the details with perfect fidelity.

I walked from the hall into the restroom, and discovered my other bouncer mounting a patron. At least there’s better lighting here than in the hallway – I can tell who was who immediately. The guy on the bottom was cussing up a storm, trying to escape mount as he swore. God knows though, if you just don’t know how to escape mount, none of the four letter words you might know are going to get you there any quicker. My bouncer is working the typical mount retention drill.

People were crowding around him though, and his mountee. So, I ushered everyone away from the situation, as the crowd was watching as close as they possibly could. God knows what happened, but now my bouncers were defending themselves against patrons. And you never quite know who is friends with whom, and whether there’s a third friend waiting for the right opportunity to deliver some mighty, waylaying sucker punch to somebody just doing their job of keeping a semblance of order in the bar. So I ushered them back, and back.

Because the restroom and the hall intersect at 90 degree angles, both skirmishes, though separated by just a few yards, were not in the direct line of sight. When I turned the corner to re-enter the hall and check up on my Barback, the next scene I clearly recollect – and I think is the actual next scene in the struggle – I found the guy who had been on the bottom of knee-on-belly in a rear-naked choke. I tapped Barback on the shoulder, and he let him go. I looked at Bad Patron #1, who was sitting on his butt, exhausted from “wrestling” for a whole thirty seconds against someone skilled (being prohibitively drunk probably did not help this man’s cause, I suspect) – then I picked him up from behind. He was short, as I discovered. When I lifted, his feet left the ground. I hit the exit door with my butt, turned around, and released him.

The goddamn alley door, though, closed before I had a chance to re-enter. I briefly looked at Bad Patron #1 and wondered whether he was going to try something funny with me, someone clearly twice his size, someone who had just lifted him up off his feet without breaking a sweat. I was not sure, but I don’t think he considered it more than once. I banged on the door a few times, “Yooo! Let me back in!”

Twenty seconds later – though it feels like an eternity when you know your friends are potentially being assaulted by drunken randoms inside, let me tell you – Barback slapped the door open. I rushed in, and immediately began yelling at the crowd to back up. Both Barback and Bouncer were trying to control and reason with Bad Patron #2, who was of average height with an average athletic frame, and had decided at some point he was going to be as large a pain in our ass as humanly possible.

A Friend of Bad Patron #2 was pulling on Barback’s arm. I threw myself in the space between them, and began yelling at this guy. “Do not touch my goddamn bouncer. I said DO NOT touch my goddamn bouncer. Are you involved in any of this?!” He replied in the negative, as a trashcan gets knocked over. Bad Patron #2 is acting like a wild man, and I was getting ready to deal with him in a second. This first though: “Get. The. Fuck. Out. Of. Here. Then.” And with that, Friend merged into the crowd – never to be seen again.

“Yo, we’re bar staff! Stop resisting! You need to leave!” Bouncer had mounted the guy again. “This guy attacked me!” BP#2 said. This, of course, could not be true. “You need to leave, do you understand?” He nods. “Alright, let him up.” As soon as we let him up, he immediately goes apeshit. I don’t know if he was trying to punch me or scratch me, or what, but Bouncer clinched with him, and he couldn’t strike anymore. Well, this rotten bastard raised the white flag then regained his taste for battle. This always happens when striking isn’t involved. People “negotiate” their way out of pins, then – once the pin is gone – go back in, thinking “This time, I’m going to teach this son of a bitch a lesson.”

I took a second to assess the situation, as Bouncer and Barback threw that asshole out the back door. Had BP#1 gone around the front and given my Russian a hard time? He might’ve found himself at the receiving end of a hellacious ass-beating at the hands of a dangerous woman. Just in case, I briefly checked up on her. For a few seconds, my attention was diverted. When I looked back, I found BP#1 just inside the threshold of the backdoor.

“Bro, I just kicked you out. What do you want? LEAVE!”

“Can you help me find my glasses?”

“…What? LEAVE!” The guy clearly was going moment-to-moment. It wouldn’t have surprised me at all if he had no recollection of the previous events.

Bouncer and Barback re-enter the bar, THEN BP#2 starts coming my way…::dramatic music::

[Aaand I’ll finish the rest of the story tomorrow.]

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1. Barback we’ll call him.

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The Write-Up For The Austin Open

What did I think of the Austin Open?

The tournament was run relatively smoothly. The mats were super active, all the time. Actually, I’m writing all this now trying to remember if there was something really worth complaining about. I don’t think so, actually – aside from the reffing (which I will address shortly). No, the people at Fight To Win (I think that’s who ran the tournament) really seem to have a handle on what’s needed from a venue and how to streamline running an event. I might quibble with them on the lack of available space for warming up before a match – but I assure you, my audience, that is but a quibble.1

What was my only substantive concern? The referees! Holy mother of god was the reffing bad. The reffing was worse than a James Patterson plotline. Suddenly I am reminded of that scene from Robin Hood, Men In Tights:

Robin Hood: Blinkin, listen to me! They’ve taken the castle!

Blinkin: I thought it felt a bit drafty. ‘Cor, this never would have happened if your father was alive.

RH: He’s dead?

B: Yes…

RH: And my mother?

B: She died of pneumonia while – oh, you were away!

RH: My brothers?

B: They were all killed by the plague.

RH: My dog, Pongo?

B: Run over by a carriage.

RH: My goldfish, Goldie?

B: Eaten by the cat.

RH: My cat?

B: Choked on the goldfish.

Really though, it was really quite bad. And listen, I’ve been a ref. I know it sucks. Truly, it sucks. And I know you have to deal with a lot of stupid Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu bullshit from a veritable host of exceedingly biased, emotional, unreasonable human beings who are preposterously invested in the outcome of the match you’re officiating – people who may or may not lie to you, people who may or may not literally fight you after a ‘bad’ call. I get that. Don’t believe me?

See? I know what it’s like to deal with assholes.2 The two guys in the match (and the third guy taping the match) threw a fit (earlier and off-camera, I’d like to add) when I wouldn’t change the order of the bracket (well after it had been made) to give their team an unfair advantage. They brought their coach over, who said he was staying out of it. This was their cutesy way of getting back at me – marvels, these guys are obviously Marvels of Maturity.

Just to briefly recap, I have thus far attempted to make two points:

  1. Being a referee really sucks.
  2. I know this as a matter of personal experience.

All the previous said, the reffing, the officiating the Austin Open really was quite awful. If I had to guess, I’d say the average rank of a ref at this past tournament was blue belt, possibly even less.

In my third match, my opponent should NOT have received two points for his throw because I got back to my knees.3 If anything, he should have received an advantage. BUT you need to be really quite skilled at Our Gentle Art before you have discrimination fine enough to dole out advantages for ‘near-achievements.’ That’s not me being biased about my achievements, either. That third opponent – Justin was his name, from Elite MMA – said the EXACT same thing as we walked to grab our medals.

Or in my second match,4 the guy had been smashing on me for over 6 minutes before taking my back at around 6:09. Luckily, I escaped before he was awarded points – and let me say, the guy INSTANTLY put in his hooks (and I nearly crapped my pants when this happened). I escaped his back-mount before he got his points, then I ended up on top in half-guard. I was awarded two points. Why? What sweep or takedown did I perform?

Once on top, I managed to submit the guy six seconds before the match ended. This avoided the whole confusion entirely, as my two mystery points were the only points scored in the match. If I had not subbed him, I would have technically won by points. And if I was on my opponent’s team, I would have loosed a thousand arrows of complaint. After all, he and I were in the semi-finals. If I had lost, his team would have closed out the division. Or suppose no points were awarded – he had smashed on me for over six minutes. If it had gone to a ref’s decision, it was his to win (probably).5

My first match in my division, too, had a problem with scoring. It starts at 2:26 or so.6 The guy passed my guard, but was unable to successfully pin me. He should not have been awarded points. That’s only worth an advantage. And while I fully admit that opponent beat me, in the same breath and equally as earnest I say that he won by an advantage – not by three goddamn points.

The only match which was well-officiated was my first absolute match – where I destroyed the guy. Please forgive the breach in etiquette when I say that I’m glad I beat the shit out of him. His teammate and my teammate went against each other in a blue belt match – and this opponent of mine started complaining LOUDLY about some points which were awarded during the match. I walked over there to explain to him why my teammate was awarded points, and he acted like the biggest douchebag while I spoke with him. Now I don’t know this guy in any way, shape, or form. Maybe, I thought, he was someone important. He could be. I don’t know everyone, after all. Maybe he was The Actual Sultan of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or perhaps God’s Gift To Jiu-Jitsu or, maybe, Gracie Mag’s BJJ Referee Of The Year 2012 or, in point of fact, he was Just Better Than Everyone In The Arena. But then I beat him. Aaand my lingering questions were put to rest.

Alright, alright, let me put my admittedly snarky jabs aside. ‘Okay,’ a critic might say, ‘but in the end, the erroneously awarded points did not make a difference to the final result in any of the three cases.’ True. But I would say two things. 1. That does not disprove the fact the reffing was exceptionally bad. 2. Nor does the fact that I cannot give a particular instance where the bad reffing did not result in a miscalled loss (which should have been a victory, or visa versa) mean that it didn’t happen to somebody out there.7

I mean, look at this match – again with my teammate!

At 2:26 the ref gives points for a full mount (a technical mount, actually) to Lora who is clearly – thanks to the camera angle – in a quarter guard, NOT a technical mount. When the Brazilian in the orange (my instructor) disputes this awful call – it’s strange, because it is precisely from the ref’s angle that you can SEE it’s a quarter guard, not a technical mount – the ref said to my instructor “Do you know even know what a technical mount is?”

I wish this was caught by the microphone on this guy’s camera. We can see them exchanging words, but we can’t quite hear what he said. It’s a pity. It’s a real goddamn pity, because the ref said that to this guy below:

The guy with all the stripes on the black belt. That’s the one. The guy who once, while I was laying on the floor complaining about how much my back hurt after yesterday’s training, said “Oh look, Rickson emailed me.” I stole his iPhone from him and tried to read the email (a long one), but it was all in Portuguese. The guy who, every now and again, will have to excuse himself to take phone calls from Royler. The guy who is so old school that he started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when there was only one black belt and a couple of browns and purples in Manaus (his hometown in Brazil) – before BJJ was popular in B.

Yes, that’s him as a salty brown belt in 1995, my audience.  And yes, that is Saulo Ribeiro (before he was famous).  They both received their black belts in the same graduation ceremony.

COULD HE – I WONDER UP TO THE GODS IN THE SKY – PAULO “COELHO,” MY INSTRUCTOR, 28 YEARS AND COUNTING OF BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU EXPERIENCE, COULD HE KNOW WHAT A TECHNICAL MOUNT IS?

Yes. Yes, he probably does.

[Now, the point of throwing around Paulo’s credentials is not to impress you, my audience.  The point is to show you the extent to which the implication of his laughably glib question was so utterly, preposterously vapid and without merit.

Then the ref starts losing his mind. At 4:40, now the ref won’t give her 4 points for his own personal definition of a ‘technical mount’? At 4:48, since when do you receive two points for passing a guard? Since never. And since when do you receive points for passing a guard if you (a) do not effectively control the pass-ee for three seconds, and/or (b) allow them to get to their knees? Since fucking never.

10-2, Ketra loses to Lora.

The score, of course, is absolutely wrong. According to the standards of the ref, it should be 11-2.

But according to any fair-minded individual, Lora’s half-guard sweep should have gotten her 2 points (it did), and when she was on bottom (at 4:20), got to the top, and around Ketra (while she had both knees on the ground for 3 seconds) got her two points – for a total of four points.8 Ketra’s butterfly sweep should have gotten her two points, for a total of two points.

Actual score? 4-2. And that is a much more reasonable outcome, indicative of a much closer match between the two opponents.

The reffing was bad.  But everything else was good.  And despite it all, my team did well.  I’m competing in two weeks.  I’ll let you know how that goes, my lovely audience.  Hopefully I’ll get some tape of my matches.  Thanks for reading.

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1. The general consensus is that I might not have lost my first match in my division if I had been more active. Losing a match, of course, is the sum interaction of dozens of variables interacting with one another – thusly, in my opinion, I should not and will not attribute my loss solely to the fact I was not warmed up, but I’m sure it played some role in the behavior which led to my loss. Aaand it played a much more minor role in my loss than…oh, I don’t know…my opponent’s overall skill level (the guy went on to win first place in our division), his very careful play, the suckiness of the ref, et cetera.

2. One of them is a friendly acquaintance of mine, actually – the guy taping the match. When I’m in Laredo, I go train with him. He’s not an asshole.

5. Just to mention in passing, I had no idea I had been awarded points in that match. Delusional with fatigue after the match, I asked my teammate “Whose points were those?”

7. Absence of evidence does not equal ‘evidence of absence,’ as people like to say in my community.

8. http://www.ibjjf.org/docs/rulesibjjf1stedition.pdf

The rules are clear enough, I think.

Footage from The Austin Open [10-13-12]

Match 1 – Under 185 pounds

Match 1 – Absolute Division

Match 2 – Absolute Division

Match 3 – Absolute Division

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So I lost my first match in my purple belt division.  And then I got first place in the purple belt absolute division.  My opponents were super tough, and I’m still relatively sore (four days out).  I’ll give you guys a proper write-up of the tournament soon — no later than this coming Wed.  The competition was pretty good.  The tournament was run smoothly.  The reffing, though, was absolutely AWFUL. I have quite a few thoughts on a number of avenues.  Oh, and my team also did extraordinarily well — which is always nice.

Thanks for reading (more watching this time around).  I’ll have another post up soon, soon, soon!

Preparing For The Tournament II

What have I done to prepare for this tournament?

After my dignity-burning loss some six months ago, I started training twice a week at an Olympic lifting / strength & conditioning gym called Atomic Athlete. One of my trainers calls me a bit of a success story for his gym, saying “I’ve never seen anyone make the kinds of gains Justin is making.” Todd, the name of this trainer, of course really means to say “I’ve never seen anyone who started with the strength of a 130-pound girl go on to become as strong as a normal, reasonably athletic male at 185 pounds.” This is a criticism I gladly accept. And I would like to go on record saying that (a) sandbag get-ups and (b) front squats are what pedophiles are forced to do in hell for all eternity (as punishment, obviously).1

[Hold on. *Time passes.* Sorry, I got sidetracked writing an email about why “finding a parking spot in a statistically unlikely place then getting immediately picked up by the shuttle (another allegedly statistically improbable event) which takes you to your class – all this happening while you’re late – does not count as evidence for god. But I’m back now.]

Of course, I also train Our Gentle Art regularly. Monday and Wednesday are technical instruction, generally with a few rolls after class. We have two classes on Tuesday, both of which I generally attend. First is technical instruction for beginners.2 Then there’s a hard sparring class wholly separate (and beginners not allowed, of course) which I attend as well.

Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, I managed to do some extra exercise as well. Before I began doing jiu-jitsu – what, some seven years ago now I guess? – I had an obsession with running. While I was never particularly good at it, I was nonetheless diligent. Running 3 to 5 miles has never been particularly difficult for me, and I like to have at least that approximate level of fitness going into the tournament. Methinks I’m there now.

The biggest challenge for this tournament, for me, was controlling my diet. I eat like I have tapeworms. I eat like I’m about to be sentenced to death on the electric chair. No really, as I type this, I’m reading about the symptoms of “Kleine-Levin syndrome” and I’m pretty sure I have it.3 I’m polyphagic, I know it. Maybe I have one of the genetic disorders (!) listed in the Wiki article I’m reading.4 Or perhaps I have a leptin disorder of some kind.

Wait, I’m getting sidetracked here. When I was a runner in my late teens, early twenties, I walked around at ~170. Then I went to my second bjj tournament (I had been training for like 8 months or something at that point), and discovered that I had gained 20 pounds! I had no idea. All my clothes still fit. What the hell happened?

Okay, so I have been getting stronger as a result of Atomic Athlete and had been noticing I was gaining about a pound every few weeks. A pound every few weeks over the course of six months adds up. I got on the scale and discovered, in the early morning hours, I weighed 202 pounds. What the hell? This is the heaviest I’ve been in my entire life – my exclamation four weeks ago. After lunch (which was a double cheeseburger with grilled cheese sandwiches on both sides of it to replace the buns5 – not a joke) I swore I would go back down to my normal weight.

Instead of eating 6000 calories a day, I cut it down to 2500 or 3000. So it was 48 almonds for breakfast, a “JJW-sized” lunch, a shake before training, and an objectively healthy salad for dinner. Saturdays were my cheat day, but I tried never to do anything too exorbitant as the burger-between-grilled-cheese-sandwiches. And I slowly lost all the weight required. I’m at 188 right now, hovering on that comfortable area a few pounds above where I need to be.

So wish Your Jiu-Jitsu Wanderer good luck and fare thee well, my audience. I have put in my work; I will do my best; and I hope to come in on top.

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1. I don’t believe in hell. Monday and Wednesday afternoons are about as close as I care to venture into the red, unknown depths.

2. I heard Caesar Gracie say something in an interview today with Ronda Rousey which resonated with me: “Sometimes a teacher, always a student.” Up until the limits of my mental abilities, it is important for me to understand something a little bit better today than I did yesterday. Jiu-Jitsu is the art we build from lessons over the course of years.

3. If not, I’m ready to diagnose myself as a hypochondriac right now.

4. If this is the case, my problem is actually my parents’ fault.

5. Yes, I actually ate that. Eating a cheeseburger with grilled cheese sandwiches instead of buns is actually not as amazing as it sounds. And (b) I felt really guilty eating that, afterward. I don’t know why.