IBJJF London No-Gi Open 2014

Josh PalmerBJJ, Grappling Events

It’s been a long road through the NHS minefield to get my knee back in good enough working order where I feel safe for competition again.

Whilst at times it’s been immensely frustrating, I’ve emerged with a renewed spirit for harder training and drilling skills into the ground. This has been aided by the crack of dawn sessions I’ve been teaching over at Tsunami Gym Norfolk.

Last time I competed at this IBJJF tournament it didn’t go very well. I’d entered the middle-heavy division not appreciating that you actually have to make about 84.5Kg on the day rather than the usual 88Kg. Needless to say that weight cut ruined that day for me.

However this time around I have a bit more muscle and only a couple of months back on the mat so I made the safe decision to partake in the heavy division. This has a weight limit of 92.5Kg (in gear) and was actually very easy to do and still feel in good shape. I was able to have oatmeal, nuts and a couple of liters of water on the day which was a nice change.

I’d been in very good shape in my final sparring sessions the previous week so other than expecting to get very, very tired I anticipated a good tournament.

Being in the masters division for the first time there were only four entrants. So my first match was essentially a semi-final but with no opportunity to compete for the bronze medal (the IBJJF award two!) I knew I had to win it to even get some more mat time. That’s a bit of a downer when you’ve paid £70 for entry. with that ebing said I cannot fault the running of this event in any way. It was flawless. Everything was clear, staff were very friendly, it ran ahead of time and the systems in place to manage matches /competitors were excellent. It’s just a shame it’s so expensive.

I went up against Lee Clarkson from Gracie Barra Preston. As it runs out, in addition to being a super nice guy, Lee has an almost identical style to mine. A lot of arm drags, half guard and an overall more methodical technical approach rather than out-and-out aggression. This meant we had a really fun match. At one point after it hit the ground he said ‘damn’ and was visibly annoyed with himself so I automatically asked him if he was alright. In retrospect I should be a bit harsher and just started trying to pass immediately like I had been in training. But so be it.

Speaking of arm drags. I love them. My muscle memory for them is probably the most drilled thing I have in all of grappling and I was able to use them to score an advantage and a couple of points early in the match. Check them out here:

Lee caught me twice with my own favourite sweep which was a little annoying. I should’ve shut them down far quicker. I also didn’t stand and pass with the aggression I had been using in training. No idea why, just comp nerves I guess. To be honest towards the end of that match I was getting tired and I heard his corner call 10 seconds left…which actually turned out to be a minute and ten seconds! This threw me off a lot and I played stall tactics for the last bit. Not my finest hour. I hate that type of game.

Afterwards I found out that I’d destroyed the skin on my left knee during the scrambles. The tatami had just ripped a huge rash of it off which has really been bugging me for a few days now. The ring coordinator was brilliant and gave me about 10 minutes to recover for the final. I went up against Graeme Finneran from Gracie Barra/British Army BJJ. I’ve rolled with Graeme a few times so I knew he’d be very strong and wouldn’t give up at any point.

Again this was a fun match. The arm drag entry was really good but I got sprawled out off the follow-up and had to pull guard. I gave up a guard pass mid-way through the match and never really recovered after escaping side control. He was very tired…but I was far worse! It’s amazing how winded two six minute matches are when the ante is up. I’d done 5 x 5 min matches the weekend before with no problems!

I got a silver medal for my troubles and overall I’m not disappointed with my first stint back in competition for a year. I broke the ridiculous self-doubt last year so I actually enjoy competition now. Next stop is the English Open which is I gi so a slightly different ball game when it comes to the stand-up.

As always, thanks to Lee & Darren at Carlsons Norfolk for the prep time, my girlfriend for accompanying me and to me Sponsors Valor Fightwear. Please go check out their gear as it’s excellent, especially given the low price point they have.