My sponsors MA1 Apparel made a small dream of mine possible 2 weeks ago.
I flew to Japan to compete for a spot at the ADCC World Championship final later this year. I knew I would be coming in as an underdog as a purple belt and 8kgs under weight at such a prestigious event, but there is nothing that motivates me more than rising up to the challenge.
The IBJJF Worlds were only a week after the trials so it was a little tricky managing both gi and no gi training as well as incorporating leg attacks and heel hooks into my game. I trained hard and went mentally nuts at times, but that is usually the case before a major competition. My training was carefully planned and included a lot of drilling and positional sparring from 50/50 and single x to get used to heel hooks. Towards the end of my training block I went from being very afraid of them to absolutely loving them.
Again, I had a lot of help from everyone around me including Lachie who rolled with me no gi every day, Mikael, Saxon, Rory, Stephen and all my Absolute team mates. The girls my AGIG family were incredible help too, particularly Jess Fraser who selflessly gave me her time and legs and sanity to play with.
Ben, Mikael and I met up in Tokyo on Friday morning and went exploring our surroundings. No Japan trip is complete without a self stick of course, so we went all out and took a 3-way selfie in the middle of Shibuya crossing. Safe to say my life is now complete.
Since I was 8 kgs under weight I could actually enjoy a little of Japanese cuisine, while Ben suffered in silence as he watched us eat.
We took off early next morning to the competition venue, which was situated in a cute suburb full of little, old cafes, boutiques and fruit markets. The food stalls gave the street a sweet aroma and I literally felt like I was on a set of my favourite anime Spirited Away.
As we got to the Town Hall, I found out my bracket. I had a 3 person division which included 2 black belt world champions… and me. I was to fight Rikako Yuasa first round. It was a long wait, but I was feeling great and ready to go.
We double guard pulled, Rikako came up and nearly passed, but I managed a sweep and landed in her closed guard. It was all down hill from there. She got me in a triangle pretty quickly, which I slammed out of, but just as I thought I was safe, I was in a triangle again. The next slam
loosened it, but as I slammed hard for third time, she tightened her legs and I tapped.
Pretty poor showing for my 1st round, but luckily for me I got to go through repacharge for a spot in the final. I was fighting Shiho Yaginuma, the 2014 IBJJF black belt world champion. I pulled closed guard and played aggressively, attempting subs for a few minutes. Eventually I opened and entered to single x guard, where I nearly got a footlock, but ended up coming on top for 2 points. With 30 seconds to go, Shiho pulled off a tight arm bar, however it was never quite on as she kept re-adjusting the pressure. I escaped with 10 seconds to spare. I was ecstatic to win and make it into the final, but most proud of putting the 1st round loss behind me and re-focusing on the task ahead.
Expecting to wrestle in the final, I was a little taken aback when Rikako pulled guard, giving up 1 point. I was happy on top and very conscious of not letting her get me in her closed guard again. Adapting my game, I stayed in her half guard trying to find an opening to pass for around 6 minutes. As I stepped forward with my right leg, Rikako quickly pulled me in an x guard variation. I usually love passing from this position, but instead she came up with a single leg and swept me. As I landed, I never got the grips I wanted. In a scramble, I turtled, got my back taken and tapped to a choke with about a minute to go.
What really impressed me with Rikako’s game was how tight and fast it was. She played a very similar game to me, but was simply better at it. Strategically I could have done much more, but that’s hindsight. I learnt a lot for my first ADCC competition and I’m confident I won’t make the same mistakes again.
I was sad and a bit disappointed not to join the Raptor in Brazil for ADCC finals, but I am sure my time will come with more hard work. The simple answer is I just have to get better. Unfortunately no Aussies won the trials, but all did great.
We had a night to have fun in Tokyo, before flying to Los Angeles and focusing on World Championships. The highlight was me being refused entry to a bar because the security guard thought I was a teenager. I was so very happy.
Our team mate Nikki has volunteered to pick up up from the airport in LA and go straight to training at Cobrinhas. My life was looking up again…