Asian Open crept up on me very quickly. One minute I was talking about going with my amazing friend Jo Vlahovich and the next, I was rushing from my last patient at work straight to the airport to board a plane to Japan.
I was on weight before I left, but found myself 1kg over and with 2 massive kankles when we landed in Tokyo. This was a problem, as the food was incredible everywhere we went. The streets smelled of ramen noodles, fried chicken, red bean treats and pretty much everything that I couldn’t eat. I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be able to indulge in all the possible food combinations.
We spent our first night in Asakusa, in a tiny hostel recommended by Minol. It was quiet and cute and we got to explore an ancient temple right next door to us.
At night we ventured out to Shinjuku and caught up with my brother Dom and his lovely girlfriend at the New York Bar on the 52nd floor, where Lost in Translation was filmed. We had a great night listening to good jazz, surrounded by great company and breathtaking views. Unfortunately whilst everyone else was eating exquisite food and sipping on their Martinis, Jo and I quietly ordered about 4 cups of peppermint tea each. At this point I knew I couldn’t lose this competition. Saying no to the cocktails was hard…
The next day we woke up early and went for a jog – a great way to get the legs going, sweat a little and explore the surroundings. Later we went shopping in the electronic district and then caught the bullet train to Nagoya (and didn’t get lost). When we arrived in our hostel, I was still sitting 1 kg over. I thought it was odd, as my abs and veins on the stomach were showing and there is no way in hell I’m 53.5 kgs when I look like that. I quickly learnt that the hostel was full of other BJJ competitors, which meant we had 4 scales between us all. The lovely boys put up with me running to their dorm in my gi weighing myself every hour. I was so happy when I found out that my scale was about 1.5 kgs out… that meant I was going to eat dinner. Jo was the best friend anyone could have asked for – not wanting to upset me, she only ate what I ate (which was close to nothing) and pretended it was totally normal for her.
We decided to walk to dinner and of course de-toured and went clothes shopping, followed by hungry supermarket shopping – this resulted in me buying about $40 worth of random snacks for the next day. I had no idea what I ate most of the time, but Jo did point out to me that I probably should put the sweet potato donut down. We also ordered dinner from a Japanese menu and without english speakers around, so it was pretty much a lucky dip. And lucky we did get – we got a delicious smoked mackrel dish.
I woke up the next morning on weight and just wanting to get the job done. I was in my hangry mode, slightly short with people and so ready to go.
I had a 3 person division and faced the loser of the 1st fight. I quickly pulled guard, attempted couple of foot locks and then made a terrible error when she slipped out her foot and I exposed my back for a second. Luckily I was much quicker in the scramble, took her down, passed, took the back, passed again, mounted and ezikiel choked in about 3 minutes.
My final was against a famous Japanese MMA fighter and a well respected grappler Mei Yamaguchi. I knew she would be tough. Mei’s take downs are out of this world and she literally rampages through her opponents, so my goal was to pull guard cleanly and without getting points scored against me. I did just as I planned. For most of the fight I was trying to attack from closed guard and had a couple attempts at triangles but couldn’t capitalise. Mei got a penalty and I won by an advantage for a choke. It wasn’t the prettiest jiu jitsu on my behalf, but all credit to my opponent as she was bloody hard to do anything to. It felt good to have my hand raised and even better to receive that gold medal.
I decided to enter open weight. I was the lightest in the draw and I fought a light weight girl in my first round. I swept from single x and then had a brain fart when trying to pass her lasso spider guard and nearly got caught in an omaplata. When I escaped I knew she was dangerous and I had to finish the fight. I passed, mounted and choked in about 3 minutes.
My semi was against a much, much bigger girl. I felt confident, but as I pulled guard I never had control of the grips and couldn’t bring myself to play x-guard. I ended up defending half guard and eventually got passed. I turtled and as last chance resort I tried a sweep/reversal, but it got me choked pretty quickly. I was both super sad to lose and not be in the final with Danielle Alvarez, but also happy that I really tried to make something happen of the fight and not give up until the end. I always learn a lot more when I lose, so I am already working on all the things I did wrong. I got a bronze medal for my effort and in retrospect I am quite proud of it.
Minol was a great coach on the day, Jo was there for me every minute and I can’t thank them enough. My Maromba team mates had some bad luck – Murat was out with injury, Pat got a DQ first round and George did great, but lost his fight. Burak won his division, Minol got 2 silvers and Jason Caulfield went beast mode and won a silver in his black belt division.
Jo was up the next day and I am so incredibly proud of her. She did a great job and nearly gave me a heart attack in her first 2 fights where she was down by about 8 points but reversed the score and won with a good margin. She lost a close final to a very good girl.
We met so many beautiful people at the competition – I have never been to a comp with such a friendly vibe with so many polite people and respectful competitors. I will definitely be back!
Sipping on warm sake, we boarded the bullet train back to Tokyo and met Long and Jason for some fun on the town. We found a random street festival in Shinjuku and explored tiny little bars, ate street food, people watched, drank more sake and laughed our heads off until 3 am.
Jo and I headed to Harajuku the next day and continued to shop, which included close to $50 worth of different flavoured Kit Kats! Harajuku was full of quirkiness and weirdness and awesomeness.
I also learnt that Lachie won the Australian Grand Prix Championships in Sydney beating some super tough competitors. I am so extremely proud of him as he deserves every bit of success.
That was the end of our short, but unforgettable trip. I am forever grateful for my sponsors MA1, Absolute MMA & Conditioning and 34s, my coaches and my training partners. Every time I doubt and ask myself why I roll around with sweaty people on the mats and spend my money travelling for competitions, I am reminded just how much I love what I do, how much I learn and how many inspiring people I meet. Jiu Jitsu wins yet again 🙂