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European ADCC Trials 2017

black belt , competition , Jiu Jitsu , Uncategorized , wrestling • Jun 9, 2017

2017 has been a busy year for me so far. One of my major goals/dreams of my BJJ career is to win ADCC trials and compete at the world finals. 2 years ago I came second at Asia-Oceania Trials and I repeated the same, extremely frustrating result this year in Japan.

With the help of Pony Grappling Club I was able to have another shot at the European trials. I am Polish and moved to Australia at the age of 12, which means I have a dual citizenship, which in turns allows me to compete in Europe.

My trip to Poland was rough… I have no more leave left at work (or money), so I had to make this a quick one. I pretty much spent more time in the air than in my homeland, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers.

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When I landed in Poznan, I was picked by a Drysdale black belt Filip Sadowski. I met Filip 4 years ago, when we both did a training camp in Las Vegas before Worlds. Jiu Jitsu community is amazing like that. Filip picked me up, fed me, took me around his wonderful town, gave me a room to stay in in his beautiful family home, made sure I trained no gi, took care of my recovery by taking me to spas, introduced me to all his friends and entertained me for 3 days by signing ridiculous amounts of car karaoke. I managed to have a super fun time, whilst alone on a different continent competing at one of the most important comps of the year.

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If you are ever in Poznan, check out Filip’s club Gameness Team. Filip is extremely technical and a fabulous teacher. His students of all sizes and belt colours were a pleasure to roll with.

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The weigh ins started early, and despite my best efforts to pork up, I still weighed in close to 7 kg under weight. I needed to rely on my footlocks, wrestling, speed and superior technique. I felt well prepared and ready. I drew Ffion Davies first round and I knew it would be a tough fight but I was determined to force my game. Unfortunately for me, things went pear shaped from the get go. I wanted to pull straight into a leg entanglement, but instead Ffion forced me into my half guard. Inch by inch she closed the distance to a tight crossface. With 20 seconds left of ‘no points’ time, I took a risk to try to reverse Ffion and aim to be in her guard when the points started. Alas, I bridged like a noob, which allowed my opponent to go to 1/4 guard and work her way to my back. She eventually separated my arms and choked me. Words can’t describe how disappointed I was in myself and at the mistakes I made. I truly believe I never got to show what I’m capable of. But that’s the way it goes. Fiion dominated me in that fight and she did everything right, all credit to her.

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After taking 10 minutes to compose myself, I decided to take a deep breath, hold my head high and move on. I joined Filip in commentating on the live stream and tried to get as many female fights on the main camera as possible. I cheered the ladies on in the finals and was very happy for Ffion to take out the under 60kg and the lovely Sam Cook to win the over 60kg division. Both these ladies deserve their spots at the ADCC Finals later this year.

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It hurt to not achieve my goal, but I will not stop until I will. It’s easy to give up and to think that flying all this way for a 5 minute fight is pointless, but I have gained so much out of those 5 minutes that I have no doubt it will be crucial to my development as an athlete.

When I returned home, I specific trained half guard till the cows came home to make sure I don’t make the same mistake twice. I feel so much more confident from that position now and can’t wait to make it my own. Since the World Championships were only 3 weeks away, I quickly switched my focus to gi where I would be debuting my black belt.

Thank you to all who stand beside me and support me even though I don’t always win. I couldn’t have done this trip without my Absolute teammates who smash me day in day out and my sponsors Pony Grappling Gear and MA1 Apparel.

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Abu Dhabi World Pro 2017

competition , friends , Jiu Jitsu , team • Apr 25, 2017
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My Abu Dhabi Pro adventure began by being invited to Abu Dhabi by the Pony Grappling Club. From admiring their gear from afar to starting a conversation on social media, to being welcomed into their home and lives, I could not be any more grateful.  Reem and Cassielivgr8

are some of the kindest people I have ever known and I already have separation anxiety as I sit on the plane back to Australia.

I was joined by my teammate and training partner Sarah, an amazing blue belt who inspires me every day with her work ethic and her seemingly innocent jokes. I am fortunate to share some awesome adventures and moments all over the world with Sarah, a trend that will hopefully continue for years to come. Erin Here, a fellow badass brown belt joined us in Abu Dhabi and it’s safe to say she made the trip fun and real and full of belly laughs  – the sort that left us rolling on the floor for hours. Margot completed the crazy pack of women, and as always I enjoy her wizard-level BJJ knowledge and the serenading singing.

We arrived a few days before the competition began and went straight to training at Cobra’s, as we all had about 2 kgs to lose in order to make weight. I chose to do the 49kg division, which was a little more achievable than at Worlds as the weigh in was a day before. With a diet plan from Reid Reale of Combat Sports Nutrition and mental support from the girls, I had a much easier time cutting weight this time around and did not lose my mind entirely. The hardest part was probably refusing all the delicious food in business class at Etihad, as it was the first and perhaps the only time in my life I will not fly cattle class. The start of the week saw us all running around the streets of Abu Dhabi in our sweat suits, which seemed so usual at the time, but in fact was not very normal at all.

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For the days before the comp we drilled and rolled with the of the Aussie team and athletes from the rest of the world in various hotels including a newly set up ‘dome’ at the Armed Officers Club.  It was nice to be reunited with Lachie to brain storm last minute strategy, flow roll and just enjoy jiu jitsu without everyday stresses back in Melbourne.

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Margot and Sarah were up first and although they fought really well and showed some really high level technical BJJ, they didn’t win. I am so excited to see them smash their next goals – I am continuously impressed by both of them and I can safely say they are a much better blue and purple belts than I ever was. Demi won a silver medal in the 90kg purple belt division, which was amazing but not at all unexpected.

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Erin was a ‘victim’ of the new 2 per country rule and had to fight in the country qualifiers. She was very impressive in her fights against Tammi Musumeci, but unfortunately did not go through to the main draw.

Friday saw myself, Lachie and Kit Dale from Absolute take the centre stage as well as all the other Aussies such as Jess Fraser and Lee Ting. Although there were 7 women in my division, it included 4 Brazilians, which means after the country qualifiers there were 5 of us in the main draw. I was so excited to new new rules because a 5 person division meant we had a round robin so that everyone fought everyone. I think this was the most fair way to determine the top 3 and I finally got to have more than 2 fights with people my own size. The only downfall was that our medals were determined on Friday and we did not take the big stage on Saturday for brown/black belt finals.

Although my water cut took a little bit out of me, I woke up feeling great. Reem made me a delicious breakfast and the girls kept the mood light and I kept laughing all the way to the IPIC Arena. I love getting to the warm up area of the competition. That’s when my nerves start to leave me and I get excited because it’s finally where I’m meant to be – on the mats doing BJJ.  Last year I was a 4 month brown belt, competing for the first time in a brown/black division and fighting my idols. I was thrilled, but star struck to be warming up and sharing the mats with the people I look up to. But this year everything felt very different. I felt like I belonged. I wasn’t there to participate, I was there to fight for a medal. Fighting black belts no longer bothered me, in fact nothing really did. Time changes and mat changes and possible uniform changes meant nothing. I have gotten good at accepting whatever I can’t control, including my emotions.

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As I stood on the side of the mats waiting for the ref to call us, I felt proud. Lachie, Jess and I were all on at the same time. I had friends in the audience and I was going to enjoy every second of my competition. I was conscious to slow myself down a little bit and be smart. At the ADCC trials in Japan, I went 100 miles an hour, rushed some decisions and didn’t perform to my ability. I was determined not to repeat the same mistake.

My first match was a repeat of last years Worlds final. This time I managed to pass and choke from the back. My second fight saw me pass a couple of times and execute Lachie’s cross-face choke from mount. Third fight was Rikako. We double guard pulled and I had a tight footlock, which in the end went nowhere. I came up and started to feel out Rikako’s spider guard, but just when I started to feel confident, Rikako set up a nice triangle which I pretty much saw happen in slow motion. It was tight and I had to tap. I met Mayssa Bastos in 4th round. We double guard pulled, then Mayssa came up.  I made a small mistake and got passed in the first 15 seconds… hard to come back from in a 6 minute fight. I managed to recover guard to single-x and sweep. However with 1 point down and 2 minutes to go I was unable to pass.

Photo @ UAEJJ

Photo @ UAEJJ

Photo @ UAEJJ

Photo @ UAEJJ

Photo @ UAEJJ

Photo @ UAEJJ

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Final tally of wins and losses saw Mayssa take gold, Rikako silver and myself bronze. Although I am not really satisfied with the result and would like the medal to be a different colour, I took so much out of this competition. I was so happy with my mental preparation and controlling my nerves that I enjoyed every second out there. I executed some things I have been working hard in training such us over under passes, smash passes and pressure passes. I haven’t played top game in a comp for a while but I felt very confident there. I will need to watch my videos and closely analyse my mistakes and do much better at Worlds. However I finally feel like I belong. I was very proud to claim a medal at brown/black division and to do so as a brown belt felt even more special. Sometimes I need to remember to take a step back and get some perspective on my performances and to be proud, but never settle.

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Watching Lachie fight his way through repacharge and earn 5th place in the stacked 77kg division was inspiring. He is so close to a medal and I have no doubt he will earn his spot on the podium soon. Jess Fraser made it through repacharge to the bronze medal fight and managed to win it. It is hard to describe how happy I was for her.  It was so special to share the day and some happy tears with Jess and to line up amongst the best in the world to receive our medals as first Australian females in the brown/black division. Success is becoming the norm and this is just the beginning.

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I got to spend the rest of my time in Abu Dhabi with Lachie and surrounded by friends from home and all over the world. We tasted local cuisine, drank camel milk, went 4 wheel driving on the dunes and rode a vey unhappy camel called Shane. Having my ‘girl pack’ there with me meant the world to me and made this journey so incredibly fun. I am forever grateful to Reem and Cassie of Pony Grappling Club, Sarah, Erin and Margot for sharing my crazy for the week.

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Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my sponsors who made this trip possible:

Pony Grappling Gear

MA1 Apparel

Musashi

Stryda

Mum and Dad

I can’t wait to get back on the mats. It is now full steam ahead for ADCC Trials and Worlds!

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erin

ADCC Trials and dealing with a loss

competition , Jiu Jitsu , team • Mar 19, 2017

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One of my goals of my BJJ career is to qualify and compete at the ADCC Worlds. It is the most prestigious grappling championship in the world which happens every 2 years. For women there is only an under and over 60 kg weight class, and only 8 women from around the world are chosen per division. There are 4 trials around the world – European, North American, South American and Asia/Oceanian.

Lachie and Craig have already qualified at the end of 2016 in Kazakhstan, which certainly didn’t happen by luck. 18 months ago we started an ADCC advanced invite only class at Absolute MMA, where we specific train scenarios that may come up during the competition. We focus heavily on leg locks, heel hooks, wrestling, submissions and strategic training. The sessions are hard but it’s a good feeling to know the best in the country are all training under one roof. I also train wrestling around 3 x a week now and my knee is handling it beautifully. I went from not knowing anything about leg entanglements to absolutely loving heel hooks, wrestling and no gi in general. It changed my game completely and I’m only getting started.

@ Chris Triantopoulos

@ Chris Triantopoulos

@ Chris Triantopoulos

@ Chris Triantopoulos

@ Chris Triantopoulos

@ Chris Triantopoulos

Absolute MMA had a massive team going to Japan and we all felt confident. I tried to bulk up as much as I could so I would walk around a little closer to 60kg, but in the end I still had to give up 7kgs. Weirdly, I only had a division of 3. One of the women was my teammate Pippa. The other was Rikako Yuasa who is a 2 x black belt world champion with beautiful jiu jitsu. I faced Rikako 2 years ago and knew what to expect.

Weighing in and keeping my feet warm

Weighing in and keeping my feet warm

It was a long day and after waiting for about 6 hours, my first opponent was Pippa. It’s not a good feeling fighting your teammate at such an important event, where I knew that I would not be playing around. I pulled guard and fought a very strategic game without taking any risks. I had quite a few leg attacks and submission attempts during the fight, but ended up winning the fight only by a sweep.

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I had about an hour before the final and a solid game plan. I felt good and was ready to go. We slapped hands and Rikako pulled guard quickly, giving up a point. I entered into a  leg lock position but I rushed it, allowing my opponent to come on top in my single x. From there instead of slowing things down, I let the fight happen without much control from my end. I recovered guard and entered into another leg entanglement which I didn’t control well. Eventually Rikako passed my guard straight into an arm bar which I started to defend. Just as I was about to bridge, she switched to the other side and I tapped quickly. It was a really nice transition and a beautiful sub… just wish it wasn’t done on me. In the end I lost to a better person and I learnt a ton. I made many mistakes and I rushed a lot, which gave me a lot to think about. I know I will improve out of sight after this experience and my dream of fighting at the ADCC finals is still alive. I will keep trying until I get there!

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It was great to have so many of my teammates there. Massive congrats to Kit Dale who won his division. We now have 3 people from Absolute MMA St Kilda who qualified for ADCC!
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Many people have asked me if I’m ok after this loss, which surprised me a little. Yes, I’m ok. I hate losing more than anyone, but BJJ is just a game. I lost this one, but there are many to come. A loss will never define me as a person. A loss simply makes me sad for the day, but hungrier to get back to training and to try harder to be better next time.

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As I walked around Tokyo on my last day, I’ve made a training plan for the next few months to lift my BJJ to another level. Can’t wait for the next chapter.

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2016 was fabulous, but 2017 is looking even better already!

competition , friends , Jiu Jitsu , review , team , Uncategorized • Jan 6, 2017
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Time is going so fast and I still can’t believe it was 17 years ago I was worried about the Y2K bug!

I have such an exciting year ahead with loads of fun opportunities just around the corner. I will be teaching at the 2017 AGIG camp in 3 weeks, to which you can still buy a ticket here. There will be over 100 women from Australia and all around the world, so you’d be crazy to miss it.

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Many comps are planned for the first half of the year including some fun international assignments. I am also organising a seminar tour in Korea and I literally can’t wait to get over there.

My knee rehab is going great, training is in full force, I’m getting strong from lifting and I am feeling more and more confident in my BJJ.

Over the very short Xmas break I’ve had time to sit down and reflect on 2016 and make some goals for 2017. In short, I am proud of myself in how far I’ve come in the last year on a personal and professional level. I pushed my limits this year so much that I thought I would fail many times. But instead I got stronger.

Most memorable experiences of  2016 include:

  • Competing at Abu Dhabi World Pro in a mixed brown/black division for the first time.
  • Fighting my idols in Abu Dhabi and Macao.
  • Having enormous amount of discipline and drive to cut to rooster weight for Worlds.
  • Winning brown belt Worlds a week after tearing my LCL of the knee.
  • Winning Asian Open and learning from my open weight loss.
  • Overcoming many panic attacks due to a torn ACL.
  • Becoming the first Australian to win at Copa Podio, 3 weeks after tearing my ACL.
  • Growing my women’s class at Absolute MMA, coaching and teaching privates.
  • Watching 3 of my teammates become World Champions this year.
  • Being there for Lachie as he graduated from his PhD and became a doctor.
  • Seeing the blue belt female team spam the podium at No Gi Worlds – 3 light weight ladies from Absolute won gold, silver and bronze in the same division.
  • Getting more confident at leg locks, heel hooks and leg entanglements, and as a result developing my no gi game far beyond what I thought would be possible for me.
  • Learning and loving wrestling.
  • Having the closest group of friends I have ever had at Absolute South Yarra – I just could not ask for a better team.

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As nice and important as it is to reflect on the past, I am way more excited about the future. I have loads of projects on the go and am diving straight into 2017 full of plans, hope and happiness.

I am also looking for sponsorship opportunities for 2017 – if you would like to be part of my team and be on this journey together, shoot me a message.

If you would like to host me for a seminar, I am also available throughout the year.

Happy New Year everyone… hope 2017 will be your best yet.

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Copa Podio feels…

competition , injury , Jiu Jitsu • Nov 13, 2016

I have written about my whirlwind trip to Brazil to compete at Copa Podio for FloGrappling, which you can read here.

I thought I would elaborate on the behind the scenes stuff as well as my emotions and all the mental prep in the lead up to the fight.

When I got the call up for Copa Podio, it came as a big surprise. In fact a few months ago some ladies from Australia were meant to have a competition to select the ‘Kangaroos’ female representative. The competition was supposed to be between myself, 2 of my teammates, 1 training partner and a purple belt, with us all ranging in weight between 50 and 85kgs. None of this made sense, so I’m glad it never went ahead!

In the end my Absolute MMA teammate Maryanne Mullahy was selected to fight Ida Floisvik, but for some reason their fight got moved to January 2017, so in came Emilia Tuukkanen of Finland and I. I was given 4 weeks notice and really wasn’t looking forward to asking my work for more time off for BJJ, especially when I have already planned to go to No Gi Worlds in November and have just come back from Asian Open in Japan. Fortunately my work is wonderful and cleared my schedule straight away.


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As exciting as it felt to be selected to compete on such a big stage, it felt heavy with responsibility and no amount of reassurance from anyone else helped me feel any different. It’s one thing competing at the Worlds at the same time as 7 other matches, but another to fight in front of audience, live broadcast on Brazilian TV and a live stream across the world. I wanted to put on a show and make sure I did a good job representing myself, my club and my country. To ease the burden  I jumped deep into preparations where I left no stone unturned. I needed to be aware of Emilia’s game, so Lachie and I studied it together. We then shifted focus to my BJJ including my strengths and weaknesses.

Just when I started to feel confident, I tore my ACL during competition rounds. It hurt as it popped, but I was mainly crying from realising what I have just done to myself. ACL reconstruction means surgery, 12 months of rehab, a hamstring graft, time off work and added expense. In an instant I thought my dreams of competing at Copa Podio and No Gi Worlds were shattered. I had a goal of winning two brown belt World Titles in one year and I was fairly certain that wasn’t going to happen.

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I was in denial for a little while because after 3-4 days my knee felt pretty good. Even when I was getting my knee examined at the sports doctor’s surgery, I still hoped that the MRI wasn’t correct and my ACL was intact, which of course was not the case. When my physician advised me that if I could jump, squat and change directions without a problem I could possibly go to Brazil, I was shocked. However I needed to give myself a week to make a decision based on how my knee would handle drilling and heavier weights. I also had an Australian competitor as a replacement ready to take my place if needed be, which was a very tough conversation for me to have.

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With two weeks to go I drilled and specific trained and my knee was ok. It didn’t feel right, but with changing my game I had a feeling I would be just fine. In my final week at home, I had a few panic attacks. First one happened when Lachie called me out to do our usual Wednesday night competition rounds. I started shaking, was pretty close to tears and literally wanted to run out of the gym. However, the deal was that if I couldn’t get through that at training, I wouldn’t go to Brazil. So I took a deep breath and tapped hands. I survived, felt good and my knee didn’t combust. My knee only ‘gave way’ during my one and only team competition training before I left. It made me feel sick to the bone, but at least I knew which positions I needed to avoid when fighting. During the final few days, I still wanted nothing to do with leg locks, so of course Lachie and the boys specific trained with me all scenarios imaginable where I could get knee barred, ankle locked or toe holded. There were many panic taps and a lot of fear but by the time I boarded the plane I was very confident in my defences.

I will be forever thankful for the help from my teammates who pushed me to my limit without injuring me further, the constant encouragement from Lachie and my sports psych Anthony, who always tells me like it is and provides me with the tools to get my mental well-being just right.

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@ Hannah Gorman

@ Hannah Gorman

JitsnTits

JitsnTits

I had a lot of time to think on my 40 hour journey to Brazil and came to the realization that the enormous pressure I was feeling is a total privilege of an emotion. I felt grateful that I had the opportunity to do what I was doing, with so many people behind me. It took an incredible amount of courage to get myself ready mentally and physically.

During media day when I was giving an interview, it occurred to me that I perform best under pressure. I have been on big stages before, not only in BJJ, but also when I raced bikes on the velodrome in front of thousands of people and as a rhythmic gymnast as I learnt to perform around the world from the age of 7. I have competed with serious injuries and fought in 4 World Championships finals. This was my playground.image

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

The day before Copa Podio, I went to visit my second family at Alliance Sao Paulo whom I have missed so much. Michael Langhi, who is my BJJ idol, would be coaching in my corner and even volunteered to study my opponent’s game. Together we formulated a game plan for my fight. I was there when Michael tore his ACL 2 months before Mundials, so his words of advice and encouragement were comforting and meant the world to me.

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During the weigh-ins I looked around me and realised what an honour it was to be there. I was surrounded with world’s best heavy weights and people I have looked up to since I was a white belt. Now I was going to be fighting amongst them, on the same show. Right there and then I made a decision to do this for myself and forget everyone else watching me.

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

I woke up early due to jet lag, but I didn’t really care how I was feeling. I had no doubt in my mind that my fatigue and knee pain would be forgotten as soon as stepped on the stage. We got to the venue 7 hours before I was due to compete and I even managed a nap an hour before my fight. However as soon as I put my headphones on, it was game on. If I wanted to win, I needed to keep my focus for the entire 8 minutes.imageimageimage

Walking out on the mat holding Australian flag was a feeling I won’t forget in a hurry. I enjoyed every second. We tapped hands and it was finally time. I pulled guard quickly and as per Michael’s instructions played spider guard. I desperately wanted a sub, but couldn’t quite get there. I had many opportunities to come up for a sweep which I didn’t take because my knee wouldn’t handle more than a couple of minutes on top and there was no way I could risk it giving way on me during the fight. I eventually managed to sweep, but just when I tried to settle into my passing rhythm, I found myself in an arm bar. It was never really on, but as soon as I managed to get out of it, Emilia was attacking my leg. I quietly thanked Lachie for trying to rip my legs off every day from that exact position. I was able to get into a smash pass position and nearly get the pass, but Emilia turtled. I am not quite sure why I let go of the harness and went back to guard, but I think I freaked out because of possible leg attacks. I still cringe when I watch all the mistakes I make in the final 2 minutes of the fight. Although I wasn’t the most happy with my jiu jitsu that night, I was very proud of myself for doing what I had to to win, for changing my game and for not losing the plot entirely with stress.

When I finally heard the bell to signify the end of the match, I was flooded with relief. I stayed safe. My knee was a little sore, but it was ok. I was ridiculously happy that I won. 

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@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio

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@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio

Absolute MMA - my team's support is second to none

Absolute MMA – my team’s support is second to none

Straight after walking off the mat, Emilia and I high-fived and congratulated each other on leaving it all on the mats and putting on a good show. Emilia is a lovely human with beautiful BJJ and I was so glad to be sharing those moments with her.

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We finished the night off with some well deserved drinks and it was a pleasure having a laugh with our competitors. Emilia, Ben, Tommy and I caught a few rays of sunshine the next day lazing by the pool and eating acai. It was the perfect ending to my short time in Sao Paulo!

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I made the heart breaking decision to sit out of No Gi Worlds and get my knee well enough to handle the 2017 season. My year of competition comes to an end now and I am back at the gym learning new skills, developing a new game and getting bloody strong. My knee is holding up sometimes, but also gives me a lot of trouble if I get ahead of myself and revert back to playing my normal style of passing. It’s scary and upsetting, but I am really looking forward to turning it into a positive and expanding my BJJ like never before.

Bring on 2017!

ACL rupture & 3 week rehab journey to Copa Podio

competition , injury , Jiu Jitsu , Uncategorized • Nov 1, 2016

3.5 weeks ago I completely tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of the knee during training. Last weekend (3 weeks after the injury) I competed at Copa Podio in Brazil without an ACL and won the fight (more on that later).

Initially we thought it was a partial ACL tear, but later a sports physician confirmed it was a complete rupture, which broke my heart.

I have documented the emotional roller-coaster that was the last couple of weeks by mumbling quite a bit on video and also recorded a small portion of my ACL rehab program, strengthening and sports specific drills, which helped me be as physically ready as I could have been given the circumstances.

Enjoy!

ONE FC Grappling Challenge, Macao

competition , Jiu Jitsu • Aug 21, 2016

ONE FC announced that they will hold a grappling competition on the same day as the MMA event ‘Heros of the World’ in Macao only 3 weeks ago. I noticed that the prize money on offer was the same for men and women, which unfortunately is still really rare in the jiu jitsu world. Additionally, the organisers were putting everyone up in a hotel for a night in Macao, therefore offloading some of the travel costs. When Lachie and Craig decided to compete, I asked my work if they would give me a day off on Saturday and after they agreed, I booked my flights.

I entered the Elite division, which was for women with 5 + years of grappling experience and black belts. I knew that my idol Michelle Nicolini would be fighting in the same division, but I never back away from a challenge. In my opinion, the more experience I can get fighting the absolute best in the world, the better. It was only a couple of years ago, when I first attended Michelle’s seminar as a blue belt.

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Our flights were brutal. We left Friday lunch and got to Hong Kong lat at night. When we checked into the hotel, I had a minor panic attack. For those who don’t know, I get pretty claustrophobic. In fact, it took me years to get over it when training and competing, but I still hate small, confided spaces. Our tiny room had no windows and a small double bed and that was enough to make me freak out and run outside. Since it was nearly midnight and we really needed to get to sleep, I had no choice but to take a deep breath and go back inside.

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After a terrible night’s sleep, we got up early and sailed on a ferry to Macao. We went straight to the competition venue, which was the impressive Venetian Hotel. I felt like I was in Vegas with all the shops, bright lights, canals, gondolas, chandeliers and masses of people, who mainly were there to shop, gamble and eat.

The boys were up first. Mikael unfortunately lost first round by toe hold, Lachie lost a very questionable ref’s decision and Craig fought his way to a third place in the stacked Elite heavyweight division.

Photo @AFG

Photo @AFG

I had a three person division. First up was Angela Lee and I. Angela is a young MMA phenom, and ONE FC Champion. I pulled guard quickly, but made some mistakes and had to turtle. Angela tried to guillotine me, but after months of doing our ADCC submission specific training, I am pretty used to being in bad spots and didn’t panic. I got out of a submission threat and quickly regained my composure and set up single x. I swept and attacked her foot, but as a response Angela grabbed my leg and reaped hard, which caused her to get disqualified. It’s not a good feeling to win that way, as I really wanted to dominate and show good BJJ.

Photo @ Lee Li

Photo @ Lee Li

Photo @ Lee Li

Photo @ Lee Li

Angela then fought Michelle, and lost by toe hold, which meant Michelle and I were set for a final. I still pinch myself that I got to compete against my idol. 3.5 years ago when I was a blue belt Michelle autographed my belt for me and now I got to tap hands with her in a competition. It was such an honour knowing that I would be fighting my favourite BJJ fighter in the final, however I had to be careful not to be as start struck as I was in Abu Dhabi World Pro and make myself believe I deserved to be there.

warm up

I pulled guard quickly and we spent some time grip fighting. I defended a few toe hold attempts and then locked in a kimura trap from bottom half guard. I transitioned to an arm bar set up, but it was sloppy and I never controlled Michelle’s posture, so she escaped without a problem. As I spun back to recover guard, I was caught in a tight toe hold and tapped.

It wasn’t my greatest show of jiu jitsu, but the experience alone is worth more than any medals. I am proud of the work I put in and I know that I am always improving. However, I have such a long way to go to hang with the best, let alone to be competitive at the highest level, but I guess that’s what gets me to training every day and strive to be better than yesterday. Step by step, I will try to close the gap and be the best I can be.

Photo @ Patricio Reyes

Photo @ Patricio Reyes

Photo @ Patricio Reyes

Photo @ Patricio Reyes

Photo @ Lee Li

Photo @ Lee Li

Photo @ Lee Li

Photo @ Lee Li

Photo @ AFG

Photo @ AFG

Photo @ Patricio Reyes

Photo @ Patricio Reyes

Photo @ Lee Li

Photo @ Lee Li

Photo @ Patricio Reyes

Photo @ Patricio Reyes

Photo @ AFG

Photo @ AFG

Photo @ Lee Li

Photo @ Lee Li

liv craig money

I received $US1500 for my efforts, which will go towards paying for my flights to Hong Kong and for flights to No Gi Worlds.

We spend the rest of the day having a look around the casinos, eating some delicious local cuisine and watching ONE FC. Exhausted, we went to sleep early and woke up at 5.30 am the next day to catch the ferry back to Hong Kong, then boarded the plane back to Australia. We landed at about 11pm on Sunday night, and I was back at work at 8am on Monday morning.

duck duck liv food 1gondoloas canalone fc eiffel towerpack

In all, it was a fantastic weekend, but extremely exhausting. It was totally worth the long travel though, and we will be back for future ONE Grappling events. The organisers made us feel welcome, everyone had a great time and the prize money on offer was a major drawcard. On a personal level, I loved fighting the best athletes on the planet, and it can only make me a better, stronger and a smarter athlete.

Photo @ AGF

Photo @ AGF