I have set a secret goal of winning a medal at the 2013 World Championships, as soon as I stepped off the mats at Mundials in 2012. I don’t remember it, but according to Lachie, after I got subbed in my second match, I looked him straight in the eye and said that I wanted to win this thing in a year’s time.
Now, I say, a ‘secret’ goal, because I know better than anyone that absolutely anything can happen on the day and in order to win a World Title, not only do you have to be technically and strategically superior, but also you need a ton of luck (draw, injuries, refs etc). So, I did not want to announce it to the whole world, but instead build a plan that would get me there. And I got busy training…very busy training.
In June 2012, I came home from California inspired. But there was a problem. I did not have a guard. I have never pulled guard at a competition and I have never submitted anyone from guard. This would have to change drastically.
I sat down with Lachie and mapped out a year’s worth of training. Each month was dedicated to a different position – top, bottom, and working both sides. Each week, was also divided into 3 extra drilling and specific training sessions, that I had to do outside of normal class times with my own training partners. Each session had a purpose and a goal. I recorded most sessions, so I could report back to Lachie at the end of each week and work out my problem areas. Thiago was also there to help each time I trained, and his input was invaluable.
I started with single x guard. I have cursed Lachie and Marcelo Garcia for 6 months. I got mounted and passed every day. I hated it and swore that it just doesn’t work. I entered a small local competition about a month later with an aim of pulling guard in all 6 fights. Mission accomplished, however it brought me to have a panic attack half way through the competition, and I ran out of the venue feeling claustrophobic and crying as I was crippled with anxiety. I did go back and finished the matches, but it left me feeling depressed and anxious.
I have also started to notice panic attacks on the mat more frequently, where I would tap from underneath side control or mount. I started getting claustrophobic in cars and trains. And a result I decided that this insanity must stop if I was to ever succeed and lead a normal life. So I started working with a Sports Psychologist.
Anthony, from Elite Performance Sports Psychology has been an instrumental part of me growing as a person and a fighter. I worked hard with him and I was very disciplined on doing every little bit of homework I was given. We worked through my anxiety attacks and I am glad to say I haven’t had one for about 7 months. We made a year plan to get me to Worlds, where I would peak mentally and physically. I was extremely aware of what I needed to do to get there. I gained a lot of perspective over the last year. I learnt how to lose. I also learnt how to win. I learn to enjoy my jiu jitsu, my work, my life and my relationships.
Last year, I competed a lot. Which means I got to test out my new game a lot, under a lot of pressure. I analysed my technical side of each fight with Thiago and Lachie. I also did a thorough mental review prior to and after every competition with Anthony.
My break through competition was the Australian Champions Cup, where I managed to win gi and no gi weight divisions and also open weight gi. This was a massive accomplishment for me and I gained a lot of confidence from it.
From there, I tried even harder to improve my guard game and at the 2012 Pan Pacific Titles, I pulled guard at least 6 times. I was fairly confident that my bottom game was quickly matching my top game and all the hard work has started to pay off. I was slowly comfortable from top and bottom.
I have had a fair share of set backs too. I lost a lot last year, but learnt so much from each loss. As luck would have it, I also tore my medial collateral ligament in my knee 2 weeks before the Sydney Abu Dhabi Trials, and wept like a baby on the mats. I considered myself lucky to be able to compete on the day. I lost my semi final in the last 30 seconds, where I was unable to sprawl to defend a sweep. The loss tore me to pieces, but I got over it quickly and regained focus for the World Championships. I am actually still stoked that Demi got to go and chase her dream. We have become great friends and she has proven to be an amazing training partner with a bright future ahead of her.
About 5 months ago, I started lifting weights. Simon Carson from Absolute MMA and Conditioning is the man responsible for my programs and ongoing support. I have gone from strength to strength and although not quite back to my cycling days of 110kg squats, I am happy to say I am getting there. I lift heavy twice a week, and feel very strong in the Light Feather division.
At the start of the year, together with Lachie and Anthony we made a decision to compete at the Light Feather division (53.5kgs with a gi). The 2013 Victorian Championships was my trial competition at that weight. I usually sit around 56kg, so I had to cut about 4kgs. I started eating clean and managed to drop weight whilst improving strength at the gym. On the day, I felt hungry, but strong, lean and fast. I won Light Feather, Open Weight and the Most Technical Female Award. This confirmed that I would compete lean and cut at the Worlds.
I was able to create a great support team around me during the last year. I had Thiago and Lachie coaching me. Not everyone gets to live with a black belt, and I count myself lucky for that, however, apart from Lachie giving me homework each week, we do not get to train together that often. Guys like Chetan, Stanley and Vinnie turned up each week to drill with me. Lachie was kind enough to give me an hour of his time once a week for 2 months before Worlds to also train with me.
Daniel Shaw from Checkmat has been there every step of the way and would provide technical advice whenever I needed. He was also the first person to tell me that I just had to really believe I could win (which I often struggle doing).
Jess Fraser has been an incredibly driven training partner and a friend, and one of the only girls, who can shake hands on the mat and smash the crap out of me, instead of talking. We spent many sessions training together, then drinking cider and laughing.
I am also fortunate enough to be able to attend Lachie’s Saturday competition classes at Renegade, and due to my work commitments during the last few months, I have been visiting Immersion MMA on Thursday nights and learning from David Marinakis and Lee Ting. Dave Hart at Dominance MMA has always opened his doors to me for open mats and pro classes.
I knew that I was heading to Worlds with a freaking ARMY behind me. I have gotten so much support and encouragement from so many different people.
I went through some really tough times, I spent many days crying from frustration and getting annoyed at myself. But I also knew that I left nothing to chance in my preparation.
Unless I quit my job, I could not have trained harder, smarter or more often. I was at peace knowing that if the competition didn’t go my way, I still didn’t suck. I improved a lot, but most of all I started LOVING every single session and the time I got to train and that is better than any gold medal.