IBJJF Asian Open 2018

IBJJF Asian Open 2018

 

I am coming back very satisfied from the BJJ Asian Open. It was good fun, although I am disappointed I couldn’t enjoy Japan longer, having had to change my flight and come back to Hong Kong one day earlier than scheduled, and injured.

But this makes my trip even more meaningful. BJJ is an amazing sport where we can have a lot of fun and get medals quite easily, and often, contrary to MMA which is a very tough sport and usually doesn’t involve medals or trophies (apart for title fights for the best of us). In MMA it’s usually only a win or a loss, and only one fight per trip. We don’t get 2 chances to win something.

On the contrary, in BJJ we usually have several fights to become a champion, and it’s even better if there is a gi and a no gi tournament on the same weekend. The best of the best being a weekend of gi, no gi, and when adults and masters do not compete on the same day and when we are allowed to sign up for both adult and master divisions. I’ve done it in the Philippines in 2016 and it was a great experience, 4 tournament entries so 4 possible divisions to win, and potentially up to 8 medals if we do absolute.

Asian Open in Tokyo is different, it’s only gi and only one age division. I tried to sign up for Master 1 and also Adult; but was told it’s not possible. Also, until this Asian Open this year, I wasn’t interested in going to this tournament, paying for my own flights, accommodation and other costs, just for a gi tournament. But hungry for competition, with no MMA fight scheduled since March this year, I signed up for Taiwan BJJ in July and also Asian Open this month in Tokyo.

In July, I got Silver in gi and Gold in no gi. Nothing surprising. But I believe I should have had the Gold in gi in July if I had not been disqualified, so I had something to prove in gi at this Asian Open. Furthermore, I could see in the brackets that my opponent in Taiwan who won against me via disqualification, was here again in Tokyo. I would compete against him again, in gi, in the semi-finals if each of us got there. That was the perfect opportunity for redemption.

Unfortunately for him, he didn’t make it to the semi-finals this time at Asian Open, so I fought the guy who beat him instead. And I won, advanced to the final, and got the Gold. This time I’ve been more careful about my style and avoided anything which could disqualify me.

What I’m satisfied right now is not so much about the Gold. Of course I am happy I got it, but I came to Tokyo for more than the Gold, I came to test if I could impose my style and my gameplan, if I could finish all my fights the way I wanted to finish them. I wasn’t only there for winning, I was there to experiment and to prove myself something. I’ve been a blue belt for more than 4 years, I’ve been training a lot recently, especially with purple belts and more. I knew I had good chances to clean up the blue belt division. But what I still needed to prove, was that I was able to do it in a proper gi BJJ way, and not too much in an MMA way, and that I could understand the BJJ rules, points system, adapt to the game, and not get stupidly disqualified again. And I did it.

But I am actually more satisfied about something else, is having been able to keep fighting despite an injury in my very first fight. That’s maybe where my MMA mindset played a role. In my first fight, my opponent put my right leg in a lockdown, made it tight and straight, and even put his hip up to add pressure.

I am not sure what his intention was, because we are not allowed to do knee bars at blue belt. But anyway, I am assuming it’s an accident and unintentional. My opponent even freezes for a moment and asked me “Are you OK? Sure?”. And of course I said yes and we kept going. Anyway I didn’t feel any pain at all at the moment, neither before my knee pops, nor after. But the sound of the pop was real and big enough to scare my opponent. I manage to survive the round, win on points, and check my legs. Everything seems OK. But this happened to me before, I suspect I will feel bad soon, when my knee cools down.

My second fight comes quite quick, about 10 min later. I feel worse but not too bad. I keep my same strategy of takedowns and top position, but my knee starts to be more painful and I start to adapt and play bottom game. I manage to find the kimura and finish the submission.

After the second fight, which is the semi-final, I feel worse and know I need to fight ASAP before my knee gets cold. About 25 min later, here comes the final. My right leg is now almost useless, I cannot shoot and put weight on it. I simply grab my opponent’s sleeve and sit down, not even pulling guard.

My opponent moves quick, passes my guard, takes a few good positions, and I try to recover my position with one leg and while trying to avoid making the other leg worse. In my mind, there is only one option, I cannot win via points anymore I have to finish the guy with a move I am good at. I end up grabbing the foot and finish with a straight ankle lock, being very careful not to get into a knee reap position and therefore not get disqualified.

After the fight, the Gold is mine, but I am limping and cannot walk properly anymore, even to get out of the mats. I see the surprise in the eyes of the referee, seeing that I won but that I was the one injured.

The medic on site checks my knee and advises me to go to a hospital when I am back in Hong Kong. He believes my ACL and meniscus have probably been damaged, maybe just sprained and not severely torn, but anyway we need an MRI to check this.

I come back to Hong Kong with an injury, but with a gold medal which means a lot to me and I believe also to my team. I would like to thank the whole HK Fight Club/Gracie Barra crew, especially Henry Chan who helped me personally since my pro MMA debut. I also have training partners from so many places I cannot thank you all, but you know who you are.

Thanks also to my students who support what I am doing, keep training while I am away, and learn from my fights as much as I do.

Moral of the story, keep fighting even though you are not 100%. Everything is possible, for the warrior whose mind is ready.

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