Sunday, January 30, I competed for the first time as a black belt in the 2011 European Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championship, in Lisbon, Portugal. My category was light weight (under 76kg), Senior 2 division. The good news is that I received third place (bronze medal), as you can see from the podium picture above. The bad news is that I got beaten by both those other guys. Adimilson Brites (nickname ‘Juquinha’), from Gracie Humaitá Brazil won gold, and François Deniau (Team Megaton Lyon, France) won silver.
Following are some thoughts after the event:
- The black belt division is a whole new world. When fighting in white, blue, purple or brown, you generally fight people with a similar amount of experience. The black belt gold medal winner in my division (Adimilson) has had his black belt for 18 years! (I’ve had mine for three weeks). Being able to win gold at this level is going to require a lot more thought, training and strategic planning than I’ve done in the past.
- Both of these guys work full-time running BJJ academies (in France and Brazil). I’m going to have to up my three-night per week training schedule if I want to beat people like this.
- Both of these guys were super friendly, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them after the event. I’m always impressed with the quality of people that I meet at these competitions, expanding an ever-growing network of BJJ friends around the globe. Add Lyon, France and Brasilia, Brazil to the list.
- In both my fights, I dropped straight to half-guard after feeling a little uncomfortable that so much time had passed standing up. I have to remember to be more patient.
- In the future, I’m also going to have to research my opponents more. François Deniau is a black belt under Wellington ‘Megaton’ Diaz (one of my favorite BJJ teachers and competitors). His fighting style was (naturally) very similar to Megaton’s — i.e. solid, fundamental, tight and strong. Had I researched him a bit, I possibly could have come up with an effective game plan.
- The morning of the event, I weighed (with my gi) exactly 76.0 kg, and so I wasn’t able to have breakfast. And, warming up, it seems like I just couldn’t drop weight, and so I had to go into my first fight at 11:45 am without having eaten anything all day. I felt totally zapped after my first fight, and don’t know whether it was from the effort (the other guy was strong!) or not having eaten. In any case, lesson for the future: I’m going to be at least 1kg under weight on the morning of the event, so that I can eat a big breakfast.
- In the fight with Adimilson, I noticed that he had an extremely light-weight gi. After the event, I googled and found that some competition gis are now commercially available that weigh far less than normal training gis. The Vulkan Pro Light that I ordered this morning weighs 1.3kg, as opposed to the 2.1kg gi I wore in this event. Wow, an extra 800 grams — that’s full breakfast! Definitely a tactic I’m going to take advantage of in the future!
- Speaking of weight, I followed the Four-Hour Body slow-carb diet in preparation for this event (which is similar to the Paleo diet, but allows legumes — lentils, beans, etc.) I was extremely impressed — dropping from 80kg to 74kg over a period of a few weeks, eating pretty much as much meat, fish, chicken, veggies, and nuts as I wanted, and feeling great!
- I have got to compete more. Speaking with Adimilson, he mentioned that in 2010 he competed 90 times! No wonder he was such a cool cat before the fight!
- Final thought after the event — I’m optimistic. Even though I lost to these guys, I feel like with more training and planning, I can compete with them. So I’m looking forward to training harder, and facing off with them again next year.