The IBJJF European championships in Lisbon is officially the biggest and most attended Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition in the world with over 3,600 competitors competing over 5 days. The competition was always going to be tough, so I wanted to be fully prepared.
I registered for the competition 12 weeks before the event. My injured foot wasn’t completely healed, but I knew that with the right training and care, it would be. It had been healing really well since I tore the ligaments back in September. I visited a physio therapist and had a couple of doses of ultrasound on it, and with a positive mind and the right exercises, it was getting better.
In 2015, the European championships was my first purple belt competition. I wasn’t expecting much of a result, and I came away with a default bronze medal for losing by a sweep and the only reason I lost was down to my lack of strength and belief. This time, I made the conscious decision to prepare better and gain much more strength in a bid to help me get further.
I started training with William Wayland, a renowned strength and conditioning coach to professional athletes, boxers, golfers, Motorcross riders and MMA fighters, from Amateur to professional in the UFC. The great thing about Will, is that he trains jiu jitsu too. He's a purple belt under Lee Catling, so knows exactly what I need for the tournament. So our sessions rest breaks were filled with plenty of talk about jiu jitsu and MMA.
The start of the sessions confused the hell out of me. I don’t have a clue what Will was up to with his sport science monitors that he hooked up around my arm, measuring my strength and improve the speed of my lifting technique. I knew that he is the best in the UK, so I trusted him to give me exactly what I needed.
We trained on a weekly basis and I had the added bonus of attending his Powering through class. Every week I was feeling stronger and seeing a lot of progress.
The problem with the Europeans, is that it's only a few weeks after Christmas, so it's a bit of a pain to get the right preparation surrounded by festivities. The Christmas parties began for me and I attended 3 in a row. After the second, I had a session with Will and nothing worked properly. I had been out for 2 nights, got drunk on the first and had hardly any sleep, which made me tired for the next night, and even more tired for our Saturday morning session.
It was a waste of a strength session and I was going backwards. It was my own fault.
I got drunk on my last Christmas party of the season and I vowed to myself never to waste Will’s knowledge and session again. I had 8 weeks to go until the Euro’s.
The strength and conditioning improved in the following weeks and my strength was on the increase once again. Will added the weight, and the chains came out to help with my squat speed.
We had a break for Christmas, but nothing stopped there for me, I had homework. Bike sprints were on the top of the list. My weight had gone up to 61kg without my Gi, and considering that I fight at feather weight (58.5kg) with my Gi on, I needed to sprint hard to drop down 5kg. Thankfully my mum has a decent exercise bike, so Christmas in Spain wasn’t without them. Snowboarding helped, and a few classes of Jiu Jitsu too and I think I must have been one of the only people to lose weight over Christmas.
Back in May 2015 I had changed Jiu Jitsu teams as I wasn’t getting along with my head coach. My new team only had two, 2.5 hour classes that I could attend per week, and the classes were a 90 mile round trip to drive to. So any opportunity I got to train with other people, friends and as a guest at another gym, I took it.
I attended the BJJ Globetrotters Camp in Wagrain, Austria, and the 8 classes I took over 3 days helped me massively. It gave me the confidence that I needed to believe in myself that my jiu jitsu was good and competition level.
Coming back from the camp, my weight was down to 58kg (No gi) and I had a couple of weeks to go until the Euros.
The strength sessions turned in to conditioning with a whole lot of sprints at the end of each session. They weren’t my favourite, but they had to be done. I was running and sprinting most mornings at 6am and by my last S & C session with Will, I was feeling the best condition my body, mind and spirit had ever been in.
The outcome of the Euro’s was all about what happens on the day. Whatever happened on that day, I had put my body through an investment that I couldn’t abandon. I loved the process and had so much fun watching the progress I was making and feeling. My training partners had felt my strength, so it had worked on our training mats, now it was the time to put it all in to practise.