There were only 3 of the BJJ revolution team competing in the Euro’s from our little gym in Felixstowe, myself, Glen and our head coach Eduardo. Mark had put the pressure on when he said that usually someone comes back with a gold medal and this has been standard for a few years.
I had the bad news that my old Carlson Gracie team mate and friend was my first fight in our bracket. Of the 5 other women in the bracket, the luck that we had to be drawn together didn’t seem fair. Carly trains in kent and we can fight any time at local competitions. To fly all the way to Lisbon in Portugal and get drawn together absolutely sucked.
I flew to Lisbon on the Thursday and fought on the Friday. I was staying up in Barrio Alto at the same quirky hostel that I did last year and about 30 minutes from the new venue. I took my gi and went to the venue to scope it out, but more importantly weight myself the day before. I was bang on weight, which would mean that I would be under on the day. This is something you learn when you compete a lot, so things had been slotting in to place nicely.
I met some friends and watched their fights. Friends from Spain had driven up and we were supporting Patry who had a tough fight. She lost in the first round by only and advantage. I got to the venue too late to see Luna's fight. As a Rooster weight, she only had one other woman in her division. She had pulled guard and her opponent had landed on her toe in an awkward way, but after seeing the medic, Luna carried on, but couldn’t fight to her best. She lost on points.
The emotions were making me tired, as had the journey, so I opted to head back to the hostel and get an early night. I slept for 10 hours straight!
The thing that I love about competing abroad is that I have a chance to really relax. When I’m in England, I have a million things to do all the time, take phone calls, work and run errands all before a competition. When I’m away from England, I can’t really do any of that.
My fight wasn’t until the afternoon, so I strolled around Barrio Alto and did some window shopping, had some lunch and then took myself off to the venue for 4pm.
Love them or loathe them, the IBJJF are investing their money in the competitions and making them so much better. With a new venue, a decent warm up area, screens with the mat numbers and fight running order on every where you look in the bull pen and warm up area. Screens at the mats to let you know the times and scores, fighters and their represented teams. The tournament was running well and was very impressive.
My team mate Glen was going on around an hour before me, but as I got in to the warm up area, Mat 2 was running ahead of schedule and I was going to be up earlier than planned. I had a great warm up, chatted to friends while I was there, saw another couple of ladies from my division, and then Carly walked in. I went over and we hugged. We were both thinking the same thing about being first together.
I went to the bull pen, left my water bag, jacket and trainers all curled up in a neat pile and took my main bag with me. My Gi was checked and passed fine, my weight was under by 400 grams, then I went to the mat. I felt good and walked on the mat confidently. I shook the refs hand, then Carly’s. She wanted to pick my ankle and go for the take down, but I didn’t let her, I pulled guard and she wanted to pass. She couldn’t. I got underneath and went for an X guard sweep, but it didn’t work like I wanted it to. I went to take her down from sitting and this is where I noticed my strength, but before I could do anything about it, she went to my back so fast and got the hooks in, then there was the choke. She got me with the choke that I had enjoyed using on others recently in training. The fight was over in just over a minute thirty. I was gutted, it felt unbelievable to tap like that after so much hard work had gone in to my training. But I did.
I hugged Carly and told her to go and smash it and win. If it couldn’t be me, it had to be her.
I walked off the mat and noticed Eduardo in the black belt area…. He was too late to coach me. I wanted to cry so badly, but I kept bumping in to people I knew and had to explain my loss without sheading a tear and looking ridiculous. I took myself up to the seating area and watched Carly arm bar last years European champion and then have the most exciting final I had seen of the tournament with a Pan American champion and the woman many people who knew her, would have thought to be the gold medalist in this competition. Carly won fair and square with 6 points to Georgina’s 2 points. It was incredible. It was almost like I had won myself, but without the deep joy of standing on the podium and collecting my medal. I was truly happy for her, and she deserved the top shelf placement and 2016 European championship title.
My evening went from bad to worse. A work problem occurred and I spent the rest of my evening sorting it out. I was spoken to like crap by a client, and when I went to leave the venue, I noticed that someone had walked off with my trainers. It was raining and the only footwear I had was my flip flops.
I got back to the hostel and broke down in tears. The emotions finally came flooding out and I needed it. Pizza and beer was on the menu and a jolly good cry.
After a good night sleep, I felt better. It was only jiu jitsu, a competition that I paid to enter, is my hobby, not my life, and extension of the fun I have on this place called earth, and a sport that has made me a lot of lovely friends.
After some retail therapy, I headed back to the venue to watch the black belt absolutes and masters. As I walked round the venue, I noticed Carly and went over. We had a great chat, huge hugs and I loved it that she was still buzzing from the wins. It’s the best feeling in the world to win a major championship.
Her story getting there was funny, as is Carly. We both know that it’s just a game, not the hunger games, just a jiu jitsu game that we all worked so hard for.
Carly is awesome, and if it couldn’t be me, I’m glad it was her. The title went to a British woman, along with a fair amount of other Brits too.
I spent the afternoon hanging out with jiu jitsu friends. One of which was Alex from the brand Punch Strong. We thought it was funny looking on the mats watching the black belts and our friends. These people are competing at a high level in a major competition. One was a school teacher, the other a fire fighter, Alex works in insurance when he’s not promoting his fight wear brand and I work in recruitment. It blows me away with the dedication and hard work that people put themselves through for the love and passion of the sport.
My evening was spent drinking wine and eating chocolate. While I eventually got bored of the sugar and actually craved savoury foods, I started surfing the net looking for my next competition to take part in. I couldn’t stop at the Euro’s. The loss wasn’t going to get me down. I made a plan and signed up for one a few weeks later.
I later found out that some of the best competitors in the UK, those who put all of the hours in the day in to training and dedicate themselves to jiu jitsu full time had gone out in the first round. This had made me feel a whole lot better about myself. When I spent my last day watching the UK’s Yas Wilson sweep MacKenzie Dern, Ciao Terra change gi’s after each fight, my coach Eduardo not make weight by 200 grams, then one of my favourite UK black belt competitors go to sleep on the mats in his first round. The Euro’s is definitely a tournament of excitement and shock exits. I didn't feel so bad now.
I’m glad I trained hard, I’m glad I registered, I’m glad I got on the plane and went to compete on the biggest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu stage in the world. The competition is tough, and it’s just getting tougher. And I love it more than ever.
Now it's back to the grind.