Rome is a magical place for me. I first had the urge to go when I was just 17 years old and started to plan a trip with my mum, but the trip never happened and she went with my dad instead a few years later. So I packed my bags 2 years ago and made the trip as a blue belt and came home with 3 gold and a silver in the Rome open and European No Gi.
This year I had entered as a very settled and comfortable purple belt, so I was ready to see how I could do in a higher rank division. The Master 1 division had been erased from the European No Gi competition, which meant as a 38 year old woman, I could potentially be fighting someone 20 years my junior.
Training had been going well in both Gi and No Gi. I was especially looking forward to putting the takedowns I had drilled so often in to practice.
From our little gym in Southend, there was only me and Jez competing, but Gracie Barra had a lot of representation from the UK. When you compete abroad, the teams come together and end up making a British team, and that’s not just under the Gracie Barra banner.
We arrived in Rome on the Thursday and I was competing in the Gi on the Friday. We walked around Rome, made a wish in the Trevi fountain, enjoyed the hustle of the tourists and took in the sights. Our legs were starting to ache, so we headed back to our hotel for the night.
On the Friday I was fighting at 2.15pm, so we woke up, got some breakfast and took a slow journey to the venue. The place was buzzing, and it was great to see friends from all over the world competing there, some winning, some not. The venue is in a circle and is used for all sorts of sporting events. It has a brilliant design ceiling and still to this day I have no idea how a basketball got jammed all the way up there and wedged in one of the gaps in the design. Two years later and the ball was still there!
I warmed up, scouted out the other ladies in my division in the bull pen. Controlled my nerves, but by 3pm we still weren’t being called. I was trying to keep warm the whole time, but I was using up too much energy. By 3.30pm I had seen my friend who was working close to one of the tables and she had said that the fights were running on time. Our bracket seemed to have got lost and the ring coordinator didn’t really have much of a clue when it came to organizing.
We were called up over 2 hours since I started warming up. My legs were tired and I was fighting first with a woman from Atos. I pulled a sloppy guard and she tried her best to pass but couldn’t, and pretty much stalled on me. We both got a penalty and an advantage each, but she got the decision. I was gutted.
My next fight was with a lady from UAE and she was trying for take downs. I was so tired by this fight, that I ended up losing by 2 points. I knew that I could have done better, but I was shattered.
I collected my default Bronze medal, had some Açai, went for lunch and had a lovely prawn salad to bring my strength back up, then fought in the open class.
There was only two of us, so it was 50/50. I was up against the woman from the UAE, so redemption was in order. I got my grips, changed them over, pulled guard, and won the fight by arm bar in about a minute 30. I was over the moon.
Before the fight I had visualized fighting on mat 2, Marcelo Coppa was the referee and I won by submission. That’s exactly what happened.
My wish in the Trevi fountain came true and I was taking Gold home.
Jez fought on the Saturday afternoon. He was up on points, but having not entered or fought in a BJJ competition for 4 years, he didn’t pace himself and got tired too soon. It was a great match, but wanted to focus more on the No Gi on the Sunday.
We visited the Colosseum and had a walk around, did some shopping and had a lovely healthy dinner by the Vatican. I was a little worried about my No Gi weight (nothing unusual there) as I weighed 57kg on the Saturday and I needed to be 56kg to be in the safe zone. On Sunday morning I weighed in for my division at 56.3kg and 200g under. Perfect!
I fought Kaisa from Finland. I see her a loads of competitions as she has a very distinctive Viking look about her, plus we have been on the podium together before, but never fought. She has an excellent guard that is impossible to pass. I was quite disappointed that I didn’t get to use a takedown, and even more so that she was so wriggly and I couldn’t pass her guard. She swept me and I lost the fight by 2 points. I wasn’t that upset, but it would have been nice to fight someone my age. Ashley Bendle from the UK won the division, and I collected a default bronze.
Later in the day I watched Jez compete and he did brilliantly, but unfortunately lost by just 2 points for a take down.
I went on to compete in the open class, and apparently they were caling my name for a while. I wasn’t really in the zone and I didn’t fancy competing, but it’s more experience and mat time, so I did. I was Kimura’d within a minute to a larger opponent and she took everyones arm and went on to win the open class.
I was tired and ready to go and have a beer, wine and a massive bowl of pizza followed by Tiramisu. We did just that.
Graeme Finneran from GB had won the Rome and Euro no Gi in his division and we headed out with him and Hannah for a fun night in Rome. It was indeed that.
All the training for the weeks before, going through pre fight nerves, are all worth the hard work when you get to enjoy the competition and the food and drink rewards afterwards.
Rome was a great trip, and a learning curve to get better.
Post competition fun in Rome by the Trevi fountain with Graeme, Hannah & Jez.