I took second place in light-heavyweight (180-189.9 lbs) Masters (30-39 years old) at NAGA NJ in Newark this past weekend. I’m happy with my progress as this was my best ever finish and I’ve made significant improvements since my last tournament about half a year ago.
There were four competitors in my division and my first match was to see who would move on to the finals. It began with my opponent attempting to pull guard, at which point I was on top for a very short time before getting swept.
I was on my back and would probably have remained there the entire time but luckily Al “Big Sal” Washington was in my corner coaching me. A couple of things I’ve had trouble with in the past is controlling my breathing and being able to hear and listen to my coaches. In earlier tournaments, my head was just exploding with thoughts of don’t lose, and it was hard for me to make out any coaching directions. Breathing, which is a natural phenomenon, is also something I had to learn to do consciously during my matches, to prevent myself from holding my breath and gassing.
I was pleased that I was breathing well and could hear Al perfectly, even though I was on the bottom and my opponent was working a ch0ke. He only had one of my arteries, and I knew I was OK as he squeezed and squeezed, and it was just a matter of time before his arms gave. They eventually did give way, and I could feel him break.
I followed Al’s instructions and performed a back escape and ended up in my opponent’s guard, which I quickly passed and I proceeded to take his back. I got into full mount and the fight ended with me going for an armbar and my opponent holding on until time was called. Al was screaming for me to lift my hip, but I just couldn’t do it, and I won on points.
I lost the gold medal match on points, but it was a good fight. My opponent had a number of blood chokes on me and was visibly perplexed when I would neither tap nor go to sleep. This eventually wore him down mentally, he also gassed physically, and I was on top passing guard when time ran out.
NAGA was another great learning experience and I encourage my teammates who have yet to compete to do so at the earliest opportunity.
My first fight was caught on video: