Sunday, 31 March 2013

Niagara Open March 23rd 2013

This past weekend we made the trip south west down the QEW and 406 to the 2nd Annual Niagara Open.   Last year, this tournament was quite small, and was plagued with quite a few issues revolving around staffing, draw systems and inexperience.   They tried a few new things to try to make the tournament better but unfortunately most of them didn't work out.

This year was 1000X better.  They had a lot more help from the rest of the OJA crew and that made a huge difference.  They used a standard OJA registration system and the usual Mata Leo draw system which is very powerful.  They brought in and scheduled the referees through the OJA referee group.  They also changed venues.   The old venue wasn't really bad, but this one had a bit more space.

The gymnasium was just about the right size for the tournament.   It was cozy at the middle of the day, when the kids and parents hadn't all left yet, and all the adults were there, but there have been plenty of tournaments in the past that had way bigger space issues.  It would have been nice if they had the room to pull out both sides of the bleachers, but it wasn't a big issue.  They won't be able to grow the tournament at this venue though. It only fits 6 mat areas, and there is not enough space for more.

 One thing that wasn't too clear with this venue was where to park.  They did have some signs outside, but they pointed to the gym, not the parking lot, and by following them, we ended up at a lot that cost $2.50 per 1/2 hour or something insane like that.   We turned around and found a better lot that was only $6 per day.   They did a good job of posting signs in the building that the gym was in. Unfortunately, they all referenced the gymnasium the gym was in, which wasn't on any signs until we got to the hallway that the gym was in!   But, by just walking down the hall, looking for signs, we did find it without making any wrong turns.  It was just confusing, because the signs didn't have arrows or anything.

The one issue they did have was with scheduling.  The tournament was scheduled to start at 9:00am and the first matches were on by 9:20 or so.  I'll call that pretty much on time.  It was a little bit slow getting started with only 1 or two mats running, but that's not unusual.   I feel like this is a hurting point for many tournaments.  Things always get jammed up in the weigh in -> finding the people -> getting them on the mat time process.  This happens at OJA events, and it happens at IBJJF events.  I see it everywhere.  Unfortunately, if tournaments insist on having weigh-ins right before the first match, there really isn't a way around this.

By the time the kids were wrapping up, we had managed to catch up, and were actually ahead of schedule for a few minutes.  They couldn't start the next divisions for about 10 minutes, according to the schedule, so there was a lull in action for a short time. Then, somehow, by 3pm, we ended up almost 2 hours behind!  I think this was a combination of misjudging how many white and blue belt adults there were and how long it would take combined with a traffic jam at the weigh in, and some trouble finding competitors.

There was also an issue of not being able to start the blue belt no-gi divisions, because the blue belt absolute wasn't able to run until all the blue belt divisions were done. One of them got majorly delayed because of 2 serious injuries on the same mat.  They probably should have moved some things around to accommodate those divisions so they could keep things moving, but the trouble is, no one ever knows how long an injury will take to clear the mat, and it may have taken longer to shift things around than the injuries to move!  It's a tricky situation.   Either way, we ended up wrapping up the last match around 8:30pm.  So, just shy of 12 hours of matches for the day.

Another thing the tournament did really well was feed the staff!  There were volunteers coming around constantly offering cookies, water, and other snacks.  Lunch was pitas from the pita pit!  This is a way better option than the pizza a lot of other tournaments do, but much more expensive so I understand why we normally get pizza.  The only down side was the meat ones were all ham. I try to avoid eating large amounts of pork when possible, but I ate one anyway. And by one I mean, all the meat and cheese from one.  I'm doing a ketogenic diet right now, and a pita doesn't exactly fit that mold.   It would be cool if they had turkey, or chicken instead next time.

Finally, I had a new experience at this event.  Pura had a pretty large contingent out to the even, so it was unavoidable for some of them to end up at the mat I was refereeing.   I made full disclosure to the other athlete in every case, and offered to swap out with another ref if they wanted.  Most people were like "Of course not, it's fine", a couple asked to swap, which was totally fine as well.  I didn't get all butt-hurt about it.  In one match, the coach was like "yea, no problem, it's all good" and then as soon as I scored any points for the competitor who was from my team, shit hit the fan.  He was yelling and making a scene.

As soon as the athlete from my team grabbed on and stopped moving for 5 seconds he's yelling "she's stalling she's stalling". Thanks, I see that, but 5 seconds isn't stalling, 20 is.  I DID give her a stalling penalty at the appropriate time.    She ended up stalling again with only 30 seconds left, so I gave another penalty and advantage for that.  In the end she ended up winning by 5 or so points and the other coach was livid.   There was absolutely nothing I could have done differently within the rules to change the outcome.  The points and advantages / penalties given were all clear cut; in fact, I was probably quick to give the 2nd stalling penalty.

When they were up to fight again, I quickly asked another referee to do the match.  I didn't need my teammate to be harassed and have her accomplishments marred by his irateness.   Turns out she won by armbar so it didn't matter, but I didn't want to have the tournament, my teammate or anyone else have to deal with that drama.   In the future, if there is a referee available, I won't even bother asking, and just swap out for the match.  I think this is fairer to my teammates and the tournament as a whole.  I know I can be impartial as a referee, but some people don't know the rules, or will do/say anything to have their students win so I will do what I can to avoid that kind of nonsense in the future.

The level of competition at this year’s event far exceeded last years as well.  Last year there were only a handful of purple belts, and some of the adult blue divisions only had 2 or 3 people in them.  This year light and middle purple each had 5 or 8 competitors, and some of the other divisions had a few as well.   Several of the blue belt divisions had rounds of 16 as well, which did not happen last year.   The while belt divisions grew as well, and there was even 1 brown belt fight.  The ladies divisions were disappointingly small, with only feather and light having any competitors, most of which were from a single club.  There were no blue, or purple belt ladies registered (other than myself).

There were a few guys at the tournament that stood out to me with their impressive display of skills and techniques in their matches.  I didn't get to watch everyone all day so I'm sure there were plenty of other equally impressive displays of jiu jitsu, but I wanted to take a minute or two to highlight a few that I saw while refereeing, and during my break.

Arther and Graham from team Ascension.  I mention these two guys together, because Graham is practically a blue belt clone of Arther these days!  These guys both have a really good 50/50 game, as much as I hate that game, and they both have sick straight ankle locks.  They are also berimbolo machines.  Their style isn't always the easiest to referee, but they don't dick around and try to win by a few points or an advantage, so it's always an exciting match.

Ahmed and Ramie Chaarani are another pair that stood out. I had the pleasure of refereeing  a few of Ramie's gi matches and one or two of Ahmed's nogi matches.  I don't know why these guys don't compete more often because they are ridiculous!  They have a great level of patience and control in their matches that keeps the match at their pace and works pretty well for them.  Ahmed unfortunately (for him) had to face Alasdair in the first round of gi, and lost, but he made up for it by winning the nogi division.  Ramie cleaned up his gi division with impressive style as well.   The best part about these guys is that they also referee so they help keep the tournaments running.  Maybe that is why they don't compete that often.  Either way, I’m looking forward to watching them compete more in the future.

Speaking of Alasdair... I don't want to be biased because he's my teammate, but man, he was impressive in Niagara this past weekend.  He fought in the middle weight division, which is not his normal division and still ended up placing 2nd.   The final was a really tough match where the other guy really pushed the pace in a kind of spazzy way, a style very different from Alasdair's game.  But it was a crazy match to watch anyway. In the absolute, Alasdair avenged his loss and won the whole thing.  That is insane for a light weight, who has only been  purple for less than 6 months!

Pura had a HUGE team out to this event! It was great to see so many people competing from our small team.   We managed to take home the 2nd place in adult gi, 2nd place in adult nogi, and 2nd place overall awards!!  Everyone fought hard, especially all the kids.  The club was well represented and I couldn't be more impressed with everyone's attitude throughout the day.

It's a week later and I'm finally done writing this.  I've been sick for the last 2 weeks, but yesterday it dawned on me, that it might just be allergies.  I never used to have allergies, so I don't know what they really feel like, but it seems the last couple years I've had allergy like things happen to me at typical allergy times.

There are a few things coming up:

Pura In House next weekend (Pura people only, talk to Brad or any of the office people if you haven't signed up yet!)

New York Open!  April 20th. This should be a lot of fun.

Toronto Grappling Italian Edition.  April 13th.  3 trips to Rome on the line. If you’re a purple or brown belt, or no gi advanced male, I'd get on this.

The ONTARIO OPEN.  It's not till May, but I am excited for it.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Adventures in Chicagoland for the IBJJF Chicago Winter Open 2013

This past weekend (March 9th and 10th 2013) was the IBJJF Chicago Winter International Open. Say that 10X fast. Tournament names are getting kind of long these days eh? I suppose it has to be so long, so you know exactly what you're attending. I wouldn't want to get the summer and winter event mixed up, and International in the title makes it sound so much more prestigious. I'll give them one point, "Open" is much shorter than "Championship" or "Tournament" so they've got that going for them at least. Anyway... the naming convention the IBJJF uses is not actually the point of this blog post. Though, I could go on a pretty good rant about it if you let me.

We left home, well, actually we left work, around 4pm on Thursday, wanting to have an extra day in Chicago to train, and see some sites. The drive was actually pretty reasonable. Jon Guzzled a sugar free Rockstar as soon as we hit the highway, so we ended up having to stop for a pee break before we even got to the border. We crossed the border in Sarnia, after about 15 minute wait, we had to answer the standard questions, no getting out of the car to open the trunk this time.

We stopped again in DeWitt for some gas and food. The subway there was weird. They don't have "Sub sauce" in the states apparently. They also have different bread and cheese options which all sounded pretty tasty. I got steak and cheese sub, turned salad, with extra meat. She put 3 containers on, instead of the normal 2, and didn't even charge me extra. They also don't do combos like we have here, but the cookies and drinks are cheaper, so it worked out in the end.

Carrying on, we found a few decent radio stations along the way. 101.5 the banana based out of Flint, MI was probably my favorite. It was a weird mix of 97.7 102.1 and 107.9, with a dash of 107.1, plus heavier stuff that no station in Ontario will play, like the new David Draiman side project, and Five Finger Death Punch, and other cool bands. We also listened to 106.1 and 107.1, but they didn't last long. Closer to the city, we had a lot of trouble finding a decent radio station, we spent more time channel surfing than actually listening to a station for more than 1/2 a song.

As we got off the highway and neared our hotel, we were a bit worried we had chosen poorly, It was dark, and it seemed like we were driving in a pretty sketchy neighborhood. There was a lot of factories and such. Turns out it's the end of a bit of an industrial area, but it's mostly bakeries and whatnot, not steel plants or chemical shit. On the other side of the hotel (that we didn't drive up from) there is 2 nice looking neighborhoods, and a pretty big shopping center- not a mall, but a Walmart, Payless, and a few other shops and restaurants.

The hotel itself was surprisingly decent, considering it was rated 2.5 stars on It's a good thing I look more at the user ratings than the hotels stars. The outside was bright orange and freshly painted and well maintained. The lobby was nice, and clean and also well maintained. Our room was clean, comfy, but a bit cozy with the 2 queen beds in it. The bathroom was more soundproof than some other ones we've had in the past, but not as sound proof as you would like to have. The room itself was decently soundproof too, but we could hear people in the halls on Saturday night.

Breakfast was powdered eggs in scrambled or patty form, sausage or sausage patties, some cereal, bread, and fresh waffles. They had the usual juice machine, and coffee and tea as well. Decent for being included, but by Sunday morning we wanted some non-powdered eggs. They did have pretty sweet flavored coffee creamers, which would have been good, if I drank dairy or coffee when I am not at home. (I do drink coffee at home, but only with coconut oil and a bit of coconut milk).

The free WiFi at the hotel was pretty nice, we didn't need a code or anything, which is less of a pain than some, but I suppose a little less secure. Oh well, if someone wanted to steal my identity, they would have by now. I haven't really made it that difficult. The hotel also had pretty cool vending machines that had cold drinks and food, together in one! They also had a pain killer vending machine, full of Tylenol, Advil, Excedrin, and who knows what else. A bit weird I thought, but handy if you get a headache!

So, from leaving work, with two breaks, to getting into our hotel room, it was about 8 hours. Not bad at all. Definitely worth the drive for a big competition. Not something I want to have to do every other weekend or anything, but I'd consider doing it a few times a year.

On Friday, we were planning on heading to Brazil 021 to train, but when I woke up I wasn't feeling the greatest and didn't want to end up tiring myself out and then getting sicker. I almost always get sick when I go in an airplane, so I was a bit paranoid. I also thought it would be pretty rude to show up to someone else's gym unwell and get them all sick, and be a bad partner for whoever I worked with.

So instead we looked up some outlet malls and headed out to the Chicago Premiere Outlets. There are a lot of outlet malls in the Chicago area, but we chose this one because it had a store that each of us wanted to go to. The trip there was a bit of an adventure, we took a few different highways and almost all of them had tolls. I think there and back cost us almost 20 bucks! Would have been nice to know that before we got on the highway. We ended up actually not paying a toll getting onto the highway on the way back, because it only took IPass and coins. Seriously, who has all this change all the time? Not us! We put in like 3 bucks Canadian, but it didn't seem to like that. Whatever, we are going to invest in an IPass before our next road trip because they are good for the bridge tolls into New York, and toll highways all over the north east/ and middle of the states.

The outlet mall was pretty sweet; it was like an outdoor mall, with semi-covered walkways and such. It would be really nice in the early summer and late fall. It's probably kind of hot in the middle of summer, and probably pretty cold in the winter. It was nice enough for us with jackets on. There were about 120 stores, but we only went into maybe 5 or 10.

First stop was the Coach outlet. You may be surprised, but I love purses. I've got probably 10 of them. Which, for a typical girl is probably not that many, but most people think I'm 100% tomboy and don't care about girly things like purses and shoes. We spent probably an hour there, it was glorious. So many beautiful bags, purses, wallets, wristlets. Did you know Coach makes jackets? Me neither, but they do. They were ok looking. They had 65% off their already discounted prices so I could actually afford to buy something. For those men out there who don't know, a nice size, good looking Coach purses can easily cost $300 or more. I spend all my money on Jiu Jitsu, so there is no budget for $300+ purses.

 Anyway, I picked up a purse, wallet, wristlet and a present for my sister, who still thinks I bought her a pair of crocs hahahah. I'm so cruel; I've been teasing her about it since I bought it. She loves Coach and purses and things more than me, but is far more responsible with her money, so would never actually buy something for herself. Jon was actually amazingly patient, and helpful in the store! After about 45 min he was starting to wear out, but I was very impressed. He even helped pick out a color and while not all of his suggestions were quite on par with what I like/want he did good. I think partially because he knew if I spent that kind of money on a frivolous thing for me, he could to!

Next stop was the Bose store. Bose make the legendary Quite Comfort Noise Cancelling Headphones. Think Beats by Dr. Dre, but higher quality and less douche. Jon has been looking into headphones and thinking about buying a pair for a few months, so the opportunity to get them for about $75 (after the price and tax difference) less was too impossible to pass up. We are all responsible like, looking at them, trying them, then leaving to think about it and coming back later. I don't think sales people expect anyone to ever come back, but we did! We also went to the Lindt outlet, which was not very outlet like at all. Sure, they had lots of everything, but some of the prices were actually MORE than at a regular grocery store or Walmart. I was VERY disappointed.

The Underarmour store was a bit disappointing as well, not cheap, and lacking in selection of compression wear on the girl’s side. I did get 2 new pairs of knee high socks though. Reebok was more of the same. Some of my favorite under-gi shorts are reebok, but they don't even seem to make the kind I usually buy anymore :( I got 4 more pairs of socks (for the same price as the 2 pairs at the Underarmour store doh!). But that's about it.

We headed back to our hotel, with a stop at Walmart for some drinks and candy (for Jon, of course) and also Payless shoes, where they had almost an entire row of size 13 and 12 women's shoes!! It was glorious! Of course, I can't really walk in in the 6 inch heels or other ridiculousness that was there, but just having the selection was amazing. I bought a pair of WOMEN'S airwalk skate shoes for $15. Amazing.

Next stop was Applebees for dinner, there didn't seem to be much else around, so we settled. Applebees has a new appetizer that is blue cheese and beer dip with pretzel sticks. It was actually pretty good, and I don't like blue cheese, or beer. They also have amazing mozzarella sticks, and not like 4 that you get hear, a serving was 9 or 10. Seems like there is a reason America is fatter than Canada. That being said, all of North America could take a hint from Europe on appropriate serving sizes. I had a steak, which was way too salty, and some veggies. It was alright, but nothing compares to the Keg.

So, back to the hotel, and guess what's on TV. Storage Wars, a marathon! I don't know why I love this show so much, but whenever we are on the road, it seems to be on TV and we watch it. I find it hilarious and entertaining. I also like Auction Hunters, but that one doesn't seem to be on as much.

 Anyway, on to the tournament. It was a typical IBJJF tournament, the venue was pretty nice. A little cozy on the floor, but it was kind of like a mini arena with seating above in 2 tiers. Great viewing angles for everything. It ran rather smoothly, but there were plenty of times that there was only one or two of the eight mats running. This happened in Boston as well. It seems like they weigh in area is the hold up, and the hesitation to use the microphone to call people when you need them. Maybe I've been spoiled and the tournaments in Ontario are getting better, but it seems like what we have going on here is just as good, if not better run these days.

I competed in the heavy weight division for this one, because that was where there was actually a person to fight. I came in 1lb under the limit, which actually surprised me, because before I left for Chicago w/o my gi I weighed 156. So I guess that extra salty steak had me retaining a lot of water, because I should have weighed in at 159 or so, not 162.5. Oh well, no matter. Marla was only like 165 so it wasn't really an issue. I wish I could say I got beat by a girl way bigger than me, but she wasn't lol. She was way stronger, and was technically solid as well. I admit I underestimated her; it’s not that often I fight girls that have a serious strength advantage on me, but this was one of those times. That combined with good jiujitsu led to me being on the defense almost the entire match and losing on points.

The absolute went a bit better; I fought Marla's teammate Teresa (I think that was her name, now I feel bad for not remembering 100%). She was in light, or maybe feather, pretty small either way. But also insanely strong, again, underestimated how strong she could be and barely squeaked by on points. The match ended with me being omaplata’d, I wasn't in a lot of danger, but I was pretty stuck.

I fought Marla again in the final of the absolute. I was ready for her this time, but the match still did not go my way. I had a better game plan, but made a mistake when I was passing her half guard that led to a scramble and then the fight spiraling wildly out of my control. She armbarred me about 3 or 4 minutes in I think. Not my best performance by far. I've been working on the pass all week, and next time I fight I won't fuck it up. Even though I did win a match, I was not as happy with how the fights went in Chicago compared to Boston. I feel like I created more opportunities for myself in Boston whereas in Chicago I didn't have a good game plan going in. I'm going to be working on that the next few weeks and I will put it to good use in New York.

I've got to mention and applaud my friend Gringo (Fernando Zulick). He won the fight in his division with absolute domination and then in the absolute beat a guy who weight close to 300lbs. The absolute fight was not the most exciting fight, but when the other guy can crush you like a worm, you've got to play a different kind of game. Gringo also won his nogi absolute, beating another big guy.

We went out for Chicago deep dish pizza at this place called Gino's East. It took like an hour to get there because of the insane down town Chicago traffic. It was brutal. We lost the Gringomobile on the way, but after a bunch of waiting and wondering what to do we ended up finding them back. Gino's East lets you write on all the walls (except for some doors, and the bathroom and other key places). The service was decent, the pizza was AMAZING and the company was alright to. Gringo and Nihad even wrote Pura BJJ with the Gringo Jiu Jitsus that they wrote all over the walls.

We went to this Egyptian Place for breakfast in the morning; it was tucked away in the corner of the Walmart plaza. It was called Mena's Grill and Omelet or something so we figured omelets are good. We didn't even know it was an Egyptian place until we got inside. We both got a "skillet" mine was Mediterranean and Jon's was vegetarian. Mine had chicken, beef, veggies and potato with some scrambled eggs on top. Jon's had veggies, potato, and cheese, and some eggs on top. They were huge, and tasty, and very reasonably priced. I would recommend the place to anyone.
On the way home, I was pretty sore and kept seeing billboards for this place called "The Chocolate Garden". I was intrigued, and used the excuse that I needed a rest and a stretch to stop by there. Man, was it ever worth it. I had this Chocolate Mocha latte thing that was more like melted chocolate with a splash of coffee, so tasty and rich, but a little sweeter than I would have liked. I think a little less white chocolate would have been ideal. I also bought 2 two packs of truffles (1 chocolate mint, and one white chocolate lemon) and a 16 pack of truffles. All together it was over $60!!! Insane I know, but seriously, they were the best chocolates I have ever had. So rich, silky and delicious.

I'm sure I am forgetting some interesting things that we came across but this blog is long enough, and I would like to get something up before the next tournament. Speaking of the next tournaments:
Niagara Open is coming up on the 23rd. This should be a good event, it’s being put on by the OJA and registration closes in a couple days.

The next Toronto Grappling event is scheduled for April 13th. They are giving away 3 trips to Rome for the IBJJF European tournaments that are coming up. None for the girls, but purple/brown guys get all the fun.

The next event I will be competing at is the IBJJF New York Open on April 20th. A bunch of us from Pura are making the road trip down so that should be a lot of fun. Hopefully there are a few girls for me to fight there.

Also coming up on the horizon is the Ontario Open. This is THE biggest and best tournament in Ontario every year. Fernando has been building this tournament up over the years and it is better every year. They are giving away 10 trips to worlds. 10! That is insane. Four of them are going to the ladies which is more than fair, considering the attendance differences.

That's all for now! See you on the mats!

Friday, 8 March 2013

IBJJF Boston Winter International Open Trip March 3rd 2013

This past weekend Jon and I made the trip down to Boston for the Open.

 I've had to expand my competition attending area geographically because there just isn't really anyone to fight locally anymore. It's a sad state of things, If I want to fight in more than one or two tournaments a year, I HAVE to travel. The sadder state of things is that even with traveling all the way to Boston, for their biggest tournament of the year, I still was alone in my weight class. But, there is always the absolute, with a whopping 4 girls entered.

So, here's how the weekend went down.

I left work around 2:30 so I could do a bit of running around before picking Jon up at the arranged 3:00PM. I headed to the bank to grab some american cash (sadly at only 0.97 to the dollar) filled up the gas tank and bought a couple sugar free rockstars, and then picked Jon up from work. We headed straight to the airport since we had packed everything up the night before and had put it in the car in the morning. 

The border is always an adventure, you never know what they are going to do, one of the last times, we had to go in the car x-ray, which was new and exciting, but took almost an hour. Thankfully that didn't happen on Friday, or we would have been freaking out. We were on a fairly tight schedule with our flights departure at 6:40pm. Anyway... We got the usual questions: citizenship, where do you live, who owns the car, where are you going, for how long, who is competing? Oh? just you? What are you bringing in? Then, he asked me to turn off the car, step out and open the trunk. That's a new one. usually they just ask you to Open the trunk from inside the car. Of course, the trunk is empty, so he was all "Where is your stuff" and I was like, "In the back seat".. "Oh, take off the cover". No problem, nothing under there but a spare tire. He seemed satisfied that we weren't terrorists and we were on our way.

We hit traffic once we were in the states, so it took about 1/2 hour longer than we expected, which was annoying, because we both had to pee! We opted for the closer long term lot, which is like $12/day but still a very short walk to the terminal, instead of our usual long term B lot, which is like $9, but you have to take a shuttle. Buffalo Airport parking is soooo much cheaper than Toronto, just one of the reasons we prefer to fly out of buffalo.

So we get to security, and go through the scanners, and I'm waiting for my bags to get scanned, and my purse has set off the scanner. In my head I'm going "Awwww man, what did I forget to take out this time???". The lovely TSA lady was like "Who's bag is this?" and I go "It's mine, what did I forget this time?". She didn't seem amused. She takes it over to the desk, puts on the rubber gloves and starts rummaging around. To be helpful I said "I don't mind if you just dump it all, I know it's hard to find things in there because of the lining". Again, not amused. So, she rummages around for a minute or two, and finds one of my swiss army knives. Ooooops. "There's one" she says. "in my head I go "one? what? am I dumb enough to have 2 in there?".... rummage rummage rummage... "Here's another". DAMNIT! Why did I have 2 swiss army knives in my purse??? I don't remember what exactly I said, but It was along the lines of "I forgot to dump my purse out on my couch before I left". She put the purse back through, and didn't find anymore, thank goodness. But, now I had the choice of going back and checking a bag with them in it, or bringing them back to my car and going back through security. At this point, our flight was leaving in less than an hour, so I didn't really have time for those options. So, now I am short 2 swiss army knives.

The worst part about this part of the story is that, once we were through security, we found our flight on the board, and it was delayed. So I had time. *sigh* We decided to get a bit to eat at the restaurant right by security, since it was also close to our gate, and seemed like it was the best bet for "real" food options. It really wasn't. Everything was deep fried, or a sandwich. I'm playing with doing a keto-diet right now, so none of that was really an option. I opted for the steak and cheese sandwhich, and just ate the toppings. Jon got some onion rings, and something else I forget. Very nutritious food. Jon's stupid card wouldn't scan b/c his magnetic strip is worn out, I've told him to replace it a million times, but I think he just avoids it so I have to pay for more things LOL. The waitress thought it was because we have chip cards, she didn't seem to understand that that is just an alternate way to use the card, not the only way.

So, we head over to our gate, and it turns out our flight isn't leaving until 8:45. What a pain in the ass. All that rushing around, losing my knives, getting out of work early, and careful scheduling for nothing. The plus side is, we got $25 each credit for JetBlue because it was over there "allowed" time. 10 more minutes or so and it would have been $50. Too bad. Thankfully our flight was direct and we were deplaned in Boston by 10:30 or so.

This is turning into a novel. Oh well, that's what happens when I go on an adventure. Carrying on...

The car rental was pretty smooth, they had lots to choose from, and it was a bit of a different procedure than other times we've rented cars. Basically they walked us out to the lot, and told us the options and said "Which would you like?" We choose a bright orange Dodge Dart so we could find it easily in the parking lot, and remember which car was ours. We didn't really like how the car drove, it seemed like the gas and brake were both overly sensitive, and it wasn't that comfortable. The trunk was gigantic though, and once I got the seat back, and lowered, it had decent space for a small car. The whole thing felt kind of cheap though.

Our hotel was a pretty typical Holiday Inn Express. Free WiFi, free parking, free breakfast, decent TV and a fairly comfortable beds. They are my go-to hotel these days. We stayed in Braintree, because it was way cheaper than staying in Boston proper, and it was only like 10 min from the airport and venue. Braintree is such a weird name for a town, I wonder how it came to be? 

On Saturday we went to Bruno Amaral and Nathalia Azoff's school in Medford to do a bit of training. They have a great little school and it was really friendly and fun. If you remember from a post a while ago, Nathalia is the one who stole my trip to worlds at the first Toronto Grappling. and by stole I mean, came , kicked my butt, and then we became friends. She's ridiculously good, and it was a lot of fun to roll with her, and her teammates. They have a great group of ladies at their school to. There was almost as many ladies on the mat as there were men!! Unheard of! Embarassing fact, I forgot my belt at the hotel, because I had be rearranging my bags, so I didn't have to lug all 3 of my gis and cloths around for the day.  I felt pretty stupid, and kind of disrespectful showing up with no belt, but it was a pretty casual class, so it wasn't world ending. Thank you Professor Bruno and all the guys and gals at their school for allowing me to train with you. It was a great experience and I can't wait to come back. 

After training we did a bit of shopping. First we went to Building 19, which is pretty much the American equivalent to Liquidation World (which I think went out of business, funny, they sell stuff from other stores going out of business, then they do.). Jon picked the store, apparently he has read about it on Something Awful and other internet places he frequents. We found some interesting things, like a bunch of copies of the same book, with 2 different prices. Bottles of body wash that were obviously Irish Springs, but with paper labels hinting that that is what it was. Some old books from like 1995, and shoes that looked like they were from the 80's. All in all, it was a bit disappointing, but a nice littler diversion and good for a laugh or two.  

After that we hit up this GIGANTIC mall a couple blocks from the hotel called South Shore Plaza. It had 4 entrances from the main road in Braintree, or, what seemed to be the main road anyway. This mall had more department stores than a small city has I swear. It had: Lords and Taylor, Sears, Macys, Nordstrom, and Target. Alright, I guess that might not be as many as a small city, but it seems a bit excessive for 1 mall don't you think? Anyway, it was a really nice mall. It had a lot of the usual stores. I hit up Body Shop, since they tend to have more selection than here in Canada. They had a sale going on, where you play plinko with a lip balm and get whatever discount it lands on. They basically all worked out to 50% off, just differently, like buy 2 get 2, or 50% off, or spend $20 and get $10 off, or spend $40 and get $20 off. Unfortunately mine ended on spend $40 get $20 off. Normally this would be great, it's not hard to spend $40 on all the delish smelling amazing products they have. It's a lot hard to spend $40, on things you can take on a plane, without checking a bag, when you don't wear makeup. So, I hit up the travel section and stocked up on small size body wash, lip balms, and body butters. Their new sweet lemon flavour is pretty excellent.

We also hit up PacSun, which is a skater/surf store that we don't have here in Canada, think west 49, but a little less juvenile. They had a t-shirt sale on, so we picked up a few RVCA t-shirts for $10 each. I bought this ridiculous one with a bunch of cats on it.  We browsed Macy's and a few other stores, then got bored and hungry and went back to the hotel for the night.

Did you know Domino's now has stuffed cheesy garlic bread? Our hotel key told us about it, and of course, Jon had to order it. It's pretty tasty, but not as amazing as it looks on the commercials. Worth a try though, if you're into that kind of thing.

Now, what you've all been waiting for. Me, talking about the actual tournament!!

So, Sunday morning, we checked out and headed for the venue, note to self, and to future people going to this tournament in the future. The address is NOT where your Garmin GPS will bring you. That may be the closest real address, but it took us about 25 minutes of wandering down the roads and driveways in the area to find the actual athletics complex venue. They really should put a map to the actual building on the website. The venue was nice, but they should have pulled out another set of bleachers, It was quite crowded and a lot of people were standing in front of the barricades because there wasn't a lot of room in the stands. 

The setup was a typical setup, with a fenced in area that only people in gis were allowed in. I wasn't even allowed to check my weight in my street cloths. A bit of a PITA, but a good policy to keep it from getting over crowded with people who aren't supposed to be in there. The gi check and official scale area was very small and crowded. It caused traffic jams, and made it difficult to get in and out of the area between matches and whatnot

The organization of the tournament was pretty much what you would expect from IBJJF, except that single person divisions kind of got lost in the chaos, so we had to remind them a few times, and kind of bully our way in to get weighed in, and our divisions closed, so we could register for the absolute. I saw we, because pretty much all the purple, and brown women's divisions were solo divisions. I think that the IBJJF should combine Purple brown black for the women, for the Regional Events like Toronto, Chicago, Boston, Montreal, and the like. It's not necessary at the Pans, Worlds, No Gi worlds and NO Gi pans, but for these other "local" events, It really sucks to make the trip, pay $115, make weight, and then have only the absolute. 

Speaking of the absolute, I lost. To a feather weight. *hangs head in shame*. Man, Erin Herle is so good. She's got ridiculous guard retention, and kept making me sit down on my butt lol. She's also deceivingly strong for someone so small. I really think it's time for me to start lifting heavy things. Anyway, we had a great fight I think, It was a 7 minute fast paced war. She put me in more bad positions than I've ever been in a fight, but I managed to escape them all, with out panicking, and that is a victory for me. This was a tough event for me mentally, coming off of over 2 months off from a bad concussion. The weeks leading up to it I was having some minor panic moments where I would be sure I was going to get kneed in the head again and end up having to quit jiu jitsu. I would play scenarios through my head of what I would do if that happened. How fat I would get, how lazy I would get, what would I do with myself? It wasn't good, but I got past it, thankfully. I did get kneed or elbowed in the nose, it's still a bit tender, but it didn't bleed or anything. I also got some styling gi or mat burn below and around my eye. That's how you know you've had a good fight. 

As you probably read on Facebook, I had a bit of a scheduling conflict, the last flight from JetBlue (my preferred airline) was 8:50pm, and the schedule came out weeks after I scheduled the flight. Turns out the absolute wasn't till 6:40. That's complicated, considering we had a rental car, and you're supposed to be at the airport 1.5h before your flight leaves. I talked to the head table guy, and he said he could close the absolute registration after all the women's purple belt fights were done (which was 3 I think) and then we could run it right away. He was mistaken, not his fault. Because it was posted online and everywhere that it closed at 5:00, he couldn't do it any earlier than that. OK, we can still work with that. So at 5:05 they called our division and asked the other 3 girls if they minded fighting then, instead of 6:40. They were all for it. So we were done by 5:45 or so. Erin Herle won the absolute, which made me feel a bit better about the loss. After watching the other two fight, I am looking forward to fighting them in the future, I think they will be good fights.

The tournament organization wasn't perfect. There were a couple times where there was 0 fights running on the 8 rings. This didn't last long, but It's something to improve. I think it's partially because they were to cautious with the schedule, and partially because they scheduled to many divisions to start at the same time. This caused traffic jams at the gi check and weigh in area so no one could get started. They should have staggered it so that only one weight class was on the scale at a time, so they could get started without having to wait for the other ones mixed into the queue.

The awards area and medals were all the standard IBJJF. Super shiny gold, shiny silver, dull bronze. I've got a gold, and bronze to add to my collection, but I don't really care to talk about them, or even say that I won them, because I didn't win them. While it is true that it's not my fault that I had no one to fight, and that I did train, and make the trip, and show up, I still can't justify saying I earned the gold medal. The bronze, from the absolute, I can almost say I earned. No, I didn't WIN a fight to get it, but I did fight for it, so that's something. It was a good fight to, not just me getting tapped out in 5 seconds. There are so many debates on the internet about default medals. I'm still not fully committed to one side or the other. I think that is because, as a female fighter, It happens to me, and my friends so often, that we have a different perspective of it than the light weight guys who always have tonnes of people. They never experience what it's like to have no one, or less the 4 people to fight to EARN your medal. Does the fact that there was only 4 in the absolute make Erin's gold worth less than one of the men's divisions that has 16 or more? I don't think so. Sure, she had less fights to get it, but who's to say the level of people she fought wasn't higher than in the larger divisions? It's hard to say. I say props to her for doing the absolute as a feather weight, and for kicking our butts. She deserves the right to her double gold. Anyway... that tangent doesn't really have anything to do with Boston so I'll end it now.

They weren't being to picky about gis on Sunday. I saw a girl who's pants literally came up to mid calf when she was standing straight. They were practically bermuda shorts when she crouched and/or squatted. Based on that, I wore my smaller, black A1 redstar instead of my A1L navy Redstar. I can make it passable at the gi check, because it actually has reasonable length sleeves, but the jacket is short, and the pants are very short. If I have the pants low enough to look long enough, you can see my rashguard through the slit in the side of the jacket. But, they don't seem to care about that, as long as you wear your belt high enough that there is a decent amount of jacket below the belt. So, wear my belt close to my actual waist, and BINGO IBJJF legal gi. I did see one guy have to change his gi because his pants were frayed. I don't know how that got passed the inspectors, but the ref stopped that pretty quick. The refereeing in general seemed pretty solid. They were calling penalties for stalling FAST which I like, and calling ones from bad grips and such, which are often neglected. I saw one DQ for a knee reap/turning the wrong way on an ankle lock. It was sad to see, because it was obviously a case of neether fighter really knowing it was wrong, and neither of them wanted the fight to end. It's a hard way to learn the rules, but I don't think either of them will do roll the wrong way on an ankle lock again.  

NOTE TO EVERYONE: READ THE RULES AND UNDERSTAND THEM. If you don't understand them, ask your professor, team mates, or the internet for clarification. There is nothing worse than preparing hard for a tournament, and then losing by DQ for something you should have known better. 

I got to watch a couple of my extended team mates from Art of Jiu Jitsu compete while we were there to! They all preformed extremely well. I didn't get to see everyone's matches but I watched most of Rick's and he competed excellently. He survived what looked like an insanely tight triangle for quite some time to win one of his fights, and I was really impressed with how he stayed calm and didn't panic. He hit a couple beautiful subs as well. I think I have a couple pictures, I should put them up on Facebook. After Chicago maybe I will have some time lol. anyway... Congrats to the whole team for an excellent performance. I cannot wait to get back to California to train with them all again!

In a few hours I am picking Jon up from work, and we are making the 7.5 hour drive to Chicago for the Chicago Winter Open. I've moved up to Heavy Weight for this one, so that I have a fight in my division as well as the absolute. Last weekend I weighed in at 161.5 with my Gi on, 2lbs under the 163.5 weight limit for medium heavy. I think I am down about 1.5lb since then, I'm on my way to middle weight! Once I get to middle, I think I will move between middle and medium heavy depending where the competition is, but I'm not sure fighting in 163.5+ will be a great Idea when I am weighing 152.5. I guess it really depends who it is in the heavy weight division. I'm not saying I won't fight big girls, I've been doing that my whole life, but there is always the absolute for that, so I will be more picky about shifting weight classes once I am down to middle. I think having people to fight will be less of an issue once I'm in middle weight as well. The lighter weight classes have more bodies in them generally. Locally, I'll probably end up fighting in the +141.5 (at Grappling Industries) and whatever division has people in it at the OJA events.

After Chicago we have a week off, then the Niagara Open. I'm pretty much counting on a refund for that one, but I've registered anyway. I think I will be refereeing, so I'll have plenty to do that day anyway. A decent amount of guys from Pura are going, so that'll be a fun team building day

Grappling Industries Toronto: Italian Edition is also coming up soon. April 13th. This was formerly being known as the Redstar Open, but that is not the case anymore. If you're a purple or brown belt guy, this is where you should be. They are giving away 2 trips (light and heavy absolute) to ROME for the Europeans and the NoGi one that runs on the same weekend. I wish there was enough girls to make it worth their while to have a girls division, because that would be a hellova trip.

Alright, this novel is long enough now. See you on the Mats!