Safe to say that I enjoyed the Chelmsford Open. Three matches to take Gold and I managed my first competition submission — an ezekiel choke from mount in the final (although I feel I’d have scored more cool points if I hadn’t started off by inserting the wrong fingers in the wrong sleeve, leading my corner and teammates to shout desperately ‘Wrong sleeve! Wrong sleeve!).

It’s still amazing how tiring competition bouts are. I got more time to recover between rounds this time, but was still hanging on by the skin of my teeth at various stages. Need to work on this. I also need to work on side control retention / submissions; I really don’t feel quite comfortable there yet and my lack of effective submissions means that I’m giving people too much time and freedom to work. Much the same goes for passing the guard. I don’t have a ‘go-to’ approach or techniques there in quite the same way that I do now from bottom.

One last obvious insight: the pressure of the timer and points system opens people up. Particularly if they’re behind. You have no choice but to push hard to try to recover the score. Which creates a pressure that’s quite different to a roll in training. If you’re in a disadvantageous position and burning energy faster than your opponent this can lead you into danger very quickly. So there’s strategy in running up a points lead beyond just hoping to stall for time (although, equally, that’s a viable option, if somewhat inaesthetic). If you can take an early points lead, you’re pressuring your opponent in a way you can take advantage of. I suspect this starts to change at higher belts, where people will be much better at handling this pressure and reacting tactically — but even there you’re in an inherently difficult position.

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