As I said to one of my instructors: I’m 60% pissed off, 40% stoic. In short I lost 12-0 to Dimitrios Bitsanis of Rio Grappling Club Greece, who was just the better competitor on the day (as well as, as usual, having the audacity to be a really nice guy).
Stuff that went well: I managed to minimise my first match problems, primarily by doing a better warm up and having a bit of time to get myself mentally set before we started. It also helped that it’s easier to get yourself psyched up for something like the Euros.
I’ll no doubt be working on this for a while. My natural mental approach is to try to stay calm and I want to be sure of what I’m doing before I do it. This has advantages. I’ve won matches by not being the first guy to make a mistake. But it exacerbates the common problem of needing that first match to really warm up and get into the groove — which is no good if you loose it!
Also on the positive side, I feel I hung at the Euros. It’s pretty much the highest available level of competition available to someone at my belt level / age. So, stepping out there and not being totally out of my depth, isn’t a bad place to be around 16 months after starting.
Stuff that’s not so good: to continue the baseball metaphor, I might have been in the right ball park, but I wasn’t one of the starters. Looking at my division, I was below average in terms of my technical ability, my ability to deploy what I knew in competition, and my physical capabilities. This isn’t to run myself down: I think I do pretty well on all three counts compared with the general population of older white belts; or even Masters 2 white belt competitors in the UK. But the Euros is definitely a step up.
There are a few technical details I need to address, such as avoiding / countering the leg underhook when breaking closed guard, more technical escapes from the back and improving my knee slice pass. Also, I’m kicking myself for not trying for a straight footlock towards the end. Tactically, I should have recognised I wasn’t going to make back the points and needed to go for the sub. Even if it hadn’t worked, I should have tried. But I didn’t really lose because of any particular technical flaw or error. I was just generally below the level I needed to be to win the match, much less the competition.
To go back to the positive though, it was a great experience. Training for a high level competition was satisfying and certainly improved my jiu jitsu. Plus I had a great time in Lisbon, particularly since Anne came and we got to have a holiday as well.