HHCF's Adisa Banjoko Competes in No Gi Grappling Event
Gumby, co-founder of www.onthemat.com and a recenly crowned Black belt under Ralph Gracie was kind enough to let me train with him. Gumby is a walking encyclopedia of BJJ technique and philosophy. So, any time I get to connect and learn I take it.
The OTM Fight Shop dudes train in a hard to locate warehouse in San Jose. All together its me, Bill, Mike, Sai, Paige, Artie, Jesse, Armando and Will...Gumby runs us all hard several nights a week.
Yesterday Alex Oxendine, a brown belt under the one and only BJ Penn held an open mat/smoker style event. This was a no gi event. You fight in board shorts and a shirt to rash guard. It was held at Milpitas Health and Fitness. Baically, its not a tournament....The atmosphere is more laid back... But you roll 100% with folks you don't know. There are no points for things like takedowns, side controls etc. and if someon taps out, if there is time on the clock, you keep rolling.
I'd heard of these kind of events but I never went to any. When Gumby suggested I get in it, I had a ton of second thoughts. I'm super rusty, I feel like I'm gettin old, I just got off having a staph infection and I twisted my ankle. Thats a long list of reasons to not do it. But Gumby convinced me to jump in...Thats what life is about anyway right?
And you know what? I did it! I had a fantastic time. I saw guys from Guerilla Jiu Jitsu, One World Martial Arts, Sergio Silva's Open Door BJJ, Fight and Fitness, Modcom, Freestyle Submission Academy, Pacific Rim, all kinds of schools. These guys are all races, ages, religions, political affiliations as brothers in combat. As brothers in pursuit of self refinement.
Alex Oxendine gave opening remarks about what techniques were legal and illegal in the matches. Among illegal moves was, no twisting heelhooks! I hate those.
Most of all though, he encourged folks to go hard, but not to try and kill themselves, or their opponent during the matches...This ws a day of personal growth.... The spirit of the matches was to find out where you are technically. There were no medals, no points, so nobody had to have any anxiety about what place they ranked in.
They had three mats and one actual ring. Each match was four minutes. If you got tapped inside the four minutes but wanted to keep going, you could (did I say that already?). You got your name called and what number mat you were supposed to go to, met your opponent and your ref and did your thing. Each time the bell rang you had to listen for your name and what number mat you reported to.
There were a lot of people there who came to roll. At least 80 fighters were on hand. Waiting to hear your name is a huge deal...You are watching guys you have never seen (and some you have!) exhibit high skill, courage and athleticism. Its impressive and intimidating at the same time.
Armando got his name called first. I was unable to see all of his matches from his vantage point- but he tapped his guy with a guillotine choke and something else I could not see because of the crowd. When he came out, he kept telling me- "remember to breathe bro". I was proud of him. He did a great job out there.
About 45 minutes in they called my name. At 212 pounds I had no idea what to expect. They had some BIG DUDES in the house...Becasuse my bracket did not have a lot of guys, I got put against my fellow OTM brother Bill...We rolled in the ring!
Bill is heavier then me and strong as an ox. The main thing here is that we go hard, but obviously, we aint trying to kill one another. That usually sucks (going with a guy from your school in a competition setting), but I found it help get me rid of the "first fight jitters". Bill took me down (told ya he was strong), I had him in some kind of half guard position from the bottom and tried applying a Kimura that never worked. The bell rang, we hugged and headed out.
It was about 30 minutes till my next match. I was in the ring again! Gumby, Artie, Paige, and Omar were cornering me. The guy I went with was bigger than me, so I knew I had to take him down. But this was my first no gi situation and I have never even tried to take people down when I had the gi on.
I never had the confidence to try. I just let them take me down and then worked from the bottom. But I could not afford to have him on top as it would be a lot of work to reverse him. He was at about 255.
We locked up grabbing heads and arms. I walked him back to the turnbuckle. I worked hard to secure the double underhooks, picked him up and swung him to my right to take him down. It did not work. We shifted toward the center of the ring...I tried it again to the same side- and it worked! I landed on top of him and put him in a headlock on the opposite side of the ring.
My head was under the bottom rope so the ref restarted us in the same position in the center of the mat. I went from headlock to side mount and then walked my torso above his to north south. From there I walked to the opposite side of his body and got the top position. This guy was strong and I tried several Kimura and twisting arm control attempts to see if I could turn him on his stomach and choke him. He was not having it. This dude was STRONG.
Eventually, I went for a straight armbar. I had a sloppy technique and missed it. I quickly scrambled to regain top position and then I tried the armbar again- I got it. This has never happnened before for me. It seemed like forever from the time I got the mount, until the time I got the submission. He was strong and the excitement of the crowd and my own adrenaline was overwhelming.
There was still time on the clock, so we went again. I stuck the the script worked the first time. I got the double underhooks and the the same throw, but stepping to the left side. It worked!
He put me in half guard and passed it and we he defedned me attempting a Kimura from the mount. The guy and I hugged (he was a tough and honorable man) shook hands and my dudes were all smiling. This was a great feeling. Seriously, I have not been this happy, on a personal level in a long time. I know this is not a world championship. I know theres no medals. But it was a day I'll never forget. Medals cannot give what I got yesterday and it can never be taken away.
It was an honor...Not just to be a part of it...But to be with people I've known for so long (some of these guys I've known for about ten years now) was so inspirational. Plus I saw people I'll probably never see again, giving their all to a sport they love...Beyond that, personally, I did things in a no gi competition that I've never been able to do WITH A GI (takedowns and armbars!). I realized it wwas not because I was unable to do them- I was unwilling to TRY, because I was afraid to lose...It was a fantastic day of personal growth. My self esteem and internal centeredness are at a new level.
This is why I love the martial arts. The brotherhood, the bonding and the benefits of facing yourself on the mat. Much respect to Alex Oxendine for helping the grappling scene in the Bay get a little bit better. Oh yeah....OTM Fight Shop Crew 4 LIIIIFE!!!!
L to R: Kyle of Guerilla Jiu Jitsu (who is destined to be a champ in the game), with Gumby from OTM and The Bishop
Guerilla Jiu Jitsu fighter Omar helped corner me!
This is my new fight song...Everytime I walk towards the ring, its all I hear...What is YOUR fight song?