Wednesday 12 June 2013

De La Riva Pro Cup, International London Open

Last weekend was choke full of BJJ events for me, On the Saturday I reffed at the De La Riva Cup and the London International Open. As there was only 1 mat on the Sunday (the rest of the hall being taken up with an army of mini black belts (Tae Kwon Do competition) I had the rare luxury of going as a spectator to watch the women, black belts and team events.

 Due to a lack of female competitors in the Feather and Light weight categories , 2 plucky white belts (Annie Kohne & Cassie Alvarez) faced off with 2 blue belts (Sophie Walters & Nora Levy-Forsythe respectively), though they gave it their all, the blue belts experience rightly paid off to give them the wins. Despite the lack of female competitors in the other categories  it was good to see 4 White belts in the Heavy Category which usually struggles to find two competitors in the UK.

Women's White Heavy Category (Photo copyright Dave Coles)

In the black belt categories Thiago Monstro went up against GFT's Ricardo Evangelista with Ricardo taking home the De La Riva Cup in the Heavy category. In the light weight category I witnessed a very technical back and forth fight between Gabriel Rainho and Douglas Mayer, with Gabriel coming out the winner. Max Campos then made short work of Douglas to go on to face Gabriel in the final. After an exciting but shall we say tension filled fight between the two, Max Campos walked away with the Light weight title. I look forward to seeing them both fight again.

Thiago Monstro putting the pressure on Ricardo Evangelista (Photo copyright Meerkatsu)

What sets the Pro Cup apart from other BJJ competitions is the inclusion of a City team event. Teams consist of 2 blues, 2 purples and 1 brown or black belt who must all currently be living in the city they are representing. The London Leopards won every match that I saw ( I think I only missed one or two) to be the team champions. Of particular note was Brown belt Sam Gibson who submitted the first black belt fairly early on with a mounted triangle and won a convincing points victory on the 2nd black belt.

Sam Gibson, London Leopards submitting his first opponent in the team event (photo copyright Meerkatsu)

After a weekend of watching BJJ I came home to...... watch more BJJ in the form of Metamoris II t.b.c......

Thursday 9 May 2013

My First Grapplethon!!!

On the 4th May 2013 despite having an injured arm and being rather unfit, I took the long coach trip to Bristol to spar for 6 hours as part of my very first Grapplethon.

The Team! (Photo copyright Meerkatsu)

The reason I did this is due to an incident that happened on New Year's Eve over 3000 thousand miles away, in America, when a female Jiu jitsu practitioner from Team Lloyd Irvin was viciously raped by two of her own teammates.
This really struck a chord with me is I would have done exactly the same in her situation. Instead of risking walking by herself late at night she did the sensible thing and walked home with her teammates, something I have done myself on more than one occasion. The very nature of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu involves trusting your training partner. On a daily basis you allow them to apply techniques which could break your limbs, choke you unconscious or even kill you, trusting that they will stop when you tap out. It is only natural that you transfer this trust to outside the gym and I can honestly say I trust JiuJitsu people quicker than people I meet from other places.
As time went on, more and more scandals involving Team Lloyd Irvin came to light with several other members having seen the inside of a court room on sexual charges over the years. For the full story on the Team Lloyd Irvin scandals please check out (search for lloyd Irvin)

I followed closely as the TLI scandal unfolded using social media to spread the latest developments and taking part in more than one internet 'debate' on the subject but I felt increasingly frustrated by not being able to do more. Which is why when I heard that an old teammate, Can Sonmez aka Slideyfoot was holding a 24hr Grapplethon in response, raising money for Rape Crisis I jumped at the chance to take part. The event would be held at Gracie Barra Bristol but had people from all different teams from all over the country taking part.

I got to GB Bristol sometime after 10am and was greeted by Can at the door. There was a live stream set up for anyone who wanted to check on the internet we were actually rolling, a buzzer was timing 6 min rolls with a min&half rest, (though most people just rolled straight through). and a few pairs on the mat who had already been rolling for over an hour or so. After getting changed and a quick warm up I jumped straight in and my 6 hours began!

I honestly lost count of  how many people and who I rolled with but everyone was extremely sensible though of course that didn't mean they weren't going for the submission! It was alot of fun to get to roll with friends who I see at comps all the time but despite knowing themages I've never actually rolled with them before + some old team mates who I haven't rolled with for years, (Raphael Dos Santos, Paddy & Donal, Rob T, Can Sonmez, Seymour 'Meerkatsu' to name a few.) + some people I've never seen before or had just reffed at comps.

Photo copyright Meerkatsu

Around 2pm most of us had a quick break to take the group photo (a few pairs still continued rolling so we had someone rolling the whole 24hours) Those of us who had raised enough money got an exclusive Meerkatsu designed T-shirt he'd designed especially for the event.
I started to really feel it about 5 hours in and as I had my last roll at the end of 6 hours I can not express how grateful I was that I hadn't signed up for the full 24hours like a few people had. All in all it was a brilliant day with a great atmosphere and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about taking part next year.

Photo copyright Meerkatsu

As of writing, my justgiving page is on £426.80 but if possible I would really love to try and reach the £500 mark! The page will be open for donations for the next couple of months so if you can spare it please donate here Remember no donation is too small, every little helps! Big Thank you to everyone who has donated so far :D xx

Some other (more professional) write ups
From Seymour Yang aka Meerkatsu can be found  here
From the organiser Can Sonmez aka Slideyfoot Can be found here

More information about the Grapplethon can be found on the new website here
On facebook here
or on Twitter here

Tired after the Grapplethon!!

Tuesday 31 July 2012

Hippie Market in Ipanema

 The Connection Rio Crew check out the Hippie Market in Ipanema

On the day I came back from my disastrous trip to Sao Paulo, most of the Connection Rio house decided to go on a trip to the Hippie market in Ipanema. I've never actually been there before but I really enjoyed the trip and will definitely be going back again before the end of my stay. The market itself is very touristy but there were still plenty of Brazilians visiting as well. The place was fairly busy but not over packed and alot bigger than it first appeared to be. There was so many cool things on display and many talented artists who had recycled everything imaginably to make some really beautiful items. With miniature models made entirely from shells to beautiful artwork painted on tin can tops. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. There was also stalls selling food and a few talented street performers.

Some art work at the Market

 After bumping into some more connection Rio people from the HQ house at the market 12 of us went to a local restaurant called Frontier which is a popular chain here. You can choose to pay for the food by weight or pay a fixed price for all you can eat. I opted for the former with the Rio Open being so close but Frontier is definitely on my list of places to visit after the competition ;)

One of the Stalls!

More photos can be found on my Instagram:- pippabanana or my twitter:- pippa_banana ;)

Next up.. Rio Open and Masters and Seniors Championship...

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Lost in São Paulo

As it has been a while since I last competed, I thought fighting in the CBJJE Mundials in São Paulo would be a great warm up for the Rio Open the following week. When I signed up I thought I was going together with a group of people from the academy, turned out they were going on different days to me and as I didn't want to go on my own I arranged to stay at another student's house in São Paulo where all the rest of the team would be staying.

After preventing another monkey invasion of our room I was sent off on the Friday by most of the house giving an excellent imitation of a cheering Brazilian crowd at a BJJ comp (their portuguese is actually pretty good). It was after leaving the house that things started to go wrong and didn't stop until I got back to Rio..

It started with the taxi in Rio taking me to the wrong airport, (TAM changed my flights so it wasn't a real problem). Then the taxi in São Paulo took me on the gringo tour before I eventually got to the comp where I was suppose to meet everyone and go to the house. After wandering around for over 3 hours without seeing anyone at all I knew, and not even anyone with my team's t-shirt or patch I was a little freaked out and with no internet connection I had noway of contacting anyone either. I considered just sleeping at the competition as I remember it went on all night last time but decided that being kicked out in the early hours of the morning would be more dangerous than leaving right away. I remembered the name of a hotel I had seen on the Competition's website so caught a taxi and asked to go to the Formula 1 hotel. The driver informed me that there were several hotels with that name and although I asked him to go to the closest one (which he understood despite my terrible portuguese) he wouldn't go anywhere without the full name and kept asking me for a card from the hotel. Finally I remembered that there was the word Gardens in there and he decided he knew which hotel it was and he took me there. When I got to the hotel they told me it was full, I asked if there was another cheap hotel nearby but they wouldn't recommend one. I had well and truly had enough by this point and decided that the safest place would be to stay in the hotel lobby for the night. I told them I would wait to see if there was a cancellation & once they realised the crazy gringa really wasn't moving, a room miraculously became free.

Competition day

I was very overweight when I flew out to Brasil after a combination of injuries, work and being damn lazy with my diet as I hadn't competed for so long. But I'd carefully worked on that since I've got here and After cutting the last bit of weight in my hotel room I went to the comp feeling pretty nervous but very excited to fight. I got there just before my division started after another little gringo tour of the city. I watched the previous girls fights and although I felt really nervous I also felt unexpectedly confident. Then I stepped on the scale.. My mouth literally dropped open when I saw that there was a 1.1kg difference to the scale I had been using and I was way overweight. And that was it, my first ever DQ in over 50 competitions with the absolutes being the day before I couldn't even try to get in to that.
An incredibly stupid rookie error  means I made a small division even smaller by not making weight, something which I've always had a pretty low opinion of other people who have done that. After a quick look around the comp and still not seeing anyone I knew I headed back to the hotel for the rest of the trip.

On the plus side I had faced, albeit unwillingly one of my biggest fears (being lost on my own without speaking the language) and came out just fine. I also now have a few days warning to try and not get DQed again for the Rio Open...

Sunday 15 July 2012

Storm in Barra!!

When you think of Brasil you think of beautiful hot sunny days in a way England could never do but then there are no half measures with Rio's weather so like they can do hot, they can also do storms unlike anything I have experienced in England....

I've learnt that a weather forecast means nothing here so while my computer was saying a little cloudy on Thursday Evening outside it was actually throwing it down with the intensity of a powerful hosepipe from the heavens, make that a warm hosepipe as the rain here is not cold like England but alot more forceful. After  a quick scramble to get all of our Gis in, we settled down in the lounge on the internet. Not long after the wind started to really pick up and the electricity started to flicker on and off..

Eventually the electricity went out for good and we went out on the balcony of the common room to see if it was just our house or the whole area (It had stopped raining at this point) There was something kind of wild and beautiful standing on that balcony looking over a darkened Barra with the wind whipping around us, I think it is something you had to experience yourself as it is a little difficult to describe in words but I can now understand why some people chase storms.

As there was not too much food in the house we decided to go to Canto's, a local restaurant which was on a different power grid so was unaffected by the blackout. After much scrabbling around to get ready by the light of phones and 1 torch (It helps to have a 14 yr old kid in the house) we set out along the blackened streets. We strolled along chatting about the storm and how quickly your eyes adjust to the total blackness not really paying too much attention to the street around us, until a large branch dropped onto a car right next to us!
Suddenly our stroll didn't seem like such a great idea but we carried on regardless more subdued and carefully watching the many trees which lined the road. Later on in our walk we saw more evidence of storm damage and I can only hope nobody got seriously hurt. 

And the top of the tree

Canto's was fairly uneventful apart from the odd flicker in the electricity and the walk home similarly so.

The end of the week ment no training for me as I'd come down with the bug everyone else had got in the house. I'm hoping to get well soon and be ready to compete in the CBJJE Mundials in Sao Paulo next weekend.

Friday 13 July 2012

1st Visit to a Favela & UFC in Brasil

Just as I felt I was starting to move a little bit better the Saturday sparring class came along and after round after round of getting my a'se well and truely kicked I was pretty dead and not feeling so great about my BJJ to put it mildly. At the end of the class though I was privileged enough to be invited to an open mat session at the VB project in the local Favela Cantagalo which was too good an opportunity to miss. 

Having never been in a Favela before and having heard a lot of bad stories I was a little unsure what to expect. Although there was a heavy police presence it seemed a pretty friendly place and I didn't see any trouble in the brief time I was in there. After a rest at a friend's house we went onward to the Academy for the session. Cantagalo was a busy bustling place with lots of local street vendors selling food and other wares at a fraction of the price it goes for in the rest of Rio and there were also lots of kids playing in the streets flying beautiful homemade kites. The walk to the Academy involved going up the steepest hill ever and I was really tempted to use my hands it was that steep. The sight of the gringa struggling up the hill provided much amusement for the locals too. but the view from the top was really worth it with Rio spread out below. It was really annoying that my phone had run out of battery so I couldn't take a photo.

 The open mat session was really good with people going through techniques they were working on together in-between sparring. Most of the people there I knew already from Fightzone but there were a couple of faces I didn't recognise including some talented kids. What is incredibly clear is the immense pride everyone had in the project which I'm assuming they built themselves and which is obviously extremely valuable to the local community. Hopefully at a later date in my stay I'll be able to find out a bit more about the VB Project & I'll post it on here, in the meantime check out their facebook page... VB-TEAM-CANTAGALO FACEBOOK PAGE
Walking back after training as dusk was falling the place seemed to really becoming alive with music coming from everywhere and people relaxing after a long day's work. I also noticed that the telephone lines had loads and loads of shoes hanging from them, when I asked about them I was told that they were old shoes... guess it is just another Brazilian tradition I'll never really understand..

Saturday Evening was also UFC Night so most of the CR house decided to head out to one of the local bars to soak up the atmosphere. After so much anti-Brazilian trash talking we figured the crowds would be out for this one. After wandering around for a while trying to find a bar with seats for us all, we ended up in Bar Oswaldos which is owned by a Gordo Black belt and has a menu which includes Jiu Jitsu themed dishes such as a triangle and Kimura.. The bar was busy but not many people were watching the fights leading up to the main event, just before the Silva/Sonnen fight alot more Brazilians turned up and the place was packed.
The bar was deadly silent during the first round for obvious reasons only to explode in the second. I can honestly say that possibly the only place better to watch a fight like that would probably be at the UFC itself.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Competition Entry & Brasilian Wildlife - Monkeys & Mosquitoes

I was chilling out in the lounge one afternoon with my housemates, when a family of monkeys decided to pay us a visit in our front garden. Apparently they are seen as a pain because they will actually go as far as stealing food from the kitchen, but as this was my first time seeing monkeys in the wild I'm still at the stage where I think they are incredibly cute. I was also surprised they will actually let you get pretty close! Gotta beat pigeons in the garden which is all I'd get in London!

The other wildlife to regularly visit the house which is somewhat less cute are Mosquitoes. Despite having a plugin repellent, liberally covering myself with mosquito spray & taking antihistamine tablets my legs have been bitten to pieces. To make things worse I appear to have developed an allergy which meant my foot an ankle swelled to the point I had to stop training for a day and a half. As every day of training is really precious for me as I'm very conscious of the limited amount of time I've got here, this was incredibly frustrating. Both Dennis from Connection Rio and the team at Fightzone were incredibly supportive helping me to look for a doctor & giving various advice. In the end I got a cream called Fenadine from the pharmacy which is a type of antihistamine which brought the swelling down (Thanks Carol!) Thankfully Mosquito nets are going to be installed in all the rooms next week, can't wait!

I made the most of my time off training by getting my entry in for the CBJJE Mundials and the Rio Open and Master's & Seniors. The IBJJF comps were fairly straightforward to enter once I had printed off my membership form, got Ricardo to sign it and sent some scans to the IBJJF, then once the IBJJF sent my membership number (which they did within a few hours) it was just a simple case of entering online. They also replied to my emails within a couple of hours. CBJJE was another matter altogether, they did not reply to my emails at all (I sent both English and Portuguese) and despite being called a Mundial (world) championship only Brasilians could enter online (you needed what I think is the Brasilian equivalent of your N.I. number). Gringos have to enter through a complicated system of bank transfers (only through brasilian banks), faxes and phone calls which I eventually gave up on. Luckily Jack who works at Fightzone kindly did my entry for me. I'm really looking forward to competing again as I haven't fought since October due to injuries etc.