Tomorrow I'm going to get up before the sun and drive out past DC to Western NoVa. There I'll weigh in and be assigned a weight class. I'll spending a couple of boring hours eating PB&J's, reading a book, and listening to some music. Eventually, I'll go into the locker room and slip on a groin protector and a thick white judo gi (uniform). I'll tie a white belt around my waist and slip in my mouth guard. After a last-minute word of encouragement from a teammate who will be cornering me I'll walk on to the mat and shake hands with a stranger.
Then, we'll try to beat the crap out of each other.
Well, I'm exaggerating a bit but "grapple the crap out of each other" just doesn't have the same ring to it. It's unlikely anyone will get hurt because there is no striking in Brazilian Jiujitsu and many of the more dangerous moves (neck cranks, knee bars, heel hooks) are illegal.
But there are still plenty of brutal things we can do to impose our will on the other peson.
For starters we are going to try and throw each other to the ground by grabbing each other's uniform to drag the other person around for a huge judo throw or by diving at each other's legs for a wrestling take down. Once on the ground we'll scramble for a variety of dominant positions like knee on belly, side control, or full mount; all of which use your full body weight to pin your opponent to the ground. And while you can't hit each other there is a lot you can do to hold onto, or get out of, a dominant position. You can grind their face with your hand, forearm, or shoulder. You can kneel on them. You can squeeze their abdomen with your legs like an anaconda. You can smother them.
Once one of us has a dominant position we'll go for a submission. A submission can be an air or blood choke done with your arms, legs, forearms, or even their own uniform. Or it can be a done by threatening to hyperextend any of their joints except for their fingers or toes. With some restrictions you can evan attck their knees, ankles, and neck. Again, this can be done with any number pretzel-like manipulations of your arms and legs. Once a person feels the pressure of a submission being applied it is their responsibility to "tap out" for their own safety, signaling that they submit and thereby allowing their opponent to release the submission.
At the end of 5 minutes if no one was submitted the winner will be decided on points awarded for establishing and escaping dominant positions. If I win I'll move up the bracket and fight again in a few minutes. One way or another I'll repeat the whole thing in a few hours in the no-gi division where you wear whatever athletic clothes you like and it's illegal to use the other person's clothes to grip and choke.
So that's how my first BJJ tournament will go (I think).
As much as my brown belt test in aikido in early December, this is one of the capstones of my "fighting" half of 2010. It will be the first time I've ever competed head-to-head against another person like this and the first time I've ever had the chance to "test" my proficiency in a martial art.
Since I made it through tryouts in November, I've been practicing with the competition team at my gym to get ready for this. For the first time in my life I've been doing conditioning (pushups, situps, medicine ball and drills) 2 or 3 times a week for about 6 months. In the last month I've found that I'm finally competitive with the other white belts, landing multiple types of submissions and generally holding my opponents to 1 submission (In practice, unlike a tournament, we just start over if you are submitted so you can get multiple submissions in a round). I'm about as ready as a new white belt can be.
Thinking about tomorrow, I guess I should be excited or nervous; but mostly I'm just happy. I've wanted this for a while and now I'm actually doing it.
I am becoming who I want to be.