Grand Slam Open 2011 Martial Arts Championships

Ok, so this post didn’t make it up yesterday like I promised.  Oh well.  Quit your whining, here it is now.  🙂

Saturday was a loooooooooooooooooooooong day for me (and my teammates).  For starters, we had to meet at the karate school downtown at 5am, which of course meant that I was getting up sometime before 4:30am.  Then came the three and a half hour drive down to Rustburg, VA, just outside of Lynchburg.  We did manage to stop twice… once for gas and once for food.

Let me tell you about our breakfast stop.  We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 minutes to eat.  We stopped conveniently in an area with several options – some fast food, some sit-down.  We opted for a sit-down style restaurant that served country food at the recommendation of one of our female instructors (who shall remain nameless, but we only have ONE female instructor, so…) who had eaten there before.  You might think that if a group of adults and kids walk in to your restaurant around 7am all wearing the same sweat shirts and quickly seat themselves, they just might be in a hurry to get somewhere, right?  WRONG.  About five minutes later, our water hits the table.  Another 5 or 10 minutes  and our orders (both drink and meal) are taken.  About 10 minutes after THAT, our drinks finally make it out to us.  Fearing that we are quickly running out of time to actually, you know, EAT the meal we came in to sit down and eat, we ask how much longer it will be before our meal arrives.  The answer?  “Oh, probably another 10 minutes or so.  I just put your orders in.”  After about a minute’s deliberation on what to do, we told our waitress (who, mind you, really hadn’t been all that friendly up to this point) to box everything up to go.  That made her less than happy and she tried to argue with us that it would be out soon.  We had to tell her that we were on a tight schedule and didn’t have time to eat here since it had taken so long for us to get our orders taken and for the food to come out.  Now, on the plus side, the general consensus from everyone once we got to the tournament was that the food was actually quite good, even if they did have to eat it in their cars.

We arrived at the tournament around 9:30am, and since we had pre-registered, getting in was a breeze.  We quickly took up a team spot on the bleachers and proceeded to figure out where (what ring) and when everyone should be fighting.  Unfortunately, all the Forms divisions were scheduled first, so for those of us that had only come for Point Sparring it was a long morning of “hurry up and wait.”  We did get to see some good forms, though.

Once the fighting began, we were pretty much bouncing from one ring to another almost constantly.  For most of the kids (and a good handful of the adults), this was their first big tournament, so taking that into consideration, most of our students did quite well in their respective matches, even if they didn’t win.  I think everyone came away with something they could improve on.  The biggest thing was there was excellent sportsmanship exhibited from our school.  Win or lose, they were all respectful to their opponent and the judges (who didn’t always make the best calls).

About my fights… Well, I did pretty well, according to the scores.  I had some definite favor of God going on, though, because in both my separate division matches, I got the “by” and didn’t have to fight an extra fight early on.  I competed in the Men’s 18+ (up to 34) Intermediate Underbelt division.  They don’t consider you Advanced until you are a Brown Belt (or the equivalent).  There were five people total in my division, and one of them was my buddy Jeremy from our school.

Side note: Jeremy and I use to be the same belt rank and would compete together all the time back in the day (before I left for college/Army).  It was not uncommon for us to end up fighting each other for First and Second Place.

Luckily, Jeremy got the “by” too.  We also didn’t have to fight each other in the first round of the competition, so that was nice.  Judges try to keep competitors from the same school from fighting each other on the first round to keep from providing an unfair disadvantage to any one school, if at all possible.  If memory serves me correctly, I was the highest belt rank in my division.  No pressure, no sirree… haha.  Jeremy fought his opponent first.  He was a big guy, but surprisingly quick for his size.  Jeremy beat him by a two-point spread, I think.  The first guy I fought was shorter than I was, which was nice, but he was quick.  Fortunately for me, my own quickness and reach advantage was enough.  I beat him 7-1, with most of those points coming from me laying my side kick next to his head.  Haha.   This of course meant that, pretty much par for the course, Jeremy and I would be fighting for First and Second.

Mine and Jeremy’s fight was, for all intensive purposes, pretty boring.  Neither one of us really cared to fight full out and risk hurting the other, so we were only going at about 3/4 speed and power.  I won, but only by a few points (I think).  Hooray, First Place in my division!  Now I can relax, get something to eat, and change back in to regular clothes.

Or so I thought.

About, oh, two or three hours later, I hear my name called over the loud speaker announcing that I need to come to Ring 3 to fight for Grand Champion of the Underbelt Divisions.  This was news to me!  Nothing had been said when I won my own division, so I was in a completely different frame of mind when I did a Superman quick-change in the locker room and ran (as much as I can run) to Ring 3 with my fighting equipment.  Turns out, they take the First Place winners of each Underbelt Men’s Division (18+ Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced; and 35+ Beginner and Intermediate/Advanced) and fight them for Grand Champion.  Now, even this being the case, there were only three competitors (including me).  I think one guy had already left or something, and they didn’t have any competitors from another division, hence only three.

As I mentioned earlier, I got the “by” in this match, too, which meant I only had to fight once.  I honestly felt a little bad for the first match up.  It was this huge (much bigger than me) Orange belt versus this tiny Yellow Belt (lesser rank).  The Yellow belt wasn’t crushed, per se, but he didn’t score a lot.  I ended up fighting the Orange belt.  Now, you wouldn’t think there would be much of a problem with this, what with me being a Second Blue Belt (step below Brown) and all, and honestly, for the first minute or so of the fight, it wasn’t.  I was up by two points when the big guy literally bowled me over.

Side note: with the rules for this tournament, a competitor has three seconds to score a point to the body once he either goes down himself, or knocks his opponent down.

This is not something I am use to dealing with since I’m one of the tallest guys in my class at our school.  We do, however, practice “one step” defensive techniques, some of which are performed from either a kneeling or prone position.  Thank goodness for proper practice and instruction, because as I was rolling out of the big guy’s way, I twisted on the ground, raised a high block, and fired a reverse punch than landed squarely in the guy’s gut.  To be quite honest, I was impressed with myself.  I’d never had to do that before, so it was exciting to me to be able to see my practice come into play.

Another good hit I landed on the guy was after he had basically punched me in the face.  The only reason I didn’t get a point was because only one of the judges saw it happen.  Anyway, I hit him with a punch that knocked the wind out of him as he was rushing me.  I literally had to catch the guy to keep him from falling.  I was also proud of that, too.  Haha.

Now, before I make myself sound like I did awesome this fight, I need to let you know… I didn’t.  That rolling around on the ground part messed with my knee a little bit.  On top of that, I was having difficulty listening and quickly processing what my coach was telling me to be able to react better to this big guy’s rushes.  I won Grand Champion, but only by a quick side-step and reverse-punch at the last second, which gave me the extra point I needed to win (instead of tie).  I think the final score was 6-5, or something close.

I was happy that I won, but I didn’t have the good feeling I did about that fight that I did about my other fight.  This one was way too close for my comfort, and it really shouldn’t have been based on my skill level.  Needless to say, I’ll be working to correct that issue in the near future with my instructors at the school.  However, at the end of the day, I still got First Place in my division, and Grand Champion of the Underbelt divisions, so I’m happy!

The drive home was a struggle.  We stopped as a karate family at a Pizza Hut (that was WAY off the beaten path) for dinner that Master Dave graciously paid for.  However, pizza in the belly after a very looong day at a karate tournament and driving late at night do not mix.  We got about an hour from home when I had to swap drivers.  I’ve done the driving-while-tired-home-from-a-tournament thing before, and it almost didn’t end well, so never again!

Our next tournament as a school is on Memorial Day weekend, which happens to be the same weekend as the Post 14 Legion Rider’s “Boys State” charity ride.  I’m trying to work the schedule to see if I might be able to still attend both, but it’s not looking good, and being the new Assistant Director of our Legion Rider’s chapter has some responsibilities with it.  Still, we’ll see…

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One Response

  1. Good write-up, Ryan.. and congratulations on your big win! Being my first tournament, I can say that I took away HUGE learnings.. about myself, my abilities (or lack thereof) and the abilities of others at the same rank (or close to the same rank.. I felt I was better, skill-wise, than everyone in my division). I know what I need to work on, that’s for sure, and cannot wait to get back to class! I went in with a winning attitude, and I can’t say that I’m not disappointed. But, at least I didn’t come in DEAD last (I got a ‘bye’ for the first round, too). Haha! And, I got a trophy – woohoo! My competitors were humble and respectful, which I certainly appreciate. Nevertheless, I am a competitor-at-heart, and I expect to do better at each tournament I compete. Thanks to Master Dave, Mr. Eli, Miss Ashley, Mr. Keith, you, Jeremy and the others for helping us ‘newbies’ prepare. Onward and upward! 🙂

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