When I asked Samir about hosting me while in Zurich, he said he could but that he would be leaving for Rome on April 3rd to compete. I asked how long he planned n staying out in Rome and he said that he was leaving on April 7th. This worked out great for me because I had already planned on going to Rome from Zurich on the same dates. I asked him where he and his team were staying and Samir said they had accommodations near the venue and if I wanted I could chip in on a room that had a spare bed in it. I didn’t hesitate to tell him yes. I had already been checking around for Hostels in Rome, and a lot of them were not as cheap as I would have liked, and they were far away from the venue also.
We had to be up early on Thursday morning to met with a couple of Samir’s guys on the team, drop his car off, and hit to tram going to the airport. Their flights left pretty early, around 0730 if I recall. My flight wasn’t leaving until 0900. That was fine by me, I could get some sleep at the airport and catch up on some reading and social media stuff. I had a layover in Austria, another country I can say I visited, even if I didn’t leave the airport. Even though I was concerned about making weight for the nogi portion, I decided to eat some bratwursts, potatoes, and sauerkraut while in Vienna. Samir and the guys had already arrived in Rome and already checked into the hotel. He was sending me updates via “whatsapp”, and throwing me the tram and train info so that I wouldn’t get lost on my way to the hotel.
It was a pretty straightforward trip from Rome’s airport to the hotel. I thankfully didn’t get lost, nor did I need to ask directions from anyone. It was all of jumping onto a “fast” train from the airport to “Termini” (and by the way, the train was slow), then hopping a tram from Termini to a stop near the venue and walking a few hundred meters. One of the guys from Samir’s team was in the lobby when I got in and ran up to grab Samir to help me get checked in. The hotel wanted copies of everyones passports, which I though was a bit odd.
The guys had been out exploring Rome all day, and got back to the hotel maybe an hour or so before I arrived. They were beat from all the walking, which I would endure in a couple of days in order to help lose some weight for the nogi portion of the competition. Samir said we would all go eat in about an hour. I went to my room, which I was sharing with Adriano and Dario, two blue belts from the academy. Samir was sharing a room with Luciano, a cartoonishly built man who was originally from Italy, and Igor who was tattooed up and originally from Croatia. These guys had been my adopted team the past week, and would turn into a bit of an adopted family over the next couple of days.
We decided to go to a Pizzeria just across the street from the hotel for dinner that evening. This would be my first real Italian meal. Sure, we have Italian food back in the US, but I view it much like Chinese food in the US. We started off with pizza as antipasti, which has pretty much zero in common with American pizza. The crust was nice and light, like a very slim flaky flatbread, lots of cheese, and the toppings were not abundant like they are in the US. I also noticed there wasn’t a lot, if any, tomato sauce on the pizza. I could have probably ate about 5 of these pizzas on my own. When it can time to order the main course, I resorted to ordering just a steak and a salad. You can’t go wrong with protein and greens. The steak was OK, it wasn’t worth the 20 Euros I paid for it, but meat it more expensive in Europe. Back in the US, the same steak with side dishes would have run me maybe $14-15.
Thankfully we had Luciano with us to help with the ordering of everything. He spoke to the waiters and who I presume to be the owner, and they took a pretty big liking to us. I noticed we got quicker service than a lot of the other patrons in the restaurant. It felt like something out of a new age mob movie. At some point one of the waiters asked Luciano what band we were in, I’m guessing due to the tattoos, mohawks, and other stereotypical things we had going on about us. Luciano chuckled and told the guy we were in town for the IBJJF tournament, and from there had to explain was jiujitsu was all about. I’m not positive, but I think there was some explaining of “sweaty man love” thrown in there for good measure.
After the meal, I decided I was going to go grab some bottled water if I could find a store open. Well, I didn’t find a store open, but I did find a German Pub that was run by an Italian guy who spoke very little English. The beer on tap was nothing I had ever seen before, and I stupidly didn’t take a picture or write the names down. I will however say, the couple of pints that I had were pretty good and VERY strong. Strong enough that I had to put an end to the fun and go back to the room in the hopes of not hanging a small hangover in the morning.
Friday morning was competition time. My division wasn’t slated to start until the afternoon. I met my opponent for the semi-final match in “the pit”. He was about my height, but a bit lighter than myself. He was from Crete, and was a bit surprised that I knew where Crete was. We chatted for a bit, and then were called out to out mat to wage war.
My goal was to take things to the ground on my terms, via Judo. I’m not as confident in my Judo as I would like to be. Much like my BJJ I’m a very reactive Judo player, waiting for the person to make a mistake to capitalize on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is when there is a time limit. My opponent figured out that what I was up to and jumped guard after about a minute. No problem, I thought. I’ll just pass. At some point he broke my posture, I left my right hand on the mat too long to help me base, and the next thing I knew I was getting swept and he was going right into mount. Shit! It’s OK, I’ve been here before, and I have a trick up my sleeve for getting back to my original position. A lot of the people from the academy I train at are familiar with my “lapel guard”, and how effective it can be from certain situations. Mount is one of these positions.
I quickly pulled my opponents right gi fabric from out of his belt and looped it around his back, grabbing it with my left hand. I then threw one of my feet into the fabric, then the other, walking them higher and higher into the lapel to give me the leverage I needed to explode my hips up and towards my feet. Then I feel a hand removing one of my feet, I look up and see the ref standing there, so I put the foot back in the lapel. He again removes the foot, awards me a penalty, and tells me I can’t have both feet in the lapel. I can say nothing, or I will be disqualified. This is one of the rules of IBJJF competitions, you don’t talk to the ref or the opponent during the match. With timing running out, I had to move quickly. I exploded up onto my side in an attempt to escape only to have my foe take my back and score more points. He was sinking in a choke, one of my chokes, the “bow and arrow”. I could feel the blood row decreasing from my brain, my eyes starting to get tunnel vision, I was going to pass out. I turned into the arm holding the lapel that was choking me to relieve the pressure and allow the blood to go back to my head. It was just enough to keep me from being submitted or worse…choked out.
The round timer rang, I had lost. We got up, my opponent was very humble in his win. He told me not to worry, we could fight again in the Open weight division since I had secured 3rd place during out fight. I walked over to Samir and relayed my anger and frustration at the referee. I was going to contact the head referee and make my complaint over the lapel guard incident. I knew that the match wouldn’t be reversed, and I wasn’t looking for that. My opponent had bested me, I was not out to take that from him. I was however out to make sure the referees know the rules.
After finding the head referee, I stated the situation to him and told him that I had read through the rules a few times and found no mention of two feet in the lapel. I told him that I was aware that you could not have your feet on the inside of the lapel, but the outside was fine. I stated that I know I had them on the outside, because I use the move fairly frequently and do it the same every time. I also said that I knew it was on the outside because the referee only took one foot out. The head referee asked me to wait a minute, whir he ran over and grabbed a rule book. Sure enough he couldn’t find anything against my claim, telling me that I was correct, but that he couldn’t change the match results. I told him that I wasn’t looking for a result change, but rather just concerned that the referee know his job correctly. He told me he would talk to the referee and apologized for the incident. I thanked him, and went to sign up for the open weight division.
The quarter finals of the open division had me slated against the Ultra-Heavyweight gold medal winner. The man was a beast, big and hairy. I know from the couple of guys at my gym that you don’t want a man this size on top of you. Rather, you get them on their back and you should have a pretty easy match. Every foot sweep or leg technique I attempted on the guy was met with resistance and strong arming on his part. He tried a few single leg takedowns and then resorted to just trying to throw me like a rag doll. I have a very deceptive build and weight, I don’t look nearly as heavy as I am (about 94 kilos or 204#). He seemed a bit surprised that he couldn’t throw me around like the incredible hulk. He was warned by the referee for stalling on his part. Towards the end of the match I lucked out as he attempted a takedown I threw him to the side, thus scoring the takedown points myself. I immediately went knee on belly, but the time ran out. It didn’t matter, I won.
As I was waiting in the pit for the semi-finals, my knew Greek friend came up and said that he thought his opponent wasn’t showing up and that we would probably end up fighting again. I laughed and said that would be just my luck. He told me not to worry, that I would probably do better this time, that I was a good opponent and now knew his game. Sure enough, we were meeting back on the mat again to wage battle. This time, things would go a little differently.
We spent a minute or two on our feet, with both of us trying to secure the takedown. Neither of us could best the other, so my opponent decided to pull guard. I knew better than to let him trap my arm again if he broke my posture down, which he did try a few times. I tried every guard pass I knew, knee to butt, standing, the “sao paulo” pass, and none of them worked. I could not break this guys guard. Next I tried going for a choke I like to use on white belts, and yes it’s from top guard. Newer people don’t realize that this choke leave me open to an armbar, but my opponent knew it and as soon as I felt his hips move I postured back and quickly removed my arm from danger. Time finally ran out. The match was dead even, no points, no penalties, no advantages. It was going to come down to the referees decision. The referee awarded the win to my opponent. I was now 0-2 again the same guy. On a positive note, I was able to shut his game down.
That was it for the gi. Two 3rd place medals. Now I would have to wait for nogi in order to bring back a gold for my academy back home. I also forgot to mention a huge thanks to Samir for coaching me from the sidelines for all my matches.
A bronze in the open weight division
Another bronze in the heavyweight division