Athlete Journal: Jess Papi, Entry 2 – 10/12/2013

Today I share my experience at the No Gi Pan Ams, which happened three weeks ago. It was probably the most important competition I’ve done so far.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the athlete journal of Jess Papi. Jess is a blue belt at Scranton MMA and also pursuing her degree in exercise science. Read her entries every week for insights on competing, training, and juggling BJJ and life.

Alright guys. I know I’m supposed to write my entries about what I did this past week, but I feel like I should share my experience from the No Gi Pan Ams, which happened three weeks ago. It was probably the most important competition I’ve done so far and I want to remember it. If I don’t properly document my experience, I will most likely forget a lot of the details. So lucky you – you get to relive the day with me!

The No Gi Pan Ams took place on September 28, 2013. My teammate and I were both scheduled to fight at 10:20am. Upon arrival at the venue, we were dropped off so we could get ready while our coaches looked for parking. I have to take a moment here to mention that one of my coaches uses a wheelchair, so I assumed finding parking would be quite easy. I was wrong. On my way to the bullpen, I called my coaches to see where they were and they had just started a twelve block trek to the venue! I was fortunate to stumble upon a good friend who agreed to coach me for my first match.

I rushed to the bullpen, did an abbreviated warm up, and eventually I was shepherded to mat two. As I stood and watched my division, the mat coordinator told me that I would be fighting the winner of the match I was watching. That’s when it got real. I had been standing there the whole time unfocused. It finally dawned on me that I had to get out there and fight soon. I turned to my impromptu coach and expressed words of anxiety. He told me I was ready and I shouldn’t be scared of the girl I was going to fight. She had a mean game face, but his words made me feel a little better. I got into fight mode and my name was finally called.

The ref waved us out onto the mat, shook our hands and said, “Combate!” My opponent’s hands were moving like one of those wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tubeman contraptions. Every time I tried to get a grip on her, I would accidently grab two or three of her fingers. In the middle of the match she said to me, “No grabbing fingers,” which was insanely irritating considering it was her fault that I was gripping her fingers. Then she punched me square in the face. Between that and the finger comment, I was fuming.

I finally pulled guard just to initiate some action. I reached under her leg and swept her with a pendulum sweep. I got two points from the sweep and four points for maintaining mount. When time ran out, the ref stood us up and raised my hand in the air. The best part was seeing that my coaches made it in time to see me win.

I had twelve minutes until my next match, which gave me just enough time to thank my friend for coaching me and to perform a couple celebratory dance moves. I felt unbeatable. Unfortunately, though, I came up short in the finals. I used the same exact guard pull and pendulum sweep combo, but she was able to bump me back to my guard. I shot the worst omoplata of my life and she crawled right around me. I turtled up, hoping to regain my guard, but she flattened me out and finished the match with an Americana. I was disappointed that I lost, but my opponent was so respectful that I couldn’t be mad.

I ended up taking silver in my weight class. I definitely need to work on my takedowns, hearing what my coach is telling me, and being more confident with my movements. Thinking back, I could have taken gold if I hadn’t stalled to think about what I was doing. I should have just done it. I’m sure a lot of you competitors know what I mean. I messed up a little, but it was still an awesome day. I got to do what I love, meet some jiu jitsu celebrities, and meet some of my social media friends (totally not creepy).

I don’t plan on competing again for a few months. I want to take this time to really focus on learning jiu jitsu instead of cramming in drills for an upcoming tournament. I love competing, but I need a change of pace. It’ll be good for both my mind and body. Here’s hoping I don’t go crazy from competition withdrawals. Cheers everyone!

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