I ended my first year of competing by losing a competition while being ill. For me, I was just happy my best friend came to spectate me. The last few training sessions of 2016 went very well. My sparring went great against all kind of opponents. The first two training sessions in 2017 went just as good which made me afraid to lose my winning spree. I thought about reasons to stay home: my not yet restored throat and a dislocated shoulder did the job. I felt bad not going to training and started to think about the concept of progress. The next training session I did some really bad sparring because I was exausted, just like I imagined. You cannot always roll great, you can't always have a perfect day with a perfect sparring sessions. I realised making progress is both having perfect sparring sessions and having these bad sparring sessions aswell.
For about 2 years I am having problems with my shoulder getting dislocated. I never cared about it since I just popped it back in and continued my sparring session. For the last 6 months my shoulder went worse than ever before. Last week my shoulder got dislocated 2 times with a very painfull result. I went to both the docter and the physical therapist. After 2 years I finally realised I really need to take my shoulder injury serious right now. If I want to continue competing in Bjj I need to work on that shoulder. So I Started doing exercises from both my physical therapist and some online sources. After 2 weeks my shoulder starts to feel more stabile... but... I'm still afraid of making explosive movements. Even though my terapist doesn't... I know my shoulder is going to be ok.
So I thought what about taking a private class to improve my cross-side defence. I didn't know what to expect at all. Will it be worth my money and am I going to learn that much in a private session. The answer was, oow yes it was worth it. I asked my trainer to look at my cross-side defence and he showed me some little details wich completely changed my defence from now on. He didn't even have to show me what I did wrong, he just told me: Jelle you should fix this and this in your position and you are fine. To me, this was such a great eye opener. This little details can make so much difference and that's why I have a long way to go, and thats why I will take this long way. Next to some cross-side escape details he also made my triangle choke two times as dangerous. The next upcomming sparring session I tried to apply what I have learend with great results. Thanks Trainer!
My first competition 2017 was the Flanders Bjj Cup. I was nervous, very nervous. I was going there all alone without knowing anyone over there. Atleast that's what I expected. A total of four people came to me saying: hey man, and I didn't recognize them at the first moment. Talking to some people I know from earlier matches made me less nervous and more comfortable. My first match was won on a kimura from guard. Something happened that wich made me remember what my dad, my trainer and my best friend told me. Don't be to nice against your opponents. This kimura lock was tight, very tight but he didn't tap. A moment of switching my mind made me push it even tighter. He could almost touch his own head in a kimura lock. If you don't want to tap... I have to push it till it breaks. Two triangles later put me in the finals. A very nice match with atleast 7 submission tries from my side gave him the upper hand and made me tap. I was broken, my body was over and I accepted my lose and my 2nd place. With no coach and a few months of less energy I did a very good job at my first competition of 2017.
Today I went to the Bjj Friends Eindhoven competition expecting a low phased tournament in which I was wrong. A few very active competitors I met on earlier competitions were also competing here. My focus points here were: to remain calm during my fight, to be aware of what I am doing during a fight, to make use of new things I have learned instead of falling back on the old same style. I did not want to end up with sore muscles and a broken body... So, stay calm, be aware of my movements and apply some new stuff. I ended up winning all my matches by a submission. With 3 triangles and an armbar I was going home with the gold medal and a beautifull day with great fights. More important, I did fight while being aware of my movements, I did stay calm and I applied some great new techniques and styles I worked on last few months. I expected this to be easy while it wasn't easy at all with some great fighters against me. That made this victory twice as good for me. I am very satisfied.
Again I had to go all by myself to Belgium to play a big competition. Ok, I had my brother with me which was really great. Daniel from Rotterdam asked me if I needed him as a coach, thanks god he coached me. He did such a good job which really made a big difference. I kinda underestimated my first opponent, he gave me a hard time which ended with me winning on points. My second opponent gave me another very hard fight which I won on referee dicision. The finals ended with me getting slammed as a defence on a very tight armbar. He disqualified himself what made me win the match. I was so enthusiast in joining the open weight class. At some big guys I was like, you are mine my friend. The first round ended a little bit awkward by me taking down my opponent with him cracking his back which stopped the fight with me as a winner. The second fight went very well with a darce choke at the second minute. Then I faced the giant 2nd place european -100kg champion. He was mine... After a very even fight of 2-3 minutes he got me his back controle going for the armbar. I escaped it very nicely but he followed it up with an armbar from the other side so I had to tap. After that I went on for bronze but lost on points against a for me unknown play style. I just didn't know how to counter and there was no coach anymore to help me out. I ended up on the 4th place which to me was a very nice achievent considering my two last opponents were european championship medalists.
To me the half guard position is a very unknown position. I never use it and no one in my school uses it against me. I had no idea what to expect but came back with so much new and worthy information. He teached us the basic starting position to setup your half guard followed up by a way to get underneath your opponent. It's all about staying close and don't give away space for him to counter you. We ended up with two very interesting sweeps that can be combined aswell. One some sort of explosive sweep where you throw him over your body to get yourself back up and one sweep with a pretty long setup but still a very effective sweep. After all the instruction we got some time to do some position sparring starting from the half guard position. I needed this information before my last competition. This was exactly the position that was used against me by two very hard and very good opponents on the Belgium Nationals. I found the half guard a very usefull position which I'll definitely use during sparring sessions to later on apply it into my competition game plan.
Before the competition I knew my first opponent would be hard to win from. I made myself a gameplan to hold onto against my first, second and final opponent. It just doesn't work like that or maybe just not yet. Nothing in my gameplan was actuallly used in the real competition. I wanted to take him down very fast but ended up with a pretty long standing fight, I won on points 8-0. My second opponent was a team mate of mine who defended very well against all my submission tries. I couldn't make him tap, gain 8-0. After that I had to fight against a team mate from Amsterdam what also ended in a 8-0 score. Then it was my moment to get my revenge on this guy I lost against a year ago. I finally got the opportunity to beat him but I couldn't... I gave away a very easy simple sweep that gave him the 2-0 head start. From then it was me trying to chase points in an open guard position which is not yet my comfort position. It ended with a score of 2-0 just not good enough to get my gold medal. That made me sign up the open class to try it again, try again to catch my gold medal. My first opponent there was another win on points which gave me another chance to defeat my weight class final opponent. I had to meet him again but this time I would win. Atleast that's what I thought before we ended up in a 2-0 score with him as winner again. Even though I lost again against him I did improve compared to the first fight. I did so much better on sweeps on finding my right timing and on not fully playing his game. He scored a 2-0 score again which gave him the upper hand and put pressure on me. Many takedowns, many guard passes, many strong positions and some great fights ended my day as somehow mad at myself but proud at the same time.
I had the biggest expectations for this seminar. People told me this would be the best seminar you will ever have. I was excited for sure, ow yes I was. First I was able to get a photograph with Rickson Gracie himself. I first didn't want any photo because I kind of hate to give celeberties that much attention. Still got my photo which I'm really happy with. About the seminar itself I'm still not sure what to think about that. But I believe one day his knowledge will help me in my Bjj, I believe one day I will be like, hey, so this is what Rickson was trying to teach us. I think the techniques and knowledge he passed on to us was not about some specific techniques but about the fighters mindset, about the concept and about the part of Bjj you cannot see with the naked eye. The part which you have to feel for yourself and explore by stripping down every technique and find yourself a way how to improve the technique itself. How you can apply a technique the most efficient way without powering but instead use weight distribution, balance and anatomy in your benefits.
This was my third competition this week with two seminars between those competitions. After every upcomming competition it became harder to restore my body to be prepared for the next one. I have to say, you get used to it after three competitions in a row. Your body adjust it self to restore faster even though eating became harder and harder every week. But spinach cucumber smoothies helped me a lot those weeks. Also taking way, way too much protein and creatine helped me to get back on energy fast enough every time for every new competition. This time I felt so much more confident. I had recently won several competitions in a row with either a gold medal or a silver medal. I felt ready with very few nerves in me. My standing matches went so, so much better. They get better and more confident every competition. I now use a lot of foot sweeps instead of hip throws, this to secure my shoulder and because it comes with very few risks after failing one. My first match ended with 0-9 for me. My second match ended within a minute by choking him out with a bow and arrow choke from the back. On my third match I had to face a guy from Poland with no smile what so ever. He was fit, he had this tunnel vision of only going straight forward but I beated him with another 0-9 for me. The final match was against another guy from Poland, strong, fit, all in, tunnel vision and way to big chest muscles compared to mine. After a tough fight with both of us being exhausted I won with a score of 7-6. A perfect way to continue my winning streak of the last few competitions.
I recently had three competitions in a row with two seminars between the competitions. One more competition to go before I have a little break to finally get some rest. I start to feel exhausted and some small injuries won't restore in time. My knee band hurst again, my calf muscle feel tighter every day and my ankle bone start to worry me. The bone feels teared for a few weeks but I cannot go see any doctor because it's better to not know what's wrong with this bone. Even though I have pain all over my body, I feel weak and exhausted, I feel like I have to go train atleast two times a week between the competitions and hit the gym once a week to stay in shape. This made me think of how to train while exhausted... finally after three competitions I found my way to train with pain and exhaustment, without feeling disadvantageous against my training partners. It's actually very simple and very cliche... I just have to flow without the use of strenght. Feel the balance, feel the flow, feel your opponent and most important don't take submissions but let them give you your submission. My trainer told me this many times, Gabriel Rollo told me this aswell, and all these times I tried but never had to need to apply this concept. Now, while being exhausted, feel pain everywhere and with a lack of focus I just had to apply this way of training. And I like it, ow yeah I like it. I can only imagine myself combining this way of training while also being able to use full strength at the moments I need it. That's my next goal during sparring sessions, flow!!!
For me, this competition would end my white belt phase, so I needed to get my gold medal to end this perfectly. Right after work I drove for four hours together with Daniël to our AirBNB we shared with four other fighters. It was a great experience, a little road trip followed by some fun together with meeting new people. The moment I stepped in the venue it felt like my Judo competitions I did when I was young. This finally came close to the big tournaments I used to compete at when I was pursuing my Judo dreams. My bracket was filled with only six people. But... six people who paid a hundred euro for this and did drive for a long time aswell to get here. I got a bye in the first round and my first opponent didn't show up... I was without fighting any match in the finals already... I didn't like it this way. I wanted to prove myself worthy of a medal. Now, if I would lose one fight I would still end up with a silver medal, but that was not going to happen. I will win this one fight and end my white belt phase the way I want it to end. And I did, I won my only fight for which I drove 4 hours and paid a lot of money. I choked him with a triangle after one and a half minuted of the fight. My feet were slippery of sweat what made my takedown horrible, but I recovered right away in a guard position to follow up with a fake armbar fowllowed by a triangle. If I would have won a silver medal by just losing one fight I wouldn't be happy, but by winning this finals I was satisfied with my gold medal. The best part was meeting new people, supporting each other and finally have this team feeling where everyone puts their bags at the same place, sitting with each other and watching each others fights.
My blue stripe exam was hard, I was nervous, had no answer to any questions asked and I couldn't even speak properly during the exam itself. This time, a week before the exam I started to take stress relieving pills hopefully to not be to nervous during the exam. I'm not sure if this worked, I was still nervous but not as much as my first exam. It could also be the fact that I gained more confidence during the last year practicing Bjj. We started our exam with a silent, uncomfortable, fifteen minutes until someone finally had the guts to speak to eachother. Some people told me to start slowly, focus on your energy, you need your energy for the other four hours of the exam. I tried, I really tried, but I was exhausted already after the warming up. Not completely out of energy, still, I could have started a bit more slowly. And they were right, the next five hours of the exam only got worse. It was, technique, sparring, techniques followed by more and more sparring. Sparring, sparring, sparring. We sometimes do two hours sparring, but with the extra pressure, and the objective to submit each other made it so much harder. After five and a half hour I had many, many submissions and a new belt around my waist. I was proud, happy, and had to much cramp to drive all the way back in one session. I stopped four times to do some stretching before I got home. It was worth it, that's for sure. I even learned some stuff during the exam... I'm not sure if that's how it's supposed to be but I learned to have patience during the fight. stay calm! Position before submission, that's what I learned from this.
So, I got my blue belt after a tough but lovely exam... Had to walk through a tunnel of people hitting me on the back with their own belt... And realised everything is still the same after you get your new belt. People don't fight different against you, those who don't want to spar against me still don't spar against me and those who love to do some sparring with me still do. Except for me, I got changed. Getting your new belt... for me this ment more confidence, being able to do new techniques without thinking you can't do this because you are a white belt.... I definitely performed some better sparring after I got my blue belt, and I started to realise something important. I started to realise everyone has their own reason to practice bjj. For a long time I though: why would you practice bjj if you don't compete, if you don't go for it a 110%... Everyone has their own reasons to practice bjj, one might do bjj to release stress, one could train bjj to get fit or someone else may go to the training every week to have a feeling of progression. Talking about progression,,, I realised this many times, and again I got this interesting moment after sparring against three brown belts, a purple belt, a blue belt and one white belt.... Progression does not mean winning, it does not mean getting this dominant position. Fighting against a brown belt, I just can't expect myself to win this, but I can feel progression by getting less uncomfortable every time I spar with these guys, slowly I will feel more comfortable, get some reversals maybe, a sweep maybe and hopefully one day work to my dominant positions.
My first intermediate no-gi competition gave me the courage to do no-gi again... I ended up 4th out of 9 without to much trouble on my shoulder. Even though I should be happy with this result considering this being the first competition since a year ago plus the new intermediate level, I was not satisfied... The next day was totaly different... I joined my first blue belt competition with a result to be proud of, no medal but still I am very happy with the result. Again I made it to the 4th place with 2 submissions a win on point and 2 very very close call loses. My first 2 matches I won one on points, and the other one with a beautifull armbar from halfguard. Then I lost my semi-final with only a score of 0-2. After this I got placed in the semi-finals in the loser bracket to fight for bronze later on... With a score of 0-6 I finished my opponent in my very first cross collar choke. Now was my momement to go full in, give all I have to get that bronze medal!! A score of 0-0 and a very even match made it a hard referee dicision, sad enough he picked my opponent to be the winner. If he only knew I just got promoted to blue belt he would maybe pick me as the under dog... Too bad, but still in my opinion a result to be proud of.