My First Submission Only Tournament

Yesterday was an in-house tournament for Mid-America. It’s the fourth one I’ve participated in. The previous one was by far my best, I went 3-1, losing to the guy who took second.  I came in expecting to do at least as well.  The signs up around the gym said there would be a division for white belts 31+. As I thought about it, I wasn’t even sure who that was. I knew a couple guys, if they showed up, would be in that division.

As I thought about my gameplan on Thursday and Friday, I wanted to try to set up a Judo trip (o soto gari, perhaps.) And I was resolved to not pull guard, no matter what. If I could not take the guy down and he could not take me down, we’d dance for the entire time.

When we got there and signed in, we found out it would be a round-robin, submission only tournament. It would be like world cup scoring: a submission got you 2 points, a draw got you 1 point and a loss got you nothing.

They called out my name and the four others in my division and I immediately knew my resolution to not pull guard would be put to the test. We had one really strong wrestler, 2 guys that were fairly decent at Judo (for being white belts) and a wild-card, someone I’d never met before. With my luck, I assumed he also was a good wrestler.

Overall, I ended up going 1-0-4 on the day. I went 1-0-3 in my group, but there were 2 other guys that had the exact same record, so they matched us up against the other white belt group, and I wound up with a draw on that match as well.

It was an interesting experience. Something that I noticed was that I was still used to thinking in points, even though I knew it was submission only. For example, in one match, I was taken down, but was able to sweep my opponent. As I rolled on top, my thought was “Well it’s 2-2 now.”

Something else I noticed, though, was that I seemed to be more relaxed. I don’t mean passive, necessarily, but just relaxed. For example, at one point, I went for a submission that if I messed up could expose me to a pass. I didn’t get the submission, and while I was in a worse position, it wasn’t the end of the world, because I didn’t have to worry about the 3 point deficit.

I had also made it my goal to not get submitted. This was even before I found it was submission only. Once that was announced, I thought to myself “Ok, that was your goal anyway.”  There were a couple difficult positions I was in at different points. A couple of tight chokes. But I was able to hold on for the draw, despite being in a position position most of the match. It showed me that I can tolerate a lot more than I think I can. I think sometimes I get into a match at a tournament, and my opponent will get a submission attempt and I’ll tap. Yesterday showed me, that if it’s just close but not “on” that I can keep working to escape.

All that said, I don’t know how I would do at a submission only tournament that has longer times, for example 10 minutes.  There was one match that 4 minutes seemed like an hour. One of the others seemed like maybe if it went 10 minutes, I would have had a shot.