This weekend was the Korean Machado Open. The tournament was mostly the Jiu Jitsu teams affiliated with Team Machado in Korea (there are six) but there was a smattering of guys form other clubs as well. As a sidebar, the word "Machado" was misspelled on one of the main tournament banners as "Machdo". I am coming to expect things like this from Korea. Luckily for me this tournament was in Daegu which meant no late night/early morning weight cutting and no having to pull our coach out of a gentleman's club before the tournament like last time. It also meant I could get home at a reasonable hour instead of going to bed at 2:30 am after fighting all day and then having to work in the morning.
A little more Konglish.. you can't escape it.The tournament was held in a large school gym, like most tournaments in North America. One of the big differences is that in Korea they tend not to heat a lot places that we heat at home. Places like bathrooms, hallways and, you guessed it, school gyms. The tournament was generally well organized but the lack of heat made things tough. The mats were so hard we might as well have been fighting on the gym floor. Getting warmed up for a matches was a major challenge. If you look at the pictures and video you can see that just about everybody is wearing a winter coats in the gym, even the referees and most of the guys warming up. I'm surprised there weren't more injuries with guys jumping in to action with cold and stiff muscles.
I competed in the gi and no-gi divisions, with this being the first time I ever competed in the gi. I won my first match by armbar after two quick takedowns for points. That would be the last takedown I scored all day. It turns out my first opponent had a reputation as being pretty decent in the takedown department. After my match with him not one single opponent would fight me on the feet. Every guy "buttflopped' as soon as the ref said "fight" They just sat right down and tried to pull me into their guard to avoid being taken down and giving up points. It got so ridiculous at one point that when one of my opponents in no gi sat down I sat down too. We looked pretty stupid sitting there facing each other. He stood up, I stood up. He sat back down, I sat back down. I was trying to make a point but I think it got lost in translation.
My first ever Gi Jiu Jitsu matchI won my first two matches in the gi and then lost in the semi final. The match was very close, but I eventually got caught in a triangle after fending off a half dozen submission attempts. I wasn't altogether happy with the match as I got caught being a little lazy. I was also rushing things. Every time I would get an advantage position I was in such a hurry to score that I made careless mistakes and missed my opportunity. That was the end of my day in the gi. I was awarded the bronze medal as they simply give bronze medals to the losers of the semi finals. I would much rather have fought to declare a true bronze medalist.
When the no gi division started I made a conscious effort to try and finish all of my opponents as opposed to try and outwrestle them and hang on for a points victory. I wanted to attack with submissions and really see where I was i that department. I was at the tournament to test my jiu jitsu after all, not my wrestling.
I won my first no gi match by north-south choke fairly quickly, my second by armbar, and my third by D'arce choke. I was on a roll. I was especially happy with my second match. even thought the score was 0-0 when I submitted him I had threatened with an armbar, triangle and kimura before finishing with an armbar. The video of the match is posted in the top right corner. You can also see how impressed I was after the guy buttflopped 0.01 seconds into the match.
My third match irked me a little bit. I was winning 5-0 when we got into a scramble. I ended up on top in half guard. I set up the D'arce and hit it just the way I wanted to. I heard the guy say "tap, tap" so I let go and rolled off. When I rolled off of him, the guy tackled me and tried to take me down. I looked up at the ref with the universal expression for "What the....?". He shrugged his shoulders and gave me the universal look for "What? Keep fighting." Luckily for me we were right beside the chair judge when the guy verbally submitted. The chair judge came over and explained to the ref that the other guy definitely submitted. Even though I won I was a little cheezed. That's dirty pool where I come from, especially at a tournament where all of the teams are loosely affiliated.
Three wins put me in the finals against the same guy who beat me in the gi division. This time I knew his game a little bit and came with a much better game plan of my own. I was patient while still pressuring him for most of the match. When I was able to gain a slight advantage I kept the pressure on without rushing. I was eventually able to win the match by a score of 6-0 with one solid submission attempt. Sweet redemption.
On the whole I finished the tournament 6-1 with four submissions. The level of competition wasn't ridiculously high, but I managed to have some good scraps and was pretty happy overall. Finishing off the day by avenging my loss from earlier was a nice cherry to top it off.
Most of Team Machado Korea (Those who were still around after the awards ceremony).
It was cool to have some friends come out to watch. I've never been the kind of guy to say "come out and watch me compete" but when people show up it's always nice.
Extra limbs? It's hard not to stereotype physical traits to an ethnic group when every single Korean I've trained with or competed against has a kind of flexibility that boggles my mind. Sometimes I have an opponent down and think I know exactly what's going on only to have an unaccounted for leg creep around into a dangerous position. I can clearly remember thinking "where the hell is that leg coming from?" during a match this weekend.
Team Wayguk. There are four foreigners (waygukins) who train regularly at Daegu MMA. All four of us competed. I think if we would have entered simply as "Team Wayguk" we would have done pretty well in the No Gi division. We finished with 3 golds and one silver.
There were a couple of other foreigners who came to the tournament from Gwanju. One of them was a blue belt from the Gracie Orlando school. I talked to him for a while and was glad to hear him echo my sentiments regarding the quality of competitors in Korea. He agreed that the standards for advancing in rank here seem very high compared to North America.
Where are the wrestlers? Jiu Jitsu is a growing sport in Korea. I wonder when Korean wrestlers are going to start crossing over like they have in North America. Korean wrestles have a reputation for being as tough as nails, they could do some serious damage in the sport.
Something awesome about Korea:
Sports on TV. Since I've been here I've watched the World Handball Championships, World Weightlifting (Olympic lifting) Championships, Korean Ssirrum (traditional wrestling) championships, Asian Table Tennis Championships and every major MMA event free on cable TV. Don't get me wrong, I love watching football and can be convinced to watch playoff hockey, baseball or basketball but the variety of sports that air here is awesome.
Something not awesome about Korea:
My apartment. Brutally cold, heat and water that breaks in the middle of winter, no air conditioning for the monsoon season and mold on the walls.
Special Shout Out:
To my buddy Jim Alers. Jim and I met when working at Camp Cayuga a few years ago. Jim is a 4-0 pro fighter and recently won the East Coast Abu Dhabi trials in the purple belt division. Way to go dude, have fun in Dubai.