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First let me begin by hoping that you all had a great Xmas and hope enjoy your New Year celebrations. Sadly I have not had such a good one as since last Monday I was struck down with flu, not even 'man-flu' but real flu. I was bedridden for five whole days and even now I am weak, feeble and hacking like an old hack. It means my Euros training is down the drain.
But apart from this small end-of-year glitch I have to say, 2009 has been what I consider to be my breakthrough year...
By this, I mean I knew I was at a crossroads, and in order for my BJJ level to grow, I had to step up my training and enter some comps. And this is exactly what I have been able to do. I have won a couple, lost loads, but it's all helped me build up my game and although maybe my repertoire of techniques has not necessarily grown hugely, the ability to see, feel and execute basic moves better than I ever did previously was certainly apparent to me. So for this I am quite proud of my improvement. But more about that later.
I was keen to document the UK BJJ scene in my own words and this blog has certainly built up in the past year, thanks again to everyone who reads this or just passes through, it means a lot to me. Out of interest, you may like to know that my entry on March 17th this year "Jiu Jitsu Sisterhood" is my most read article.
I've also achieved another of my goals - to have a proper feature article published in a martial arts magazine. Two in fact! Meeting both Penny Thomas (Fighters Magazine article) and Felipe de Souza (MAI) was an enriching experience for me. Two black belts from very different backgrounds and with very different goals, both of whom made for great interviews in my view. I would certainly love to do more for 2010.
But the fast moving pace of BJJ and most sports in fact seems to suit the world of the online reporter, so I've also been lucky enough to have my work published in the excellent Fightworks Podcast and On the Mat websites. For 2010, I shall be looking to continue my interest in BJJ journalism with more write-ups and articles.
Coupled with my reporting is my growing passion for BJJ photography. Now as it is my day job to edit photos you'd think I know a thing or two about photography. But trying to apply my ideas in the field so to speak is not so easy. However, I think there are one or two stand-out photos from my snaps this year and below is one of them (two ladies fighting at the BJJ British Open in Birminham):
Touring and Training
My blogger friend Jadon who writes Tapping Like Riverdance came up with the grand notion to travel up and down the UK visiting every BJJ club. He's done well wit over a dozen visits. I've wanted to do something similar myself for a while now but never had time to organise anything. But this year I did sort myself out and visited several academies (RGAVie, GB Brum, BJJ School, LFF), each offering their own unique atmosphere and flavour, all of them were hugely enjoyable. I've met some terrific people along the way and picked up some very useful BJJ techniques too! So for 2010, I plan to visit a few more in my BJJ Academy Tour.
As mentioned earlier, I knew now was the time for me to try a bit of BJJ competition. In the past I've always avoided it, seeing it as something where injury was inevitable and not the reason why I learned the art. But I was deluding myself. BJJ and competition, in my opinion, go hand in hand. Certainly it does for a seasoned blue belt like me. I knew eventually that in order for me to really see how far I could progress with my ability, was to test the waters on the competition tatame. And so I did.
At the Brighton Grab and Pull, my very first tournament, I was a bit overwhelmed. I can't remember anything of the fight, but I knew that despite losing, I thoroughly enjoyed it. At the Essex Open I was surprised to win my first gold medal. At the BJJ British Open, which was massive, I had a very good fight only to lose by points. At the Grapplers Showdown I was blitzed by a 21 year old whizz kid and then smashed by a 70kg bulldog. I was very sore after that event. But I took some great photos! Finally, things did go my way at the Kent Open, where I won to take gold in the senoir blue division.
What struck me about these things was how much of a social gathering they are too. You get to bond with your team mates who you may not have time to chat to much in class and you meet people from other academies. Having a certain well known blog also helps spread my notoriety. It's all jolly good fun at the end of the day.
Finally, the club where I train made its move to a new permanent and purpose built home in Mill Hill Bunns Lane Works. Sure it is cold and the surrounding music rehearsals can bleed the ears, but it is home and I love training there. I also love all the cool people who train with me and my end of year salute go to you, team mate, training partners and instructors of the Mill Hill BJJ Club...hip hip hooray!
Roll on 2010.