On Sunday I competed at the Hereford BJJ Open - an event widely regarded as one of the best run tournaments in the UK. Hereford has been running a number of years and for the tenth incarnation, I was asked by head coach Dave Coles to design some mascots, posters and t-shirts. I was chuffed to be asked of course and I saw it as a good excuse to dust the cobwebs away and get back to competing, having not done so for a year.
Read on to find out how I did...
Well of course I lost but I had a tremendous time, genuinely, I loved getting back into competitive mode and for me that's really all I was aiming for. My opponent, Dan Gandy, is well known for his long limbed triangling attacks and I felt I did okay for about a minute, keeping my distance within his guard, but unfortunately, it meant it gave him space to manoeuvre and take my back. I lost by that lovely submission, the bow and arrow choke. Dan was a gentleman afterwards and we shared a chat and cup of tea - that's what BJJ is all about, having a match and sharing experiences afterwards.
The whole day had a great vibe to it. Dave Coles and his team from the Hereford Combat Academy run a tight ship; entrants are strictly limited, all mats are fully staffed, a schedule and running order is published weeks in advance - everyone knows what they are doing and when. It should be the standard model, but as we probably all know, not all competitions run to this kind of standard.
I'm glad my match was on first thing in the morning (9:30am!) because it gave me the rest of the day to relax, take photographs, watch some great fights (including some brilliant brown and black belt action) and catch up with good friends.
I would like to thanks Dave and co for making it such a special event for everyone taking part and spectating. It was especially thrilling for me to see nearly 200 people wearing my designs on their t-shirts and to stand next to a huge podium banner that I designed.
If anyone is ever looking for a good level tournament in the UK to participate in, I thoroughly recommend the Hereford Open. Don't be put off by the distance. Hereford is a straight no-change train journey from London in about 3.5 hours (I arrived the night before and stayed in the Premier Inn adjacent to the sports centre), or an easy couple hours drive on the motorway and A-roads from either the Midlands, Wales or the South West. Competitors in divisions containing more than two people are guaranteed two fights. Most brackets operate the repechage system (all non-finalists get the chance to compete for Bronze medal). The medals themselves are huge and the facilities at the Hereford Leisure Centre are excellent (well stocked cafe, clean toilets, changing rooms, ample parking etc). Finally, there is no need to fret over who won what...the organisers post up all the results within minutes of the last match!