SINGAPORE - A few months back I had a rather poor outing in a friendly local tournament in Singapore. It was a small informal affair but my performance was easily the worst I have ever put in for a grappling tournament ever. I was unfocused, distracted by niggledy injuries and made schoolboy errors. After the tournament I thought about my performance for a couple weeks and decided that I either needed to quit completely or to face up that I had a lot of holes in my game from inactivity or bad habits that needed to be identified and addressed.
Being stubborn to a fault I opted for the latter and changed gyms. I went to a gym I had visited to drill with a mate when they needed submission fodder for the ADCC trials. I had rolled with a few of the lads there and they were all beasting me. This is never a fun experience but one that can define your character; I could either head for a comfort zone where I can be the big dog in the yard or I could return admit I had a lot of improvements to make and sign on for he humbling experience of learning.
To learn I had to accept that I had a lot of bad habits and admit I needed help which is not something most people like to admit. I also chose to stop coaching so I could focus on fixing my game. It was a hard decision as I absolutely love my students and seeing all the progress they made but I had a hard time teaching knowing I had so much to learn and work on myself. I started attending as many classes as I could both beginner (to re-learn the basics and refine my technique) as well as the intermediate / advanced. I had a lot of support from the team and the instructor and could feel small improvements over time. I decided to sign up for the Bangkok open to give myself a goal and a timeline after I felt I was making progress.
Fiona Muxlow and I chatted regularly online as we were in the same weight class for MMA and both Invicta veterans. She also spends a lot of time in Phuket and was thinking of doing the Bangkok Open so I knew I would have someone to test myself against. I booked my flights and a week later the Bangkok Open was cancelled. I was a bit down about it but did have a weekend to Bangkok to assuage the disappointment. I let Fiona know the event had been cancelled and she invited me to compete in Melbourne. She even had my fee waived. I spoke with my day job about working at the Australia office so as not to cut into my holiday time (it's less in Singapore than in the UK) and booked tickets.
This pushed my goal post closer since Bangkok was at the end of October and Melbourne was at the end of August. I spoke with my Jason Quek Jee Tien (my coach at BJJ Singapore) about the new date and my progress. He and the team at BJJ Singapore went above and beyond to help me get ready through cranky tearful sessions and loads of drilling. Finally the day came and I was given a crisp new blue belt that coach Jason insisted I learn to tie properly so I drilled that the day before I flew.