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Last year I was in Atlanta when a NAGA ref came up with a competitor’s card and asked that he be called to ring five. I took it, read it, and announced carefully over the PA “Dewmian Depupah to ring five, Dewmian Depeupah from B-B-Q B-J-J to ring five immediately.” It was only over a beer that night that I was told how cleanly I'd been pranked.
But nothing prepared me for last Saturday in Ft Worth, TX.
It is common that with a hundred or hundreds of divisions, sometimes an advanced division only has one entrant; when possible, NAGA refs step in to give the lone guy a match. So I was not surprised when NAGA founder Kipp Kollar came up and said “Hey there is a guy who needs a match, will you take it?”
“Sure, how soon?”
“Oh, whenever it is good for you.”
“Cool, give me like ten minutes.”
“Thanks … I have to tell you though, he is big.”
“How big like 290?”
“Nooooooooooo, he is not 290. He is under 300 pounds.”
“Oh, okay, cool, sure, ten minutes.”
On seeing that written, I should have known what was coming. I will plead busyness, but suspect weak mindedness.
I finish what I was doing, rue the refreshing ginger beers at PF Changs the night before, drink a bottle of water, borrow a mouthpiece (yuck), pick up shorts and cup from the apparel booth, loosen up, do a few level changes, and walk to the mat. But I had cotton mouth, and was breathing too rapidly so I stammer something about having to warm up some more, and scuttle back to the warm up mats. In a few more minutes I am ready to end this as quickly as possible.
Kipp says something over the PA, a crowd gathers, and this guy takes his jacket off, smiling. “OH MY FUCKING GOD” I blurt out loud enough for the crowd to laugh and the gathered Texan parents to doubtless wish I would get back right quick to Massachusetts or Cuba or whatever unmannered corner of the USA I hail from.
I grew up in Africa and as kids we used to tell a story about how Idi Amin got pissed off at one of his wives and he cut off her arms and legs, and then sewed her arms where her legs were, and her legs where her arms were. That was this guy, his arms were like legs, but bigger.
Found out later, DD Nichols weighed in that morning at 297, has a lifetime max bench over 700 pounds, deadlift over 800, runs an MMA school in Bintin, Arkansas called Crush Kill Destroy, and enjoys long walks on the beach. But that moment, the arms looked way stronger than that, and shredded.
Jiu-Jitsu is famously an art where size, shape, physical condition, race, age, or gender do not matter. Only the precisely timed and focused application of leverage and technique are paramount.
What strategy did David determine when faced with the fearsome Goliath? What maneuver did Leonidas decide upon up at Thermopylae against that tall guy who didn’t look very straight? What tactic did Tom Arnold devise against Roseanne Barr? I am pretty sure the answer to all three is the guillotine, or at least that is what I wanted to try.
So we tied up and I pummeled pretty carefully and pretty fast and pretty keep his big self away from me, and then, finally, his head dipped. I snatched around his neck, and thought “I got this.” it was about over.
It was then I learned a novel defense to the guillotine. If you are upside down, your grip kind of unscrews like a cap off a bottle. That combined with the fact that I was now upside down and a man’s height off the ground led me to say to me “Oh I gotta let go .” DD was kind, and neither accelerated my fall nor landed on me in the manner of the steamroller on top of the "cry baby" in that Foster's beer commercial. Instead I momentarily slipped the surly bonds of Earth, and then I hit the mat. I determined pretty quick nothing was broke, and let the ref know it was a good takedown, not an illegal slam.
I edited a volume called 1001 Submissions, but DD helpfully introduced me to a new one - The Accordian. He grabbed some lower part of me, then the head part of me, and then endeavored to introduce them. My neck was popping pretty uncomfortably, but I finally got a little leverage, then a little half guard, and finally reached for a body lock to begin to advance my position. My arms wouldn’t reach.
Then he grabbed an arm, and key locked it. Kipp’s son Dylan says ‘gub’ instead of ‘good’ and from him I acquired the sometimes annoying habit of saying ‘gub’ a lot. “Oh this is not gub” I thought. I grabbed my shorts and wondered if the shorts were going to rip off (I was not letting go of the shorts).
“Hey, he is holding onto his shorts!” said DD.
“Yah DQ me I'm not letting go” I thought.
Holding shorts to avoid a submission is legal so the match continued. I wish this story had a happy ending, but If you know who is going to win, there is no reason to have the contest.
It played out, with DD moving my arm various ways it didn’t want to go, and me getting them to marginally less miserable contortions, while trying to rock him a little, breathe a little, and other necessities. This is us at the winners stand. Well, DD anyway; I wasn't at any winners stand.
Losing sucks; it is what losers do. I wish I had won. I want to win a rematch.
Losing can be inspirational. I delermined to go home and work on some stuff to take the next one.
Then I got the flu and spent all Christmas eve and day home alone shaking under the covers with two sweat shirts on, and not even fat robbers trying to break in to enliven the day.
But in the end, it is a little story, and what is this life but a series of stories?
If anyone has stories about losing to strong guys, being hit by a train, annihilative collisions with interstellar comets, that kind of thing, post them below. You will have my empathy.