I train in jiu-jitsu. Because of trials, and travel, and running the firm, and kids, I don’t train nearly as much as I like. But I do it when I can and I enjoy it. I began training relatively late in life. I was in my late 40s, a lawyer and a dad. Earlier in life, I had obtained a black belt in tang soo do Korean karate. I then started studying Aikido in New Haven, Connecticut. I continued training here in San Diego at a very well respected school run by a teacher by the name of “Chiba Sensei.” Students would come from all over the world to train with us. I then boxed for a number of years at the Community Youth Athletic Center. I always have enjoyed training in combat sports. I have not found something that causes you to test your mind and body as intensely as a “fight.”
And so, this year, I signed up for a jiu-jitsu tournament called the “World Master IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship” to be held in Las Vegas in August. I knew that committing to competing against the best from all over the world would force me to train hard to prepare. I signed up to compete at a weight called “medium heavy.” For that class, I would have to weigh in just before my first fight at no more than 195 pounds, including my gi and belt. That meant I would need to weigh 190 pounds or less without clothes.
Early in the year, I had back to back to back trials. That didn’t help with training. I then had heavy work travel commitments. I also had committed to a Summer vacation trip with my kids in June. By the time I got back from that trip, I weighed 215 pounds and really hadn’t trained much or that intensely. Fortunately, I had cleared out the next couple months to focus on training. I also had to lose 25 pounds. And so, I went to work.
The week before the tournament, I was close to weight but not quite there. I felt weak from the weight cut and heavy training. I thought perhaps I had chosen the wrong weight class but it was too late to change. Finally, the day came. I made weight relatively easily. With my professors, teammates and girlfriend watching, I won my first fight. It was tough and I got kicked in the face during a scramble. I was actually semi-conscious for a few moments, but luckily I was near the edge of the mat, and the referee stood us up and started us over. My teeth were rattled and my nose was bleeding, but I was really happy to have my hand raised in front of my professors and friends. My second fight was against a Judo black belt. I was careful to watch for his throws and won that one too. That qualified me for the finals.
The guy I was fighting was a tough Russian guy. I took him down but he got me in a choke. All of sudden, the referee stopped the fight. I didn’t know why. Then I looked up. My nose was gushing blood all over him. Some medic came and stuffed gauze up my nose. And so we started again. A minute or so later, the referee stopped it again. For the same reason. He warned that if he had to stop us again, my opponent would win by default. And so the medic stuffed gauze up both my nostrils and wrapped tape around my nose and head. I felt like a mummy. The tape was pulling on my eyes and partially obstructing my mouth as well. I really couldn’t breathe the way I needed to. I shot again for a takedown and my skilled opponent again put a choke on me. Because of the nature of the choke, and because of the tape, I couldn’t breathe. I tapped and the fight was over. I was the Silver Medalist.
I was happy to compete. I was happy to get the Silver. Next year, my goal is the Gold. I will train harder and more frequently this year. Competing was a blast. I ask myself why I do this as an old lawyer dad. A few reasons come to mind. First, I do it to provide an example to my kids. I teach them constantly to work hard and to compete. That they can see I practice what I preach is important to me. Second, I do it for my clients. If I can survive very intense physical fights with some of the toughest guys in the world, I can deal with judges and juries and opposing counsel just fine. I feel like jiu-jitsu strengthens both my body and mind for legal combat. Finally, I do it just for me. I was a college athlete and have competed my whole life. I love competing. I love the relative “anonymity” of jiu-jitsu. On the mat, nobody cares if you are a lawyer or a doctor or a carpenter or a mechanic. We are all just family trying to do our best. Jiu-jitsu keeps me humble, healthy and happy. It is, most of all, my gift to myself.
Thank you for reading my story.