Miyagi: Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.
Daniel: Ever catch one?
Miyagi: Not yet.
Photo submitted by Dillon Farrell
Looks can be deceiving
Although I’m on top, I’m by no means in control and would soon be put in an arm-bar and forced to tap out of my first jujitsu match at the Kumite Classic in Monroeville.
"I only had to sign one waiver to do this, so it couldn't be that dangerous."
My college roommate and amateur adventurist, Dillon Farrell, convinced to me to try something new. Without any experience, conditioning or training, we headed to Monroeville during Memorial Day weekend to take part in the Kumite Classic - a fitness expo that featured a jujitsu tournament.
And, trust me, it was something new. I was a high school wrestler, and I graduated in 2010. It's been a while.
The trip was planned well enough in advance that I could have trained, and, in retrospect, should have trained.
The closest I came to doing something active prior to the tournament was to think about the rigorous workouts I remembered from high school -and that was more than enough to tire me out.
Dillon, who also participated in a Tae Kwan Do tournament on Friday - the night before, had seen this jujitsu tournament the previous year. He assured me that our wrestling skills would be more than enough to win a couple matches. He does club Tae Kwon Do, so he was a little bit more in shape than I was.
After watching a couple of YouTube tutorials (the source of all knowledge), it seemed that jujitsu wasn't all that different than wrestling. I was in for a rude awakening.
On Friday, I walked around the expo and took in the bizarre population of athletes that I found myself surrounded by. There were body builders, weight lifters, martial arts experts, and an alarming amount of children running around with swords. If there was ever a place that a person could fulfill his aspirations to be a real life Karate Kid, this was it. The '90's lived on at this tournament - Arnold Schwarzenegger pictures were everywhere.
With a lot of time to kill, I walked around checking the various booths and the fitness fads being sold by guys whose biceps were bigger than my waist.
Eventually, I came across a booth with a never-ending rope climbing machine - with the promise that if you could climb the rope for 30 seconds, you got a free T-shirt. Having climbed plenty of ropes in wrestling practice in high school, I decided to give it a try. I ended up getting exactly 29.99 seconds on the rope - being timed by the guy that worked at the booth. I tried to argue the inaccuracies of the timer and pled my case for the free shirt, but the attendant laughed and sent me on my way.
After Dillon got first in his Tae Kwan Do division - yes, he finished first out of four, I think, we headed back to our hotel to rest for the main event: the jujitsu tournament.
On Saturday, we woke up bright and early and made our way to the convention center to watch the expert division of the jujitsu tournament. The hope was that we might pick up a few of the moves that would go with our wrestling skills.
That didn't happen.
I was told jujitsu was similar to wrestling and, sure enough, the tournament was held on a wrestling mat. But that's where the similarities ended.
To the casual and ignorant observer (I mean me), jujitsu took everything that is not allowed in wrestling and made it the primary objective. Joints were being bent the wrong way and there was no penalty for being on your back. Perhaps the most obvious difference, your opponents had an annoying habit of trying to choke you to sleep.
Dillon and I were in the same bracket - the ages 18-to-28, 145-pound division, and we spent our time before they called our division stretching. We also spoke to competitors in the hopes that they might inadvertently divulge a secret move that would make us unstoppable. I can now firmly conclude that such a move does not exist - at least not to me.
Our division was finally called and we checked our bracket to see if we would be fighting each other. We weren't in the first round, but if I won my second match we would be going against each other. We decided that this would be the best possible scenario and, if we did go out onto the mat as opponents, the first minute of our match would be dramatic choreographed moves that made us look much better than we actually were.
When it was finally my turn to go out on the mat, I was feeling good. I had watched a lot of jujitsu that day and was fairly confident that I could hold my own. Unfortunately, in the same way that watching tennis on TV does not make you a great tennis player, watching jujitsu did nothing to turn me into a fighting machine.
The referee started the match and I crouched in my wrestling stance, doggedly determined to outsmart my opponent at his own game.
That mentally didn't last.
Almost immediately, my opponent jumped up on me, wrapped his legs around my waist and refused to let go. I had no idea what to do.
I tried going down to the mat and put him on his back but it didn't help at all. In wrestling, being on your back sets off the alarms and you do everything you can to get off of it. In jujitsu, being on your back in the "guard" position is a comfort position, according to a random competitor that I talked to before the match.
Realizing there was nothing I could do on the mat, I stood back up, with my monkey-like competitor still wrapped around my waist. Before I knew it he was hyper-extending my elbow in an "arm bar." Less than a minute after it started, I was tapping out of my first jujitsu match.
Without nearly as much recovery time as I would have liked, I was called back to the mat for a second match.
This time, I stepped onto the mat against a gray-haired opponent with the goal of not letting him hang on my waist like a monkey. After making it longer than a minute into the four-minute match, I discovered that my wrestling moves worked, to some extent.
I still don't have any idea how the scoring works, but after taking my opponent down several times and putting him in a submission move (squeezing his neck as hard as I could), I found myself up 6-2 with just 30 seconds left in the match!
This was also about the time that my almost complete lack of exercise in the last two years reared its ugly head, and as my battery level hit zero, my opponent reversed and choked me out with just six seconds left.
As I walked off the mat with my head spinning and my throat throbbing, a random competitor was thoughtful enough to cheer me up by saying, "Dude. You just lost to a senior citizen."
Dillon would lose his only match of the day, but even without success, we learned an important lesson.
In the words of Karate Kid's Mr. Miyagi, "First learn stand, then learn fly."