Roxanne Modafferi

The Happy Warrior

I won and got promoted at the BJJ tournament!

Yesterday was a major day in my life.

I drove to California with my teammates and competed in a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu tournament called “Jiujitsu World League.” It’s a big tournament but not the biggest in the country or anything like that. However, it had something that other smaller, more local tournaments didn’t have…. women in my rank in my weight class! For the past two tournaments I had hoped to do, I was able to check online and no purple belt lightweight females signed up! 🙁 There are a lot of jiujitsu schools and good training in California, so there is more of a chance to be competitors there. I decided to go, and Serena wanted to come with me to support me, although not compete. My instructor Capitão heard my plans and immediately said, “I will go with you” without checking his schedule or anything. Wow, I was touched. His friend and fellow fighter Naldo was going to compete as well, but didn’t sign up in time. :/

So I had to diet for a few weeks and then cut a few pounds of water, which was stressful because I didn’t know exactly when I had to weigh in, but it turns out I could do it shortly after arriving at 11 AM. The tournament was so organized! They emailed me my competition time (3 PM) so I wouldn’t have to wait around all day, like I used to when I competed a lot 12 years ago! (12 years ago, wow lol)

on the road, at a rest stop!

So my team and I left at 1:30 Friday afternoon and arrived around 6, where my sponsors and friends Eric and Beth from Remove it Restoration www.removeitrestoration.com took us out for dinner. We ended up getting sushi. They also sponsored our hotel room!

I woke up Saturday morning and ate three granola/protein bars. That put me overweight so I did my walk/sprints/yoga warm up with my sauna suit on and sweat a TON. Also got a great stretch. That put me back on weight! I braided my hair the best I could, and got everybody moving out, checking out at 11. We drove 30 mins to the venue where I could weigh in and eat and drink up the few pounds I cut. We watched for 3 hours and I tried to pay attention and warm up my mind mentally.

This tournament felt so different than the last because last November I was trying it for the first time in 12 years. Winning wasn’t as important as finding out my level…. was I still a purple belt after all these years? I got my purple belt from Joao Amaral in 2005 and then went to Japan that year, only putting on my gi like 5 times over the 8 years I was there. My no-gi grappling got better but my gi skills faded.

I lost both my matches then. Got submitted by Raquel Pa’aluhi after a restart, which sucked because I know how to defend the bow and arrow but the restart happened so fast…. and lost on points to a girl I was dominating. I got a medal, which I almost left at the event, but decided to take it. I would hang it on my wall and look at it to remember my determination. I decided that every week I would do BJJ and MMA classes back to back on Tuesdays and Thursdays, even though I would be so tired for MMA and it would effect my performance. I decided I didn’t care and I would train until I passed out, even if it meant overtraining. I almost passed out a few times, actually. It really sucked not being able to perform as I wanted to in MMA and I couldn’t finish class a few times. But I got better at jiujitsu. I also did stuff like forearm/grip exercises because I remembered in my match my arms burned out and I felt so tired. Captain told me to climb ropes and I did and got splinters from them in my hands a few times.

Rock Lee, the original “genius of hard work,” would be proud of me. lol

I wrote about this before, but I used to think a tattered belt was cool and a sign of training hard. I made it my goal to gain the knowledge to make me worthy of a brown belt before it fell apart. Once I made that decision, however, every time I looked at my purple belt, I felt ashamed that I couldn’t do better and time pressure, so I dunno if that was a good mindset. lol

At least once a week I sat alone before class with scissors, trimming the threads that hung off so it would look neater at least, and I felt like crap. I want to be better!

When Casey, our gym manager announced a belt testing date in a few months, my heart felt troubled. I didn’t want my teacher to feel obligated to give me anything because there’s a date set. I know for other people it can be nice extra motivation and something to work towards, but …. not for me. At this point, I can’t really judge my skills other than see who I can beat and who I can’t. What if I know a ton of techniques but can’t always do them live? Or what if I don’t know a ton of techniques but I can do a bunch really really well and win? What makes a purple belt a brown belt?

So anyway, this time my mentality was different. I wanted to win so badly. I was so hungry for the win. I felt like listening to Rob Zombie and the songs I usually do before a fight. I felt focused, like I do before a fight. My last tournament loss devastated me just like a fight did. It was a jagged pill to swallow a few weeks after my title fight loss, but I knew what I had to do and I did it. My guts were in knots just like before an MMA fight. I went out there….and things didn’t go the way I had imagined, actually. I was determined not to get sucked into their guards, but both girls managed to get me in theirs before I could try and take-down.

The first girl played closed guard.

I heard Captain shouting “Grab her lapel and her sleeve!” I got her lapel, but couldn’t get her sleeve. Then I got her sleeve but lost her lapel. Then I got both and started working on breaking open her guard but she off-balanced me and I had to let go of something to brace and keep my base, and couldn’t get both sleeve and lapel…for like 3 minutes. LOL Finally I broke her guard with a standing knee in butt pass and passed and got side control!! That got me three points. She managed to get a sort of half guard and tried to sweep but I wouldn’t let her. I was running out of time and tried the choke I was going over with Casey just before, but knew I wouldn’t get it because she was too much on her side , but I tried anyway. TRIED TO SMASH HER FACE WITH MY FOREARM! and couldn’t get it sunk, but at least I tried to attack. I won by points! 😀

The second girl played more of an open guard. I liked that.

Thanks, Eric, for the pictures.

But she had such a strong grip on my lapel and was hanging off of me, I couldn’t break it. I almost passed de la riva like five times…that was cool, because that’s my game, but she had a hold on my lapel and I couldn’t break it and couldn’t pass with it there. I finally passed by doing what Captain said and reaching under her leg…and I forget if I got points from side or north south.

I think this picture might have been the moment!
I think I got side control. I got her in north south once but not sure if I held it for 3 seconds. I have come to really like north-south and was going for something but she escaped and tried to get half guard, but I sat on her leg. I could hear Captain very well but couldn’t always do what he said, but it was super good advice and I’m so glad to have him there. I admit when he said “Fifteen seconds!” I kind of stalled because I didn’t wanna get swept and lose. lol And I won on points again!

I didn’t get to try ANY of my techniques from bottom that I’ve been working, but to be honest, being on top is more dominant and I WANTED to stay on top. I wish I had submitted someone, but I lost on points to a girl I had been dominating before in the November tournament, so you know, I’m okay with winning like this. It’s better than getting no points and having the ref decide.

I was numb at first and then when I went over and hugged Captain I realized that 1) I had won not one, but BOTH of my matches 2) I got first place! 3) I had accomplished my minimum goal of winning once, plus more! 4) I proved I could beat purple belts 5) I could throw my old medal away 6) Captain said he was proud of me.

I started crying from joy. I was totally post-fight delirious, shaking from adrenaline, and couldn’t even untie my belt. lol Then the staff started ushering us, telling us to go to the podium. Already? I had just fought… usually staff need more time to get organized, but they had winners and competitors entered into a computer system so I guess it was so fast! I hugged Serena and Eric and friends and then let Captain lead me over there. It was surreal! Our gis were spotted with one of their blood. (Serena later quipped that I bathed in the blood of my victims. haha ).

So then the lady told me to get on the podium and Capitão was off to the side talking to someone. The other girls got on and then suddenly Captain came over with a brown belt! omg!! Usually the instructor promotes their students in the gym, but I think it’s SO COOL when it happens as a surprise on the podium after having won! It was kind of a dream of mine but I didn’t think it would happen this time! I hadn’t stopped crying from before and just cried harder. hahaha The staff lady also hung the medal around my neck. I was so happy!!



We took pictures.

I just wanted to blow my nose, I had been crying for like 10 minutes at that point.
Then Capitão took the belt off and told me to tie the purple belt back on, and I didn’t know what was going on, my brain was still post-fight brain, so I just did what people told me to. LOL My hands were shaking so hard I could barely do it. it was uneven but at least it was on my body. HAH Then I realized what had happened a few minutes later.

Capitão had decided at the last minute to promote me if I won, and hadn’t prepared my actual brown belt. So in the three short minutes it took for us to walk over to the podium and wait to step on, Captain located a random guy with a brown belt and asked to borrow it for the picture. LOL Then gave it back. hahahahahaha that’s so hilarious! I had looked at it like, ‘uh it’s a little small.’ That’s so funny!!! I love it! I love him! I love the whole weekend!

Then Eric and Beth took us out to eat at a Greek place, and we drove back 5 hours, arriving at midnight in Las Vegas. Spectacular two days! I can’t believe it was only two days. Two days I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It was so fun spending time with my two Brazilian teammates. Naldo is so great and I got a lot of Portuguese practice. I’m so grateful to Serena for coming to support me and being such a great friend! <3 Also my friend at The Void sponsored me also, and helped cover my expenses for this weekend! Thank you! <3 And I can't forget to thank Casey. He has been helping me from day one at Syndicate, before I ever met Capitão. Through private lessons I've been taking with him, I've developed my de la riva passes and take downs, defenses, various chokes, ways to break the grip, use the gi, everything. I've even gone to literally cry in his office when I had a rough MMA class and he was there and talked to me so I could calm down and go back out to train.
I couldn’t have improved and won and raised my jiujitsu level if it weren’t for these two men. I love you guys and thank you. <3 Jiujitsu makes my heart sing, and it'll help my MMA career, also. Now, I feel like I have to work harder than ever and learn more and more to be a good brown belt! Like Casey, the best sempai ever! Anything I ask, he has some kind of good answer for me. There are so many things I don't know. I have to get better at sweeps, for one and many other things. And I have to keep getting stronger. My motivation hasn't faltered at all! Every day I expect to get better and better, and one step closer to being a tatsujin (master) and having perfect technique. Ah yes and last but not least, I got to throw away my hateful loser medal!! YEAH!!!!!!! I earned a new one!!

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