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2015 Was a pretty crazy year for me. It would be my second full year as a purple belt and my last semester of grad school. Time seems to have flown by and as much as I would have loved to slow it down, I only hope I wasn’t left behind.

From an academic standpoint, I graduated with a Master of Arts in Psychological Research from Texas State University. It was such an incredible achievement albeit having mostly student loan debt to show for it. Oh well, I suppose that’s the way these things go and I do not regret my decision to go back to school because it made total and complete sense at the time.
It took time away from training but again, it was a great decision and one I know (though I’m uncertain of how) it will pay off.

From a professional standpoint, when things were good, they were great. When things were bad, they were horrible. I started off the year chock-full of private lessons and a graduate assistantship. I knew things were going to fall off once school was over so I made some preparations and unfortunately failed.  As the year went on, I also saw a dip in the amount of students I teach privately which hurts matters. Ebb and flow.

From a Jiu-Jitsu standpoint, which is why you’re reading in the first place I assume, things have been so incredibly challenging and when I received my brown belt just a few weeks ago, 2015 really helped me understand what it is to TRULY earn your rank.

January 2015. I make a New Year’s Resolution. My goal is to compete in 6 IBJJF competitions including 2 out of state tournaments, hoping one is the World Championships.

I started 2015 strong. I somehow managed to find a good groove with graduate school and was able to train my ass off. The first tournament of the year was the Houston Open in the 3rd week of February. I was feeling great. I remember telling a professor of mine that I had never felt better and that I had this zone I had never hit before mentally. I start my first match and within seconds, I dislocate my thumb. I submit my first opponent after a few more minutes.

See complete event gallery + order prints and downloads at http://www.mikecalimbas.com/BJJ/IBJJFHOUSTONOPEN2015-2/

My second match wasn’t too much later and I submitted my second opponent within a few minutes. My third match took forever. At this point, my thumb was sore and no longer had the use of my left hand. I lost on points to a very gritty and tough opponent. I took silver.
Next competition was the Austin Open in July. Because of grad school, the spring semester drained me of the time to compete. The out of state competitions I had lined up fell on dates too close to important presentations and my thesis defense.
Once I was done with school, I trained pretty hard leading up to the competition. Unfortunately, during the first week of July, during some hard training, I heard my ribs crunch. I was out of training for 2-3 weeks with what I think was a dislocated rib or maybe even an intercostal tissue injury –I did not check WebMD so I can’t say for certain.
I competed in Austin. I won my first match by submission and then I won my next one on points (I like to think I got lucky). In the finals, I faced the same person I lost to in the finals of Houston. Vengeance was mine, but unfortunately, it wasn’t. I made a mistake and lost in the last minute on points. So be it.
My next competition was likely Dallas but thankfully, my sponsor Natural Stacks, came through on financing a trip to Atlanta.  I wanted to compete in Atlanta because the number 1 ranked guy in my division was there and was sure to compete. Atlanta would be my very first out of state competition EVER and I was excited.
I won my first match on points. I had this feeling fate would bring me to the finals to fight the person I came to fight so I tried to conserve energy and win as easily as possible. My plan worked for my first match.
My second match saw me against a very tough opponent and unfortunately, during the first minute and likely due to poor nutrition the day before my match, my hip seized up and I was unable to execute a pass. We had a nice little back and forth exchange and I hit a submission in the final minutes. Fate had brought me to the finals.
My finals match was interesting and made me truly appreciate what it is to be a competitor at this athlete’s level. We went back and forth with him always on the attack. I was never comfortable and I never had a chance to truly get my wits about me. This was apparent when I went back to the tape and saw I had him in an inverted triangle with a great chance to finish but I didn’t. I couldn’t see it from the point of fatigue and exhaustion I was in. I lost by 2 points. I took silver. That’s 3 silvers for the year.

 

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I did the absolute against my better judgement and lost to the same athlete. He broke a grip so hard he sprained an already sprained wrist (happened a week before competition) and after a few scrambles, he ended up submitting me.
The following day was NoGi. I had two matches. I faced the same guy I faced in the opening round the day before. I won my first and lost my second in the finals. I took home another silver. 4 competitions, 4 silver medals (3 + another if you include the NoGi as its own separate entity).
We are in September now and the opportunity has come up for me to be the head instructor of a Jiu-Jitsu school on the outskirts of town. I gladly accept. I realize soon after that my life as a competitor has taken a back seat and my life as a teacher has hit another milestone and needs more attention.
My next competition was supposed to be the Masters Worlds but unfortunately, the registration closed some 6 weeks too early. I then planned on doing the Dallas Open but I kept training after Atlanta and my wrist was getting worse (It still has not healed and we are in December). I was tired of competing injured so I sat this one out.
During September, I was pretty bummed that I only had silver medals in the year. I was also ranked number 25 or so in IBJJF Rankings. my goal to finish the year was to finish in the top 5.
Next stop was Seattle. I take gold after having only one person in my division. I was hoping for more but as they say, you can only fight who shows up. I am now ranked number 8.
Last stop for 2015 was San Antonio. I figured this would be my last competition as a purple belt so I had to win. There was no alternative.
My first match finished with an Ezekial choke from mount. My next match saw a great back and forth with me mostly passing guard and my opponent retaining his guard. I love to pass but to be quite honest, it’s exhausting. I was up by about 12 points when he started to string together some attacks that unnerved me so I pulled guard. He attacked a footlock that would have gotten me if my reaction time was a little slower but I got up and proceeded to try and pass. Time ran out.
After the match, I sat on the mats tying my belt and just reminiscing on this year in the 30 seconds or so I had to tie my belt. I got up, got my hand raised and walked off the mats. I had a team of training partners behind me and I was so lucky to have those guys there by my side.
I couldn’t really enjoy the feeling for too long because I lost my ID. I eventually found it and it was off to Krispy Kreme.
December 30th and I am now ranked number 4.
2015: 6 competitions, 4 silver medals (1 bronze for a NoGi Absolute) and 2 gold medals.
I achieved my goal of competing in 6 competitions including at least 2 out of state tournaments and even cracked the top 5.
I can’t thank my professors and training partners enough for all of their help. I can’t thank my opponents enough for the opportunities they’ve given me to test myself and challenge myself spiritually, mentally and physically.
I can’t thank my girlfriend, Larissa, enough for being there by my side through it all.
2015 has been such an intense ride and I am happy. I achieved some things I thought were impossible and I feel like I am only now beginning to grow.
I received my Brown Belt shortly after San Antonio.
2016, here we come!

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Hey everyone, thank you so much for reading. I have been laying pretty low lately trying to figure things out on the actual life side of Jiu-Jitsu. Teaching and training don’t always go hand-in-hand and in order to make time for training, it seems I had to go off the writing grid for a little bit but I’m back (or so I think!).

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