Coach Brian Carlsen and James Strater-Smith made the trip out to California this weekend to compete in the IBJJF Long Beach Open. Both have been training hard preparing themselves for the upcoming competition season in 2014, and wanted to finish the year strong. For those of you that have competed before, you know that most promotions will post a tentative schedule for the day’s events. Most events run late, but the IBJJF does a good job of sticking to their schedule. Brian was scheduled to compete at 11:30 and James at 11:45. The two woke up around 9:30, giving themselves plenty of time to wake up, eat breakfast, and warm up before their first match. They got in the car and James, being the coffee addict he is, dropped Brian off at the event at 10:45, then ventured off to a Starbucks. This is where their stories diverge:
“As I walked in to the venue I was fairly relaxed”, says Brian. “I used to get nervous before competitions, but I have done so many of them now I just embrace the nerves and they don’t seem to bother me.” This was until he was walking down the stadium stairs at the Walter Pyramid and heard his name being called. At IBJJF events you get 3 calls to check in with your ring coordinator, then you get disqualified. This was Brian’s 3rd call, and he hadn’t even made it to the warm up area yet! He sprinted down the stairs, suitcase in hand, to go check in. By the time he found his ring coordinator to check in she notified him he had already been disqualified. His stomach cinched up and he had to squat because he got so light headed. All his work, all the time, all the effort to make it out to the competition, and he had been disqualified. “I couldn’t believe it,” he says, “it was only 10:45, my division wasn’t supposed to start until 11:30, and I had already been DQ’d.” Using the “silver tongue,” as Prof. Amal Easton would later describe it, Brian was able to talk his way out of disqualification and back into the fight. “I can’t tell you how happy I was when they told me they would allow me back into the competition, I wanted to hug my ring coordinator.” Brian had 2 fights in his division, finishing his first opponent by armbar from closed guard, and beating the, then, #4 ranked Michael Phelps 7-0 in the finals. In the absolute division, Brian finished both his opponents, the first by mounted armbar, and the second by wrist lock from the mount, racking up a score of 12-0 before the tap.
James meanwhile was getting himself an iced americano at a Starbucks nearby. Upon receiving his drink, his phone began to buzz. It was Brian. “Dude they’re calling your name. You better get here now.”
Desperate times call for desperate measures. James ran to the bathroom and took off his compression shorts. In IBJJF tournaments you can be disqualified for not wearing underwear during competition, so James knew he was taking a big risk. “I tied my pants really tight and said a quick prayer as I ran back to the warm up area. Again I checked my weight, and was relieved to see that I was half of a pound under the weight allowance. At that moment, the tournament coordinator was in the middle of announcing my name over the loudspeaker to disqualify me. I interrupted him mid-sentence, weighed in and got on the mat.” James won a decisive victory, putting 14 points on his opponent before submitting him with an armbar from the mount position. In the absolute division James beat both opponents by knee bar, utilizing his infamous Omoplata sweeps to rack up points and position.