Friday, November 2, 2012

I Got Your Back

While most of the stories I write are dedicated to wrestling, there have been a few grappling matches that I’ve written about. While the sports have many similarities, the biggest difference I see, is you don’t just beat your opponent in grappling, you make them submit. They decide when the pain is too much, and the only way to stop the pain, is to tap out.

Amanda Leve is 15-years-old, and has been training in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) for four years. She often has to compete in boys divisions, because there aren’t that many girls, or women to compete with. Amanda enjoys battling either, but she says, “Personally, I like fighting the boys because a ton of more people watches it and I get noticed.”

That’s the other big difference between the sports, when a boy faces a girl. In wrestling, the results are typically confined to whoever was at the match, and word of mouth. But when the genders clash in grappling, there often is a video and said video gets thousands of views. And both competitors would rather thousands of people see their hands raised, then their opponents. The video of this match can be seen here.

Amanda traveled a long way to fight. She’s from Philadelphia, and has traveled all over the east coast, but this tournament was in Vegas.  It was the UFC Fan Exop, and Grappler’s Quest.  She was both excited and nervous.

And she had reason to be. Her name was called and she saw her opponent. She was not facing a scrawny boy, but a young man. His name was Wyatt, and he was two years older, bigger, and didn’t have an ounce of fat on him. Amanda noticed, “The boy I was going to grapple in my opinion was huge and muscular. I thought, ‘Oh great, this might not end well.’” 

Wyatt did not lack for confidence. Amanda says, “He had an arrogant smile on his face. It wasn’t the first time I have seen a smile like that. They (boys) usually all have that smile.”

Amanda says Wyatt’s cockiness did not end there. “We shook hands and he came at me rather aggressively. I was pretty mad how fast and aggressive he was.” Amanda did not travel all this way to get run over. “He didn’t come at me aggressively with technique, he came at me wildly, and I strongly dislike that when it comes to a sport where using technique is key.”

If it was just inexperience, Amanda wouldn’t be upset, but she thought it was something else. “I think he did that because he was going against a girl, and his friends were there.”

For wrestling fans, it would appear Wyatt was dominating. He got Amanda down to the ground in only 5 seconds. But Amanda was “pulling guard.” For those that don’t know what pulling guard means, Wyatt was on top but Amanda had her legs crossed, around his midsection.  So though Wyatt was on top, he wasn’t in control. However Amanda was still nervous. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, but that’s because I’m always nervous. I felt his strength, and I did get a little nervous, but I reassured myself that I have gone against stronger guys where I train everyday.”

After around 20 seconds in that position, the ref called time and moved the grapplers back to the middle of the mat. They both re-started from the position they were in.

“In jiu jitsu being fast is as good as being strong. I knew I had to move quickly, so I ended up pulling his posture down, and getting an arm triangle and moving around to his back.” It only took Amanda three seconds to get the triangle, and if you listen closely, you can hear him gargle for breath. Amanda did not notice, “I was too in the zone.” 

Wyatt was no longer the aggressor, as he tried to get Amanda off of him. Amanda was in very good position now. She had him on his side, squeezing his neck. But she knew she couldn’t make him tap from this position. “When I had him on his side with the arm triangle I knew that I wouldn’t finish it from there.” She also was not overconfident. “I did not think the match was mine because I never like to assume things especially in jiu jitsu. People can escape things as fast as you put them in it.”

So Amanda decided she wanted to be more in control, and gave up the neck, and scooted behind him to get on his back. “The back take is my best position in jiu jitsu. Many people have trouble escaping my back control.”

Wyatt would prove to be no different. And though he must have been happy to be able to breathe, it didn’t last long. “Once I got his back, I snuck in the rear naked choke which cuts off the blood going to his head. I started squeezing as hard as I could.”

At the 1:09 mark of the video, Amanda had the RNC locked in. Wyatt didn’t give up, and began to try to twist Amanda’s foot. Amanda capitalized on his mistake. “I thought his defense was ok until I got onto his back. His back defense was extremely bad. When you are getting choked the first thing you want to do is protect your neck. He was gabbing at my feet while I was choking him. That is the last thing you want to do when somebody has a choke on.”

Though Amanda doesn’t like to assume victory, she knew what everyone else knew, the end was imminent. “Yes at that point I knew it was over and that I just had to stay strong with the choke. The choke was in so tight because he was not defending right and the back position is second nature to me from drilling it so many times. I was just thinking squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.”

At the 1:16 mark, you can see Amanda gritting her teeth and digging in the choke. Wyatt stayed tough for 10 more seconds, but eventually tapped Amanda’s arm 7-8 times to signify his submission.

It was an amazing moment for Amanda. “I was feeling excited and happy. I was thinking, "HA! YES! Did this just happen?! Wow, there are so many people watching!"

The two went to the middle of the ring for Amanda to get her hand raised. She couldn’t help but show off. “Hahaha I love being in front of the camera. I always put the thumbs up and make a weird smile. It is just me.”

Amanda was ecstatic with the result.  “I couldn't believe how fast I beat him. I didn't expect to beat him so quickly because of how he was built. I was super proud that I beat him so quickly. No disrespect to him, his instructor or school, but I feel as if he was easier than most.”

After the ref put up Amanda’s hand, they competitors shook hands and Wyatt said, “You are stronger than I thought.” Amanda laughed and said, “Good match.”

Amanda still smiles when thinking of the match. “Looking back it feels awesome that I can prove my strength to a boy. I know he was stronger than me so I realized I had to use my strength and speed.”

But she’s not the only one who has “looked back” on that match. To date, it has 46,322 views. When I started writing this story, it had 45,940. So in a couple hours it still has gained almost 400 new views. Amanda loves it. “It is extremely cool to see all the views. It is way more than I could have even imagined and I am still shocked.”

Amanda hopes to be a role model for young girls. “I want little girls to want to start jiu jitsu too! I want everybody to respect girls in jiu jitsu.”

And she has a message to anyone that may go against her in the future; bring your best, because she will. “I will NEVER back down from anybody no matter how big, strong or scary.”

As Wyatt learned the hard way, Amanda “has your back.”