Hello and welcome back to Tyson’s Thoughts.
I want to tell a personal story this week, as my Facebook memories reminded me of an important milestone in my previous athletic career.
Back in 2010, I was living in Nanaimo and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I was obsessed with the sport then, and even now at 36-years-old I dream of one day going back to training and competing.
Jimmy was my coach back then, and he wanted to enter our team in the Port Alberni Invitational, which is a big high school wrestling tournament that’s held annually every year without fail. I’m not sure if they still do this, but back then they also held jiu jitsu competitions on the same weekend.
There was about four of us, including Jimmy, who were going to compete. Unfortunately I caught the flu about a week before the tournament and wasn’t able to train at all beforehand, so I wasn’t even sure if I was going to make it or not.
The day before the tournament I knew I still wasn’t feeling healthy, but I had given my word I would go, and if you know me, I never go back on my word.
We travelled to Alberni on the morning of the tournament, and it was one for the ages. Jimmy was almost finished by an ankle lock in his first match by another really talented grappler, before somehow rallying and jumping on the guy’s back to win on points. To this day, it was one of the gutsiest displays of courage I’ve ever seen on the mats, and Jimmy went on to earn a gold medal by finishing all his other opponents with submission holds.
Meanwhile, I was still feeling kind of sick, so I knew I had to get my matches over with as quick as possible because I had no cardio. I guillotine choked my first opponent in about 10 seconds off a snapdown wrestling technique, and then saw I had a semi-final showdown against a very dangerous grappler in the second round.
This guy was well known as a killer on the mats. He’d broken a guy’s arm and collarbone in a match in Victoria previously, so I was nervous I might get hurt bad. Regardless, I charged him right off the bat, ducked down and shot a double leg takedown.
I landed on top of him when we hit the mat and I found myself up 2-0 on points.
That was how the match stayed for awhile, until he caught me in a triangle choke. I defended it, but he switched to an armbar and I had to concede defeat or my arm was going to be broken in half.
After that I faced a grappler from Alberni for bronze, and I ended up winning a back and forth match with a chokehold of my own.
Getting to hold the bronze medal in my hands was surreal. It was the first medal I won competing in jiu jitsu, and to this day I think I’m more proud of it than any other one I have in my collection.
I never did get a rematch against the guy who beat me. We weren’t in the same bracket again at another tournament, but I still often wonder if I had been healthy that day would I have beaten him… Maybe. Maybe not.
Such is life, I suppose.
Tyson Whitney is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised in Port Hardy. His family has lived in Port Hardy for more than 40 years. He graduated with a degree in writing from Vancouver Island University in 2008. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org