Friday, July 17, 2009

The road back to the World Championships?

Those that know me usually think of me as a pretty laid-back guy. I'm pretty chill most of the time, but there has also always been a deep-rooted competitive side to me that most people usually don't get to see. Case in point: every "hobby" that I have undertaken, from snowboarding, to paintball, to martial arts has somehow ended up with me in some form of competition. And that's just how I like it.

For me, competition is part of the natural progression of anything you spend a large amount of time doing. Competition lets you know how you stack up against others; how worthwhile your time spent at that hobby has been since I think that you should always strive to be the best you can be in any endeavor. Unfortunately, when it comes to competition in said hobbies i've had varying degrees of success and failure. Out of the "failures", there's only ONE that I have never really been able to let go. There's only ONE that has burrowed itself deep into the back of my brain...that pokes me every once in a while to remind me that it's still there.

Back in the summer of 1998 I made the long, 24hr trip out to the Philippines to fight for Team USA in the WEKAF (World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation) World Championships. Teams from all over the world...Mexico, Australia, India, The Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK, and of course the Philippines (it is a Filipino Martial Art afterall), just to name a few, showed up to represent their countries and face each other in full-contact fight for the title of World Champion. At the time, I had been training in Doce Pares Eskrima for about 4 years and had made that natural (for me at least) progression into competition. I wanted nothing more than to be the be crowned "World Champion". But it just wasn't "in the cards" so to speak. After defeating a BIG guy from Australia, and a fast guy from Manila, I ended up running out of steam and losing in the finals to a fellow Pinoy from the US...landing me in second place. That sucked. I didn't train and then fly all the way to the Philippines for second place. Second place is the FIRST LOSER! Aargh!

That loss and second place finish has haunted me ever since. I went on and continued competing in Eskrima for a few years...even went on to fight in the 2000 World Championships in London, England but never really had the time and dedication needed to properly train in order to actually win that World Championship title. Eventually, life and responsibility took over, Eskrima took a back seat, and it was all just downhill from there. I went from training in Eskrima 5-7 days a week, and spending 3-4 hours a day at the gym to doing practically nothing. Regardless of my level of inactivity, there was always that inkling...that itch to get back into it that just begged to be scratched.

After several years away from Eskrima, and a move to Sunny SoCal, the stars aligned slightly after my long-time friend and fellow Eskrimador Mr. Gary UN-G Gabisan made the move out west as well. His move kinda was the catalyst to continued Eskrima training for me and I started training a little again in 2008 with him, Master Erwin Mosqueda, and the LA Doce Pares crew. I trained a little here and there then fought in a small local WEKAF style tournament here in LA in which I did horribly (in my opinion). The technique was still there...there was just no stamina behind it. I just ran out of gas WAY to quickly to be competitive. How sad...pathetic, really. After that blow to the ego, and a change in jobs, I took some time off from Eskrima again. Of course, the itch still remained and a few months ago when Gary told me there were 2 tournaments coming in Long Beach in August and a bigger, more competitive one in Sacramento in September, I again had to scratch that itch. Funny thing is, apparently the guy that I lost to back in 1998 is going to be at the upcoming tournament in Sacramento. Unfortunately, he teaches now and no longer fights. WTF?! How am I supposed to avenge that loss if he no longer fights?! Call him out? Challenge him? In front of his students? LOL.

So anyway, I made the decision to start training again for these 2 local tournaments, but this time I promised myself i'd try to train with more focused intensity than I did for the last local tournament. I started sparring every Sunday morning at 8AM on the other side of LA. I even upped and joined a gym again, for the first time in almost 5 years so I could lift, swim, and have a controlled place to do my cardio, etc. so I could concentrate on building my stamina. Don't want to prematurely run out of steam this time around. Now, i'm not saying that i'm going to train with the intensity and dedication needed to fight in, and WIN a World Championship, but maybe this will be my one last Hurrah before having to dedicate myself to fatherhood. Maybe this will be my way to prove to myself that, "I still got it". Who knows where it will go from there? Not that i'll have the time or anything like that, but the next WEKAF World Championships ARE next year (2010) in Mexico. Maybe it's not too late for me to clinch that World Champion title afterall...