An excerpt from my next book ...
I have begun the task of writing the third and final installment of the ROGUE BLACK BELT series this week. Here is a small except from chapter four - as well as a pic from one of my Sambo matches and a pic of Rigan, and a very confused Ron Tripp after the final match. The pivs are bad but the story is fun. I hope you enjoy it.
"Each of us brings something to the world. When people interact, they leave their mark on each other. The most content, fulfilled and happiest people I know, are also the ones that treat others with respect and kindness. In my experience, treating others with respect and kindness is not a result of being happy but rather a cause of being so.
I had by that time, been privy to plenty of evidence as proof of Rigan’s amazing abilities, but it somehow became even more evident after he and I travelled to Kentucky for the National Sambo Grappling Championships several months into that particular training trip.
Sambo is the national combative sport of Russia. It’s technique has evolved out of a hybrid mix of Judo throwing, wrestling takedowns and Jiu Jitsu groundwork, including submissions. Although many of the BJJ techniques, such as choking and guard-work are disallowed in Sambo competition, there were in fact quite a few similarities.
Rigan decided to enter the competition and asked if I wanted to accompany him up to Kentucky for the weekend. I wanted to compete as well, and so despite the fact that we didn’t even know the rules at that time, we jumped on a plane and made our way north.
Arriving in Kentucky that evening, we met with officials and filled in the appropriate paperwork. Rigan asked me to learn the rules and then explain it to him. And so after a quick conversation with the somewhat bemused president of the American Sambo Association, I formulated a sketchy idea of how it all worked. The rules, as it turned out, were quite a bit different from those used in BJJ competition but it didn’t seem to matter much to Rigan.
“ Just find out what I am allowed to do” he asked, “And I will just do that!”
I was dubious; but Rigan’s confidence was infectious and I soon found myself looking forward to the tournament.
I entered the lighweight division and Rigan the Open Heavyweight division. The tournament turned out to be a gathering of the various state champions from the length and breadth of America. A lot of Olympic wrestlers and Judoka also joined in as a way to rack up more competition experience. I new it was going to be a tough day.
Rigan was called up first and walked out onto the mat with his usual quiet confidence. The match didn’t last long, with Rigan submitting his opponent in a minute or so. Submissions, though legal, were not the most common way a match was won; and so there were some surprised looks among the spectator’s after he won in such short order.
Then it was my turn. My opponent was a good wrestler from America’s heartland. Unfortunately, he threw me easily in the first few seconds of the fight. Takedowns were a very weak part of my repertoire at that time. Once we hit the ground though, even though I hit it pretty hard, I was in my element and quickly dominated him. The match stalled a bit with me trying to finish him but also being distracted by Rigan yelling out ‘Don’t choke him!’ from the side of the mat. We were then stood back up to start over. The same thing pretty much happened two more times; him taking me down, me dominating once the fight hit the ground. A near finish and dominating him on the ground didn’t score me the points he scored by taking me down. He was declared the winner.
Rigan smiled as I walked off the mat and pointed out that I needed to work on my takedowns and perhaps more importantly, my defense to them. Despite my loss, I felt good about my effort. We were still learning the rules.
Again Rigan was called up and it was almost an exact replay of his earlier match; although perhaps a little more comical. Rigan took his opponent down easily and pinned him to the mat. Then, seemingly ignoring his opponent’s frantic and futile attempts to escape, he started up a conversation with the referee about whether it was legal to apply this lock or that. The highly perplexed referee made the situation seem even funnier by answering Rigan’s questions. And to put the icing on the cake, Rigan paused to actually thank him before dispatching his hapless opponent with a shoulder lock.
Having a better understanding of the rules allowed me to win my second and third matches with armlocks. I was very happy with my performance but had no hope of fighting in the finals as I had lost my first match.
Rigan kept doing his thing and worked his way, with little apparent effort, through his entire division. As the day drew to an end, I fought my final match to determine the third and fourth places in the lightweight division. Again, although I dominated on the ground, the wrestler’s takedown at the start of the fight gave him the points he needed to win; giving me fourth place in the overall tournament.
Rigan on the other hand had a very different experience. He was now fighting in the final and was paired off against Ron Tripp, five times winner of the nationals and Olympic Judo medallist. Despite Rigan’s impressive series of wins, the crowd was still expecting Ron to once again take out the tournament.
I walked up to Rigan and told him to be careful; warning him the Ron was very good.
Rigan put his arm around my shoulders and asked me to pick any finish I liked; claiming he would win with my chosen technique. And so I did. And so he did. Thirty-nine seconds into the match, I took a photo of Rigan taping Ron out with the technique I had selected. Rigan was a true virtuoso.
Not only was Rigan the best of the best from a technical point of view but he had a heart of gold to go with it. This was made even more evident the next morning as we ate breakfast in the cafeteria.
Ron Tripp walked in and came up to our table.
‘Hi’ said Ron. ‘Our match yesterday was a little crazy. That was some weird position we ended up in. What a freak accident.’
I couldn’t believe my ears; he actually thought he lost the match because of some freak accident. I was just about to open my mouth and educate him when Rigan said “Ah my friend. Sometimes it just goes like that. Next year you will win.”
Rigan was such a nice person, he didn’t want Ron to feel bad about his loss. Such is his humility."