Pressure of new belt makes “diamond” on the mats

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GMA Stephen “Pesadelo” Hall is gushing with pride for his Jiu-Jitsu student Michael Foster. Michael, who is 31 years old, started training Jiu-Jitsu in May 2008. He received his blue belt a year later from Carlos Machado and started training with Stephen in 2010 after meeting him at the Worlds. “Steve’s school is what I needed to really enhance my skills,” Michael says.

Michael receiving purple belt from Stephen Hall on podium / Photo: Jerry Roberts

After training with Stephen for a little over a year, Michael headed to the Las Vegas International Open to compete in the blue belt middleweight masters division. He had a first round bye, and then his opponent for the second round was disqualified. His first actual match was a semifinal. Michael’s favorite submission is the triangle and he’s always looking for it when competing. At the start of his match Michael jumped guard and then attempted a couple of sweeps, looking for that elusive triangle submission. He eventually opted for the straight armbar and got it.

Michael says his second and final match is kind of a blur. “I know he somehow got a sweep that caused him to land right in my triangle,” Michael says, “He tried to escape by sitting down and throwing his legs over my torso, but I managed to come up through his legs and finish him with a mounted triangle. When he tapped, I was in a position that I didn’t think the ref could see, so I raised up to show the ref that he was tapping. I’ve been told many times, ‘Don’t stop until the referee stops you!’” So, Michael got his triangle submission and clinched the middleweight division gold at the same time.

Michael then competed in the masters blue belt open and had three matches. His first match he finished with a double lapel choke from the back. In his second, he closed out with an armbar from the guard. In the final, Michael got a tripod sweep on his opponent, ending up in side-control. “He kept trying to escape,” Michael says, “I went to north-south and attempted a choke that Steve showed us a long time ago called the OCG. It involves a knee in the neck and an arm on the other side of the neck.” Michael wasn’t quite in the right position, so he tried a few other chokes and submissions but wasn’t able to seal the deal. He ended up winning on points, making him a double gold blue belt winner for the day.

Michael and his master, Stephen Hall / Photo: Jerry Roberts

While Michael was standing on the medal podium, Stephen gave him his purple belt. I’ve been watching him and testing him on all of the things that are a prerequisite for a purple belt,” Stephen says, “I wanted him to feel confident in his belt before he progressed. In his last two tournaments, Michael went about doing everything the way I wanted him to do it. He walked out onto the mats like he’d already won. He dominated everyone at the Las Vegas Open and I was happy to see that confidence in him. With him submitting everybody, except the one match where he completely dominated his opponent, I felt he was ready for his purple belt.”

Stephen says getting your belt on the podium is a great sign of accomplishment. It shows that your instructor has seen how hard his student has been training and how well he or she has done thus far, but it also adds a little pressure to the mix. “Everyone on the podium sees you getting your new belt,” Stephen says, “So they look for you next time. You can’t be lax in your training, because people know who you are. Me giving him his belt on the podium says, ‘I’m proud of you, but I expect you to be able to compete and win at the next level.’ Now that people have seen Michael, they will look for him and see how he’s doing at purple belt, so he’s going to have to step up to the plate. It takes a lot of pressure to make a diamond.”

Stephen says that Michael always puts forth the extra effort in everything he does on the mats. He trains hard, he drills hard, but most importantly, he’s a good person. “That’s one of the most important things to me,” Stephen says, “On top of being good at Jiu-Jitsu and training, he’s a really good person. He works extremely hard to try to meet the legacy that Alliance Jiu-Jitsu has and he’s doing it. He makes my job as an instructor really, really easy. I’m just very proud of him.”

Michael was surprised to receive his new belt on the podium. “It was an honor and a privilege,” he says, “I know it means I’ve finally earned it. I’ve got to work even harder, study even more, focus more on what my game really consists of, and really work hard to patch the holes that are there, but I know with the help of my training partners and my instructor Stephen “Pesadelo” Hall, I’m expected to continue to dominate my divisions.”

Stephen also promoted senior 2 blue belt Brian Lewis to purple belt on the podium at the Las Vegas Open. “He won his super heavy weight division and came in 3rd in the absolute,” Stephen says, “Brian travels from very far away to train at my school. It’s a compliment to me. He’s 46 years old and for a guy his age, there’s no drop off. He’s competed at adult…he does his thing. He does more work than a lot of the adult students in my class. He’s a really good guy. He trains his butt off. He’s very good technically. He’s a solid purple belt.”

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