Dominyka Obelenyte: Overcoming the Lisbon Curse

Published on by Dominyka Obelenyte

Photo courtesy of Jon Ricard

Getting my black belt was probably one of the most exciting, surreal and generally awesome occurrences in my life, but once I had that baby around my waist I immediately began to consider the implications of having been promoted. I was raring to go and compete alongside the women that I’ve admired from a near and far distance for the past ten years, but I was also nervous about how I would measure up against their respective skills. The trip to Europeans was more than slightly nerve-wracking. Since my last experience in Portugal wasn’t the best, I wasn’t raring to come back.

Five years ago, I was a purple belt looking to expand my tournament range, so Europeans seemed like a good option. Thanks to not knowing how to eat in a country where the main food places open up at 8 pm, and a few sleepless nights, I was feeling groggy and weak during my matches. I blamed it all on the Lisbon Curse.

"Training at Marcelo Garcia Academy NYC" Photo from Digitsu archives @jeffreyschu

My initial experience with the Europeans left me disappointed and discouraged; however my family, encouraged me to participate once again this year in order to feel myself out in the black belt division. I was surprisingly glad I did!

Having no one signed up in my weight division, my sole competitive experience was laid down in the absolute division. Admittedly, participating in the absolute was exciting as hell, as always, because it is the category that boasts the highest number of world champions, medalists, and general badasses ready to strut their stuff and stick it to the current greats. I was admittedly pretty nervous before going into the fights, probably more nervous than usual, but I the nerves settled down little by little as my brain finally understood that these were the same mats I was competing on again and again, and that all I had to do was try my best and everything would work out fine.

Bullpen at Europeans. Photo courtesy of @Maggieleft

I had my first match against Amanda Loewen, whom I believe was a newcomer to the black belt division, and I won against her 13 to 0. My second match was against Jani Larsson, whom I had fought and lost to in absolute at brown belt. The match was a tough one, as there were a lot of back and forth movements, I would sweep her and she would sweep me back, and to me, it was one of my better matches, since I never quit or let go of a position simply because I was too tired, and neither did she. In the end, I ended up winning the match by an advantage, but I was proud of the overall fight. My last fight, which was a semi-final was against Mackenzie Dern. The match itself was ruled a referee decision and Mackenzie ended up taking the win, though it was disappointing, I know now what mistakes I made and what I need to touch up before my next bout on the mats.

Overall, winning third in absolute at Europeans is not too shabby in my book, since it was my first black belt tournament. I definitely think nerves had a big impact on my performance, and that is something I will try to work on the next time around.

As for the actual competition experience, it was quite fun! It was nice to be in the bullpen with all these super talented women and chat and even laugh with them before the fight. Since I had been to Lisbon before, this time I was able to enjoy the sights without having to worry about my weight or keeping my jet lag under control. I have to say that one of the most memorable experiences of the trip was getting to eat all the pastel de nata I wanted after receiving my weight division medal for “participation.” Overall I’m pretty happy with the way things worked out, and I’m excited to compete again in Pans in March and especially Worlds later on!