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Monday, October 5, 2015

Competitions Pt. 2 (IBJJF)

IBJJF competitions are traditionally seen as a pinnacle of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition. Why? Well they are the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation after all. The IBJJF hosts the World Jiu Jitsu Championships every year--commonly referred to as the  "Mundials" , or just "Worlds." Having said that, any organization that is capable of hosting such a prestigious event, by sheer association their other events are viewed as top of the mountain; as far as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions go. Some competitors stray away from IBJJF competitions because they disagree with their laundry list of a rule set, but don't let that sort of thing scare you off. IBJJF competitions are fun. Beyond that, they're very professional, well run, well organized, and a very good experience for any level of competitor.

On September 25th-26th of this year, the IBJJF Masters Worlds championship was held in  Las Vegas. That means for the 'over-30-crowd,' this was the chance to put your money where your mouth is and compete against others in your same age, weight, and rank on a very large scale. In other competitions, are you generally places with that sort of class of opponents; but in more local competitions you're not going to be guaranteed to have a solid bracket with ample competitors. You may be asked to move up, or down, in weight or age--that's not the case in IBJJF. In this post I plan on recounting my experience in my first IBJJF and attempt to highlight some differences I came across from an IBJJF competition to a non-IBJJF.

At Pittsburgh International About to Board the Flight to Vegas

First off: my weight cut went extremely well. Cutting weight for competitions is something to consider, but it shouldn't be a mandatory thing. Here's my take on the subject: If you have some spare poundage you want to lose & need a good reason to do it, this is a great reason. If it's a matter of 'a few' pounds between one weight class and another, think about dropping to the smaller class. If you and a training partner are in the same class, and one of you can make the smaller class easier, think about it. If you want to drop 25+ pounds in a month to be competitive at a weight class you normally don't compete at, you're delusional and don't be silly. I woke up the morning before the competition a cool 9 pounds under the weight limit for my weight class--which is good because IBJJF MAKES YOU WEIGHT IN THE DAY OF THE COMPETITION WITH YOUR GI ON. I know my gi weighed roughly 5 pounds, so coming in 9 pounds light left me some wiggle room for my gi and a light meal before I stepped on the scale the next morning.

The 4-hour flight from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas was fine. I felt relaxed--for the most part--and took advantage of the time reading and listening to podcasts. We arrived in Las Vegas at about 8pm local time and checked into our hotel room right away, My training partner made the trip with his wife, and shortly after our arrival they went out to eat. I admit, I was nervous about making weight so I didn't want to risk it so close to the competition so I decided to stay in and try to rest, which I did and woke up the next morning feeling ready. 

Competitor Stamp. On the forearm. Felt legit.

My training partner, Luca, and I took a cab from our hotel to the venue. I was scheduled to go on for my first match at 10:12am (remember that). We got to the venue at roughly 9am and no one was on the mat yet, but there were guys getting warmed up, which I thought was weird (remember that, too), but I wasn't too distracted. I had made plans with the lovely and famous BJJ Emma to meet up and saw her right away upon entering the venue. We got to formally meet and I'll confirm she is every bit as cool as you think/would think; but she's also very sweet, kind, polite, and sincerely one of the best people I've got the opportunity to meet in the community. (So go follow her Instagram , her Twitter, and Facebook).

At roughly 9:30am Luca asked me what time I wanted to get warmed up to go on. He was scheduled for his first match a little after mine, but I figured my normal routine that I borrow from class would be sufficient. It's basically a normal warm-up of about 15 minutes to get loose; which is good for an hour class so why wouldn't it be good for a competition? So at 9:45 we made our way into the Bull Pen where I sat down to begin with a butterfly stretch and was almost immediately called to get in line to weigh in by the Mat Manager. Lesson Learned: Warm up a lot sooner than you think, weigh in as soon as possible. So I line up and was informed by the same Mat Manager that my opponent wasn't there so the match would be scratched, I'd win, but I just needed to make weight. After some waiting in line, I finally weigh in, make weight, then am escorted to my mat. At that point I'm assuming that since I made weight that I 'won' and that I'd get pulled out onto the mat for a lame hand-raising then move on to the next match--not the case. I arrive at my mat and was greeted by my original opponent, who was there, and then suddenly now I'm fighting. It was weird. I went from stretching, to not, to fighting, to not, to fighting again and still not warming up. Sigh. But again, lesson learned.

My match went okay. By "okay" I mean I lost, on points. Yes, it was a bummer; but in BJJ you know you either "win or learn." The match started off with me getting the takedown and my opponent getting a sweep. I fought out of it and through a series of sweeps, escapes, and three submission attempts, my match ended with me going for a Kimura that my opponent fought off till time expired. I was proud of myself for getting the takedown, never stopping fighting (giving up), and always going for the submission. But these things happen and the lesson was learned. So I was one-and-done and Luca followed suit shortly after, also losing on points. Normally, you'd think that would be the end of the competition, but this was an IBJJF event and there was so much more to do.

The Look of Disappointment and Acai Bowls (because Acai Bowls make it better)
First thing was first, we needed Acai Bowls. Tales of the delicious Brazilian treat echo across grappling mats around the world; and I needed to know just how true they were. Let me confirm for you that the rumors are 100% true, they are the best thing I've ever had. I ended up have two that weekend and would have one a day for the rest of my life if I could ever get the stuff from my local grocery store. Lesson Learned: Buy into the hype, Acai Bowls are the truth, but get in line because the lines can be long.

No One is Exempt From Acai Lines
There were also so many good matches to watch. Just because you're done competing (win or lose) doesn't mean you should close up shop and go home. I enjoyed watching all of the belt ranks go. From Blue up to Black, every match was fun to witness. As a Blue Belt, I took the opportunity to see what others are doing and compare that to what I felt I would do in those situations/positions. That sort of thought process continued through the ranks; which is what made watching the Black Belts even more fun to watch.

There were so many high-level guys there, both competing and just watching. I saw Gui Mendes and Robert Drysdale taking in the sights and matches that weekend (cool). I saw Royler in the Acai line (see above) and in the stands watching all the matches and being very friendly with fans. 

Myself, Pedro, and Luca
 One of the biggest pleasures for me that weekend was getting to meet Professor Pedro Sauer. I come from a Pedro Sauer affiliate and getting to finally shake Professor Pedro's hand was truly a rewarding experience for me. Professor Pedro is widely known for being a world-class instructor, great guy, and an all around badass. His influence on the sport and culture was a big deciding factor for me when choosing a school to train at, and getting to brush shoulders with true greatness was an awesome experience for me.

He said to us "How did we do today?" in that unmistakable Brazilian accent. I answered (mildly ashamed) "Not so well." He just laughed and said "Well, sometime that happens, eh?" Which, I guess, is a normal answer, but his candor and sincere attitude toward two of his affiliate students conveyed that he did care about how we did; and his hand on our shoulders was fatherly enough to further express his appreciation for us even trying. Good dude, that Pedro.

Speaking of good dudes, I also got to meet Saulo Ribero. We first mentioned Saulo in one of our earlier posts, The White Belt's Guide to Good BJJ Books. His book, Jiu Jitsu University, is a staple in the community--and is required reading for you WBS fans. Saulo is a 5x Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion, 2x ADCC champion, Pan Am Champion (both in weight AND Absolute), World NoGi champion--look, I can go on and on about his list of accomplishments, or you can look it up yourself, but let's all agree that Saulo is one of the best competitors that our sport has ever seen. Beyond that, he's one of the nicest people I've ever met. From the handshake to the picture to the right, Saulo treated me like a long-lost friend and he was genuinely happy to meet me and take a picture. I know that the majority of 'BJJ People' are like that, and I do agree, but there was a sincere appreciate from Saulo (and Pedro) that I think you can only get from guys at that level. What's even cooler? I got to see Saulo compete.
Saulo Dominating Everyone

I also got to meet, and hang out with, Kurt Osiander. Kurt was just as cool as you'd suspect. Kurt taught me a lot about prepping for competition. Remember earlier how I mentioned about what time I was supposed to go on versus what time I started warming up? Well Kurt--a Black Belt level competitor--started a full hour and a half before his scheduled start time. Everything from preworkout drinks to breaking a sweat, Kurt (unknowingly) taught me how an active Black Belt starts to get ready for competition.

I learned how to tape my fingers from his Move of the Week vlog and got to see it in action. Weird, but it was sort of a 'full circle moment' for me. But aside from hanging out with me and Luca, watching matches, and talking about general life stuff, I got to see how seriously I do not take warm-ups as compared to someone who does. Kurt (along with a lot of other guys that weekend) legit had hoodies on under their gi for warm-ups. I saw him stretch, jump rope, drill, and basically get his entire body and mind ready to compete. Credit to Luca for pointing out that "Obviously, we need to take warm-ups more seriously."

Lessons were learned. Fun times were had. IBJJF competitions are cool--regardless to yours, or anyone else's, feelings on their rule set. If you're thinking of competing, you should. It's fun. As outlined above, even just hanging out at competitions can be rewarding. It's nice to get out there in the BJJ community and get to meet cool people. We're blessed enough to belong to a community where we can meet, train with, and talk to our heroes, idols, etc. Try that with any other sport and I I bet it doesn't work. Take advantage of it.

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