The Jiu Jitsu World League provided a day of fun and excitement. The event itself was a display of the Who’s Who of Jiu-Jitsu, bringing out All-Stars like Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida, Clark Gracie, comedian Joey Diaz, and even (quietly) Ashton Kutcher. While ‘first tournament hiccups’ were expected, the tournament ran very well, and any issues were kept to a bare-minimum from my experience and point of view in participating.
As I walked into the Bren Event Center at UC Irvine, something immediately felt different about the competition I was about to participate in. While I had the natural anxiety that goes with BJJ tournament days, the atmosphere was completely different from the last time I had been at this same venue for IBJJF Pan Ams.
The Jiu-Jitsu World League Gi Championship kicked off with great music and awesome matches. Efficient and cheerful staff made sure that fighters were processed and led to their mats for their fights, while addressing any required needs they might have had.
I myself, fought two hard matches against badass girls that I will not soon forget the lessons learned. I was beaten soundly, with both girls scoring double-digit points against me (the first of which won a ‘mercy’ victory over me when she reached 22-0). The biggest takeaway? I got completely demolished during the length of almost two full matches, and after both, I am happy to admit, that my hair still looked pretty damn good! 🙂
Oh, and to all tournament organizers: It’s now a standard to have an awesome, upbeat soundtrack playing over the loud-speakers while people are fighting. I loved having “Lose Yourself” by Eminem play the minute I stepped onto the mat for my match. It put me completely in the zone.
Now onto the details about the actual tournament!
5 Awesome Things at the JJWL
1. The Matches Were Awesome, and it was Because of the Rules (and the Music!)
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I scoffed when I read that the rules were “more aggressive”. It’s hard to imagine what is more aggressive than submission-only, or what is allowed in MMA, but I have to say that the Jiu Jitsu World League really got it right for this new tournament series. The rules dictated that bigger moves and a faster pace were the way to win. Takedowns were worth more if they were more difficult, and more action was forced by the strict no-stalling policy. I felt the demand to keep going, and almost every match that I had a chance to watch was indeed action-packed.
2. The Competitors were Hungry for Battle and Came with Awesome Attitudes.
The spirit of BJJ was alive in everyone that attended the event, but the competitors themselves came with extra zeal. Each match looked as though it was the final for each entrant, as they laid it out in full for each fight. I got the opportunity to talk to a lot of female competitors. In itself it was cool that I was able to speak to so many ladies, due to the fact the JJWL graciously allowed female competitors to enter for free, and each BJJ Girl that I spoke to was amped and excited to compete at the tournament.
3. The Referees Were Helpful, Polite and Strict, and that was Awesome.
The first time that I stepped on the mat, my referee made a point to make sure to go over the rules with me. He reminded me about how things were a little different, and what he would say to indicate if someone was stalling or if he needed to warn us. The refs did this for everybody, and I felt like it was an complete win in such a small feature. Just have the refs check with the competitors to make sure they understand everything…brilliant! Several people noted that this was something that made them feel much more comfortable in their fights. Other tournaments have made me feel intimidated by the officials, and here, they made me enjoy my competition experience that much more.
4. Stars Everywhere! Awesome… 😉
Like many big BJJ tournaments, this one had some celebrities to notice. Some stars were easy to spot, as they made their way through the crowds and the stands, while others kept less conspicuous (Ashton Kutcher ended up attending, but only a few were able to see him or snap a picture while he checked out some matches).
I got a very cool chance to talk with Bianca Bree, actress, model, and daughter of Martial Arts Superstar, Jeane Claude Van Damme. I was blown away by how nice and down-to-Earth she was. To Bianca, “Hello!” if you ended up getting a chance to check out my blog ;).
I also caught up with Master Rigan Machado as he checked on the event’s progress. Rigan was excited about how things were going, and admitted that while their first tournament had some flaws, they were running a half-hour ahead of schedule for the first half of the day, and everybody was reporting a positive experience. I didn’t notice any flaws, but I appreciated his humility.
5. It was Awesome that Prize Money was Given to the Big Winners
A total of $11,000 was given out to competitors winning in their Open Divisions. Two divisions were set for male blackbelts, and one division was set for female black belts to win prize money. Karen Antunes took home the championship for women, while Yuri Simoes and Vitor Oliveira won for the male divisions.