Yesterday, I fulfilled a lifelong (my jiu jitsu life) dream participating in a FJJRio Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Tournament here in the motherland, Rio de Janeiro. To say I was excited is a complete understatement.
This post was written by Connection Rio sponsored athlete Davey Morehead, a purple belt from Checkmat USA. He blogs every week about training BJJ in Rio. Check out his website www.DaveyMorehead.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
I did not really know what to expect of my experience, or of the tournament. But I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The tournament venue was at the Yacht Club in Rio. Upon arrival at the tournament I was surprised to see that it was almost a carnival like environment, with bounce houses and inflatable slides there for the kids.
By the time me and my compadres arrived, the tournament was already in full swing. The arena was outdoors, I thought this was awesome. This is the first time that I had ever competed outside, and I must say that it was pretty darn sweet. The stands were loaded with a raucous crowd, completely out of their minds cheering for the action on the ten mats (all at capacity).
I have competed in many major tournaments in my short Jiu Jitsu career, and never before have I witnessed such a frenzied crowd. (And all of this was for lower belts mind you). The next thing I noticed was how well run the tournament was run. We all know the running joke about Brazilian time, but this tournament was pretty much right on schedule, with my bracket being called right around when I expected. This was a pleasant surprise.
Given my lack of Portuguese, I was very happy to find the entire process to be exactly the same as in the United States. What follows is a quick account of how my day unfolded. As I stood in the bullpen waiting for my division, I looked around nervously searching for other purple belts. As usual I was a little overzealous and went into the bullpen around 45 minutes earlier than I needed to be. (Rather be hours early than a minute late) Eventually purple belts started filing into the bullpen. I looked around a bit trying to speculate which of these other purple belts would be in my division, and who I might be facing.
As the divisions started to get called, I started to get a clearer and clearer idea of just which other competitors were in my division. (Adult, Purple Belt, Ultra Heavy) I must say, these were some intimidating looking dudes. I am on the lighter end of the division, so these guys looked ginormous! When I was finally called for my first match, I took a look at my opponent.He was a scary looking guy, seriously focused and ready for battle. Our match begins, I pull guard and I am greeted with strongest, most aggressive opponent I have ever faced. His passing attempts were crushing, and I tried hard to keep my composure. Fortunately I managed to weather the storm, and score a couple of advantage points. Although to the casual observer this match might have looked uneventful, it turned out to be my biggest test of the day. At the end of the match my hand was raised in victory, and I won the match three advantage points to one. (For those of you that do not understand advantage points, the short version is that they are points for almost doing something. They only count if real points have not been scored.)
After my first match, my arms and legs were numb. It felt as though I’d never be able to grip again. I was shaky and tired, and almost got the feeling of “well, I’m glad I at least won one match” not feeling very optimistic about my chances for my next match given how I was feeling.
Fortunately for me, my next two matches were ended quickly without much drama. I ended both matches rather quickly with chokes from half-guard. I’m sorry that I don’t have much more to say about those matches, except that they were fairly uneventful except for the finish. Although both of the guys were very strong, and displayed excellent passing attempts. I was just fortunately on my game that day.
In the end I was crowned the champion of the division, collecting what I hope to be the first of many medals here in Brazil! I will leave it at that for now, enjoy some pictures of the tournament and some scenic pics from the cab drive to the venue.