The IBJJF world JiuJitsu Championships held in Long Beach California were well anticipated by Van Isle BJJ. After performing well at local events in the Pacific Northwest including Vancouver, Oregon and Seattle, JM and I decided to take the logical next step and compete at the Worlds. The Worlds occurred early in the year before any local event following IBJJF rules. It was my first time competing at purple belt, which I was awarded in March.
In anticipation of the event, we put in many extra mat hours at the dojo and in the garage. A bit earlier in the year, we spent some time with Brian Chang in Seattle and on the island learning a little bit of the technical aspects of modern open guard games. Brian is well read and a ferocious competitor in his own right and I really enjoyed the time spent at the Lake City Garage with him and his roommate James. I was also helped in my preparations by my instructor Marc Marins as he spent a number of hours one-on-one with me discussing strategy and my strengths and weaknesses. I spent some time travelling around Vancouver and am grateful for the help that I received at Kaboom BJJ, Gravity BJJ and Genesis.
We spent the days leading up to the event between Laguna beach during the day and training at night. We went to the Gracie Academy in Torrance where we met Rener who taught a solid advanced class which ended in rolling. The guys at the academy were no joke and put us through the ringer. I was alarmed to find heelhooks were par for the course at the Gracie Academy, but in retrospect, I'm not surprised. I had a great time rolling with a brown belt that was roughly 135 lbs. On another night we went to 10th Planet HQ and were invited in by a smiling Eddie Bravo. He taught an awesome no-gi open guard passing class followed by many hours of rolling. I was really stoked to roll with Eddie. He is extremely proficient especially from half guard which I tried unsuccessfully to avoid.
We were slated to fight on Friday morning. We headed in early and checked our weights. We met Brian, Dion Wu, Clint Cooper, Liam and Randall Moss and Jon Pastrano who were all fighting. Rob Biernacki and Corey were down from Nanaimo to support local fighters. We ran into Walter Buse and Jane Minondo from East Van which was awesome because they are such great competitors and people.
The bull pen is full of people strafing around preparing mentally for their fight and watching the roster religiously. I was excited to see my name pop-up in a match with Kitt Canaria. I recognized the name from somewhere but didn’t think twice about it. When my name was called I went into competition mode. I became extremely confident and walked out to my mat. I fought as a guard passer but was caught in a triangle about 5 minutes in. He could not finish the triangle but it all ended with an arm bar from the triangle. He was a strong opponent and I came up short. It was disappointing for me to see Kitt lose his next fight after a strong effort. JM fared well winning his first match with a spectacular mounted triangle. He faced a tough opponent from Japan for his second match at the same time I fought my first. The Japanese fighter was really tall and JM had a hard time passing his open guard. Ultimately the fight ended with JM losing by a couple of advantages.
Walking around the arena was a highlight in and of itself as there were numerous living legends just enjoying life. We ran into Royce and Royler Gracie, Saulo and Xande Ribeiro, Fabio Gurgel, Marcelo Garcia, Comprido, Megaton and Rickson Gracie to name a few, not to mention all of the elite competitors of our generation.
The event was eye-opening. The level of jiujitsu that exists at the World level is incredible. I was expecting the competitors to be of a high caliber and was warned by Jason Gagnon that this is the “tippy top.” It dawned on me that probably each competitor believed that he could win the Worlds, or they probably wouldn’t make the trip to California in the first place. I figure that likely each competitor is somewhat of a hometown hero on their respective local scenes. It made me realize that there is still so much work that I have to do to improve my performance and to hang with the elite. I left California with an extremely positive outlook and a red hot determination to exceed despite the challenges that we face in Canada. I realized that we have to work twice as hard as gyms that have all the resources at their disposal. This was a great start to my purple belt!