Megaton Diaz (l) against Jeff Glover (r) in competition in 2006
As Brazilian jiu-jitsu and grappling become more popular in the United States, it’s almost always tourney season these days. You can visit iCompete.org, and chances are that you’ll be able to find a tourney on its way that’s not too far from where you are. I thought I’d post a list of frustrations that are often voiced by grapplers who compete here as a conversation starter. They’re not listed in any particular order, and aren’t meant to reference any one organizer, referee, or tattooed dudes in a black gi who were complete knuckleheads in Columbus. So, I present to you…
The Top Seven Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament Pet Peeves
- Insufficient Bathroom Facilities
It’s not easy finding facilities to hold a tournament that meet all of an organizer’s needs. Things like location, space for mats, rental cost, and others weigh higher than how many stalls are present in the bathrooms. But it is a bummer for competitors and attendees when you attend and there’s a line of a dozen anxious guys holding out for access to the one stall and one urinal that’s available inside a tiny bathroom.Easily improved?
I doubt it will become a top factor in deciding on arrangements for tournament organizers. But here’s hoping.
- Biased Refereeing
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but whether or not points were scored is generally pretty black or white. Over time a lot of effort has been put into sharpening rules that are enforceable and just. But it seems that sometimes folks can’t catch a break when the ref has loyalties to one fighter or his camp. One high profile example would be Mike Fowler‘s experience at the Mundials, where it was later admitted by the CBJJ that his opponent, Daniel Moraes, should’ve been disqualified for a slam by referee Luis “Kabelinho” Henrique. This is an extreme case but sometimes you see fights that go out of bounds started standing to save a competitor who found themselves in a bad spot.Easily improved?
In the end this comes down to the individual referee. I doubt eliminating all bias is possible, as to some extent it’s human nature. But in the future as there are more highly experienced and qualified referees to be found, perhaps tourney organizers can be more selective in who they use.
- Schedule changes
For some tourneys, the likelihood of maintaining a grip on the schedule is like trying to pull off that armbar on a crafty, sweaty opponent in no-gi: sometimes no matter what you do, it’s gonna get away from you. Sometimes they juggle the times different divisions were supposed to start (“What, you didn’t hear that we changed blue belts from 3pm to 11am?”), or sometimes the whole event doesn’t even start till hours after the stated first match was supposed to begin. And how many times have you heard, “Your division will begin in 20 minutes”, which means, “Your division could begin in 20 minutes, or six hours”. This sort of thing is a serious buzzkill and can ruin one’s interest in competition as a whole.Easily improved?
Totally. We’ve seen tournaments make major strides in this department over the years. Unfortunately the reputation of days when such shenanigans were common still lingers and sometimes competitors will show up late on purpose thinking they’ve got plenty of time before they hit the mats, only to find out that they have missed their division. But, that’s the learning curve.
- Opponents whose entire self image is derived from being a tough ultimate grappling champion
Seriously, what’s with all the aggression? Don’t you hate it when you get out on the mat and your opponent is staring you down like you just ran his mother over with a construction vehicle, all the while hopping from one foot to the other? Everybody gets a little anxious during competition but try some coping skills, friend! These are often the same guys who shout something that sounds like one would if they’d just conquered Mt. Everest if they win. If there was a submission involved, hopefully your arm/leg isn’t popped because they just couldn’t restrain themselves. Alternately, if they lose or are disqualified, they throw a fit, often directed at the referee, and refuse to shake your hand as they exit the mat.Easily improved?
Instructors who know their students’ tendencies have the best opportunity to work on tuning down the aggression and/or anxiety of their students. While it’s important to be amped and ready to go for a match, after a certain point it becomes maladaptive, just like test anxiety. That being said, there will always be a bad apple in every bunch.
- People Walking Barefoot in the Bathrooms, Then Competing
If you’ve been to any BJJ or grappling tournament you know how nasty the facilities can become in a matter of hours. With the anxiety that comes with competing in combat sports, many grapplers find themselves needing to relieve themselves more than normally. This high usage can turn the floors into a very unpleasant place quickly. I’ll spare you the details but no human skin has a place being in contact with those surfaces. Yet inevitably, you notice barefoot guys in their gis heading in for quick break, not only walking all over that disgusting floor, but then heading right back onto the mats. Foul, foul, foul.Easily improved? Yes! Please! Buy a pair of cheap flip flops (Havaianas, anyone?) and make them a part of your gym gear that goes in your bag! And use them!
- Small Divisions
Don’t you hate it when you’ve trained really hard for a tournament and come the day of the tourney you find out that your division has less competitors than Alaska has happy Brazilians? This is usually not an issue when you’re a white belt or blue belt and the divisions can have dozens. But if you belong to the long tail of grappling competitors out there, that is, you’re either really a big or small person, or female, or an advanced belt, or some crazy mix of the above, you can show up and have just a couple of people who showed up for you to go against!Easily improved? Not a whole lot that can be done. In some cases you may get lucky and the organizer may combine divisions.
- Huge Divisions
Don’t you hate it when you’ve trained really hard for a tournament and come the day of the tourney you find out that your division has more entrants than in the Boston marathon? I know, I know, just a moment ago I was complaining about too few competitors. Goldilocks was on to something though when she expressed her distaste for extremes. For my money, I’d like to be able to have three or four matches before my day’s over. Beyond that is when I stop having fun. Perhaps because my grip is so shot I couldn’t hold a pencil anymore, much less an opponent’s gi lapel.Easily improved? You can graduate to a higher belt, and this should be less of a problem, unless you’re at the Pan-Ams. No matter where you are competing though, you can always attempt a nasty heelhook on someone if you’re looking for an early way to end your day of competition.
What do you think? Do you guys have any things that really bother you about a tournament? Post them in the comments section on this post if you’ve got ‘em!