Tournament Review Tuesday: 2009 Pan-American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships

from Rowdy Bricco

On Saturday March 28th I competed in the Pan Am’s held at California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) in Carson California. The event is one of the largest tournaments held in the United States sanctioned by the IBJJF and many consider it our national championships.

This was my first time to the Pan Am’s as either a competitor or a spectator but I have been to other small and larger judo, no-gi and Brazilian jiu jitsu events. Any university in Southern California is large and finding the right entrance into the competition and parking was helped by hand written signs saying “jiu jitsu” and an arrow to eventually get you to the right place.

Once at the gym there were two separate entrances for fighters and for spectators and as you had to have been pre-registered it was as simple as checking in by stating your belt, weight and age division.

Inside the event there were actual facilities for changing, real lockers, a semi-private warm up area, showers and all you would find in an university’s gym and all available to fighters. Otherwise it seemed pretty typical with large mats, bleachers on both sides and a sturdy PVC “fence” to keep the athletes separate from the crowds.

The PA system was loud and clear and I cringed each time I heard in a low booming voice, “So and so is now DQ-ed,” for not reporting to the warm up area or mat on time. The IBJJF has run large tournaments for years so if you thought you could be an hour late on “Brazil time” you were mistaken. Once your division was called to the warm up area you were locked into the system and there until you lost or medaled.

When your division was called you were sequestered in a large warm up area with everyone else and the tension was palpable. There was not enough room to truly warm up, so you had better enjoy exercising in place to stay loose. When your name was called your ID was checked. (I actually read all the rules and regulations the night before on the IBJJF website and was glad I did. The gi I originally choose would not have passed the technical inspection). You were required to have your ID with you at all times and it was checked repeatedly something many first time competitors were not expecting. Nor were some fighters expecting a stringent interpretation of the gi’s requirements. I personally saw more than one person asked to change their gi for incorrect fit, tears, patch placement and color. Those who could not find a replacement were disqualified. You were also required to remove any brace, support or even cup.

Again, this is not a small local tournament and the people in ‘tech’ were professional, quick and serious about their job. The scales were all digital; all read the same and were thankfully one pound lighter than my scale at home.

Having passed technical inspection you were escorted to the timing and scoring table for your mat, ID checked again and then told, “It’s your turn” and waved onto the mat. The mats were clean, a reasonable distance apart and the referees were all dressed in black polo shirts and slacks providing them with an official air and inspired respect. If you were wearing a contrasting color gi to your opponent you were not required to wear the green and yellow belt, which I enjoyed not having to do. No one other than fighters were allowed on the mat, so if you were used to your coach giving you instruction, or screaming at you, three feet from your ear it was not to be. It really felt like just you and your opponent and the crowd noise totally disappeared. I did find it hard to hear the time expiration whistle and noticed others did too by trying to continue their matches after the whistle had been blown and standing up with a confused look on their face thinking they still had more time.

Standing with the referee at the end of the match if you looked at the score table you had to do some quick math as the scores were displayed by type, not total points as well as any earned advantages. If you had tunnel vision during your match it was nice to see where you earned points but then you also had to have the presence of mind to add them up for a total score as well.

If you won it seemed most people had two other matches to rest before there next one and if they both ended quickly you really hoped all the conditioning you had done paid off. (You did do extra conditioning if you were competing at the Pan Am’s, right?) Then you kept fighting and hopefully winning until your division was over and you medaled. At the far end of the gym was a nice background and a podium for the medalists in each division.

How do I know? This reviewer happened to find himself there! I won the silver medal for men’s blue belt, light feather, senior one. When your name was called, “So and so to the medal podium please” it was as if it was happening in a dream. The medals were very heavy, good sized and impressive. The lion logo also matched the one on your competitor t-shirt. Taking your place on the podium and bending forward for the girl to drape the medal around your neck, 20 people taking your picture and your friends and team members cheering on, it is unmatched in the feeling from other tournaments.

The 2009 IBJJF Pan American Championship is an extremely well run tournament for the number of competitors, spectators and only happening once a year. The spectator fee of only $5 made it easy to have supporters there, the minimal vendor booths kept the athletic atmosphere rather than a commercial one, I heard very few complaints about referees and once you were ‘in the system’ as an athlete you were treated as a professional and with courtesy.

My division had athletes from as far away as Delaware and others had people from Brazil and other countries. If you put in the hard work and want to compete in a well run tournament with high level competition, well then, I will see you at the Pan Am’s next year!

rowdy pan-ams
The author on the podium taking 2nd place in blue belt, light feather, senior 1.

This is an installment in our Tournament Review Tuesdays column, where FightWorks Podcast listeners submit reports about Brazilian jiu-jitsu and grappling competitions that happened the weekend prior. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of The FightWorks Podcast.

We are quite sure that Rowdy performed so well because he was wearing his FightWorks Podcast gi patch on his back!

– Caleb

2 Replies to “Tournament Review Tuesday: 2009 Pan-American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships”

  1. Hey Rowdy Ricco funny you mention the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS they are in september usually at the same location as this years Pan-Am’s. Based upon what you typed many of you are confused as the Pan-Am’s are not the National Championships. All of you ought to know that the Nationals are the National Championships also offfered with the Ibjjf as the hosting organization. Just thought you would like to know….Also a great tournament is the U.S. Open hosted in Santa Cruz around october…

  2. i used the wording “many consider”, not “is” or “i consider”. without coherent rules and series between the sanctioning bodies i think it is impossible in the US to definitevely pick just one national championship.

    the fact that this is sanctioned by the ibjjf gives it considerable weight. i hope we all have fun competing wherever we choose.

    see ya there.

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