Tournament Review Tuesday: Essex BJJ Open 2009

tournament essex open BJJ jiu-jitsu
A takedown in the brown belt absolute division at the 2009 Essex BJJ Open.

from Seymour Yang

One of the great things happening right now in the UK BJJ scene is watching how the sport is flourishing so well. The Essex BJJ Open event (3rd May 2009) was a typical example of today’s well run, well turned out event.

In 2002, British black belt Marc Walder and Royce Gracie held one of the very first BJJ tournaments in the UK at the Goresbrook Leisure Centre, Essex. The 2009 Essex Open, run by Marc Walder and Dave Coles, was at the same venue and it is notable that many of the competitors from that event in 2002 were also there today, as coaches and senior ranking grades.

The Essex BJJ Open 2009 attracted roughly 300 competitors. The early signs that this was going to be an extremely well run event were there with an ultra efficient website that allowed all those registering to see who else had signed up within minutes.

The general atmosphere of the venue was intimate enough with the crowd close enough to see all the action in detail. There were full divisions in the mens white belt adults and masters, as there were in the blue adults and masters. The absolutes in those two categories were popular as ever, and it was good to see a fair number of purple and brown belts fighting. A black belt superfight would have been a nice addition to the schedule but it was not to be.

With so many categories and four mats in constant action, it was a busy event. But there were a few standout matches of the day. The white belt super feathers (under 64 kg) attracted immediate interest with two extremely talented young guys, both juveniles, but fighting in the adult division – 16 year-old Ahmed Amin and 15 year-old Tyrone Elliot. Both destroyed their opponents in the opening rounds and were destined to meet in the final. The 16 year-old won in the end, but both displayed such superb skills, the futures of both look to be stellar.

Arguably the match that everyone wanted to see happen in the mens blue belt light (under 76 kg) division was the 2008 World Juniors No-gi grappling champion, Daniel Strauss, versus the 2008 Mundials junior blue belt champion, Stephen Martin. The meteoric rise of these two young men has earned them numerous trophies and plaudits, but surprisingly, they have never met each other in competition…until today. After both had comprehensively beaten their opponents in the opening rounds, the final that everyone had been waiting for was actually happening. As befitting two very technical players, the match was fairly even until Strauss broke the deadlock and gained the back. With a collar choke from the back looming, time ran out, but the winner was clear.

BJJ comps are dominated by young men and women seeking medals. But one gentleman stood out amongst the rest – 69 year old Peter Griffiths – fighting his very first competition in the blue belt Masters light feather (under 64 kg) division. Seemingly undaunted by the challenge, Peter started his match off well with a wonderful judo foot sweep. The good run wasn’t to last however as his unforgiving opponent (the author!) ended it swiftly with an armbar. But Peter proved that age is no barrier in this game and he rose to a standing ovation from the admiring audience.

The day ended with Marc Walder making an emotional speech thanking all those who competed and helped organise the event. Within minutes, all the results were compiled and the prestigious team trophy (The Mestre Mauricio Gomes Cup) was awarded to the vociferous Carlson Gracie BJJ Team.

Seymour is a blue belt at Mill Hill Roger Gracie Academy, UK and writes the blog:

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.

– Caleb

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