World champion Braulio Estima referees a womens blue belt absolute match.
by Seymour Yang
The cancellation of the annual Gracie Invitational in the UK this year led many to call for a big replacement event. Up stepped world champion Braulio Estima and his Gracie Barra team in Birmingham to stage the British BJJ Open. With over 620 competitors spread out over 8 mats, this event did not disappoint in terms of size and scale.
Fresh from his gold medal win at the 2009 Mundials, Braulio Estima hosted the tournament with his characteristic smile and geniality. Everyone here was made to feel welcome. Anticipation was high in the preceding few weeks and days as the numbers of entries were adding up and rumours were speculating as to who would be fighting.
The venue chosen was the Cockmoors Wood Leisure Centre in Birmingham, UK, which is only about 2.5 hours drive from London. One slightly odd arrangement was the placement of blue belts right at the end of the day, after all the white, purple, brown and black belts had finished. As a side note, it was amusing to see the reactions of a small aikido class being held in a glass fronted room surrounded by swarms of BJJ competitors waiting to enter the main hall. A case of old skool being given rude and loud awakening by the nu skool.
The crowd had plenty of great fights to see. All eyes especially were on the hot young British talents on display today. 19 year old Stephen Martin, wearing a brand spanking new purple belt (awarded after his Bronze medal win at the Mundials) fought brilliantly to make the purple lightweight final, only to lose on points to Oli Geddes.
Another brand new purple belt was Omar Rashid who wasted no time in despatching his opponents to claim the purple belt mens featherweight division. And the blue belts too had some very technical and exciting matches especially those involving Daniel Agard, just 17 years old and a blue under Felipe Souza. Daniel fought with flair and mastery way beyond his years to reach his final, finally running out of gas. We’ll see a lot more of him in the future.
For such a big event, the whole tournament ran incredibly smoothly and pretty much on schedule. A minor gripe could be made perhaps regarding the incomprehensible PA louspeaker and the overall lack of space. But there was a general air of excitment and the buzz was good among competitors and spectators alike. Everyone got a free t-shirt and fightgear was awarded to all gold medal winners.
The UK proudly boasts two current black belt world champions (Roger Gracie and Braulio Estima) who base their academies here. The success of today shows that the UK can comfortably host a big competition that draws an international cast of participants. Perhaps one day soon, the UK could host the IBJJF European Championships? My congratulations to Braulio, Steve Fan and all the crew for organising a brilliant tournament.
Christine McDonagh (bottom) attemts a triangle choke on Dominique Vitry in a womens blue belt match.
Seymour Yang trains at the Mill Hill Roger Gracie Academy (http://www.millhillju-jitsuclub.com) and writes the Meerkatsu BJJ blog. He won Bronze at the BJJ Open.
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.
UPDATE June 23 at 12:13PM Pacific: we received the following from Braulio Estima…