Tournament Review Tuesday: Grapplers Showdown Gi Challenge, the London Open

british jiu-jitsu
Daniel Agard St John applies an armbar to finish his opponent in the blue belt adult lightweight division.

by Seymour Yang

The very first ‘London Open’ held in 2003 was a landmark event – at the time it was one of the very first major BJJ tournaments to be located in London, England. Fast forward to today and the 2009 ‘London Open’, run by Grapplers Showdown, evoked strong memories of that tournament 6 years ago. Back then, as now, the numbers were small, comprising perhaps 160 competitors. But the smaller numbers meant a terrifically intimate atmosphere as people crowded around the mats, cheering and supporting their friends and team mates.

The Grapplers Showdown tournament has grown year on year as a strictly no-gi event. But for this London Open, event organiser Milan Keric decided to try his hand at a gi based event. The setting was the Westway Sports Centre in Latimer Road, West London. This centre is normally reserved for indoor tennis, but for a change – and to the amusement of the neighbouring tennis players, the nets were cleared away to allow our merry band of BJJ fighters to compete.

Due to the short numbers, many categories had to merge the adult and masters division. And, unusually for recent events, there were only a few women competing. However one division that was a stand-out success was the juniors. These children are the future of the sport. At 8,9, 10 years or older, these kids came to fight and they wanted to win. It is a measure of their coaching to see how technically adept many of them are. The biggest team showing in the kids division were those from BJJ School, run by black belt Felipe Souza. I counted 15-odd just from this one academy. Felipe’s skills as a children’s instructor are clearly paying dividends with medals throughout the categories. For the kids, it was a great chance to test their skills, plus all received bright t-shirts and sweeties at the end, which was a nice touch.

In the adults division, teams from all over the UK made the trip to London. Biggest credit should go to Dungeon BJJ school for making the long trek from the north east of the UK. They also entertained with their colourful dungeon gi patches and proved to be mean fighters as well. Other academies that brought big teams were Nova Forca, run by black belt Ricard Da Silva, BJJ School as mentioned before, Roger Gracie Academy (RGA), London fight Factory, BTT, Checkmat and many others.

For me, the highlight fight of the event was the one featuring two young but very talented lightweight blue belts – Daniel Strauss from RGA and Daniel Agard, from BJJ School. Both had won their respective opening rounds with ease, each by submissions, and so were destined to meet in the final. Sadly, I had to go and fight my own division and missed this eagerly anticipated match but Dan Strauss won in the end by armbar.

Overall, the facilities of the venue were top notch. The huge expanse of the indoor tennis centre meant plenty of space for people to wander between mats. Competitors received a free t-shirt (always a nice touch) and the winners in each division won prizes. Despite the immense stress he must have been under, Milan was a genial host and bent over backwards to ensure everyone was happy and made sure things ran on time -which they did.

The BJJ community looks forward to more offerings from the Grapplers Showdown organisors in the future.

Seymour Yang trains at the Mill Hill Combat and Conditioning Academy, part of the Roger Gracie Academy network and writes the Meekatsu BJJ 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. Through the rest of 2009, if you submit a Tournament Review Tuesday piece, you might win an Isami gi!

– Caleb

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