Tournament Review Tuesday: The UK's Kent BJJ Open 2009

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu United Kingdom
Dominique Vitry (bottom) fends off judo olympian Samantha Lowe in the womens blue belt absolute.

by Seymour Yang

The very first Kent BJJ Open in 2008 was a roaring success. Competitors and spectators spoke highly of last year’s tournament – so anticipation for this year’s event was sky high. And the organisors did not disappoint. One week before the actual event, competitor names and divisions were already posted on the internet, and three days prior, all fight times and mat placements were already announced. With just under 400 competitors attending, it was a superb testament to the level of organisation that went on behind the scenes.

The Kent BJJ Open was originated by the UK’s Carlson Gracie BJJ Revolution Team. The organisors were keen to establish the event as a competition created by fighters, for fighters. Simon Hayes, one of the organisors, told me that he felt some competitions in the UK were poorly run and his team wanted to give a good example to the outside world, and to BJJ participants, of how to run a tournament professionally, and he credited co-instructor Dickie Martin as the ‘brains’ behind the event.

The event was divided over two days (Saturday for white belts, Sunday for all other belts). Considering the extra financial burden that two-days worth of hall hire would encompass, entry fees were kept as low as possible and the weekend spread meant everything ran on time and finished at a decent hour.

More importantly, the organisors felt that everyone should be allowed to have at least two fights on the day, hence the introduction of the repechage system to win bronze. In a system borrowed from judo tournaments, the BJJ reperchage was trialled last year to much acclaim – all non-finalists in their division were able to fight for the bronze medal, adding genuine value to a podium placement.

The Dartford judo club is an Olympic standard judo training facility designed to host the 2012 British Olympic judo team. It was an honour to compete within this up-to-date sports stadium. The facilities are of international standard and for a few hours, everyone felt like they were Olympic superstars.

Saturday hosted all the white belt matches. I did not attend this day so can only comment that with around 200 participants, it was clearly a popular tournament for first-timers and more experienced novices alike. Sometimes tournaments can seem an intimidating experience for newcomers to the sport, and a day just for white belts is a nice touch.

The following day hosted all the coloured belt matches. It was a packed schedule with four mats in constant action. The table staff, ushers, referees and all the team who had roles to play running the event, did their job brilliantly. There was no ‘dead’ time as one fight ended, another began immediately. The tight time-table meant that if you missed your call-out, you got dq’ed. The PA announcements was loud and very clear.

Of course a good stadium is nothing without some good fights, and the competitors who attended this weekend did not disappoint. I saw some fantastic tussles from the super feathers all the way to the heavy brown belts. It seems the combatants were inspired by the surroundings and by the huge Carlson Gracie fighting ethic (whether you were a Carlson team member or not!).

If I had to pick one division that generated a lot of attention, I would say the womens blue absolute was interesting to watch. Notably for the inclusion of British judo gold medallist Samantha Lowe. Standing head a shoulders above all the other ladies, the Carlson Gracie BJJ fighter used solid, basic jiu-jitsu to nullify her opponents to win gold in her weight and in the absolute.

A shout out should also go to the mens blue under 76kg division as I witnessed some oustandingly athletic and technically adept matches, especially the young Ross Nicholls, representing Pedro Bessa BJJ, who won this division.

After its second successful year in existence, the Kent Open has firmly established itself as one of the major ‘must-do’ tournaments in the UK. Judging from the post-tournament buzz and chatter, participants, myself included, are eagerly anticipating next year’s event.

Seymour Yang trains at the Mill Hill Combat and Conditioning Academy, part of the Roger Gracie Academy network and writes the Meekatsu BJJ blog. He won a gold medal at the Kent BJJ Open this year.

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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