by Cornell Vlijter
The 6th European Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Open Championship was held in Lisbon Portugal this weekend. The tournament has become recognised as the “benchmark” Open championship for fighters wanting to prove themselves against the best that Europe has to offer. The tournament has gone from strength to strength with competitor numbers increasing not only at the junior and intermediate belt levels but at the senior levels of Brown and Black indicative of the standing the tournament has developed within the BJJ community.
The tournament began on Wednesday at the Complexo Municipal Esportivo do Casal Vistoso. The centre is a cavernous and imposing building in the North of the City. The first thing that strikes you upon arrival at the venue is the energy the venue, fighters and spectators generate. People don’t come to this championship to take part. They come to win and this permeates the building itself with virtually every person adrenalin-charged. The facilities are good with clear viewing galleries, maintained changing rooms and even various stalls selling everything from acai to replacement gis for any fighters falling foul of the stringent gi measuring requirements.
There were 8 matted areas and although all 8 never appeared to be in use simultaneously fights progressed concurrently and efficiently with the smoothness that the IBJFF have become renowned for. The only omission the organisers appeared to have made was the provision of a warm up matted area. Fighters resorted to jogging, calisthenics or skipping to warm up for fights.
Schedules, categories and times are clearly posted upon entry to the venue and on the internet but had to be rescheduled which is a reflection of the large numbers of blue and white belts who had registered to compete on the opening two days. There are many familiar faces from the UK circuit. Most of these competitors are what you would call “amateur professionals” as they take this sport seriously training six to seven days a week once or twice a day. These are the best that the UK has to offer and I suspect this is the case for the other nations present as well. The cost and commitment required to compete means that nobody travels “for the experience”. The Championships may be Open but I expect if your were to select national teams the list and competitors present would not diverge much.
Wednesday began with the white juvenile through to adult categories. What categorised these fights was the styles of fighting that prevailed. Most of these fights were characterised by the open guard game. A familiar pattern of victory emerged with competitors pulling open guard then attempting to finish their opponent by triangle or arm bar with varying degrees of success. Very few white belts elected to fight from the top suggesting a dependence on the guard with most fights going to the individual who pulled guard first.
Day two saw the entry of the senior and master blue belt categories. There were two inspirational sights on this day the appearance of Roger Gracie as a spectator and the participation of a blind fighter who received a standing ovation from the gathered crowd upon the completion of his fight. The blue belt fights were categorised by a more rounded game. Many of the fighters appeared to have a developed takedown game with many judo and wrestling style throws and takedowns employed by fighters. Fighters at these belts employed both top and bottom games. More of these fights tended to go to the judges scorecards, a relection of a more developed defensive game but when they were finished there was no pattern to the outcome with anything from omoplata to Achilles lock employed by the winning fighter
Saturday and Sunday were all about the senior belts as the last of the purple brown and black belt fighters taking to the mat. As a blue belt I struggled to understand some of the complexities of the fights in these brackets. Fights were characterised by both fighters adopting a low crouched stand up style with a long feeling out stand up period characterised by a scramble for dominant grips with which to control their opponents before attempting to trip their opponent to establish a dominant ground position. In the event that this was unsuccessful fighters would pull guard and attempt to establish control through a constant attempt to improve position and grip before attempting submissions. These fights really did prove the old adage that position comes before submission. The winners of the black belt categories were Guillherme Mendes (Atos) light featherweight, Tarsis Humphreys (Alliance) medium and Rodrigo Cavaca (Check Mat) heavy and Gustavo Campos (Atos) Open Champion.
The IBJJF European Open was a well run adrenaline fuelled ride and I can not recommend it highly enough. The only advice I would offer to anyone wishing to take part is to come prepared as this really is the benchmark for BJJ competition in Europe.
Cornell Vlijter is a blue belt under Caesar Lima, Roger Gracie Academy London.
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.