2010 Pan Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Image courtesy Georgette Oden.
by Georgette Oden
Fifteen years ago at the first Pan American Jiu Jitsu Championship, there were some 150 competitors. This year’s Pan, held at the Bren Event Center in Irvine California, welcomed some 2800 fighters, including some of the biggest names in the sport like Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles, Michelle Nicolini, and Felipe Costa as well as up-and-comers like Hillary Williams, Kron and Kayron Gracie, and Abmar Barbosa.
I competed in the blue belt women’s leve (light weight) class and worked as a scorer all four days. I was very impressed with the venue and the organization of such a big production.
Thursday, the first day, showcased the whites and some blues. Things got off to a relatively prompt start in the morning, with 10 mats running at once. The biggest divisions were the lighter-weight male blue belts, with some 75-100 competitors each, but the event staff kept things on track and moving efficiently. Brackets for the day were posted on a large wall just inside the entrance and took up feet and feet of space. Friday morning, Tony Torres (he of the famous voice, proclaiming when so-and-so is “Deeee… Cuuuuue…”) showed up and added some humor with his announcements of divisions. Friday began at 9am sharp, with my division (and several others) running like clockwork. Gradually the blues faded and were replaced on other days by purples and browns. Equally gradually, it seemed like the air conditioning was cranked up, and up, leaving everyone but the fighters shivering with cold. It was pretty chilly outdoors, too, but not enough to stop crowds from seeking out the excellent barbeque offered by Silvio’s, and the acai as well.
Saturday offered more spectacular and energetic fights between purples and browns, as well as the womens’ brown/black absolute bracket. I saw a one-stripe purple who was paralyzed from the waist down finishing his match and graciously receiving a standing ovation. Of course, Sunday was blackbelt day, with eight mats full of amazing jiu jitsu. The Pan Ams failed to disappoint. There were some notable fights– Abmar Barbosa (under Robert Drysdale) defeated Kron Gracie on his way to finals against Kayron Gracie where Kayron won by the smallest of margins. Michelle Nicolini’s gold medal match against Lloyd Irvin brownbelt Nyjah Easton was exciting to watch, offering some creative sweeps and definitely more than your standard battle to pass guard.
By working as scorer, I had some unique perspectives on the tournament. First, I could not have afforded to make the trip, or to compete in the Pan, without getting paid for my time. Second, I was forced to focus on something other than my own nervousness, so it really helped me manage my anxieties. Third, I literally had the best seat in the house for watching around 80 matches a day, start to finish, so I learned a lot… about strategy and referee judgments as well as specific technique points. Fourth, there’s something special about having a behind the barricade viewpoint, and I enjoyed having full access to the bullpen, the referees, and the scoring system. If I’d worked as a table coordinator instead, I would have been paid more per day AND would get my entry fee comped. Not a bad deal at all, plus all the tshirts and lunches and snacks. I highly recommend it.
A big well done to the IBJJF for their production and promotion of this tournament.
Georgette “Red Menace” Oden is a blue belt from the Relson Gracie Academy in Austin Texas, and writes Georgette’s World, a BJJ blog, at georgetteoden.blogspot.com. She won gold at the Houston IBJJF International Open and lost her first match at the Pan. She plans on returning with a vengeance at the Mundials.
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 2010, if you submit a Tournament Review Tuesday piece, you might win an Isami gi!
The brackets on Thursday. Image courtesy Georgette Oden.
The Bren Events Center before the matches started. Image courtesy Georgette Oden.