Tijuca Tenis Clube in Rio, site of many historic Brazilian jiu-jitsu matches. All photos courtesy Dev Kostal.
by Dev Kostal
I competed at the Master/Senior World Championships in Rio De Janeiro, which is held concurrently with the Rio Open Championship. Both are IBJJF events.
I competed in the blue belt master division, which ran Friday morning and Friday afternoon, so this review is based on that day’s events, for the most part.
Walking into the Tijuca Tênis Clube evokes some pretty strong feelings for me. I love history, and I’m particularly enamored with the small stories, the ones that not many people get to hear.
Quite a few years ago now, Francisco Mansor was the Chief of Police in Rio. As such, he had connections all over the city. And when the first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Chapionships were held in 1996, Grand Master Mansor used his connections at the Tijuca Tênis Clube. The Mundials were held there until 2007, I believe, when they moved to Los Angeles.
Suffice to say, my apprehension upon entering the Club was significant. But it’s a pretty unassuming place. Concrete steps comprise the upper level seats, and simple plastic chairs – many of them broken or missing – are the closer ones. But it’s that simplicity that’s attractive about the place. There’s no presumption here – just amazing jiu jitsu.
You hear story after story about training and competing in Rio. Competing for the first time in Rio is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. It’s the same as any other big tournament…except it’s not the same. You really do have to get over a mental hurdle – at least I did. Here you are, in Brazil, doing what you love, this Brazilian sport, fighting the best athletes in Brazil. It’s pretty significant. And you can feel that quiet energy when you walk in.
The tournament itself, from my perspective, was fantastic. Quite honestly, and I’ve only competed in 15 or so tournaments in my roughly 2 years in this sport, this was the most efficiently-run tournament I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of.
The brackets ran exactly on time, and once started, there was hardly any empty mat time between fights. All of the check-in details were done to IBJJF standards, with weigh-ins, gi checks, and ID checks.
Interestingly, the mat coordinators announced their divisions on the microphone individuals, which I hadn’t seen before – ordinarily there’s one or two announcers who make all the calls. For the gringo who doesn’t speak fantastic Portuguese, though, this helped me by being able to focus on one mat coordinator, so I knew roughly when I was going to get called.
What I found to be the best part of the tournament administration, though, was the consideration shown by the mat coordinators for the fighters’ efforts. Time in between matches didn’t seem to be too long, or too short. Most of the time I got 10-15 minutes, and I really appreciated that.
As per usual, the refereeing was excellent. Having spent most of the day there, I can’t recall seeing a single disputed decision. There may have been some, but it wasn’t nearly as prevalent as at Pans this year.
Later in the day, during the absolutes, there seemed to be a lot more injuries on the mats, so the medics were definitely earning their pay. But they were out in force, and I for one really appreciated their efforts.
I don’t have to tell you that the level of jiu jitsu being displayed (on Friday, it was blues, purples, and browns, both male and female) was unbelievable. For me, by far the best display was the women’s purple belt absolute match where (I apologize, I don’t have the names) a tiny little competitor overcame a much larger girl, who was physically throwing her around the mat, and ended up choking her out. Both competitors were phenomenal, and the entire arena was watching that fight.
All in all, my day at the Master/Senior Worlds lived up to my fairly high expectations of what my first competition in Rio would be like. The energy, the camaraderie, and the ridiculous level of jiu jitsu made for an unforgettable experience, one that I will carry with me for the rest of my BJJ career.
Devlin Kostal is a blue belt under Daniel “Ventania” Thomas at Zeus BJJ in Monterey, CA. He has been traveling through South America, and has been fortunate to train in Lima, Peru, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. His blog, Fueled By Fear, can be found at http://devbjj.blogspot.com. He took a gold medal in his division (blue master middle) and a bronze medal in the absolute division (blue master) at the Master/Senior Worlds.
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 author (second from left) with his new gold medal.