All photos courtesy Dev Kostal.
by Dev Kostal
I’ve come to find out that outside Brazil, a lot of the emphasis in Latin America – at least as far as competitions go – is on no-gi jiu jitsu, or “submission.” I stumbled on a competition during my time in Chile where all the guys at the gym seemed to know about it, but I couldn’t find any information online.
The Chilean National Submission League was formed, as I was told, to provide a place where the inordinately large number of amateur wrestling students could meet and compete with the thriving Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community, with a mixed set of rules. So at the inception, they assumed some slightly different standards than the IBJJF-approved no-gi rules. One of the main differences, aside from time of rounds (3 minutes for novice, 5 for advanced) was that they allowed wrestling shoes. Although my fear of seeing (or getting) a toe mangled was heightened, it didn’t end up being an issue. This particular competition was held at the University Of Santiago, in a multistory sports complex.
My main problem with the tournament was finding ANY information at all online. Google just isn’t helpful when the majority of the advertising is being done word-of-mouth and through restricted-access Facebook pages. The league just is not set up for wandering visitors, such as myself, to happen upon. That said, when you travel, if you link up with a good school, they tend to let you know.
If you can move past the advertising snafus and the slightly different rules – and there’s no reason you shouldn’t – it becomes, as their motto indicates, a place where “the sport is central.” Everyone was there to have a good day of rolling, plain and simple.
As was the case with other small competitions, signups were done the morning of, and then we waited for the organizers to arrange the brackets. Because there were only about 40 guys there, it didn’t take too long. Weight divisions were in 10kg increments, which I personally thought might have been a bit much, but with the number of people it gave everyone a good fight and still had a couple brackets with 3 fights.
Experience levels were either novice or advanced. I don’t know what the cutoff was between the two, but as a sub-2 year blue belt (normally intermediate), I was shuffled into the advanced division (appropriately, I think, given the level of the majority of the competitors, who were novice and competing for the first time). There were three guys in my category (<85kg, advanced): me, a purple belt, and a brown belt. Brackets were done by drawing numbers, which I thought was fantastically objective. On the other hand, it did lead to a couple guys from the same school on the same side of the bracket, which is always unfortunate. Prior to starting, the organizers sat all the competitors down and conducted a thorough rules briefing, which in my opinion really set this competition apart. Because most of the novice fighters were competing for the first time, this allowed them to ask questions and see demonstrations of what was allowed and what wasn’t. I was impressed at the detail they used in this briefing, and impressed that they did it – this is far from the standard, and a welcome addition to any tournament, as far as I’m concerned.
There was one competition mat and some small gymnastic pads pushed together to create a warmup area. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was enough, and the fights went quickly enough that the one mat was sufficient – the waits weren’t long at all, as the refs kept the matches moving along with short breaks in between.
The brackets were run bottom-to-top, with all the first round fights going before the second round. This allowed the first round winners plenty of time to recuperate, something I always pay attention to.
The reffing was solid and attentive, as was the timekeeping. There weren’t huge LED scoreboards or anything, but they had a nice big manual scoreboard on the table by the mat, one official timekeeper, and a scorekeeper. Additionally, the mat was set up with a barrier around it, and coaches’ chairs in the corner, another nice touch.
The level of fighting was impressive, although unobjectively I’m happy to say that the BJJ practitioners generally trounced the pure wrestlers. Lots of excellent takedowns, reversals, mental toughness, and general strategery were on display throughout the day.
This wasn’t a gigantic IBJJF event, but it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t perfect – the locker rooms/bathrooms were 4 floors down from the mats, and it seemed to take a little while to get going despite the proclaimed 1 PM start time (which was actually the “show up and get your name on the list” time), but aside from some small quibbles, I have to say that this was exactly the type of small tournament that I think is vital to progressing and encouraging BJJ around the world. It brought together a group of people for the sole purpose of experience and camaraderie. It was professionally organized and run, and I was truly impressed with the organizers’ efforts to keep everyone informed throughout the day.
Thanks to Sensei Victor Vásquez at Real Fighting Club (http://chilejiujitsu.cl) in Santiago for the invitation, and thanks to the Liga Nacional De Submission for a quality event.
Devlin Kostal is a blue belt under Daniel Thomas at Zeus BJJ (http://montereyjiujitsu.com) in Monterey, California, who is currently traveling through Latin America. Thus far, he’s trained in Lima, Peru; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; and Santiago, Chile. His blog, Fueled By Fear, can be found at http://devbjj.blogspot.com.
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!