#143 Learning BJJ Today, BJJ in Asia Pt 1, Abu Dhabi Pro

jiu-jitsu japan
A team of Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters in Japan.

This week we will begin a multi-part series on the show with first-hand accounts of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Asia. Our focus will begin, of course, with Japan. A friend and training partner from San Diego recently visited Axis Jiu-Jitsu in Tokyo, which is run by Rickson Gracie black belt Taka Watanabe and gives us the low down on how BJJ is practiced in the “land of the rising sun”.

Also in this episode we discuss training BJJ in the age of the internet. Does your instructor mind that you bring in new moves from YouTube every class? Our interviewee for this segment is Brazilian jiu-jitsu red and black belt Fabio Santos.

We will also speak with Renato Tavares, who is gearing up a Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition series called Abu Dhabi Pro. Abu Dhabi Pro is similar to the ADCCs in that its funding comes from the United Arab Emirates but it is a competition in the gi, and is open to anyone. The first Abu Dhabi Pro qualifiers will take place in February in Florida. Official will be available here when the site is finished, but in the meantime you can use their MySpace to keep in touch.

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The FightWorks Podcast: Tell us about the Abu Dhabi Pro, when it is, and why we should all know about it.

Renato Tavares: This event is going to be the first event for BJJ in Abu Dhabi. We’re going to do the qualifier here in the United States. This event is going to try and make BJJ turn pro. We have pro grappling events, we have pro MMA events, and this event is to make BJJ be a professional event too.

The FightWorks Podcast: People listening are probably confused because they may say, “Abu Dhabi already has a big important tournament. Can you tell us the differences between what you are talking about compared to the traditional tournament for no-gi that is every two years?

Renato Tavares: The big difference is that the big event that they have already is for no-gi. This is a BJJ event. It’s going to be in the gi, and will be a Brazilian jiu-jitsu event. Everyone pretty much already knows about the no-gi event… The idea is to make BJJ more recognized and for it to be professional. We have a lot of tournaments in the United States, in Brazil, and BJJ World Championships, but it’s not professional. People just get a medal and shirts… Carlos Santos has the idea to make BJJ grow and be professional like no-gi grappling is big right now. We want to make BJJ be big in the same way.

The FightWorks Podcast: You referred to Carlos Santos and I hope our listeners already know Carlos because he is a very busy guy on the internet, he’s been in the United Arab Emirates a long time promoting the sport and its gotten a lot of traction and it’s growing over there in the Emirates. As you said he’s been successful in putting together some tournaments in the Emirates with a lot of money. Are you saying that those same folks are involved with this new Abu Dhabi Pro?

Renato Tavares: Yeah he’s the guy who runs the big events in Abu Dhabi. He’s going to run some qualifiers in Brazil, Canada, United States, Europe, Japan, and one more country where the people are going to qualify and compete. In the Abu Dhabi no-gi, the idea is to get the best guys in each country to represent the USA, Brazil, Canada… for them to compete against each other.

The FightWorks Podcast: And while there are events already where the best guys in the world can compete against each other, the idea here from what you’re saying is to reward them monetarily? They’re going to finally make some money?

Renato Tavares: Yeah, a lot of guys especially in BJJ are leaving BJJ to compete in MMA and grappling because there’s a lot of money involved. The idea is to keep these guys competing with the gi, competing with BJJ… The idea of the Abu Dhabi is to make BJJ professional. Me, John, and Helio Soneca have the idea to promote BJJ so that it can be professional here too. This event is the first event we’re going to do but next year there is going to be more pro events here in the United States.

The FightWorks Podcast: At the moment, is the prize money coming from sponsors? Who is supporting the prize money?

Renato Tavares: Like the Abu Dhabi no-gi, the Sheikh is going to give the money. It’s going to be like $96,000 in prizes there in Abu Dhabi. It’s not just for the black belts. The no-gi Abu Dhabis just give the big names the opportunity to compete for the money. In this event, the blue belts can go there and compete for the money too. It’s not just for the black belts and brown belts to compete for the money, but other people, blue belts, whatever, can go there and compete for the money. They’re going to give $2,500 for the blue belt division.

The FightWorks Podcast: That’s a lot of money.

Renato Tavares: Yeah for the pro division, the black belts each get $5,000 each division. Not just for the absolutes, but for each division.

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