Tournament Review Tuesday: 2009 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu European Championships

From Laurence Griffiths. This was originally going to be posted last Tuesday but was delayed due to the historically bad weather situation in the UK.

The European Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championship was first held in Lisbon in 2004 and has grown to become one of and if not, the largest competitions of its kind outside of the Americas. In the past it has attracted fighters from all over the globe, of all ages from white through to black belt and in its 5th year it didn’t disappoint.

The tournament began, in the same way I’d like to start this article, by commemorating the death of Helio Gracie. The Grandmaster was honoured with a respectively observed minute silence and a giant poster overlooking the mat area which summed up in one word the thoughts of millions; “Obrigado.” It put into perspective how the sport has grown since its beginnings when you could see competitors from almost every corner of the planet, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Germany, America to name just a few. What really struck me as impressive was the sheer number of people, who made the effort to travel to Lisbon. There were 130 people in the adult blue absolute category alone and with these numbers the organisation was excellent.

The latest I saw a bracket start was by thirty minutes and overall things ran smoothly, with a dedicated rep for each mat area. As a competitor this is one of the most important aspects, which allows you to prepare physically and mentally to peak at the right time and in my mind this was achieved. One minor point is to make sure any patches you want to keep are not peeling off or in the wrong place, otherwise out come the scissors. One of mine is now circulating through the refuse system of Lisbon! I couldn’t find any real faults with the venue either, the Complexo Municipal Esportivo do Casal Vistoso which is a few miles north of the city centre and with numerous hotels near the complex most fighters are within walking distance. It also has a large viewing area so you’re not clambering to get the best view of a fight and with so many spectators there was a real buzz for the whole three days.

For obvious reasons becoming European Champion means a lot to every competitor and this could really be seen in the faces of those who won and also the enthusiasm of the support given. It was exciting to watch so many high quality matches and you could really enjoy the fighting long after your own tournament was over, or even if you’d travelled just a spectator. Also, with over 50 black belts fighting it gave me and probably many others, the first chance to see some of the best fighters in the world battle it out. Taking the absolute title was former world champion Braulio Estima beating Alexandre de Souza in a closely fought bout on points, bringing with it as any good final should a talking point. De Souza was given points for a questionable take down as Estima was pulling guard from standing, giving him two points over Estima’s advantage. This was then overruled by the second and third referee which as you can imagine was not received well by De Souza, making the fight close to the very end with Estima edging out winner and taking the gold. This was definitely a highlight and the absolute final is usually the pinnacle of a major tournament, however this time around the crowd seemed slightly more interested in the medium weight final, the reason being Kron Gracie was competing.

Watching the fight from the back of the stand you could see every other person poised in anticipation with a camera, ready to record what they could of a fighter who has the expectations of so many resting on his shoulders. If he was feeling any pressure it didn’t show as he beat Pedro Bessa on points, which is no mean feat, to set up the final against Yan Cabral. The first to score was Cabral with a take down and given how close finals can be two points can often be enough. However, Kron fought back and with around five to six minutes in he managed to take the back with one hook in and finish the fight with a collar choke. It ended with Kron on his knees bowing to the picture of his late grandfather and beating the mat with both hands in celebration after taking his first title as a black belt. It’ll be interesting to see if he competes at absolute in future tournaments.

There were other great fights after that, including the team competitions, however for me that was the end of the weekend as I had to hot foot it to the airport to get back to London. Overall I would say the tournament was well organised, with a great atmosphere and well worth the trip. It’s not the cheapest of trips as you’ll spend about £250 just on flights, hotel and entrance fee (about £80) alone, however, if you’re serious about competing and progressing in BJJ then its well worth the money. Not only do you get to test yourself against some of the best fighters in your division to show both your strengths and weaknesses, it’s also a massive motivational experience to simply watching top level competitors. I’ll definitely be going back next year and if anyone is wondering how I got on, I lost in my second fight in my weight division, blue adult super heavy, and in my first fight in absolute.

This is the seventh in our new column, Tournament Review Tuesdays, 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. – Caleb

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