Tournament Review Tuesday – British NoGi Open

by Jon Broster

Sunday 26 September 2010

For the second year running Braulio Estima hosted the British NoGi Open at Wolverhampton University. This is the largest NoGi event in the UK and probably Europe. The venue is excellent, with plenty of seating and a good viewing gallery. There were 7 mats and a warm-up area.

In the weeks leading up to the competition there was much discussion on the internet as to who should enter which division. This was mainly due to the decision of the organisers to classify the entry requirements for each division in terms of both belt rank and training time.

Current Belt (if applicable) OR equivalent Total Training Time (estimated)
Beginner (White) 1 year & 2months
Intermediate (Blue) up to 3 years
Advanced (Purple) up to 4.5 years
Elite (Brown) up to 6 years
Elite (Black) 6 years or more

Clearly, this presents potential conflicts as, for example, many students are still at blue belt well after 3 years of training. One might well argue that as this is primarily a jiu jitsu competition such guidelines are for the benefit of other competitors whose background is in MMA or submission grappling. Whatever the reason for the different entry requirements some people clearly felt there was room for abuse. I was standing right beside a well known MMA coach who turned in disgust from the ring, as one of his female fighters was beaten, muttering “Sandbagger!” At the other end of the scale, some people felt that it was unreasonable for purple belts with 6 years of experience to enter themselves in the Elite division. Clearly, NoGi competitions will attract competitors who usually train in systems other than BJJ and it is very difficult to ensure that everyone is happy with the way that divisions are structured; that said, I heard very little grumbling among the competitors.

Controversy aside, this was a great event, with in the region of 400 competitors. As well as large teams representing Braulio Estima, Victor Estima and the other large UK based BJJ academies, there were strong teams from both London Shootfighters and Leicester Shootfighters in addition to numerous other MMA gyms. There were competitors from all over the UK and also a strong Polish presence.

Right from the start, there were some excellent performances, demonstrating yet again the strength in depth of BJJ in Britain. Some of the divisions were very large, with the winners of some of the white and blue belt divisions having to win five fights to earn overall victory. There were a lot of very strong performances, with almost all the finals being very closely contested. The elite divisions too were very competitive, with plenty of black and brown belts providing some excellent matches – real entertainment for the spectators. Once again, the stand out fighter was Luke Costello. Last year as a purple belt at the Abu Dhabi Pro qualifier he took second place in a mixed purple/brown/black division. Here he took Elite gold in both his weight division and the Absolute.

Shortly after the middle of the day, Braulio called all the black belts present and all the officials and referees onto the mats to thank them personally for the support they have given both to the event and to the growth of BJJ in the UK. He then presented a plaque to his friend and student Steve Fan who is the overall tournament organiser and without whom the competition would not have taken place. Steve is seriously ill and all present gave him a standing ovation and wished him well.

Overall, it was a great day and while Braulio’s students may have dominated the medals tables, there were also good showings from his brother Victor’s newly formed Gracie Barra Midlands team and from Checkmat. Hopefully, Braulio and Steve can continue in this vein next year and hold some more excellent tournaments.

Jon Broster trains under Victor Estima at GB Midlands – he placed third in Senior Blue belt Middle Heavy.

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!

– Caleb

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