March 7, 2011

World Pro Trials San Diego - View From the Bottom

I attended my first Abu Dhabi World Pro Trials this past weekend held at Point Loma HS in San Diego, CA.   421 others had their eyes on the prize along with me... an all expenses paid trip to Abu Dhabi to compete in the big show next month.  For blue belts you had to place in your division to qualify for the absolute, and then win the absolute to get the trip.  Such a prize brought out some of the most competitive fighters I have ever seen.   The talent at all levels was absolutely amazing!

VENUE
I cannot imagine how tough it is to try and find an appropriate venue to hold such a tournament but damn guys we really need to try and improve the facilities for such prestigious events.  The HS was old.  DAMN old!  There was a plaque on the wall commemorating the fallen students from Point Loma in World War II!  And from the looks of it, the bathrooms had not been renovated since the plaque was hung.  No changing rooms, one bathroom with one stall and one urinal was just asinine.  Just prior to the tournament starting a guy announces that a "huge bathroom" was just opened in the other building outside.  Run over to find out "huge" is a relative term.  Then by 2pm it was closed and locked again.

The gym had three mats going but could have easily broken them up into six arena's.  I have mixed feelings about this because it does prepare one for fighting in front of large crowds, but then again the hurry up and wait syndrome could have been alleviated with more rings and refs.

FLOW
The Brazilians are notorious for taking their time, and this event was not much different.  Scheduled to start the blue belt division's by 9:50 am, I did not fight until after 1pm.  By the time the black belt divisions were called they were a couple hours behind schedule.  This is something that is certainly avoidable as we rolled in about 8:30am and they had not even opened the venue up yet!

The loud speaker system was a joke, and the girl running it (bless her heart she was trying) was not very understandable when she spoke into the mic.  In the warm up area you could not hear a damn thing, then the bullpen personnel were getting pissed because people were not answering their calls.  I ended up standing around for 3 hours before fighting.

I must admit they were all over the mats ensuring no downtime though.  I never saw a mat without fighters for more than a minute or so.

COMPETITION
All I can say is simply WOW!!!  Hands down the most talented group of grapplers I have ever seen in one venue (mind you I have not been to tons of big tournaments, but this was without a doubt the toughest tournament I have ever been a part of)!  From white to black everyone brought it 100% and I have to admit that the blue belt divisions were the highlights of the weekend.  No joke, their are some amazing grapplers coming up in the ranks.  They were more exciting then any of the upper ranks.

The two most prominent teams were Atos and Saulo's Jiu Jitsu University.  They had tons of competitors and even more supporters in the crowd!  It is amazing to hear the Portuguese chants and insane cheering they were all bringing for their boys and girls.  Unfortunately I do not belong to an academy that has that camaraderie and support, so I can only speculate... but to have your boys cheering and encouraging you has to be an amazing feeling and obviously it gives an ever so slight advantage.

Two kids stand out... I am not sure of their names but one each from Atos and Saulo.  Both were 16-17 years old and they cleaned house in their weights and absolute divisions in the adult brackets.  Saulo's student was simply amazing; I watched him finish at least 3 fights in under 30 seconds (not a typo).  Rumor has it that he is home schooled and spends all day training with Saulo, who is grooming him as his next protege!  I do not think I even saw the kid break a sweat.  He was amazingly prepared and talented.  I am not sure if he won the trip, but I am guessing he did.

Watching him fight was half of the pleasure, but I found myself also watching his coach Saulo.  He rarely said anything because this kid was so well prepared, but when Saulo did say something he was calm, cool, and precise.  As a coach I get so much out of watching others approach the arts I practice.
The blue belt final with Saulo's guy vs. Atos was mind blowing!  The crowd was nuts!

All levels of competition were solid though (I will speak more of my matches in a separate post).  With such prizes (money, gi's, and of course the big prize was airfare / hotel / meals / transportation to Abu Dhabi) you can expect the competition to really bring it and they did!

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS

  • Nickel and diming needs to stop.  We had to pay a $20 "membership" fee to enter the competition on top of the entry fee.  No one offered an explanation why, and I will be curious to see if I actually get anything in the mail.  Not to mention they never really checked if we did pay.  Just a bullshit way to squeeze a little more blood out of the turnip.  
  • No one else is saying it so I will... we need to get more diversity in the refereeing.  Too much Brazilian machismo / personal grudges bullshit happening at all levels.  I saw so many guard passes that were not awarded points when they should have been.  I even saw ref's completely not paying attention to the matches they were reffing.  I also tire of ref's speaking little, to no English.  This is fine in Brazil, but when you are in America it should be a requirement to be fluent in the native tongue since the majority of competitors are speaking English.  Seems to be a problem only in IBJJF events and the like.  
  • I am also getting tired of the rule sets pussifing (hells yeah that is a word!) BJJ.  Soon it will be just like Judo where we have more restrictions then legal techniques.  Whatever happened to tailoring the rule sets after a street fight?   I agree with no neck cranks, but no 1/2 nelsons?!?!  I saw several black belts get DQed because they threw their foot over their opponents leg attempting straight ankle locks (this is the proper way to do them) but it is illegal because most people foolishly try to twist out to escape, essentially tearing their own knee apart.  
  • Galvao rolls even smoother in person!  Amazing to watch, what an inspiration. 
  • Gui Mendes does NOT roll as smooth as in his videos!  Very rigid and seemingly dependent on muscling his opponents.  That said he subbed Barret Yoshida in the absolute.  
  • The use of steroids are becoming common place in BJJ, and I am not sure what to think of it.  As I get older I can understand wanting to recover faster, but it seems to be getting out of hand with high level competitors who will remain nameless, but just look at progressive photos of some of the top players over the years!  Certain guys are getting much more bulk VERY quickly, and then all the sudden have a burst of acne.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  I doubt it, but perhaps.  I understand the drive to get any edge but is this the way?  Whatever happened to winning with some nobility and dignity?  I have no answer but I am tired of "cheaters" marginalizing their use as "getting an edge."  
  • Having a team and support is something that is huge.  I hope I can experience such an atmosphere sometime in the near future, as I plan on competing a lot this year.
  • I love the sportsmanship in BJJ.  With only an exception or two everyone was polite and fought with dignity.  Good on you guys!  Nice change of pace with most sports today.  
  • You cannot swing a dead gerbil in San Diego without hitting a BJJ school.  From the HS alone we could see two BJJ schools, and Kid Peligro has stated over 60 schools are in the city limits itself!!!!!!!   
  • The weather in Southern Cali is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Overall it was fun watching this event.  I will post later on my specific fight and experience, but in the end this was a great event that really brought forth some of the amazing talent that is out there climbing the ranks.  For all you slackers you better get your ass in shape and start pushing harder because your opponents certainly are not being lazy!

Cheers
Jake 

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