March 12, 2012

Arnold Fitness Expo 2012 - Grappling Review Edition

Thanks to my sponsor 1914 Gi's!
Visiting back home a couple weeks ago, I was originally was going to compete at the Chicago Open held by the IBJJF, but decided that would be a bit too much time away from my fam who were the sole reason for visiting Ohio in the first place.  Then the Arnold's popped up on the radar where they would be offering a BJJ tournament on Saturday, and then the first regional qualifier for the ADCC on Sunday.  I saw this as divine intervention as the Arnold's are held yearly in Columbus, OH. which is exactly where I would be visiting!   Coupled with my first sponsor 1914 Kimono's who covered my entry fee, this was a great opportunity to compete with some of the best in the Midwest.

For those of you unaware... the Arnold Sports Expo is the largest gathering of its kind.  Boasting over 18,000 athletes competing in 45 various events from fencing, to power lifting, to boxing, to gymnastics.  Eleven different events were qualifiers for Olympic events.  Walking through the vendor (should read: "unnecessary waste of money supplement section"), I can honestly say I have never seen so many disproportional men, and fake breasted women!  Oh... and Carmen Electra is REALLY, REALLY tiny!

This review will be focused on the Arnold Sports Expo as I experienced it.  I will discuss my individual matches and fights in another post, but I wanted to shine the light on a few others that made this all happen.  Firstly Brett Boyce who organized and ran this years grappling events.  Rumor on the mats as the day was starting on Saturday was the previous years events had been run terribly and their was some apprehension from participants at first, but as the day got going Brett proved that he knows how to run a smooth event.  I had never been to the Arnold's before, but I participated in the regional qualifiers for ADCC in 2009 which was run by Brett and he did a great job up here as well!

As with any tournament there is wait time, but with only 4 mats available Brett kept them moving and overall the reffing was decent.  I know for a fact in one of my matches I did not maintain mount for 3 seconds but still got points, where some other matches saw the complete opposite.  Overall I felt the calls and reffing were good.  Could be better, but clean and fair across the board.

Going back to the Midwest is needed for me to be reminded of good, honest, down to earth people.  And I must say that is EXACTLY what I experienced at this tournament from every angle!  Join me if you will on some random stories from last weekend:


Robert... my brother from another mother!
  • Robert Webb was the first cat I walked up to and introduced my self to on Saturday, and we instantly hit it off.  Robert was competing in the super heavy division at purple, but because of so few people they combined him with brown belts as well.  Despite his hesitations Robert took gold in gi!  All of Robert's opponents were heavier then him, and I believe younger.  But he fought his ass off and came away with the win.  Not sure how he did on Sunday in No gi.  Robert has a great attitude because he wanted to come out and push himself.  If you are ever in Lexington, KY. look him up at 2350 Woodhill Center, "Grand Champion School of Submissions."  And also be on the lookout for a revamping of the grunge scene;)
  • A shout out to Travis Conley who won the purple belt division.  Though I did not get the opportunity to fight him Travis and I spoke at length on Saturday about the grappling scene in the Midwest, and past Arnold's.  Travis is cleaning house from the sounds of it with 15 tournament victories last year, racking up a couple more over the weekend with a 28-0 ass kicking and a gi choke in the finals!  Travis is another example of a humble cat who can kick some serious ass.  Wish him luck as I hope to see him at the Pan Am's in a few weeks.  If you are ever in Kansas City check his school out; Kansas City BJJ.
  • I cannot for the life of me remember his name, but I slipped behind the bleachers after a tough day on Saturday to change real quick, and another guy already had the same idea.  We started talking and I asked how  long he had been training, as I saw him win earlier in the black belt division.  He immediately confessed... "I have to be honest, I am only a blue belt in BJJ.  But I have wrestled all my life including at the collegiate level and I do not feel it is fair to my opponents to fight at the blue belt level."  WOW!  What class!  Sadly my foggy memory cannot recollect his name but his story is needed.  And he is one of many I met like this at the Arnold's.  Guys out to train and compete, and test their mettle on the mat.  Mad respect!  
  • Speaking of amazing attitudes... lightweight ADCC Pro Winner James Gray has one hell of a story.  First of all the cat has no instructor.  He does not say this in a egotistical manner, just simply matter of factly.  Never has in his 7 years of grappling.  He claims he just watches the best compete (not instruct per se, but competition footage!).  He enters the expert/pro division's... and WINS!  



Duane "Bang" Ludwig



  • To make things even a bit more unbelievable James told me this was his first tournament in over a year where he has been rehabbing a NASTY arm break.  Took a 250# student down with a double leg and somehow twisted wrong with the student going through his arm Meisha Tate style and breaking it completely the opposite direction!  A sick scar is all that remains, but James said he was favoring it a bit and asked if I could tell!?  Jeez...  I look at stories like this as to why we are all on the mat fighting and persevering day in and day out.  To overcome our fears, doubts and limitations.  Using Jiu Jitsu, grappling as a vehicle to express this primitive energy is so important to humankind!  If you are ever up in the Howell, MI. area check out James and his crew.  He is a humble instructor with classy fighters under his tutelage: Team SFS (Scorpion Fighting Systems).

  • Another stand out both skill wise and class wise is Kijafa Spiller  of Dayton, OH.  Kijafa has SLICK transitions and attacks from all positions.   Watching him move, I can tell you that this is someone to keep an eye out for.  In only his mid-20's Kijafa will be a name you hear both in grappling and MMA as he is climbing the ladder in professional MMA too.  Great meeting him and his girlfriend.  

  • All of my opponents seemed to be professional fighters and every one of them were as nice and humble as anyone I have met in the martial arts.  I have trained with a number of so called "masters" in various genre's, and few, if any, can match the humility and down to earth attitude of just about every MMA fighter I have met.  Eric Schafer was kind enough to take a picture with me after our fight.  I was chatting with Gerardo Gallegos after our fight on how he caught me with the Americana.  Robert Curtis and I spoke throughout the weekend after we fought.  Just all around good times and awesome camaraderie!  There was not one ounce of machismo at this tourney (coincidentally there were no Brazilian's competing either).  
Kijafa (2nd from left), James Gray (4th from L),
 Eric Schafer (2nd from R)
If you ever have to the chance you should really check out the Arnold's as the event itself is something else to behold.  I hope Brett Boyce continues to run the Arnold's so that a smooth grappling event can be promised.  Overall the whole expo was pretty amazing and a lot of fun.  The level of competition was VERY high and the level of attitude and poor sportsmanship was at an all time low. 

I want to thank my sponsor 1914 Kimono's for their support, as well as my wife and family.  I hope next time to bring you home some precious medal!    Win lose or draw all of your support means the world to me.  Thank you.  

Train Hard.  Train Smart.
Jake 

Peace, love and chokes at the 2012 Aarnold's!

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