I haven’t been to a BJJ or Grappling tournament in over three years. To be honest the reason I stopped going and paying attention to tournaments is that I felt like the energy at most events had become very negative. It was really a mixture of a lot of things: from parents screaming “choke him out and break her arm!”…to long delays…over priced registration fees … I just got tired of it all. I do want to note that personally there was a time where I loved competing and I learned a lot from those experiences…but I also learned what I didn’t like too. When my wife Sheena and I were invited to have an exhibition booth at the Rickson Gracie Cup I was actually excited to attend the event. My wife is the curator for the Jiu-Jitsu Sisterhood blog and social media sites and was asked to run a booth at the event to support women in Jiu-Jitsu. I had been following Rickson’s work on trying to “rebirth” the tournament format through his organization and I was intrigued with the direction he was heading.
The Rickson Gracie Cup was held on September 9th and 10th, in Albany NY. It boasted the largest ever gathering for a BJJ seminar in the US with over 350+ participants on the mat to train with the Grand Master himself. Along with the Rickson Gracie seminar, Saturday was a kids tournament and Sunday was for adults competing.
The Rickson Gracie Cup was the first tournament of it’s kind in Upstate New York. Notable differences were… well…Rickson Gracie was in attendance which was really cool. But they also had double eliminations, a self-defense demo by none other than Pedro Sauer, a preview of a new self-defense division in 2018 (it’s a division where you are graded based on your self defense response to various attacks – interesting stuff) BJJ Dirty Dozen member and instructor Chris Haueter was also in attendance (he his known as one of the first 12 american’s to earn a BJJ black belt).
Part of my excitement to be at this event was to try and make a positive impact in the Jiu-Jitsu community on a true grass roots level. I love all the stuff we do via social media…but it felt really good to get out into the physical community and talk with other practitioners about our shared love of Jiu-Jitsu. My wife Sheena had some great ideas for our booth that would serve the community. We offered free carnations to competitors and coaches. It was really cool seeing family members, boyfriends, girlfriends all coming by for a carnation for someone special.
In addition, we also had healthy snacks (apples, oranges, bananas, vegan muffins, bars, water, etc). We also had free samples of Q5’s Warrior Green supplement. (which by the way I use every day) My wife also had a great idea to post tear-off compliment sheets throughout the event. The idea was that you could tear off a compliment to give to someone (competitor, coach, family member. friend, etc.). At first when she told me about this idea I thought it was cool, but secretly wondered if people would actually take them.
To my delight everyone was tearing them off and passing them on to others. I love this idea because in a small little way it starts to create a paradigm shift at tournaments. I always remind myself that a Jiu-Jitsu match is not a fight. You don’t have to beat your chest and hate or get mad at someone to compete against them. This is one of the things I love most about Rickson Gracie…he emits the true samurai warrior spirit. Where combatants compete out of respect for each others skills…not based on who has the biggest ego.
I will say that I noticed a big difference at this tournament in how the competitors treated each other and the coaches as well. You didn’t see any bickering, yelling or politics that I’ve seen at other events. Promoter Eddie Fyive ran a very efficient, well run event. I noticed that Rickson sat mat side from from the very beginning until the last match watching carefully. He even gave some feedback to some lucky competitors. That’s a testament to his commitment to make these events a success and improve upon them every outing.
We had a great time sharing the love of Jiu-Jitsu to men, women and children of all ages. This event was a great reminder that regardless of our age, race, sex, beliefs etc. that this common thread of Jiu-Jitsu has a way of bringing us all together!
For more information on the Rickson Gracie Cup click here. To learn more about the Jiu-Jitsu Sisterhood click here.