My last two weeks have been dominated by two trips to São Paulo. The first was a mission to compete and defend the title I had won at last year’s IBJJF São Paulo No-Gi Open. Whilst the second was a trip with my little brother from my Brazilian family, Gabriel, to see the world’s elite grapplers compete at the illustrious ADCCs.
My experience competing at this year’s São Paulo Open mirrored what happened last year. I had a horrible first day, losing my first match in the Gi, which absolutely sucked ass and ruined any enjoyment that might have been had from the rest of the day. I then came back on the second day and won the No-Gi, which made the entire rest of the day, the best day ever. It was pretty cool to come and defend a title, the São Paulo Open was the first thing I ever won at purple belt, which made it rather special. The difference this year was I stepped up to the open weight. After fighting my way through to the semi-final, I came up short against a heavyweight and all around large human being, losing to a sole advantage to take a bronze medal. This loss has led me to a conclusion, one that has only taken four years to reach, that deep half simply doesn’t work on big whoppers.
The competition was sweet but the most memorable incident of the trip was seeing my life flash before my eyes as I felt death was imminent. This all began in an attempt to charge my Kindle whilst in bed. It was late so the room was in complete darkness and the eight or so people staying there were all in snooze town. I plugged the adapter into the wall and straight away it began to spark, my leg was in contact with the wire and almost immediately; I was shot with a current of electricity and I rolled off the bed like John McClane. I just happened to be on top of a bunk bed which was about five feet off the hard, tiled floor. Strangely though I didn’t feel any pain as I bounced up like a cat. Without being overly melodramatic the moment seemed to stretch between seeing the spark, the shock, and flying off the bed, I remember having the time to think ‘I could be fucked here’.
By this point everyone had woken up, someone hit the lights and it was now visible that the entire room had filled up with smoke. Some girl bolted out of the door thinking she was in the middle of a full on blaze, obviously with little thought for the lives of her friends. Thirty seconds later a terrified member of staff burst through the door with a fire extinguisher, the scorched mattress he was left to deal with cut down on the heroic factor. Speaking to a dude from Leeds the next day, he summed it up when he told me “I thought you were a goner mate”!
The highlights of this past weekend’s ADCC world championship have been well documented elsewhere and if you are looking for a dope write-up check my man at Flo Grappling.
However these are a few observations that I made during the two days that are mostly irrelevant and are probably without merit:
It hurt my knee just watching Gary Tonon go to work on Dillon Danis’ leg. The awesome Marcelo Garcia protegé had already escape one nasty heel hook attempt before being forced to tap as his knee was at the point of explosion. The poor dude could be seen walking with a crazy ass limp the rest of the weekend.
Vinnie Magalhaes is a guy that seems to flash hot and cold. He caught a spectacular twister, the first in ADCC history and is known to flying arm-bar cats. But sometimes it does legitimately look like he isn’t even trying.
Lucas Lepri’s awesomeness
Right up to the point that he was decimated by Davi Ramos’ flying over his guard to brutally arm-bar him he was my man of the tournament. Masterful performances against Gary Tonon, he was able to use his passing to completely nullify the super dangerous leg lock attacks of The Lion Killer. His battle against Otavio Sousa showed his resilience after he was on the back foot the majority of the match. Unfortunately all dudes will remember for years to come is that flying arm-bar.
Friday the 13th
It wasn’t AJ Agazarm’s weekend, after being choked out cold by a masterful Otavio Sousa. I noticed AJ accidentally bump into someone whilst trying to get closer to the mats, in a scene you would expect when visiting Camp Crystal Lake. He turned around slowly in that way that you know there is something large behind you. Rather than finding a machete wielding masked man there was something much scarier, the mass of humanity that is Rodolfo Viera. From where I sat it looked like he made his apologies and swiftly moved elsewhere.
I don’t know if Gabi Garcia’s idea of fighting in MMA is going to go anywhere, she will definitely find it difficult to find other chicks weighing 100kg. If she is to look for a change I’d say she has a promising career as a heel pro-wrestler. Cats just love to see her lose. The pop from the crowd when she was beaten in her division was one of the loudest of the weekend.
To clarify this, Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t work against big whoppers who are determined to do very little of anything. Big whoppers who are determined to ‘pass’ guard on their knees can prevent the best guys in the world from utilising their game.
The Unstoppable Force meets The Immovable Object
Watching Xande Ribeiro and Rodolfo Viera lock up was like watching The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 6. Both dudes are fan favourites, so who do you pick to win? It did feel like a passing the torch moment when Rodolfo took the victory. But I’m sure just like the Hulkster, Xande will be back albeit with less racism.
Rodolfo is The Game
in a successful bid to become champion in the heavyweight category, Rodolfo beat a very game Felipe Pena in a war of attrition fought predominately on their feet. As he pumped himself up to step on the mats, he took a large swig of water and then proceeded to spit it out all over a man in a wheelchair. That is one serious intimidation tactic, if dude is prepared to spit on a disabled person he is obviously going to do anything to win.
Deep Half Mestre
The man Jeff Glover excelled in awesomeness during the weekend. He competed rocking a wife-beater then proceeded to walk on his hands and repeatedly give up his back, it is no surprise then that he is such a divisive character. I can see how he could be construed as disrespectful to his opponents but he makes it super fun to watch. In perhaps the highlight of the weekend for me, I noticed during the Masters super-fight, he approached Rodolfo and proceeded to repeatedly pretend to slap him in the nuts!
The crowd repeatedly booed Orlando Sanchez for playing his negative game and not really doing much of anything. Then Keenan Cornelius was booed after just having scrapped through his semi final match. The difference however was Keenan was constantly fighting and attempting to use his Jiu-Jitsu to beat a very negative opponent in Rustam Chsiev, who was content to sit on his knees and not engage. So the crowd had affectively admonished Keenan for the complete opposite. I don’t agreed with the booing to begin with but at least dudes could have some sort of consistency.
Being in São Paulo gave us the opportunity to train at Cicero Costa’s academy. The academy is infamous for its intense training which has produced some of the world’s most successful competitors in Leandro Lo and the Miyao brothers. We made an attempt to train there as soon as we arrived but were wholly unsuccessful in the effort. As I have the uncanny knack of becoming lost wherever I visit, I thought I’d try something new and leave my fate in the hands of a sixteen year old, unsurprisingly this was a mistake.
Mistake Number 1: instead of telling the bus driver where we need to get off, the kid informed the driver the stop at the end of the line not the short five minutes down the road which we necessary to reach the academy. Mistake Number 2: when I realised we’d messed up, the kid insisted we get off the bus in the most ghetto, run down part of the city. Mistake Number 3: at some point, the paper with my detailed instructions had been lost or left on the bus, we end up walking down the longest, darkest and scariest street looking for another bus with no idea how to get back. We managed eventually to get back to the spot with phone and money intact but much later than we would have got there than if we’d actually trained!
We tried again prior to making our return to Rio on Monday morning, in order to make it there, it required a 5AM wake up which obviously sucked. Unfortunately the head honcho Cicero wasn’t there. But we had an awesome class led by top ranked black belt Thiago Da Silva Barros. The class structure was awesome and different from most academies I’ve trained in Rio. We did one drill, a lasso entry repped 50-100 times which led into the technique. We explored a sequence consisting of a transition from the lasso to an X-guard sweep, straight up into the pass. We were given lots of time to explore the nuances of the sequence and rep it whilst Professor Barros came around each group giving details and correcting mistakes. The rolling was six-minute rounds, due to it being the 7AM class it was more of a pre-work crowd rather than the elite young competitors. Although there were some killers on the mat and I left with the euphoric feeling that can only be brought on from the prevention of being strangling you death.