On Saturday, January 30, 2010, I traveled to Lisbon, Portugal to compete with my team-mates at Gracie-Barra Marbella in the brown-belt, lightweight, Senior 2 category of the European Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu championship. Despite an unfortunate previous evening (having eaten something obviously bad), I managed to win my category — making this the third time I’ve won gold in this competition.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a grappling-based martial art, originating (obviously) in Brazil, that became popular in the late 1990s, when it surprised the world, demonstrating its superiority in the early versions of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) — a no-rules fighting event that pitted experts from various arts (karate, kung-fu, boxing, etc.) against each other, in an attempt to settle the eternal question, “Which martial art is the most effective in real combat?” Without punching, kicking or drawing blood, the small Brazilians were able to subdue and control far larger opponents — and ultimately force them to “tap out.”
Ironically, the world would soon learn that the martial art that dominated those original “ultimate fighting” events turns out the be one of the most attractive martial arts in which “the rest of us,” might want to train.
Since it doesn’t contain striking and kicking, BJJ is quite safe to practice. Its objectives are to take one’s opponent to the ground, gain a superior position, and then to submit them through a choke or joint lock. As such, it’s an art that is rich in terms of strategy and tactics; in fact, many people find a BJJ match to be analogous to a physical version of chess. And, since one can train in BJJ, safely, at the same level and intensity as real competition (or a real fight), it’s both a fantastic physical exercise, and extremely effective in real world situations.
I’ve been practicing BJJ for about nine years now. Beginning with white, and progressing through blue and purple, I’ve worked my up to the brown-belt level. The next step is the dream of all BJJ practitioners — the coveted black belt, or “faixa preta,” in Portuguese. During those years, I’ve tried to compete as often as possible. Although during the nervous buildup to a competition, I usually end up thinking, “Why do I put myself through this?”, I always — win or lose — find the experience gratifying, and find my motivation to continue practicing and learning elevated.
This year represents the third time that I’ve won gold at the European championships — once at the blue-belt level, and twice at the brown-belt level. That’s not really saying as much as it seems, though, since, in my age category, there’s usually not that many competitors. If I happen to get promoted to black this year, though, I am mulling over the possibility of dropping back down to the “adult” category next year (18 to 30 years old), just for the opportunity to experience a fight against some of the famous elite competitors around today.
I’ll close this blog with a link to a video somebody recorded of my fight this year, in the finals of the brown belt, lightweight, Senior 2 division. Enjoy!