Warning: this blog contains precious little actual jiu-jitsu match content. If you want to know how my team did, my teammate Kim’s (awesome) blog has a great write-up on that.
A few weeks ago, my team took a small cohort to the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championships, commonly known as the Mundials. It’s no exaggeration to say it was one of my greatest life experiences so far, and I’m a late-30s hobbyist who does this for fun.
If you do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you seriously should go. And if you’re going, you might as well compete and be a part of it.
Not convinced? I have three reasons for you. True, these three reasons are a cleverly disguised excuse to tell some Mundials stories, but I mean them all the same.
REASON ONE: IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW YOU DO: YOU WILL LEARN A TON
Any time you step on the mat, you’re going to get valuable information. At the Mundials, though, you get people gathered from all over the world — each of whom takes a slightly different approach to jiu-jitsu. Even if you only get one match, you’ll get a valuable sense of what others are doing, and how that differs from (or mimics) what you’re doing at your school or in your region.
Examples of what I took away from the Mundials are too numerous to name, but let me list a couple: most people want to pull guard, so I need to shoot faster if I want to get takedown points; and I’ve put in a lot of work on passing the open guard, but I need to put in a lot more, especially on spider guard variants.
(Oh, and one of my teammates kept saying that maybe he’d go, but only to watch. We talked him into competing. He wound up with a (well-deserved) bronze medal. No excuses!)
Besides competing, you can watch match after match. It was helpful for me to watch all the other people around my level. And it was beyond helpful and inspiring to watch those folks who are way, way, way, above my level. These folks are truly the best in the world.
Which leads me to reason number two you should go:
REASON TWO: YOU GET TO BE A FAN
My teammate Hameed and I are admitted BJJ nerds. No shame in that game.
We fly the nerd flag high and proud. Got a DVD? We’ll watch it. Making a sweet new gi? We want it. Put out a jiu-jitsu podcast? We probably already listen to it.
Because I was competing at white belt and Hameed at blue, we got our matches done on the first day.This meant we were free to enter BJJ heaven immediately after. Almost everyone in the jiu-jitsu world that you would like to meet attends the Mundials, and almost without exception, they couldn’t possibly be nicer. Hameed and I brought our white belts to get people to sign. By the end of the tournament, both of them were covered with the signatures of top-level competitors and legends.
This is one reason I love sport jiu-jitsu. Everyone is so approachable, including the best contemporary players and the best of all time. I hope jiu-jitsu continues to grow — at least, I think I do — but it’s nice that there’s such a community feeling even at a riotously competitive event like this.
When I say “community feeling,” I’m including the Gracie Barra guys who threatened to kick my ass if they saw that white belt end up on eBay. No worries, guys, I understand. Part of community is holding others accountable. But that belt’s hanging on my wall for the duration.
Then there are the matches. This year featured the Rodolfo-Buchecha match that everyone online was talking about, and let me tell you, it was even better in person.
Imagine watching 12 mats of action, and on maybe 6 of them you have at least one legend. That’s what the black belt competition day are like. I should write more about this, but just think: you look one mat, and there’s Xande Ribeiro. On another, there’s Caio Terra. On another, there’s Cobrinha, and … on and on.
It gets overwhelming. In the best possible way. If you’re fortunate enough to have your instructor with you, he or she can point out the details on what they’re trying to do, too.
Finally, the most important reason of all to attend the Mundials:
REASON THREE: MIGUEL TORRES MAY DECLARE YOU A G
When my teammate Ryan got called to the bullpen before his purple belt match, I went with him. It’s important to have somebody with you in case something goes wrong — for example, a problem with your gi.
(Before next year’s Mundials, I’m going to devote an entire post to How To Make Sure You Don’t Get DQed. The gi requirements are no joke, and they’re serious about them.)
Ryan had a patch on the back of his gi that was frayed. They wanted him to remove it. Naturally, I didn’t have a knife — I’ll fix that next year. So I took a quarter and used the ridges to tear out the stitches. This worked just fine on three sides of the patch. But the fourth side was reinforced with adamantium or some shit.
Now, it’s nerve-wracking enough to be in the bullpen. You’ve put in tons of work, put out lots of money, and you’re about to put it all on the line. It doubles the nerves when it looks like they might not let you compete. I wanted to get rid of this patch problem and get the gi approved ASAP so Ryan could chill.
“Ryan,” I says, “lean back.”
I took the side of the patch between my teeth and just reared my head back. Yup, I got the patch off by tearing it out with my teeth. Sweet relief.
Then I hear from the left of me: “That’s some G shit right there!”
It’s UFC veteran and BJJ black belt Miguel Torres. “This guy’s a straight G!” he announces to the crowd, who laugh as Miguel offers me a fistbump.
If you go to the Mundials, I am sure something like this will happen to you.
If you love BJJ, you’ll have a blast at the worlds even if you get submitted in under a minute. The sting of defeat is temporary. The experience is something you’ll value forever. Trust me.