2016 IBJJF San Jose Open – More than a tournament
As a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion, I have been to a fair amount of tournaments, experienced exciting wins and disappointing losses, and have met competitors from around the world. Nothing compares, however, to the incredible experience that I had with my own team on the last weekend in January.
The 2016 IBJJF San Jose Open was held in the gym at San Jose City College. It was a big tournament for us as it is the hometown of Nava BJJ black belt/coach Paul Nava and it was the debut of the newly formed Ares BJJ Association, made up of about 15 academies including Nava BJJ and led by BJJ greats Samir Chantre, Osvaldo Queixinho, Milton Bastos, and Alan Moraes. Ares BJJ was formed to bring academies together with family, home and community as its core values. People would be watching us and it was the first time we would come together to compete.
Just our Arizona team alone numbered more than twenty competitors and we muddled through the crowd to join up with our teammates from Ares BJJ. Despite the masses of people, we spotted them easily by their big smiles and welcoming waves. We felt comfortable from the moment we saw them and it did a lot to calm our competition nerves.
At the word “combate”, our coaches led by example and we marveled at the speed, agility and technical prowess of black belts Samir Chantre, Osvaldo Queixinho, Milton Bastos, Paul Nava, Ernesto Fuentes, and Jonathan Van Buren in both gi and no-gi events but most especially we were struck by their humbleness and ability to stay calm under pressure. Brown belt coach David Barnes and Purple belt no-gi coach Matthew Mamolen flowed deliberately and dominated their opponents. Kid’s coach Alex Martinez brought down the house with triple golds. What was most impressive was that before their matches all of the coaches were quick to be at their students’ sides to encourage and instruct, during their own matches they fought efficiently and fiercely, and after the matches they were quick to give high-fives and greetings to the people around them. They set the tone for the team and made it known that we were all family – not just in word but in deed. What we learn in the academy and in competition transcends the mat. Good jiu-jitsu begins with and is sustained by a strong family.
Throughout the tournament it was abundantly clear that no matter how tough our matches were or how scared we may have felt as we took our first step onto the mat to fight our opponents we were not alone. In the midst of battle, our teammates’ and coaches’ voices pierced the fog and rang clear with constructive, positive, and encouraging words. Win or lose, we were champions. Not one of us got angry with our opponent when we lost. We didn’t gloat when we won. We held our heads high and thanked our opponents for the tests. We talked about what we did well and about what we need to do to improve. The problems we had on the mat were mechanical not personal. We were going to get better together. We were going to appreciate the wins together. A medal didn’t get around someone’s neck because of one person; it got there because of a whole team. It got there because of the people we fought that made us stronger and it got there because of our teammates at home that got us ready for this day: Every white belt… Every blue belt… Every purple, brown and black belt mattered. It got there because another person walked into battle beside us. Every fight mattered. Every person mattered. We were brothers and sisters and we were united.
The Ares BJJ team surpassed all expectation and we ended up taking second place at the tournament in the gi division and third place in the no-gi division. It was a fantastic way for our new team to start off the tournament season but truthfully, the points don’t even matter because Ares BJJ will always be first place with me.