Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Ascension 2013 Tournament Report (Jan 19th and 20th)

This past weekend was the 8th annual Ascension tournament. It's the unofficial kick-off to the BJJ season in Ontario, and it's always a good time. Omar Salvosa and his wife Beverly, along with the OJA crew, do a great job with this tournament.

The Ascension tournament is always a bit different from the rest of the OJA tournaments,   It's got a bit of a friendlier feel,  it's got a good vibe.  That sounds really cliche, but it's true.  They take their time to make first time competitors feel welcome and appreciated.  They give a shout out to the masters who take time away from their work, and family to support the event.   They appreciate everyone who comes out to play.   Omar also gives out a bunch of unique awards at his event.   There are trophies for great sportsmanship, fighting spirit, and technical excellence.   These are nominated by the referees and table workers.  Myself, I nominated at least 5 or 6 kids and adults for the awards, I think a few of them were chosen,  Sorry other mats, I may have used them all up lol.

The OJA introduced new rules for subs for kids, which were partially implemented at the Ascension event. Arm bars are allowed a bit sooner, and a selection of chokes.  Safety is always paramount, and the referees were instructed to stop the fights before arms were fully extended and whatnot.   I think this is a great way to get kids familiar with submission, without unnecessarily risking injury.

The tournament started almost on time,  and stayed on schedule all weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday were over around 5pm.  I think this was partially due to a slightly lower then in the past attendance, but was also due to the table workers, runners, referees, and all the tournament staff doing everything they could to keep the matches flowing.   Weigh-ins are always the hold up, and it will always be this way when doing weigh-ins right before a division starts.

There were plenty of prizes for division and absolute winners,  t-shirts, rashguards, shorts, and gis.  The sponsors of the event were very generous with their prizes.  There wasn't any really big prizes, like trips to worlds, but I don't think that was necessarily a bad thing.  I don't think every tournament needs to have that, and Ascension has a different atmosphere.  It's a fun tournament, that is great for beginners, and also a great way to kick of the season, and try new things.  I'm not saying that if they had some bigger ticket prizes it would be bad, but that kind of thing ups the intensity of the competition, and I think might take away from the chilled out vibe of the event.

The medical staff were competent, friendly, and quick to respond to the referees calls for them. Sometimes even coming over before they were called.   They treated everyone with respect and seemed very reasonable in their recommendations of who could, and could not keep fighting.

On Saturday, there was a surplus of referees!  It was great, in a way, but also not so great.  Since, at this event, the OJA introduced a new way of paying us.  Now, instead of a flat fee for the day, we are payed hourly, based on time spent actually refereeing.  This is, I think, quite fair most of the time, because someone who refs nonstop 9am until 6pm deserves more then someone who shows up in the morning, but leaves at lunch.   Unfortunately,  some of us wanted to ref more then we were allowed because there was too many refs.  I was only able to referee for 4 hours, and that was including being part of a 3 ref team for the absolute matches at the end of the day.   So, I think this system is great, but needs some tweaking, which I will be talking to Tony and the OJA peeps about.  Either way,  we don't get paid a ridiculous amount, and we aren't really doing it for the money, so it's not a big deal at all; more of an observation than a complaint really.   On Sunday I refereed nonstop from the first match of the day, until the very last match of the day and it was great.   We had a lot less referees, and some went home early so I didn't have to take any breaks :)  So, I talked with Fernando, and apparantly this isn't the standard, they all pay their refs how they like, so some are flat rate, some are hourly.   Hopefully that is something that will be communicated to us before each event :)

I had a few firsts as a referee this weekend.  I had 2 people go out on a choke, one from a standing guillotine, which I was a bit slow to notice. Because of the way they were moving around, it looked to me that he was still ok. The second was in the teens division, from a standing cross choke, that turned into a take down. I was right on top of this one though, so it was stopped quick. In that kids next fight he got another cross choke, and I stopped in before he had a chance to go to sleep, since I saw how effective they were in the last match.

I also had to call my first slam. It was in the adult white belt division and the guy stood up in an arm bar and slammed the guy. It was pretty blatant, but of course the slammer said he just lost his balance, but there was a clear lift and downward motion. Mike (Bryers) was watching from the mat beside me and agreed with my decision. I felt bad for the guy, because it was early in his first match, but we have to call that stuff.   

Oh, that reminds me, in the kids divisions, they did round robin for them, so they all got more then 1 fight, whether they won or lost.  Also, divisions of 6 were split into 2 pools, so almost every kid got to go home with a medal.  I think for the kids, that is a great thing.  For the "youth" divisions, they still did round robin for extra fights, but the pools were combined at the end so there was only 1 division.

I was really impressed with the level of skill displayed in the kids and teen divisions. These kids are going to be MONSTERS when they grow up.  It's insane to see the take downs, transitions and techniques they are pulling off.    I'm so jealous of them, and how young they are starting jiu jitsu.   The next generation of fighters will destroy the current generation.  Kids with grey, or yellow belts are doing stuff that a few years ago you would see in blue belt adult matches.   It's crazy to watch and see how the sport is progressing.  

We can't talk about Ascension without talking about the food!  It ran out on Saturday.  :( I wasn't able to get any of the delicious jerk chicken, but there was plenty of other options, just none that were paleo.  My fault for having a picky diet. Sunday I made sure to send someone to get me lunch early so I could have some chicken.  It was soooo good.  Spicy, very spicy, but not in a horrible face burning way.  They had some very tasty looking pasta salads, brownies, and plenty of fruit as well.   I think the food situation is often overlooked at many tournaments and venues.   It sucks when you're hungry at a tournament and all you can get is a gatorade.

I briefly mentioned using the three ref system on Saturday and wanted to touch on this some more.  I think it's something that should be utilized as much as possible, especially for finals, semi finals, and absolutes and most especially when there are prizes on the line.  We, as refs, are human, and can make mistakes.  We try hard not to, and don't make a lot, but it sucks as a competitor to lose an important match because of it.  Having 3 refs per match (one in the middle, two on the opposite corners).    If the side refs both disagree with the middle ref, the call will be changed.  If only 1 does, it is not changed. Majority rules and all that.  I think this is a great system, Judo has used it forever and it really helps, it's also a great tool for training new referees.  If you have 1 new referee work in with 2 experienced referees, they won't be able to ruin someones day and will learn the ropes quickly in the hands on environment. I hope that, eventually, the day will come where we can have 3 refs per mat area at all events, all day.  I think it would be a great milestone for the sport. Currently there just isn't enough referees in Ontario to pull it off. 

I got a new OJA referee shirt this weekend to, which is nice, because at Provincials in November, they only had XL left, and it was like wearing a tent.  I'm not the fanciest dresser by far, I don't generally give a crap about stuff like that, but I gotta say, I look pretty silly in some of the pictures.  A well fitting shirt adds a nice level of professionalism I think.  Now, I just need to find a new pair of dress pants that fit a bit better, having to constantly pull them up was a bit awkward and annoying.  Also, apparently they need belt loops, because a belt is part of the uniform.  I should ask Tony if there are specifications on the belts, I think my fruit belt would be quite nice.

I got to do a bit of coaching this weekend too. We had a very small team out for this event,  unfortunately, a big chunk of our competitors are on the sidelines with injuries, and with Gui being at the gym all week, a lot of people were focusing on that instead of competing.   

Heather had a great fight, but unfortunately, her good knee suffered an injury late in the fight when she was ahead, hopefully not a bad one, and she ended up losing on points.   I think I made a coaching error in this fight, encouraging her to go for an arm bar, when she was up on points and in a pretty stable position.  Maybe she should have stayed where she was, and eeked out a points victory.  This would have been the safer route, there wasn't that much time left.  Maybe then her knee would still be fine :(.  

Dave the Barber had an insanely close first fight, he scored an advantage for an almost pass, but then got 2 stalling penalties so ended up losing b/c the score was tied 1-1 advantages and he had a penalty. I may be biased, but I don't think he deserved the stalling penalties. I can see how it may have seemed like he was stalling on the top of 1/2 guard, but in reality, he was working his hardest to pass that guard unsuccessfully. I think this is something that isn't uncommon for referees to mistake. An unsuccessful attack isn't the same as stalling. An inability to get the under hook doesn't mean he isn't trying his hardest to get it. Anyway, Dave got to have another fight for third place, and won that one on points. We've got some things to fix so we don't get stalling penalties again but was a pretty good day for Dave.

Ken won his division handily. He has improved so much over the last few months!   He's a lot more patient when he is fighting, waiting to get his points before moving on to improve his position and go for subs.  Just that has made his game much more stable, and keeps him out of trouble.  He won his first fight with a bow and arrow choke, and the 2nd by arm bar.  I was really impressed!

Jon had a bit of a rough day, but that is to be expected as a new blue belt.  He worked some of the concepts Gui talked about this past week and was decently successful with them.  But in the end his grips for the choke were not quite right, and he ended up in a bad position and got choked.   He did well for his second match as a blue belt and I think he'll have a good day on Saturday in Montreal.

I think I've rambled on enough about this event.   Next up is Montreal Grappling Jan 26th. I'll be refereeing and supporting 3 teammates at this one.

Two weeks later is the Pro Trials, back in Montreal. I was planning on competing, and winning at this event, but that plan was derailed at Grappler's Quest.  I've still got a hotel room booked, so I'll probably go anyway. I think one or two guys from Pura want to compete.

After that is Toronto Grappling. I'll be refereeing again, and I imagine we will have a decent group out to compete. If you're looking for a good event to try out competing this is the one to go to.

See you on the mats!


  1. "Dave the Barber had an insanely close first fight, he scored an advantage for an almost pass, but then got 2 stalling penalties so ended up losing b/c the score was tied 1-1 advantages and he had a penalty. I may be biased, but I don't think he deserved the stalling penalties. I can see how it may have seemed like he was stalling on the top of 1/2 guard, but in reality, he was working his hardest to pass that guard unsuccessfully. I think this is something that isn't uncommon for referees to mistake. An unsuccessful attack isn't the same as stalling. An inability to get the under hook doesn't mean he isn't trying his hardest to get it."

    I couldn't tell what was going on. I did feel at one point like I was just being held down and he was just lying on me, but I couldn't get guard back or sweep either. I'll admit that I was a little surprised to get my hand raised. Oh well. These things happen. I look forward to another match with him.

    BTW, I really enjoy your writing. :)

  2. Hey, thanks for the reply! Your half guard was locked down tight! congrats on the win. I'm sure you guys will have plenty of opportunities for a rematch down the road :)

  3. Hi Patricia,

    Just want to make a comment a about the kids system, the OJA has been doing a round robin with split divisions in the past 4 years. So all the kids from 5-10 gets a medal. 11 to 15 yrs-old also do a split round robin but they will have to do semi-final and final.

    Maura Ferreira.

  4. nice. it seems like at provincials it was a bit different then this. i think it's a great way to do it.