Sunday, 31 March 2013

Niagara Open March 23rd 2013

This past weekend we made the trip south west down the QEW and 406 to the 2nd Annual Niagara Open.   Last year, this tournament was quite small, and was plagued with quite a few issues revolving around staffing, draw systems and inexperience.   They tried a few new things to try to make the tournament better but unfortunately most of them didn't work out.

This year was 1000X better.  They had a lot more help from the rest of the OJA crew and that made a huge difference.  They used a standard OJA registration system and the usual Mata Leo draw system which is very powerful.  They brought in and scheduled the referees through the OJA referee group.  They also changed venues.   The old venue wasn't really bad, but this one had a bit more space.

The gymnasium was just about the right size for the tournament.   It was cozy at the middle of the day, when the kids and parents hadn't all left yet, and all the adults were there, but there have been plenty of tournaments in the past that had way bigger space issues.  It would have been nice if they had the room to pull out both sides of the bleachers, but it wasn't a big issue.  They won't be able to grow the tournament at this venue though. It only fits 6 mat areas, and there is not enough space for more.

 One thing that wasn't too clear with this venue was where to park.  They did have some signs outside, but they pointed to the gym, not the parking lot, and by following them, we ended up at a lot that cost $2.50 per 1/2 hour or something insane like that.   We turned around and found a better lot that was only $6 per day.   They did a good job of posting signs in the building that the gym was in. Unfortunately, they all referenced the gymnasium the gym was in, which wasn't on any signs until we got to the hallway that the gym was in!   But, by just walking down the hall, looking for signs, we did find it without making any wrong turns.  It was just confusing, because the signs didn't have arrows or anything.

The one issue they did have was with scheduling.  The tournament was scheduled to start at 9:00am and the first matches were on by 9:20 or so.  I'll call that pretty much on time.  It was a little bit slow getting started with only 1 or two mats running, but that's not unusual.   I feel like this is a hurting point for many tournaments.  Things always get jammed up in the weigh in -> finding the people -> getting them on the mat time process.  This happens at OJA events, and it happens at IBJJF events.  I see it everywhere.  Unfortunately, if tournaments insist on having weigh-ins right before the first match, there really isn't a way around this.

By the time the kids were wrapping up, we had managed to catch up, and were actually ahead of schedule for a few minutes.  They couldn't start the next divisions for about 10 minutes, according to the schedule, so there was a lull in action for a short time. Then, somehow, by 3pm, we ended up almost 2 hours behind!  I think this was a combination of misjudging how many white and blue belt adults there were and how long it would take combined with a traffic jam at the weigh in, and some trouble finding competitors.

There was also an issue of not being able to start the blue belt no-gi divisions, because the blue belt absolute wasn't able to run until all the blue belt divisions were done. One of them got majorly delayed because of 2 serious injuries on the same mat.  They probably should have moved some things around to accommodate those divisions so they could keep things moving, but the trouble is, no one ever knows how long an injury will take to clear the mat, and it may have taken longer to shift things around than the injuries to move!  It's a tricky situation.   Either way, we ended up wrapping up the last match around 8:30pm.  So, just shy of 12 hours of matches for the day.

Another thing the tournament did really well was feed the staff!  There were volunteers coming around constantly offering cookies, water, and other snacks.  Lunch was pitas from the pita pit!  This is a way better option than the pizza a lot of other tournaments do, but much more expensive so I understand why we normally get pizza.  The only down side was the meat ones were all ham. I try to avoid eating large amounts of pork when possible, but I ate one anyway. And by one I mean, all the meat and cheese from one.  I'm doing a ketogenic diet right now, and a pita doesn't exactly fit that mold.   It would be cool if they had turkey, or chicken instead next time.

Finally, I had a new experience at this event.  Pura had a pretty large contingent out to the even, so it was unavoidable for some of them to end up at the mat I was refereeing.   I made full disclosure to the other athlete in every case, and offered to swap out with another ref if they wanted.  Most people were like "Of course not, it's fine", a couple asked to swap, which was totally fine as well.  I didn't get all butt-hurt about it.  In one match, the coach was like "yea, no problem, it's all good" and then as soon as I scored any points for the competitor who was from my team, shit hit the fan.  He was yelling and making a scene.

As soon as the athlete from my team grabbed on and stopped moving for 5 seconds he's yelling "she's stalling she's stalling". Thanks, I see that, but 5 seconds isn't stalling, 20 is.  I DID give her a stalling penalty at the appropriate time.    She ended up stalling again with only 30 seconds left, so I gave another penalty and advantage for that.  In the end she ended up winning by 5 or so points and the other coach was livid.   There was absolutely nothing I could have done differently within the rules to change the outcome.  The points and advantages / penalties given were all clear cut; in fact, I was probably quick to give the 2nd stalling penalty.

When they were up to fight again, I quickly asked another referee to do the match.  I didn't need my teammate to be harassed and have her accomplishments marred by his irateness.   Turns out she won by armbar so it didn't matter, but I didn't want to have the tournament, my teammate or anyone else have to deal with that drama.   In the future, if there is a referee available, I won't even bother asking, and just swap out for the match.  I think this is fairer to my teammates and the tournament as a whole.  I know I can be impartial as a referee, but some people don't know the rules, or will do/say anything to have their students win so I will do what I can to avoid that kind of nonsense in the future.

The level of competition at this year’s event far exceeded last years as well.  Last year there were only a handful of purple belts, and some of the adult blue divisions only had 2 or 3 people in them.  This year light and middle purple each had 5 or 8 competitors, and some of the other divisions had a few as well.   Several of the blue belt divisions had rounds of 16 as well, which did not happen last year.   The while belt divisions grew as well, and there was even 1 brown belt fight.  The ladies divisions were disappointingly small, with only feather and light having any competitors, most of which were from a single club.  There were no blue, or purple belt ladies registered (other than myself).

There were a few guys at the tournament that stood out to me with their impressive display of skills and techniques in their matches.  I didn't get to watch everyone all day so I'm sure there were plenty of other equally impressive displays of jiu jitsu, but I wanted to take a minute or two to highlight a few that I saw while refereeing, and during my break.

Arther and Graham from team Ascension.  I mention these two guys together, because Graham is practically a blue belt clone of Arther these days!  These guys both have a really good 50/50 game, as much as I hate that game, and they both have sick straight ankle locks.  They are also berimbolo machines.  Their style isn't always the easiest to referee, but they don't dick around and try to win by a few points or an advantage, so it's always an exciting match.

Ahmed and Ramie Chaarani are another pair that stood out. I had the pleasure of refereeing  a few of Ramie's gi matches and one or two of Ahmed's nogi matches.  I don't know why these guys don't compete more often because they are ridiculous!  They have a great level of patience and control in their matches that keeps the match at their pace and works pretty well for them.  Ahmed unfortunately (for him) had to face Alasdair in the first round of gi, and lost, but he made up for it by winning the nogi division.  Ramie cleaned up his gi division with impressive style as well.   The best part about these guys is that they also referee so they help keep the tournaments running.  Maybe that is why they don't compete that often.  Either way, I’m looking forward to watching them compete more in the future.

Speaking of Alasdair... I don't want to be biased because he's my teammate, but man, he was impressive in Niagara this past weekend.  He fought in the middle weight division, which is not his normal division and still ended up placing 2nd.   The final was a really tough match where the other guy really pushed the pace in a kind of spazzy way, a style very different from Alasdair's game.  But it was a crazy match to watch anyway. In the absolute, Alasdair avenged his loss and won the whole thing.  That is insane for a light weight, who has only been  purple for less than 6 months!

Pura had a HUGE team out to this event! It was great to see so many people competing from our small team.   We managed to take home the 2nd place in adult gi, 2nd place in adult nogi, and 2nd place overall awards!!  Everyone fought hard, especially all the kids.  The club was well represented and I couldn't be more impressed with everyone's attitude throughout the day.

It's a week later and I'm finally done writing this.  I've been sick for the last 2 weeks, but yesterday it dawned on me, that it might just be allergies.  I never used to have allergies, so I don't know what they really feel like, but it seems the last couple years I've had allergy like things happen to me at typical allergy times.

There are a few things coming up:

Pura In House next weekend (Pura people only, talk to Brad or any of the office people if you haven't signed up yet!)

New York Open!  April 20th. This should be a lot of fun.

Toronto Grappling Italian Edition.  April 13th.  3 trips to Rome on the line. If you’re a purple or brown belt, or no gi advanced male, I'd get on this.

The ONTARIO OPEN.  It's not till May, but I am excited for it.


  1. Sweet blog! It's awesome that you gave my brother and I an honorable mention. This year we're hoping to compete as much as possible, but we'll see how that pans out :)

  2. awesome! i'll be keeping my eyes open for you guys! love your style.

  3. And Montreal Grappling 28 Apr 13.

    1. How could I forget? we are making the road trip down for that as well! Should be a great event.

  4. Ramie you are a beast! I have grappled many young people and you have great frames ! Maybe a drop down to adult gi so we can have another match !

    Great blog Patricia

    Kevin Mans
    Team ascension Welland!

  5. Always a good read and nice details!
    I give 2 thumbs up for this article... one for Mata Leao and another for Ontario Open!!! lol


    1. Thanks Maura! I'm really looking forward to the Ontario Open.