Friday, 7 June 2013

IBJJF Worlds AKA Mundials 2013 Tournament Report

So, I've been trying to figure out the best way to blog about this whole trip and tournament and my experiences around it and have decided to have 2 posts.  The first (this one)  about the tournament and then later, as I have time, I will write the novel that will be my experience over the entire trip and all the fun and not so fun things I did and didn't do over the 9 days. 

There is so much to talk about, that I am going to break this down into a few sections and sub sections.  The tournament in general: broken down by good, and bad, and then go over some interesting fights, some results from my teammates and friends, and who knows what else. 

The tournament in General

The good stuff
  • The Venue, known as "The Walter Pyramid" was pretty much perfect.  It fits 12 mat areas with ample space for the bullpen, check in area, podium, and t-shirt distributor.  The floor was restricted to athletes only, and didn't have space around the edges for people to stand around, so it kept the viewing angles nice and clean.   They had a camera on one of the mats all day, every day, which was broadcast on a giant screen, which also showed commercials for the sponsors every once and a while.  This was a cool touch, it took us a while to figure out what the seemingly random music that started up every once and a while was.  There was enough space in the stands for all the spectators, and for the finals on Sunday they brought down the extra section and it was all pretty well packed.   The seats were a mix of benches and chairs. I would recommend going for the chairs, because the lack of backs on the benches gets annoying pretty fast when you are there for 10+hours a day 4 days in a row.   The venue was pretty easy to find, and parking was only 5 bucks a day, which isn't unreasonable at all.  

·         The Food! It wasn't cheap, but man oh man was it every tasty.  Silvio’s BBQ provided the main dishes.  The garlic fries were absolutely amazing, and the chicken was divine.  It was also insanely expensive, $7 for fries, and like 12 bucks for a chicken sandwich, but it was totally worth it.  They only take cash, which was fairly inconvenient, but I had enough cash for what I wanted so it's all good.  The other place I had food from was the Acai place.  I can't remember what it was called though.  The bowls were quite a bit smaller than places for acai bowls in Costa Mesa for about the same price.  But I suppose you are paying for the convenience of not having to leave the venue.   The big pain in the ass is that apparently last year people spilled them all over the seats so they didn't allow them in the stands.  So I missed a bunch of fights to eat acai.  Worth it I suppose, but it would be nice to be able to eat my lunch / breakfast / dinner / snack in the stands and not miss any of the jiu jitsu that was happening.  There was also a typical stadium food stand with pretzels and Starbucks coffee, but why would you want that when you could have Silvio’s or acai bowls!! 

  • General Structure and whatnot:  Like most IBJJF tournaments, it all started and ran on time from what I could tell.  I didn't have a schedule handy throughout the day, but my team mates all fought at around the division start time.  On Saturday, the referees were all on the mats, and 8 or 9 of them started exactly at the start time, with the other 3 or 4 starting within a minute of that.  It was pretty impressive to see a tournament manage the sheer numbers of people that were there to compete. Getting my free t-shirt and Gracie Mag was a smooth process as usual as well. I don't think everyone realized they were available because the line never seemed very long.  They were tucked under the bleachers near the bullpen.  The mat coordinators seemed to do a pretty good job, sometimes they were a little quiet, but I didn't see or hear anyone talking about being DQ'd because they didn't know they were up, or didn't find their mat organizers on time.  The customer service people were really nice too, when I went there to withdraw because of my shoulder they were very sympathetic and stuff.  It was a quick and easy process too. 

  • The level of competition was insane!  Seriously, so many black belts in one building.  It was ridiculous.  12 mats, all running brown and black belt fights.  It was impossible to watch them all! We couldn't keep track of all the fighters we wanted to watch!  It was also insane to see guys who we thought would crush their divisions lose.  It seems like what used to be a purple is now blue, and what used to be brown is purple, and so on.  In 90% of the non-black belt divisions I watched, the guys/gals on the podium need new belts.   There are a few cases where this isn't true, like Dominyka, who just got her brown belt, and some of the smaller ladies divisions, where even losing your first fight got you on the podium. But, 9/10 divisions, it was far past time for a promotion for the finalists. This made for some pretty excellent fights at all the belt levels but also it seems like people are after medals more than progression.  
  • The Sponsors.  There were plenty of gear companies represented, and also some multi-brand companies like fighters market and whatnot.  If you needed some new gear, you could easily get it.  The prices were reasonable as well.  Koral had a pretty sweet deal of 2 gis and some other crap for like $200 bucks.  I think Jon would have gone for it, if our bags weren't really full already.  Shoyoroll did a special tournament only release.  We were supposed to get one for a teammate, but there was a giant line 3 hours before the release so he was out of luck.  It’s cool for tournaments to have sponsors like gear companies in case they are mega anal (like the IBJJF is) and the gi(s) you brought were not legal.  That being said, you should bring proper fitting, non-torn gis to tournaments and bring more than one, two at least, 3 is better.  Pants tear all the time.
Alright, on to the bad stuff, this is not a short list, and considering the prestige and cost and everything that goes along with "the Worlds" this list should be non-existent.
  • Terrible Refereeing, Favoritism, and Inconsistencies:  These three all go hand in hand. They were DQ'ing some people for knee reaps, ignoring them completely for others, and only penalizing for others.  It didn't matter if there was a sub involved or not.   They gave some people advantages for the saddest excuse for a submission and others which looked insanely tight got nothing.  They gave advantages and didn't give advantages for almost sweeps/passes/takedowns just as willy-nilly. And then there were the penalties. The most blatant of which was the penalty Ary Farias getting a penalty for leaving the mat area before is hand was raised.  Now, this IS technically a penalty, but, seriously, probably 50% or more of the winners went out of bounds after they won.   Let's also not forget there is a penalty for excessive celebrating, and let me tell you, there was a lot of that going on, and NO ONE got penalized for that either.  It was frightening to watch the referees give decisions.  I don't really want to get into it too much, I know, as an Atos member, for me to say "Atos got screwed" is going to just sound like I’m whining because my team lost a few matches.  It wasn't just Atos though; so many people’s hard work and dedication were wasted/ruined by the incompetent or just plain biased referees.

  • Long Days Schedule Changes: The tournament was originally scheduled to be 5 days.  Wednesday to Sunday.  A few days before the event, they cut it down to 4, jamming everything in, and making those 4 days ridiculously long.  The competition started at 9 am Thurs through Saturday and some divisions were not scheduled to start until 7PM or later While this isn't so bad for a local competitor, who can come and go as they please, for the competitors who planned their travel around the pre-scheduled, and thought they would only need to be at the tournament wed/thurs and booked their fights to accommodate that, it kind of screwed them over.  It also made for extremely long days for the coaches.  I'd much rather have to be at a venue for 5 days that are 10-5, then 4 days that are 9am to 9-9:30 or pm.  
  • The Sound System: Most of the time, it was barely ok,  there many times where you couldn’t understand who they were calling or what mat  It was pretty annoying.  Some of the announcers were better than others, but it was generally very muffled.  The female announcers were the most difficult to understand, they were quite, and their accent was pretty thick.  I've been to tournaments that had much worse PA systems, and ones that have much better.
  • No ATM.  This is pretty self-explanatory. Thankfully the Acai bowl place took credit cards through an IPad  so I was fine, but the BBQ took cash only, and it was more expensive then the acai so that was a pain in the butt.  The IPad for taking credit cards was pretty cool.  I think that's a technology that has been pretty easily available in the States for a long time, but it's pretty new in Canada I think.  Anyway, not a horrible problem, but rather inconvenient if you don't know in advance.
  • Not knowing the rules.  Fighters, coaches, referee, you name them, and they didn't know the rules.  Seriously, People calling for points when they most definitely shouldn't.  People doing techniques that aren't legal in their division (and not just reaping).  I saw a blue belt dive on a knee bar.  The worst was in the semi-finals, a black belt stuck in a triangle, on his feet, walked right out of bounds.  There is a rule, you cannot flee deliberately out of bounds to escape a submission it’s an immediate DQ.  This guy didn't seem to realize that this was an offense at all, let alone one that warranted a DQ!  
  • Poor Sportsmanship:  Lots of people were guilty of this.  From cheering and carrying on because someone won because of a penalty for the other guy after the match was over (Ary), to athletes skirting the knee-reap rule and injuring their opponents with obvious inward knee pressure.  I'm all for team spirit, and supporting your team mates, but there was far too much excessive chanting, heckling, booing, and whatnot.  I'm fine with celebrating your wins, especially hard fought battles, but to boo competitors on the podium, or any of the other crap that was happening was not acceptable.
  • Terrible Score Keepers: These high school students cost several athletes wins.  They were too busy messing around on their cell phones to score a match properly.  It was awful.  They missed scores many times, and put them on the wrong side more than once.  One of the Miyao's, I Believe, Joao, ended up losing his match because the score board said he was up an advantage, but either the referee, or the score keeper screwed up, and in the end, the advantage was the other guys and he lost.  There were plenty of other cases where the score was messed up and it caused so much confusion.  A tournament that charges 95 bucks a shot, and has probably 3000 people should be able to hire competent table workers.  
  • Ontario's Performance:  It was a rough day in the office for most of the athletes from Ontario.   Only a couple made it to the podium and many lost in the first round.  Not performing poorly was Open Mat's Scott Bacon (Gold) and Ostap M (Bronze).  Sadly, Ostap forgot to register for the absolute, so didn't get a chance to double medal.  The guys from Pura went 1-3; Toronto BJJ had a rough day as well.  I am probably missing a few others, but I can't think of them.  It's crazy to see competitors that destroy on the local scene lose at tournaments like this.  Especially ones that perform so well at other huge tournaments like Pans.  I think this partially goes back to the level of competition, and the travel, time difference, not eating regularly, and all the other things that go along with a tournament like this.  Whatever, Next year will be better!!
  • Gender Bias: The male black belts had the quarters, semis, and finals, all on Sunday.  The Women only the finals.  How does that make any sense?  My only theory is that some of the women's black belt divisions did not have enough competitors in them to support having semis and finals on Sunday, but I don't recall any of the podiums not having 4 competitors on them.  

I had some other crap to write about, but I can't remember now.  Or, I've decided it's not worth getting into.  Overall the tournament gets a B or B+.    We'll be going back next year, of course, because it's one of the only events I can get more then 1 or 2 fights in a competition.   

I think that's enough rambling for now, I’ll write more about how the trip in general went next week while I am at a conference in Portland with nothing to do in the evenings.

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