As a coach, my job is to provide a training environment where people can learn BJJ safely and effectively. But there’s more to it than that. My job is to ensure that they learn how to keep themselves safe while training and competing.

These two things are not the same.

The most important thing to understand in BJJ is that your safety is your responsibility. Make sure you can keep yourself safe. Don’t rely on rules or referees to keep you safe. The following video shows that you can’t rely on rules and referees.

When you train in the gym, you are friends with the people you are training with and you know that they will look out for your safety. In a competition, or when training at another gym, you can’t afford to rely on your opponent to look out for you.

This means that you must train with illegal moves in the gym. When you train heel hooks, slicers, knee reaping, spinal locks etc with training partners you trust, you begin to understand those moves. When you understand the moves, you know when to tap and when to continue working your escape. More importantly, understanding the moves allows you to see the move coming and allows you to avoid getting caught right from the start. Just because a move is illegal doesn’t mean that someone won’t try to apply it on you.

Basic risk assessment. The worst injury that could happen to you is a spinal injury. Your game should be designed around this risk. Everytime you are in a position where your opponent can pick you up is a potential spinal injury. This means jumping guard, armbars from underneath, spider guard, closed guard. If you play in these positions you should expect to be picked up and you must know how to bail safely. A more prudent approach is to just avoid these positions entirely.

BJJ is a combat sport. Most of the time it’s a friendly sport. But in competition where emotions are high, it can turn into a fight. Your safety is your responsibility.

Here are my videos from the recent Freo Grappling Cup.

Match 1 — under 65kg. This is the first time I’ve competed against a lighter opponent. I weighed in at 63kg fully clothed. My opponent, Morgan, weighed 60kg. Win by guillotine.

Match 1 — under 75kg. With only one opponent under 65kg, I also enter the under 75kg. My opponent Yuma Ishitzuka ended up winning the division. I get submitted by a nice anaconda choke which will be the subject of a future post.

Match 2 — under 75kg. After an embarrassing takedown where I end up on bottom I sweep, pass, then finish with a triangle.

Match 3 — under 75kg. My opponent for this match is my friend Rod Costa. Rod has the best closed guard of anyone that I know. My goal is to stay out of his closed guard, but unfortunately I don’t manage it. Loss by guillotine.

Match 1 — open weight. I again face Yuma. There is lots of scrambling in this match but my half guard keeps me from getting put in a bad position. Yuma tires near the end of the match but I can’t establish a good enough position to finish. Win by points 8 — 2.

Match 2 — open weight. I think my opponent Gavin was the heaviest in the division. I get taken down but end up sweeping from half guard. A hasty mount gets me pushed into half guard top. It takes a while to pass and regain the mount. Poor balance gets me reversed and I end up in half guard bottom for the last 30 seconds of the match. Win by points 4 — 2.

Match 3 — open weight. My opponent is Will Dias. Will has a string of accomplishments including winning this year’s ADCC Australian trials. I am completely on the defensive for this match. Half guard and turtle only delay the inevitable. Loss by kimura after 4 and a half minutes.

GCWA 2007-07-31 medals

1st place 65kg and 2nd place open weight medals.

Yesterday I competed in the Freo Grappling Cup. I had seven matches and received gold for the under 65kgs and silver for the open weight divisions.

This was the second competition run by the newly formed Grappling Committee of Western Australia (GCWA). The first was held late last year. GCWA runs no-gi competitions following the FILA grappling rules.

This was an excellent competition. Firstly it is no-gi and FILA rules, both of which I am a huge fan. If BJJ is going to become an Olympic sport, it will be under the FILA rules, not the IBJJF rules. FILA rules are great for the spectator. Short matches, a hard stance on stalling and a simple and understandable point system encourages exciting matches.

As a spectator, I found this comp very entertaining. The matches were fast paced with lots of action. Most matches ended in submission. With other comps, I usually only watch my team-mate’s matches. The “get a point advantage then stall in guard for five minutes” strategy common in other comps gets boring very quickly. I enjoyed watching all the matches in this comp, regardless of whether I knew the competitors or not.

As a competitor, I really enjoyed the matches I had. My matches felt submission orientated, rather than points orientated. Both competitors were looking for the submission, not to simply gain a point advantage. The action was fast paced and there was not much time for thinking. I made mistakes and learnt from them, which for me, means a successful competition.

Freo Grappling Cup 2011 posterThe scoring went very smoothly. There were referees unfamiliar with the FILA rules but I didn’t see any calls I disagreed with. This is a testament to the simplicity of the FILA rules. Each match had three referees, the main ref with the competitors and two refs outside the mat on opposite corners. The corner refs confirm the main ref’s scoring. There was no disagreement in the scoring, again thanks to the FILA rules. And there was no stopping the match while all three refs have a discussion, which is not uncommon in the Mundials.

One thing that really impressed me was that the organisers ensured that every competitor got at least two matches. Even if a competitor lost their first match, they got another match with someone else. This recognises that the purpose of competition is to gain experience, as well as to try to win. I think this is a fantastic attitude.

There were also some downsides for this competition. Firstly it was poorly advertised. I only found out about it three days before. Some entrants only found out the day before. Though thankfully the organisers still accepted registration the day before so anyone that wanted to compete, could.

Secondly, the venue wasn’t great. The building was still being renovated and it was a cold windy day so there was a cold breeze blowing on the spectators. Some of the videos I took are all shaky because I was shivering while taking them. The organisers did apologise for this as the renovations were supposed to be completed. The next comp is planned to be in a much better venue.

The next GCWA grappling competition is planned for late October. I’ll definitely be entering. I’ll be posting the details as soon as I get them. Videos of the matches will be up shortly.