What to Expect Competing BJJ in Brazil

Part One: Why Can’t We Be Friends? 

Last year whilst training at Robert Drysdale’s academy in Las Vegas, the former ADCC open-weight champion delivered a class on competition strategy. As well as giving excellent advice on the athletic side of things, he provided useful tips on tournament etiquette.

He explained, when competing you must never interact with your opponent prior to the match. To paraphrase, there was nothing positive that could be gained from engaging with an opponent prior to stepping on the mat, you have to be mindful of the fact, this is someone who wants to stop you from achieving success.

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Pity Drysdale didn’t give me any useful advice on my beard.

Now, I’m sure this is a sound piece of advice, and it obviously worked for him, but it is something that is near impossible to achieve whilst competing in Brazil.

The labeling of Brazilians as warm and friendly may be a generalisation, but in my own experience it is one which is difficult to dispute, and the competitive environment of a jiu-jitsu tournament does little to dampen these positive traits.

I would struggle to count the times that I’d been invited to stay at dudes’ homes and train at their academies while awaiting our match.

I’ve even been lent a rash-guard by an opponent when my own did not pass the stringent requirements imposed by the authoritarian tournament officials. Typically, the officials who subjectively wield their power with impunity are the only cats that you won’t find smiling.

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Another new bestie at the IBJJF Brazilian Nationals in São Paulo.

After competing, I have been shown around cities, taken out to eat and even dropped off at the airport.

One of the biggest fears for the first time competitor in Brazil is failing to hear your bracket being called. This could be a legitimate concern, even when you do understand the language the sound systems are typically inaudible.

However, the chances of missing your match are incredibly low. By virtue of being a confused looking gringo in the bullpen you will acquire a new ‘irmao‘ or two who will go out of their way to ensure you’re checked off the competitors list and out onto the mats to do your thing.

Bottom line, you might be trying to fashion the Drysdale silent treatment but this process will more than likely be derailed after you’re inundated with introductions, smiles, friendly conversation, messages of good luck and man-hugs. And personally, I’m all for it.

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Next up:

Black belts wear what the fuck they want

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