I wanted to share a comment made by one of our competitors this weekend. Traveling all the way from Berkeley, California. It was a real pleasure to meet Michael and I hope to catch up with him when in the US later this Fall. -Luke
Great tournament, well run (competitor's point of view), but most importantly I felt welcomed as a visitor from the States and noticed a much higher level of cameradie between teams than is normal at the Pan Ams and Mundials in the States.
Individual fighters fought hard, but the sense of "jiu jitsu unity" was also much in abundance. It was really great to see that. So often in the States the politics overshadow the sense of shared purpose. I'm sure you'll get that (the politics, I mean) in SEA eventually for now it seems like you watch each other's backs, which is the way I think it should be.
I think you will write up some of the injuries that occurred. I didn't see them all, but the ones I saw seemed the result of exuberant athleticism and/or a desire not to tap, even in the face of an impending injury. I didn't see anything that looked mean-spirited (even the "notorious" 9" slam - yes, a whopping NINE INCHES - which was the one "drama moment" of the competition that I witnessed) (the competitor who got dq'd as a result took it very gracefully - after the initial shock and dismay wore off - and went on to turn in some of the best performances in the tournament, at least for those of us watching while waiting for our turn to be called), and the level of "sportsmanship" was very high.
There were two coaches I want to give major props to, and they have totally different styles and personalities.
First, I thought the coach of the Legacy Gym team had the most "heart" of any competitor I have seen (I'm sorry I didn't catch your name). He fought hard, and you could really tell that the "fight" was VERY big in that "dog." He consistently encouraged his team in a quiet but forceful manner from his team's spot on the side of the mats. It's a remarkable aspect of internationalism that this Thailand bjj coach is (if I heard correctly from another Swede) from Sweden, which apparently has some sick jiu jitsu and some tough fighters.
The other coach that impressed me was Ray Elbe. He was totally supportive of each and every one of his competitors, and Tiger Muay Thai sent up 26 people if I got the number right. I think I saw him cornering two of his competitors at the same time at one point. His voice never gave out. He gave every ounce of his energy to support his players, and each and he was always upbeat and positive. I've never seen a coach give so much as a corner man to so many competitors.
While it's impossible to give a quick overall impression of the two days from an "outsider's perspective," I'll bravely take a shot, since I'm sure you are all secretly curious what "foreigners" think of bjj in SEA. On the gi day, for the most part white belts looked like white belts, blue belts looked like blue belts, and purple belts looked like purple belts. In short, what you SHOULD expect but actually seldom see in the States, at least at big tournaments where the white belts often look more like blue belts and the blue belts look downright dangerous (I can't say look like purples, because purples always have a "flow" to them that the aggro blue belts, however effective, don't have) (and the aggro level of competition that I've seen in California is why I'm biding my time as a "senior" (as in old, not experience) blue belt until I have more bjj experience before I drop down to the "adult" division (I got to compete in both adult and masters at your tourney). The athleticism at US competitions borders on aggro.
On the other hand, imho the no gi level of competition is a definite level higher than what I've seen in California, either at non-IBJJF competitions like Best of the West or at the Mundials No Gi. Maybe that's a function of the focus in SEA on no gi for MMA, and the dedication of the type of participants in the MMA/Muy Thai camps out here, but this spectator/competitor was seriously impressed, to the point where I've realized at my age I'm never going to have what it takes to excel at no gi. Well, back to the gi drawing board for me (but I'll keep up my no gi classes because, truth be told, I like no gi better than gi). I think SEA can put it's no gi people up against the best in the world, year matched against year of experience. You guys really need to pop for the airfare and "represent" at the Mundials No Gi etc. (hint, hint)
Thanks a lot Mark & Luke & Nitti, I sure hope to see you next year and you (and the other new friends I made) should look me up in the Ralph Gracie Berkeley Academy if you make it to NorCal. A hearty welcome and good training partners is guaranteed!