What it’s like Competing in “Olympic” Jiu-Jitsu

Over the weekend, I had the chance to compete for a spot on Team USA Grappling (United World Wrestling’s BJJ rule set). We’ve written about the competition previously, but have never attended until now.

The rules promote and reward aggression. If a competitor pulls guard, they are penalized and two points are rewarded to their opponent. A guard-pull is the same as being taken down according to these rules which fixes one of the major complaints among BJJ practitioners today. There are also no advantages given, and overtime rules are in place to avoid referee’s decisions or draws.

With that in mind, here is what the competition was like:

Myself, world champion Aaron Johnson, and Andre Galvao black belt Carlos Soto, traveled from the Midwest to Wilmington, North Carolina to compete. Nearly every other competitor also traveled; some from as far away as California, others as close as Florida.

My division was stacked with some of the highest levels of talent, including UFC heavyweight and Metamoris Champion Josh Barnett, and Gabe Beauperthuy, the 2016 Greco National champion of the 130k+ division. Other competitors included an NFL strength and conditioning coach, former collegiate wrestlers, and pro MMA fighters.

As a lowly blue belt, I was in over my head. I had to compete against all of these guys in a round-robin format. When I watched Josh Barnett submit Dean Lister I kept thinking how my style of grappling looked similar to his (though far less refined and far less effective) and I immediately knew that I wanted to emulate him on the mats.

Here I was, standing across the mat from him, not watching him compete, but competing against him. It’s the equivalent of a high school basketball player showing up to a 1-on-1 tournament and discovering LeBron James would be an opponent. Needless to say, I did not qualify for the team this year.

Everyone in my division was a high level black belt. The opportunity to compete against them as a blue belt was an experience I will never forget, and will likely never have again. I consider myself lucky for having had the chance to get at it with some of the best grapplers in the nation.

I am also happy to report that Aaron Johnson and Carlos Soto won their divisions and qualified for Team USA this year and will be traveling to the World Grappling Championships in Minsk, Belarus this upcoming September on behalf of the official Team USA.

My final thought is this: UWW’s rule set for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the future of the sport. It eliminates the issues we complain about so often with the IBJJF and other organizations and rewards the competitor working for takedowns and submissions. When BJJ is in the Olympics, it will look like this.




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here