Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Culture: For once, no balls.

12 May

For once, not a ball sport.

Last Saturday, I decided to watch the Pan Asian Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Competition which was held in the Mall of Asia. I found the experience to be quite nerve-wrecking due to the fact that I was watching friends of mine put their joints and limbs on the line to win a competition I did not understand completely.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by definition is a martial art and combat sport that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting wherein the objective is to submit an opponent with joint locks and chokes. Competitors wear a kimono-like outfit called a gi and it is used for gripping.

The experience was very exhilarating; like any other sport, the emotions of the competitors seemed to be very high as they pushed themselves to win. I thought it was that way because the fighters did not want to lose to other fighters due to their own personal pride and competitiveness which is basically somewhat human nature – we want to be on top. At some points though, I got quite scared for the competitors as some wouldn’t tap even if it looked like his arm was about to snap off if he went any further.

There was also some sort of tension between opposing teams. Coaches from different teams would not socialize with each other and team members seemed to be even colder as they sat in separate areas around the MOA music hall. This probably had a lot to do with how competitive the competition was. Apparently, the Pan Asians is the biggest BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) in South East Asia and people from Guam and China come here to compete making the prize of winning even bigger.

Although there were a lot of nerves involved, I enjoyed watching people walk up to the mats every time a fight was called. The competitors each had their own routine as they walked up to the mats, some would be stretching, others would breathe in deeply and others would stare at their opponent. The atmosphere this created built up towards the fight and every fight was memorable with teams cheering and at times even screaming for their team mates to win.

I found it intriguing how BJJ seemed like a completely individual sport but whenever someone’s team mate was on the mat, the whole team seemed to just jump in and get involved. This just shows how relational human beings are. Even in a sport that seems completely individual, the concept of a team still has a huge impact to anyone who is fighting. As a spectator, I could hear the cheers and remarks coming from each team’s captain as a member was competing on the mat, it was very intriguing.

There also seemed to be a lot of stress whenever the referees would make calls. A lot of the teams would start getting agitated whenever the referee would make a call that they did not agree with. This reaction shows how we as people have our own opinions and sometimes our opinions clash. This is the same as any other sport, technical fouls in basketball, yellow cards in football show how we all have our separate opinions when it comes to officiating. It also shows how competitive people get when it comes to something they are passionate about such as in sports.

Watching the competition also opened my eyes to a lot of things athletes go through when they compete. Unlike average people, these men and women push themselves beyond their limits and at times it does not end well. Injuries are a perfect example of the things that athletes must work through because of the desire to win.  In the competition I watched, there were quite a lot of injuries that happened because of the athlete’s willingness to force their bodies beyond limits but these sorts of things also add to the excitement of watching such a competition. These happenings showed how important it was to the person competing and at the same time, injecting a sense of drama in the spectators. It was amazing to watch.

Well after stating everything that intrigued me about the experience, I will state what didn’t exactly make the experience enjoyable. I did not like how some of the competitors did not seem to show respect to their opponents. Normally, it is expected, in any sport, that players or fighters shake hands or at least acknowledge each other in any way before making combat. A lot of the fighters seemed to be so caught up in the intensity of the moment that they did not show much respect to their opponents. I did not like this because coming from other sports; this was very much routine to me and not seeing it made the scene a little awkward. Well, maybe it’s just a little different in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Overall, I found the experience very enjoyable and I would love to go through it again. Watching people putting it all on the line for the glory of winning was very inspiring and it made the whole experience worth my time. Hopefully, I will experience something like this again soon.

– Mark Schallenberg

SA 21



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