The Write-Up For The Austin Open


What did I think of the Austin Open?

The tournament was run relatively smoothly. The mats were super active, all the time. Actually, I’m writing all this now trying to remember if there was something really worth complaining about. I don’t think so, actually – aside from the reffing (which I will address shortly). No, the people at Fight To Win (I think that’s who ran the tournament) really seem to have a handle on what’s needed from a venue and how to streamline running an event. I might quibble with them on the lack of available space for warming up before a match – but I assure you, my audience, that is but a quibble.1

What was my only substantive concern? The referees! Holy mother of god was the reffing bad. The reffing was worse than a James Patterson plotline. Suddenly I am reminded of that scene from Robin Hood, Men In Tights:

Robin Hood: Blinkin, listen to me! They’ve taken the castle!

Blinkin: I thought it felt a bit drafty. ‘Cor, this never would have happened if your father was alive.

RH: He’s dead?

B: Yes…

RH: And my mother?

B: She died of pneumonia while – oh, you were away!

RH: My brothers?

B: They were all killed by the plague.

RH: My dog, Pongo?

B: Run over by a carriage.

RH: My goldfish, Goldie?

B: Eaten by the cat.

RH: My cat?

B: Choked on the goldfish.

Really though, it was really quite bad. And listen, I’ve been a ref. I know it sucks. Truly, it sucks. And I know you have to deal with a lot of stupid Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu bullshit from a veritable host of exceedingly biased, emotional, unreasonable human beings who are preposterously invested in the outcome of the match you’re officiating – people who may or may not lie to you, people who may or may not literally fight you after a ‘bad’ call. I get that. Don’t believe me?

See? I know what it’s like to deal with assholes.2 The two guys in the match (and the third guy taping the match) threw a fit (earlier and off-camera, I’d like to add) when I wouldn’t change the order of the bracket (well after it had been made) to give their team an unfair advantage. They brought their coach over, who said he was staying out of it. This was their cutesy way of getting back at me – marvels, these guys are obviously Marvels of Maturity.

Just to briefly recap, I have thus far attempted to make two points:

  1. Being a referee really sucks.
  2. I know this as a matter of personal experience.

All the previous said, the reffing, the officiating the Austin Open really was quite awful. If I had to guess, I’d say the average rank of a ref at this past tournament was blue belt, possibly even less.

In my third match, my opponent should NOT have received two points for his throw because I got back to my knees.3 If anything, he should have received an advantage. BUT you need to be really quite skilled at Our Gentle Art before you have discrimination fine enough to dole out advantages for ‘near-achievements.’ That’s not me being biased about my achievements, either. That third opponent – Justin was his name, from Elite MMA – said the EXACT same thing as we walked to grab our medals.

Or in my second match,4 the guy had been smashing on me for over 6 minutes before taking my back at around 6:09. Luckily, I escaped before he was awarded points – and let me say, the guy INSTANTLY put in his hooks (and I nearly crapped my pants when this happened). I escaped his back-mount before he got his points, then I ended up on top in half-guard. I was awarded two points. Why? What sweep or takedown did I perform?

Once on top, I managed to submit the guy six seconds before the match ended. This avoided the whole confusion entirely, as my two mystery points were the only points scored in the match. If I had not subbed him, I would have technically won by points. And if I was on my opponent’s team, I would have loosed a thousand arrows of complaint. After all, he and I were in the semi-finals. If I had lost, his team would have closed out the division. Or suppose no points were awarded – he had smashed on me for over six minutes. If it had gone to a ref’s decision, it was his to win (probably).5

My first match in my division, too, had a problem with scoring. It starts at 2:26 or so.6 The guy passed my guard, but was unable to successfully pin me. He should not have been awarded points. That’s only worth an advantage. And while I fully admit that opponent beat me, in the same breath and equally as earnest I say that he won by an advantage – not by three goddamn points.

The only match which was well-officiated was my first absolute match – where I destroyed the guy. Please forgive the breach in etiquette when I say that I’m glad I beat the shit out of him. His teammate and my teammate went against each other in a blue belt match – and this opponent of mine started complaining LOUDLY about some points which were awarded during the match. I walked over there to explain to him why my teammate was awarded points, and he acted like the biggest douchebag while I spoke with him. Now I don’t know this guy in any way, shape, or form. Maybe, I thought, he was someone important. He could be. I don’t know everyone, after all. Maybe he was The Actual Sultan of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or perhaps God’s Gift To Jiu-Jitsu or, maybe, Gracie Mag’s BJJ Referee Of The Year 2012 or, in point of fact, he was Just Better Than Everyone In The Arena. But then I beat him. Aaand my lingering questions were put to rest.

Alright, alright, let me put my admittedly snarky jabs aside. ‘Okay,’ a critic might say, ‘but in the end, the erroneously awarded points did not make a difference to the final result in any of the three cases.’ True. But I would say two things. 1. That does not disprove the fact the reffing was exceptionally bad. 2. Nor does the fact that I cannot give a particular instance where the bad reffing did not result in a miscalled loss (which should have been a victory, or visa versa) mean that it didn’t happen to somebody out there.7

I mean, look at this match – again with my teammate!

At 2:26 the ref gives points for a full mount (a technical mount, actually) to Lora who is clearly – thanks to the camera angle – in a quarter guard, NOT a technical mount. When the Brazilian in the orange (my instructor) disputes this awful call – it’s strange, because it is precisely from the ref’s angle that you can SEE it’s a quarter guard, not a technical mount – the ref said to my instructor “Do you know even know what a technical mount is?”

I wish this was caught by the microphone on this guy’s camera. We can see them exchanging words, but we can’t quite hear what he said. It’s a pity. It’s a real goddamn pity, because the ref said that to this guy below:

The guy with all the stripes on the black belt. That’s the one. The guy who once, while I was laying on the floor complaining about how much my back hurt after yesterday’s training, said “Oh look, Rickson emailed me.” I stole his iPhone from him and tried to read the email (a long one), but it was all in Portuguese. The guy who, every now and again, will have to excuse himself to take phone calls from Royler. The guy who is so old school that he started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when there was only one black belt and a couple of browns and purples in Manaus (his hometown in Brazil) – before BJJ was popular in B.

Yes, that’s him as a salty brown belt in 1995, my audience.  And yes, that is Saulo Ribeiro (before he was famous).  They both received their black belts in the same graduation ceremony.

COULD HE – I WONDER UP TO THE GODS IN THE SKY – PAULO “COELHO,” MY INSTRUCTOR, 28 YEARS AND COUNTING OF BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU EXPERIENCE, COULD HE KNOW WHAT A TECHNICAL MOUNT IS?

Yes. Yes, he probably does.

[Now, the point of throwing around Paulo’s credentials is not to impress you, my audience.  The point is to show you the extent to which the implication of his laughably glib question was so utterly, preposterously vapid and without merit.

Then the ref starts losing his mind. At 4:40, now the ref won’t give her 4 points for his own personal definition of a ‘technical mount’? At 4:48, since when do you receive two points for passing a guard? Since never. And since when do you receive points for passing a guard if you (a) do not effectively control the pass-ee for three seconds, and/or (b) allow them to get to their knees? Since fucking never.

10-2, Ketra loses to Lora.

The score, of course, is absolutely wrong. According to the standards of the ref, it should be 11-2.

But according to any fair-minded individual, Lora’s half-guard sweep should have gotten her 2 points (it did), and when she was on bottom (at 4:20), got to the top, and around Ketra (while she had both knees on the ground for 3 seconds) got her two points – for a total of four points.8 Ketra’s butterfly sweep should have gotten her two points, for a total of two points.

Actual score? 4-2. And that is a much more reasonable outcome, indicative of a much closer match between the two opponents.

The reffing was bad.  But everything else was good.  And despite it all, my team did well.  I’m competing in two weeks.  I’ll let you know how that goes, my lovely audience.  Hopefully I’ll get some tape of my matches.  Thanks for reading.

————————–

1. The general consensus is that I might not have lost my first match in my division if I had been more active. Losing a match, of course, is the sum interaction of dozens of variables interacting with one another – thusly, in my opinion, I should not and will not attribute my loss solely to the fact I was not warmed up, but I’m sure it played some role in the behavior which led to my loss. Aaand it played a much more minor role in my loss than…oh, I don’t know…my opponent’s overall skill level (the guy went on to win first place in our division), his very careful play, the suckiness of the ref, et cetera.

2. One of them is a friendly acquaintance of mine, actually – the guy taping the match. When I’m in Laredo, I go train with him. He’s not an asshole.

5. Just to mention in passing, I had no idea I had been awarded points in that match. Delusional with fatigue after the match, I asked my teammate “Whose points were those?”

7. Absence of evidence does not equal ‘evidence of absence,’ as people like to say in my community.

8. http://www.ibjjf.org/docs/rulesibjjf1stedition.pdf

The rules are clear enough, I think.

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