by Devon Delbrugge – For the past two months, my mind has mainly been focused on one thing, the European Open. This tournament is the first one of the four major jiu jitsu competitions in the world and this year I will be doing all of them. After weeks of anxiousness, the wait had finally ended.
Our first stop would be in London for a few hours and then to Lisbon, Portugal. When we reached Heathrow, one of the biggest airports EVER, we took a train into Paddington station. From there we bought tickets to go to oxford circle. During the traffic at Paddington station, our group got split up into two. One of the groups got to walk around London and got to see some of the best of London, while the other group, which happened to be the one I was with, went to a nearby Starbucks and set up shop until it was time to head back to Heathrow.
After my first and crazy experience in London, it was time to go to Lisbon and get ready to fight the next day. I was up early in the morning around 10:15 Portugal time (5:15 EST) and had to get some good rest. I felt pretty good and not that affected from the five-hour time difference.
As the lead off man for Crazy 88, I was very ready and excited to compete. My first three matches all went about the same. I had won all 2-0 and scored the two points with a sweep. As expected, all my opponents were very strong and had good pressure, but since the team had been to this tournament multiple times, I knew exactly what to expect from my opponents. My first match however, my gi had ripped. It was said to be a freak accident since it happened during the first minute of the match and ripped in a really odd spot on my sleeve. After the first three matches, I had made it off the first page of my bracket. The wait in between my third and fourth match was very long, since they had to make a new page with all the remaining competitors. During the match I had scored two points again since the guy ran out of bounds when I was about to take him down. I made a very large mistake causing myself to lose the match by arm-bar with two minutes left in the match while I was up by two points. The feeling I had after I lost was the worst I have ever felt in my life. To come as close as I did to my goal and make a mistake is terrible.
The only thing to do after that was to fix my mistakes and move on to the next tournament. Fortunately, there was a national team tournament that four team Lloyd Irvin members had joined for blue belt. As a team, we had four matches, I only had to fight 3 since I was fourth in the lineup and it was best out of 5. I won all three of my matches helping team U.S.A. to a gold medal in the team tournament. This was the end of the tournament for me and overall I had gone 5-1, but the one loss was more disappointing to me than the wins were exciting.
Before we were to head back to London, there was still one more day left, the black belts. As always, it was very fun to watch the black belts, since you can really see the great level of technique that is shown by the world-class grapplers. All the matches were exciting to me, especially Bernardo Faria v. Rodolfo Viera. This match is always very exciting to watch since Bernardo is coming closer and closer to beating Viera each fight, but yet has not done it. The match that they had in Lisbon was very close up until the last couple of minutes when Rodolfo passed Bernardo’s guard into mount. The venue was packed and going crazy at the time it happened. It was the most fans I’ve seen since the worlds. Overall, the tournament was very good and a huge learning step in my jiu jitsu career. Now it was time to relax and fly back out to London for two days while we stay in the Mayfair hotel, and go sight-seeing around the beautiful parts of London.
In my opinion, I like London a lot more than Lisbon. It is a lot cleaner and more places to eat and shop at. The food in London was not hyped up to be very great, but was above average I thought. At the end of the trip, my mind is now focused on the next tournament, the Pan Americans in California. I can’t wait till next year to come back to Europe for the second year in a row, and to get what I originally wanted in the first place, the REAL 1st place medal.