BY TIM SPRIGGS – I have been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for a significant amount of time (five years to be exact). And during that time I have traveled all over the world to compete: Portugal, England, United Arab Emirates, and more States than I can remember. That’s why you’ll be surprised to learn that prior to this past weekend, I had never been to Brazil in my life.
Because this was the first time I ever visited and/or competed in Brazil, my experience would have the utmost significance to me. Usually I am reserved, calm, cool, and collected the days before a tournament. However, this time around I had a case of the nerves unlike any I‘ve experienced since the first time I went to the European Open two years ago.
This just goes to show everyone that no matter what you are, a seasoned veteran or green novice, everyone gets nervous about competing. The difference between the two that a seasoned veteran has learned how to not let the nerves consume them. Looking back, there were several factors that attributed to my case of the nerves, but the most prominent was that I’d be in new and hostile territory.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that jiu-jitsu and fighting is an allegory of war, because it’s not. But in this case my teammates and I were in what military scholars call, “Hostile Territory”. In this day and age, visiting a foreign country as an American garners a certain amount of animosity from the locals. In our case it was even more so, since we were challenging Brazilians in their native sport, in their native country.
Master Julius had, as he likes to say, three bullets in his gun for the Sao Paulo Open: Tye Ryan Murphy, Devon Delbrugge, and Myself. We got into Brazil on Friday morning and had the day to cut any excess weight and relax before the big showdown. Being in the country about 24 hours before the tournament relaxed me a little bit. Since Devon and I were underweight we decided to indulge in some awesome local fruit and every Jiu-Jitsu fighters favorite snack: Açai. That night, I had the best sleep of my life! I slept for 14 hours straight and woke up feeling rejuvenated from being cooped up in airplanes for most of the day before.
When we got to the venue, a familiar face, our teammate Jammie Whitfield, greeted us. Jammie works in Brazil off and on during the year and happened to be in Sao Paulo that weekend to support us. I noticed immediately that Jiu-Jitsu Tournaments are set up slightly different in Brazil. First, the tournament started late, not like “uhhh, the brackets aren’t finished yet we’re going to start a few minutes late.” No, in Brazil the doors don’t open until 5 minutes before the first divisions are supposed to start. Another difference is that in the States I never had to buy non-perishable food items to be allowed to compete. According to Jammie, the Jiu-Jitsu federation uses the food as charity for a tax write off.
Besides the late start and having to buy raw spaghetti, I did get the have an awesome Açai bowl in the stands before I warmed up. Right before my first match, my nerves started acting up again, but I just kept telling myself, “Stick to the game plan, and nobody can beat you!” Before I knew it I was on the mat trying to impose my will on the competition. The matches in my weight division went without a hitch. I stuck to the game plan and executed it exactly how I wanted.
While I was battling it out with some of Brazil’s finest jiu-jitsu aces, my brothers-in-arms were handling business as well. Devon had a barn burner of a match in the first round of his division. Devon’s match was the most entertaining 50/50 battle I have seen in a while. The match ended in a razor thin judges decision. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, the decision went to the local kid. But Devon took it in stride, vowing to train even harder when he got back home.
My other brother, Tye Ryan Murphy was putting in work in the Purple Belt Middle Weight division on the path to Gold. Tye imposed his will on every opponent in the bracket, both physically and technically. The best way for me to describe Tye’s jiu-jitsu style is Ray Lewis in a Gi. So when his Finals opponent tried head butting him, I wasn’t surprised when he shrugged it off and proceeded to pass his guard.
With two gold medals already set for the Crazy 88 trophy case, Tye and I entered the Absolute division. For some reason, every time I enter the Absolute division with Tye he gets the Super – Ultra Heavy Weights and I get the Light Weights. Once again, just like in my weight class, I was able to utilize my game plan and take my opponents out of their element. Tye was using his Ray Lewis in a Gi style of Jiu-Jitsu with phenomenal results, especially when you take into account that he was fighting guys twice his size. Ultimately the size disadvantage was too much for Tye in his match against the Ultra Heavyweight Champion. After getting swept in the first minute, Tye started playing his guard game. Although Tye had many near sweeps and advantages, he was not able to make the come back.
Now it was up to me to carry the banner for Team Lloyd Irvin and America. As I did before, I continued to tell myself to follow the game plan to victory. I proceeded to force my game plan upon all my adversaries in the Open. My mindset was to not give my opponent anything and as a result I didn’t get scored on for the rest of the day. I went through the competition in the Absolute with confidence in my technique and strategy. When the clock ran out in the Absolute Finals I was relieved that I had represented my Crazy 88 family so well, and that I had the rest of the evening to eat all the Açai my stomach could handle.