Everybody loves the Pan Ams. It has become the largest annual jiu jitsu tournament in North America. It provides a prestigious opportunity for everyone regardless of age or rank to compete in a fair and professional environment. Say what you will about the IBJJF. You will be hard-pressed to find anyone else o the planet that can run a tournament over 5-days as efficiently as they have for the past 10 years. This year promises to be another year filled with top competitors, exciting performances, and growing numbers.
The Pan began in 1995 and has since become one the major gi jiu jitsu tournaments in the world, and has featured illustrious absolute champions such as; Xande Ribeiro, Saulo Ribeiro, Marcio Cruz, Jacare, Rigan Machado, Roger Gracie, Andre Galvao, Rodolfo Vieira, and Marcus “Buchecha” Almaeda – to name a few. So what can we expect from the Pan this year? Every year brings new challengers, new techniques, and new story lines. The Pan has become the tone-setting platform for each jiu jitsu season. What can we expect to see in 2014?
– The last few years we’ve seen a dominance and prevalence of guard work. Just like in many other sports, trends tend to see a backlash after a few years. We’ve started to see guard passing reemerge as dominant tournament style. Guys like Rodolfo Viera, Leandro Lo, and Lucas Lepri have reminded the world that no guard is a safe guard. Recent understanding and innovations to current guards have allowed these guard passers a new level in precision in their efficiency here recently, and in that vain I would expect to see the guard players begin adapting to these innovations. In response to this, look to see a lot more guard players exploring lapel-based guard techniques that can tie up opponents, and force them into uncomfortable scenarios.Keenan Cornelius may be beating the lapel guard drum now (see video), but it was actually Budo Jake on our podcast last year that pointed out that he was seeing this more and more among the top academies. Look no further than someone like Cobrinha, who played situp guard all last year with the same-side lapel fed between his opponents legs (see our breakdown). Guys, like Cobrinha are always way ahead of the curb, and typically where there is success, there is parody. I would expect to see a lot more of this style of guard in 2014 – starting with the 2014 Pan Ams.
Ever since we conducted our first study in 2012 there has been a rash of talk around statistically reliable tactics. We certainly are not ego-centric enough to assume this is solely due to work that we have conducted, but rather to a change in paradigm. Athletes and coaches look at competition holistically and over time that becomes more and more precise. Jiu Jitsu is beginning to evolve into a more complex sport than ever. Look no further for proof of this claim that the abundance of BJJ breakdown YouTube pages. Notable ones include BJJ Scout and Marcos Torregrossa.
Just imagine what jiu jitsu analysis, commentary, and competition will look like in 10 years after this first wave has broken. Modern jiu jitsu is the simplification of time-tested jiu jitsu and the complexity of new athletes. How will athletes that are currently 10 and 11 years old approach the sport when they enter adulthood? I believe we will start to see these large-scale analysis repercussions this year. Competitors have had a full year to analyze these perspectives. The access to jiu jitsu techniques grows everyday, and the availability in 2014 is unprecedented. So we expect to see unbridled growth occur this year like never before. That means that competition should grow more fierce at every level, as all information becomes more readily available.
Perhaps it’s just me, but it appears that there are less competitors registered for the 2014 than in years past. How could this be? Jiu jitsu is growing and jiu jitsu competition is in a golden-age of sorts. So what gives?I would propose that the growth has actually attributed to the decline of participation in some of the larger tournaments. Whereas in years past many top purple, brown, and black belts could only find large pools of competitors at a handful of tournaments, now a host of IBJJF and other large tournaments regularly support large purple, brown, and black divisions.
Could this trend possibly continue in the future? It seems quite possible with the addition of the new qualifier system proposed by the IBJJF in 2015. With more competitors needing to qualify for large tournaments like the World Championships, competitors may begin to migrate towards more local tournament engagements.