This past weekend was a busy one! The team competed at two local back to back tournaments, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. In total, 12 students competed this weekend.
On Saturday, six students represented Team Casarez at the Newbreed Charlotte tournament in Concord, North Carolina. Newbreed comes to the area approximately 2-4 times a year, and it is a great tournament for students looking to compete for the first time! It is a well organized event, which always makes the day more manageable.
Of the six students competing, it was the first time for three of the students. In total, the team brought home 7 medals – 5 gold and 2 silver.
Trinity, Ellie, Jenn, Megan, Turner, and David all did a great job!
Ellie earned 2nd in the No Gi and Gold in the Gi. In the Gi, she won her match by armbar. She recently placed gold at the Good Fight Tournament, also submitting both of her opponents by armbars.
Jenn competed in No Gi and decisively won her first match, ending the fight in an Americana. She advanced to the finals round, where she lost to a Kimura. This was her first time competing as a blue belt, and she earned 2nd in the division!
Megan competed in the No Gi division as well, and this was her first competition ever. She started off strong, initially winning her first match, but lost in the end due to points. Although she didn’t place, we are proud of her for going out and competing. Jiu Jitsu is a whole family sport for Megan, her husband, and their son, Theo!
Turner also competed for the first time this past weekend. He showcased a lot of the techniques and concepts that we have been working on in the fundamentals class. He swept his opponent, reversed multiple times, and almost got the back. However, he fell short on points in the end and was eliminated from his division.
David wrapped up the day with his matches, which he won by points after landing some strong takedowns. He earned double gold in his division!
The next day, another round of students competed at the FUJI Raleigh Spring Championship. There were 3 kids, Rowen, Silas, Arthur, and 3 adults, Kevin, Austin, and Mike.
Rowen, Silas, and Arthur began the day early with the kids division. Rowen and Silas had some tough matches, but kept a very strong attitude. This is impressive to see in such young competitors! Arthur won 2 of his matches, and earned
Kevin competed and had some great matches that earned him gold in the Gi. In No Gi, he got third place.
Austin competed in his weight class and lost the first match. He decided to compete in the weight class above him, and ended up winning all of his matches to get gold in the Gi.
Mike competed in the Gi division for his weight class and won gold. He executed a game plan that the team has been studying for the past couple weeks in class. He got an armbar submission in one of his matches as well.
All twelve of the students who competed this weekend did a great job, and we are very proud of them.
Looking ahead, the next event will be Toro Cup 20 on April 30. We have two competitors that will be fighting. This event will also be livestreamed by FloGrappling.
The Toro Cup is a Super Fight hosted by Cageside and Toro BJJ that invites competitors from blue to black belt to compete. The Super Fights are highly competitive and intense matches. The Toro Cup also donates 50% of the proceeds to an important cause.
In the case of Toro Cup 18, the proceeds were donated to Trevor Hayes, to aid with medical bills and a stroke. We are proud to be a part of this event, for the support that it provides to the community and the competition it offers to my students.
We had four students compete in the Toro Cup 18. Two brown belts, Kevin and Mike, one purple belt, Milo, and one blue belt, Christian. All of these students have been training with me for years, and I felt very confident that their preparation and training would lead to successful victories. All of my students won their matches, 3 by submissions and 1 by points.
Kevin wins by Loop Choke
Kevin was offered the match at Toro Cup two weeks before the event, which means that a lot of his preparation was due to his consistency and hard work in the months leading up to the fight. Kevin’s game plan going into this fight was to change it up from his previous matches and really impose his game on his opponent – starting off with an initial takedown. Even though the takedown was not successful, he immediately adjusted to pulling guard and worked toward sweeping his opponent. At one point when his opponent was in the process of passing, Kevin snuck in a loop choke. When his opponent fought the choke, Kevin sat up, secured a leg, and took his opponent down, with the choke still in place. The opponent was not able to get free of the loop choke, and the match ended in a submission.
When asked how he prepared for the match, Kevin says that he was lifting 3-4 times a week and in the gym anywhere from 2-5 times a week. He also watched some footage of his opponent to prepare for his opponent’s game. He knew that his opponent liked to pass with his head low and hips high, which is typically a very successful and strategic way to pass. In this case, though, it was the perfect setup for the loop choke.
Looking ahead, Kevin will be competing in the FUJI Raleigh tournament on January 16.
I also breakdown his match on the YouTube Channel, going through step by step what he did well and what he can work on. I encourage you to check out to see what you can learn from it!
Milo wins by Bread Cutter Choke
Milo took this match with a 2 day notice, which says a lot because competitors will usually spend weeks or months preparing for these matches. Milo’s training has been consistent and intentional, so he felt confident and prepared to take on his opponent, even with the two days notice.
It also helped that Milo competed against this opponent in the Tap Cancer Out tournament in September. He knew that his opponent was experienced in Judo, so his game plan was to pull guard, because he did not want to engage in his opponent’s stand up game. After pulling guard, Milo swept his opponent and then submitted him with a Bread Cutter choke.
When asked how he stays prepared for these kinds of matches on such short notice, Milo said that he tries to stay as consistent as possible. Mondays and Wednesdays are non-negotiables, and he will try to make it on Saturdays as well.
An important point that he made is that he comes in “not as much as possible, but as much as possible to the point where I don’t get burnt out”.
This is especially important, and a key point that I have been trying to stress to my students recently.
While Milo does not have any upcoming tournaments lined up as of yet, he feels very confident following this match and has plans to compete regularly in 2022.
Christian wins by Foot Lock
Christian is one of my most consistent students, he is always at the gym helping his friends with their technique or challenging himself against other students. To prepare for this tournament, Christian says that he was lifting 1-2 months before the tournament, and committing to extra rounds in the gym to keep his cardio up. In the week leading up to the tournament, he toned down the training, still coming in to “keep the blood moving”, but not enough to wear him out or injure himself.
His plan going into this Super Fight was to pull guard and establish a strong de la riva, which is his most confident guard. Ultimately, his guard was passed and his opponent took his back. Christian showed great composure even in this position. He stayed calm, which helped him notice that his opponent’s feet were almost crossed. This is a day 1 lesson that we teach students – do not cross your feet when you have the back! Christian moves his opponent’s foot so that it is directly crossed, and then sinks in a deep foot lock which leads to the submission.
Christian’s goal is to continue improving in jiu jitsu, and he sees competition as an opportunity to highlight his flaws and test his strengths. His plan is to continue competing as much as he can so that he can continue to improve.
Mike Dominates by Points
Every now and then, it comes down to who wants it more? It was obvious from the first couple seconds of Mike’s match that he wanted this win. His opponent was making faces, not taking the match seriously, and taunting Mike. Mike was all focus, and it paid off when Mike secured the win. He showed incredible technique, discipline, pacing, and patience during this match. It was evident from the very beginning who was going to win.
He was coming into this Super Fight after winning first place at the NAGA tournament in Charlotte on November 13. His confidence and hunger to win again was very high, and you could tell from the way he fought and how he approached the match.
Jiu Jitsu is not just a physical game, but a mental game too. In fact, I would argue it is more important to be mentally prepared than physically prepared. If you are in great physical shape, but you have no mental strength, you will not last a match or push yourself when the time comes to go for gold.
Mike has been making his mental health a priority in preparing for his matches, and it is paying off and becoming very evident in his success. He dominated his opponent during this match, ultimately winning by points.
Mike’s plan going forward is to continue building on his success by pushing himself through competition in the 2022 year.
The Toro Cup 18 was a huge success for Team Casarez, and we are excited to continue participating in the event in the future. The next Toro Cup will be February 5, 2022. It will also be held to raise money for someone in need in the community. Look out for Live videos and interviews on our social media accounts:
Referring to Jiu Jitsu as an individual sport is accurate to an extent. After all, it is one-on-one grappling and competing. However, Jiu Jitsu is more of a team sport than a lot of us realize, and this was explicitly clear when Team Casarez competed in the FUJI tournament on April 25 in our hometown of Cary, North Carolina.
Jiu Jitsu Training Program
The weeks leading up to the tournament included extended rounds of rolling. Students who were not planning to compete contributed to the training of their teammates by pushing themselves during these 8-10 minute rounds. The entire gym, competitors and noncompetitors alike, stepped up the training intensity in preparation for the upcoming tournament. As tournament day approached, you could hear a lot of students asking their teammates about game plans, how they felt, offering advice, and encouragement.
On the day of the tournament, teammates who were not competing took the time out of their weekend to show up and support their fellow students.
Thank you to Lelani, Jenn, Carl, JD, Brian, Kyle, Aaron and Todd for cheering on the competitors. Jenn brought snacks, Carl recorded footage, and Aaron took the time to post live updates on the Facebook group and share results with the rest of the team who were asking for updates. The energy, encouragement, and support from these teammates helped energize the competitors as they made their way onto the mats.
The Martial Arts Competitors
There were 14 total competitors from Team Casarez at this tournament: Riya, Caike, Ferny, Garrett, Milo, Christian, Mikhael, Adam, Troy, Mike, Sach, Catherine, Thryn, and Frank. For some of these competitors, it was their first time competing. Competition is highly encouraged because it pushes students to challenge themselves mentally and physically. We are so proud of all of these students for deciding to compete. Regardless of any outcomes, competition will always provide helpful insights and lessons into your game. By the end of the day, the students had earned 19 medals among them.
Jiu Jitsu Competition Results
Riya and Caike represented Team Casarez in the youth division. It was Riya’s first tournament, and she demonstrated impressive composure and technique as she submitted some of her opponents. She even went up against boys in her division. Riya placed gold in both Gi and No Gi. It was also Caike’s first tournament and he placed silver and bronze in Gi, and double bronze in No Gi. Both of these students are young and have bright and impressive futures ahead of them.
In the adult division, we had 12 competitors: 6 white belts, 4 blue belts, and 2 brown belts.
Of the white belts, Troy earned silver in Gi and No Gi and showcased excellent passing and technique. Catherine won gold in Gi and No Gi and had some impressive take- downs in her matches. Ferny, Milo, Mikhael, and Sach represented the blue belts. Ferny earned gold in the Gi and bronze in the No-Gi. He also had the fastest submission of the tournament with an ankle lock at 9 seconds. Milo also won gold in Gi and bronze in No-Gi. He went up to the advanced division in No-Gi where they allow leg locks and heel hooks. He is only 17 and wanted to challenge himself against the adults. Mikhael won gold in both of his divisions, Gi and No-Gi, and finished all of his opponents by submission. Sach competed in the Gi and won silver. This was both Sach and Mikhael’s first tournament as blue belts. In the brown belt division, Mike won gold in the Gi and silver in the No-Gi.
Martial Arts Lessons Gained
We are so proud of all the competitors who represented the team at this tournament. Competition is a great way to test your jiu jitsu in a high-pressure environment. It is also a great way to pinpoint where improvements can be made in your game. From this tournament, we have learned some essential lessons as a team.
Three main takeaways I want our team to focus on from this tournament are improvements on tactics, mentality, and training volume.
Tactically: we can improve by dedicating more training time to learning what a strategy is, how to build it, and how to execute it in the tournament.
Mentality: we can all improve our mentalities by arriving more prepared for the tournament, whether that means eating well, drinking plenty of water, getting sufficient rest the night before, arriving early, properly warming up, and making sure that the mind is focused. All of this will result in more mental clarity and confidence as you approach the mat.
Volume: If you are planning to compete, make sure that your training volume is increasing. If your schedule allows you to train only a handful of times a week, make the most out of those sessions by limiting breaks, extending rounds, and pushing yourself to roll with teammates who have been resting. All of this will make you feel more confident on the day of the tournament.
Remember, Jiu-jitsu is a team sport. We win together, we lose together, we train together, and we are in this together. Great job to the whole team on the success at the FUJI tournament on April 25. Let’s get ready for the next one!