Few competitors are aware that they can work events and compete as well.  It helps because BJJ is not the sport where dough is ever flowing.  Sponsorships are scarce and usually start as gear only and can escalate to monetary contributions.  Unfortunately you have to compete often and medal before anyone even knows who you are.  This year I wanted to compete at Worlds so I contacted IBJJF (internation Brazilian jiu jitsu federation) and agreed to work a few days to offset my plane ticket.  It was an excellent opportunity.  I’m extremely glad that I worked the even because I have a deeper appreciation for the stress and labor that goes on behind the scenes.  I’m also happy I worked the event because I now know firsthand why certain mistakes are made and ways to keep them from reocurring.

Worlds 2013

Worlds 2013

First let me say that I am very thankful for the opportunity from the IBJJF and look forward to working many more events but I think the number one thing that will help reduce mistakes at tournaments is to have more competitors and coaches working the event. Yes, the IBJJF needs YOU! At worlds I was absolutely baffled by the number of ring coordinators and score keepers that never trained Brazilian jiu jitsu, had never been to a tournament, and most importantly admitted to not understanding and occasionally caring about the significance of that particular tournament.

I. Was. Stunned.

At one point I was watching a match with one of the organizers and I had asked him if he had seen a competitor execute a fireman’s carry and he looked shocked and immediately asked me how I knew what that was.  I’m thinking, “How do you not know what it is.” That was when I realized just how scarce people like me, competitors working events, were.  There were several occasions where table workers would make a mistake and just shrug their shoulders, or say “Oh well.”

I think I was disliked by many of them because when I witnessed an error made I would address it or takeover the position if they clearly didn’t care enough to do it right.  I tried not to be rude about it but it’s hard to not be rude when you’re sitting next to someone who won’t even verify who is standing on the mat.  After the guys/girls competed some of the RC/table workers would try to rush the guys back on the mat to which I protested because they didn’t know what it felt like to compete hard for X-minutes get a 2 minute rest and be expected to compete again.  The IBJJF rules mandate a rest period for the length of the match (ex. 6 minutes if blue belt) and twice that for finals matches.

That I’m proud of, I’m proud of caring.  But I won’t deny that it was hard to monitor 12 hours into the event.  We got there at 8 am (pacific time) and left around 9 pm (pacific time).  Breaks were scarce and often had to be taken in between matches.

Jessica & Marcus Buchecha

Jessica & Marcus Buchecha

I witnessed the ultimate blunder occur to my friend Jessica Dobbs.  Props to the IBJJF this year for implementing several steps to offset competitors being overlooked.  They had 3 positions at Worlds 2013: Ring Coordinator, Ring Coordinator Assistant, and score keeper.

They created the RC assistant in efforts to avoid exactly what happened to Jessica Dobbs, which would have worked if both parties had committed to their jobs.  The Ring Coordinator is responsible for rounding together the athletes on their brackets, checking weights, escorting them through the gi inspections, and when the time comes escorting them to their assigned mats.

The RC assistant then double checks that the athletes are who they say they are and records who won the match. The result that the RC and the RC assistant record are compared by tournament organizers to examine what mistakes were made, by whom, and at which point in the bracket.

We were given strict instructions to not tell the RC who won they were supposed to watch with their own eyes. It was described that if I see person A win and the RC records person B win then they know immediately that there is a discrepancy.

Unfortunately for Jessica Dobbs the RC apparently brought the wrong person into her place and the RC assistant failed to verify first and last name of the person that stepped on the mat in her place. It was awful .My heart broke for Jessica because she had won the trip to compete at Worlds, won her first match at worlds, and waited anxiously in the bullpen for her next match but her RC never came back for her.  By the time anyone had noticed the error it was too far in the bracket to change anything and when they proposed she go against the division winner at a later round the other girl (who later won the division) refused the match.

Broke my heart to watch her get the news that her chance was gone and she did everything right

Broke my heart to watch her get the news that her chance was gone and she did everything right

I’m glad I worked the event because I know that this oversight did not originate from greed or the IBJJF as a whole not caring. I believe that they do care. I think the oversight occurred because had the people that were working the event understood that this competition opportunity is something that people sacrifice for and train hard for then they would not have skipped steps and been more attentive.

This is why the IBJJF needs YOU.  The IBJJF needs more competitors to work the events. Most people aren’t even aware that the opportunity exist but you can send a general email to the account listed at IBJJF org asking to RC or score keep and they will forward you to the person you need to contact and if you’re competing the same day they’re really great about giving you time to warm up and compete in your division.

Now I’m in no way saying that competitors will be error free.  Human error is eminent. I made some mistakes but owned up to them and apologized.  In one match I missed an advantage and the ref was great about keeping up with them correcting me during the match and explaining the situation to me better after the match.

Scorekeeping Pros

  • I could anticipate when points were given
  • I knew the time limits of the matches in advance
  • Get to spend time with refs and inquire about different situations and matches.  That was awesome.

Scorekeeping Cons

  • Sometimes I was delayed in noticing advantages or stopping the clock because I was ‘watching’ the match as a spectator.
  • After 10 hours have gone by it’s hard not to day dream during matches. When we felt our eyes or attention wandering we would try to take breaks or switch positions.
  • Headaches from people screaming…and I mean SCREAMING at the top of their lungs 2 feet behind you directly into your ears.

At worlds I worked as a score keeper and RC assistant. I look forward working many more.  I didn’t find it too hard competing and working the same day.  I would have had the nerves regardless and it kind of helped to keep myself busy focusing on other tasks.

4 Responses to “The IBJJF NEEDS you”
  1. Ammara Melai says:

    I have had the awesome experience of photographing an IBJJF event. It is certainly a trying experience, yet totally worth every headache. From the screaming, I swear my portuguese has gotten better!

  2. shakiaharris says:

    absolutely! I would ask the ref to translate for me but I couple times I was a bit embarrassed because the coaches were shouting curse words lol

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