“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin, into the future.”
And the future of Jiu Jitsu isn’t as certain as it would have seemed a year ago. There are some very positive developments, such as the increasing openness of high-level competitors about their techniques and training. There are some less positive aspects of the sport, such as the continued attrition of top-level athletes who see more value and pay in mixed martial arts competition. While the sport continues to grow and the IBJJF adds events throughout North America, there still needs to be major development worldwide to see Jiu Jitsu become a truly global art. One of the biggest question marks is what will Jiu Jitsu look like in the near future? Will it continue to speciate from its fighting roots with abstract positions and strategies that are less applicable to actual combat? Will standing technique begin to creep back into the art as competitors fight for every scoring opportunity? Will the berimbolo become passé? Some changes are already occurring, such as the return of Judo to the heavier weight categories. Some within the community are developing events outside of the often-criticized IBJJF ruleset. Where these changes will lead will determine the future of the sport.
The Jiu Jitsu Lab has also gone through some changes. 2012 saw an emphasis on longer articles and analysis, as well as a few successful video projects. I had the opportunity to attend seminars with some of the best in the sport, including the Mendes brothers and Cobrinha, which turned into what I thought were pretty good articles. Sustaining these efforts in the coming year will be tricky, as the delicate balance of family, work and training becomes heavily weighted by an extra 17 pounds of awesomeness. But there are also a few upcoming projects that I’m really excited about.
The Jiu Jitsu competition scene saw some amazing upsets and the continued evolution of the art technically. Without further delay, the Jiu Jitsu Lab presents its picks for some of the people that made the biggest impact in 2012, and for years to come.
Competitor of the year (gi): Marcus Buchecha
Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida had the most-successful Jiu Jitsu campaign of 2012. In the last few years, other athlete’s victories at the Pans or Worlds were questioned by some due to the absence of the biggest stars. Buchecha ensured his place in Jiu Jitsu history by upsetting last year’s world champion Rodolfo Vieira, then giving a dominant performance against all-time great Roger Gracie at Metamoris Pro. Not only did he win, Buchecha displayed unrivaled style and tenacity, reminding his fellow athletes that Jiu Jitsu is still a fight.
Competitor of the year (no-gi): Alexandre Ribeiro
Can someone who is at the top of the food chain in the era of “modern Jiu Jitsu” still be considered old-school? If so it’s a label Xande wears proudly. In Xande’s case old-school means using proven, fundamental techniques to overwhelm his younger opponents. The odd flying armbar doesn’t hurt either. Xande’s 2012 nogi campaign saw him take home two gold medals from the No-Gi Worlds and put on arguably the most exciting match at Metamoris with Dean Lister.
Xande Ribeiro vs. Dean Lister – Metamoris Pro
Xande Ribeiro vs. Leandro Lo – No-Gi Worlds 2012 Absolute Finals
Female competitor of the year: Michelle Nicolini
If this was a difficult post to fill, it was only because there were so many athletes that should be recognized. But the top of an increasingly elite field of female competitors stands Michelle Nicolini. Winning the worlds, the Europeans and the World Pro, not only is Nicolini the most s successful woman of the year, but here tenacious, submission-orientated style elevates Jiu Jitsu as a whole.
Runners-up: Luanna Alzuguir, Beatriz Mesquita
Michelle Nicolini vs. Kira Gracie – 2012 World Pro Cup
Rookie of the year: DJ Jackson
This award is reserved for athletes who make a major impact during their first year at black belt. Not only did he defeat veteran competitors such as Tussa Alencar, Roberto Cyborg and Clark Gracie, but DJ Jackson also became one of a handful of Americans to win the No-Gi Worlds at black belt. He also had some setbacks, such as his loss to Michael Langhi by armbar and his razor-thin loss to Leandro Lo by an advantage that show that if DJ continues to develop a more well-rounded skill-set he will be at the top of podiums as his black belt career continues.
DJ Jackson vs. Clark Gracie – No Gi Worlds 2012
DJ Jackson vs. Roberto Cyborg – World Pro Trials NY 2012
Up-and-comer of the year: Keenan Cornelius
In recent years, it’s becoming more common for coloured belts to garner just as much attention as black belts on the competition scene. The brown belts always get a bit of buzz, since they will be the next crop of black belts to step up to highest levels of competition. But the attention paid to purple and even blue belts for their accomplishments shows the direction that Jiu Jitsu is heading. As more lower belts begin training full time, their techniques and abilities are markedly improving, shutting out the part-time grappers for good. Keenan is an example of the new breed of up-and-comer. A professional Jiu Jitsu athlete who, at purple belt, performed the unprecedented feat of winning weight and absolute gold in every tournament he entered. And his brown belt campaign shows no signs of slowing. Keenan is slated to face a host of the world’s best heavyweights at the upcoming Copa Podio, which will likely derail his string of victories, but should provide invaluable experience to push him towards possibly being one of a very select group: non-Brazilian black belt world champions.
Runners-up: Marcio Andre, Paulo Miyao
Keenan Cornilius vs. Joao Miyao – Pan Absolute 2012
Keenan Cornelius vs. Sinistro - 2012 Atlanta Open
Best tournament of the year: 2012 World Jiu Jitsu Championships
While there were a few contenders for most excited Jiu Jitsu tournament, the mundials lived up to its billing producing the most exciting matches and most interesting stories.
Best non-tournament event of the year: Metamoris Pro
The Metamoris Pro had some glitches, but the level of Jiu Jitsu and the anything-can-happen feel brought out the best of what Jiu Jitsu competition should be.
Match of the Year: Rodolfo vs. Buchecha – Worlds 2012; Runner-ups: Roger Gracie vs. Buchecha – Metamoris Pro, Andre Galvao vs. Romulo Barral – IBJJF Pro League 2012
Rodolfo vs. Buchecha – Worlds 2012
Andre Galvao vs. Romulo Barral – IBJJF Pro League 2012
Submission of the year: Rafael Mendes armbar on Cobrinha – 2012 Pans; Runner-up: Kron Gracie armbar on Octavio Souza – Metamoris Pro
Rafael Mendes vs. Cobrinha – 2012 Pans
Sweep of the year: Marcus Buchecha berimbolo vs. Roger Gracie – Metamoris Pro
Takedown of the year: Marcus Buchecha vs. Leonardo Nogueira – 2012 Worlds; Runner-up: Rodolfo Vieira vs Andre Galvao – 2012 World Cup
Buchecha vs. Leonardo Nogueira – Absolute Final of the Worlds 2012
Comeback of the year: Marcus Buchecha, Absolute finals of the Worlds 2012
Career resurgence of the year: Romulo Barral
Upset of the year: Tanner Rice vs. Augusto Tanquinho – IBJJF Pro League 2012
Ass-grab of the year: Caio Terra vs Jeff Glover – Metamoris Pro
Guard passing of the year: Leandro Lo; Runner-up: Rodolfo Vieira
Never in a boring match award: Marcus Buchecha
Lifetime achievement award: pe de Pano Cruz
Team of the year: CheckMat, Runner-up: Team Lloyd Irvin
Coach of the year: Lloyd Irvin
Rosa Parks award for combating referee bias and BJJ bitchazznezz*: Lloyd Irvin
*Note: not an actual award.
Biggest glitch in the Matrix award: Augusto Tanquinho’s mystery advantage; Runner-up: Caio Terra’s mystery time-out
Augusto Tanquinho vs. JT Torres – No-Gi Worlds 2012
Caio Terra vs. Laercio Fernandes – IBJJF Pro League 2012
Cutest couple award: Augusto Tanquinho and Mackenzie Dern
Please come back award: Roger Gracie; Runner-up: Ryan Hall
Good for the sport award: Budo Jake
Jiu Jitsu is for everyone award: every academy with women’s and kids classes.
Academy most closely resembling what heaven should be: Art of Jiu Jitsu Academy
Gui Mendes rolling with Beneil Dariush rolling at the Art of Jiu Jitsu Academy
Worst Jiu Jitsu trend: leg reap DQs, still
Best Jiu Jitsu trend: More professional tournaments and events
Jiu Jitsu trend most likely to get you stabbed in Rio circa ’91: Designer gi’s based on internet memes.
Trend that has to die: Using social media for direct internet marketing for your webinar to promote your e-book to farm e-mails for your online BJJ course
Gi-trend that everyone will copy next year: Storm Kimono’s contrast lapel tape
Fightwear/Apparel of the Year: CTRL Industries
Gi of the year: Scramble Wave
Best online BJJ instruction: MGinaction.com; Runner-up: Mendesbros.com
Best DVD instruction: Caio Terra – Modern Jiu Jitsu; Runner-up: Stephan Kesting and Brandon Mullens – How to defeat the bigger, stronger opponent vol. 2
Best Magazine: GracieMag
Best Book: Advanced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Techniques - Marcelo Garcia with Marshal Carper and Glen Cardero
Best Blog: Bishop BJJ; Runners-up: Dstryr:sg, Jiu Jitsu Vortex
Best Podcast: Open Mat Radio, Runner-up: whatever the name of Brian McLaughlin’s show is
Best non-blog website: BJJ Fights; Runners-up: BJJ Heroes, GracieMag
Best Jiu Jitsu show: BudoVideos – This Week in BJJ; Runners-up: BudoVideos – Rolled up, Team Lloyd Irvin – The Next World Champion
BudoVideos – This Week in BJJ – Episode 16 with Shawn Williams Part 1
BudoVideos – This Week in BJJ – Episode 16 with Shawn Williams Part 2
BudoVideos – Rolled Up – Episode 34 with Alliance NYC
Team Lloyd Irvin – The Next World Champion – Episode 2