HOHENFELS, Germany -- Over 60 competitors fought in 13 divisions as Team Hohenfels Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (HBJJ) hosted its first tournament here, March 29 -- 30.
Teams of men, women and children came from bases around Germany, including Ramstein, Wiesbaden, and Grafenwoehr. There was also competitors from a predominately German team hailing from Regensburg.
"This is something I've wanted to do for three years, but first I needed to build a solid team, establish relationships with other BJJ clubs around Europe, and establish some credibility in the area so that others would perceive our challenge as legitimate and worthwhile," said Jeremy Workman, founder and coach of HBJJ.
In those three years, Workman has grown his club from four members to a 50-member competition team with even more students who train but don't compete. Earning 100 medals in 2013 alone, HBJJ has won honors and renown across Germany.
"By hosting this competition, we proved that we are a legitimate club with the ability to plan and execute a large event, leveraging an amazingly supportive volunteer workforce of dozens of athletes, families and community members," Workman said.
The tournament was divided into two days, with kids and teens competing on Saturday while adults competed on Sunday.
"The grappling event for the kids was designed to attract wrestlers," said Workman. "As a former wrestler myself, I love the transition from wrestling into submission grappling."
To even the playing field for wrestlers who may not have been as experienced with submissions as BJJ practitioners, Workman altered the rules by allowing five-second pins to equate to a submission.
"This way, if a wrestler doesn't know how to submit the opponent, but does know how to control, they can pin for submission," he explained. "For the kids' tournament, the focus was to prove that BJJ is a very good extension of wrestling. I wanted to show the wrestlers that all the control they have in wrestling is a great starting point, but that in BJJ we are learning how to continue and ultimately finish the fight."
With the adult tournament, victory came through submission only. Workman said he's noticed an increasing trend of competitions and competitors leaning more toward safe scoring for points rather than on safely manipulating your opponent into submission.
"I seek to teach useful and practical methods to my students which they should theoretically be able to implement in training or real combat with some degree of effectiveness," he added. "You cannot guarantee the path of a street fight or of a combat scenario, so you might as well be prepared to execute on either positional dominance or submission victory."
The format was appreciated by the many competitors, as summed up by Pablo Piedra, head instructor for the BJJ club, Ground Fighters Vilseck.
"I thought it was a great event, it gave our guys a chance to experience an aspect of sports Jiu-Jitsu which is not that common anymore - compete to submit," Piedra said. "We also got a chance to meet with old friends and make new ones, which is one of the beautiful things about our sport; fierce enemies on the mat, best of friends off it."
Another trend Workman sees is the rise of single-elimination tournaments.
"When an athlete pays a registration fee to compete, they want to get as much experience as possible. I wanted to offer a submission-focused fight with a guarantee to each athlete that they will have a minimum of three fights," Workman said.
Workman said one of his goals was to have full brackets of fighters in each division to provide a tough, challenging day for his competitors.
"Often we go to competitions with small brackets, 2 or 3 people, and this leads too often to only a few fights. I guaranteed many fights even for the few small brackets we had, but we had several full brackets with seven to nine people," he said.
To ensure a tough competition, Workman decreed that every athlete had to participate in at least three bouts, win or lose. Additionally, every first place medalist had to win a minimum of three fights to earn gold.
The tournament also included open divisions for both men and women where all weights and skill classes battled for the overall championship.
More than 20 volunteers served as security, food handlers, medics and other staff.
"That level of support was why the event was so successful," said Workman.
One of the reasons Workman wanted to host the tournament was to provide an opportunity for more HBJJ members to compete who had been unable to travel with the team to other events, or who will soon be departing Hohenfels and will miss out on upcoming tournaments.
"The best part of the experience for me was watching so many of my BJJ pupils display the character, the skill, and the discipline that are integral to our clubs success in every facet of our existence as a family and community-minded unit that is interested in improving the lives not only of the individuals on our team but the community around us as well," Workman said.