Caught in the Undertow of the World Master Jiu-Jitsu IBJJF Championships 2017

Andrew Wiltse FREE Instructional


I am getting my work knocked out and clearing my plate.  The trip to World Master Jiu-Jitsu IBJJF Championship is this week. I cannot stop the excitement. I cannot help but to be caught in the undertow of memories taking me back to my first Master World Championship tournament in 2016. It seems impossible (probably a good thing) to voyage the world of BJJ without its currents regularly pulling each of us back to those moments we will never forget.  Those moments that define the BJJ quest as a truly epic adventure.

I had just earned my blue belt.  Barely enough time to book my flights for the Master World tournament in Las Vegas. Sure, I struggled some in my mind on competing. A two-month blue belt?  The stepping on the mats against opponents that most likely were some of the best and probably had two years or more experience than me?  It would not make me a huge pick with the gamblers in Vegas! At the same time, I had worked hard to get the belt required to participate.  Trained overtime to be competitive. The deciding factor was that the tournament coincided with my 50th birthday. So I decided that it would be my birthday present to myself for surviving this world for 50 years.

There are many things that I could share about this adventure.  Meeting some well-known people such as Galvao, Pimenta, Megaton Dias, and Osiander (the list goes on and on). Seeing thousands of competitors and spectators. Watching some of the most incredible BJJ I had ever seen. Then there was the Acai bowls…do not get me started on the Acai bowls and the ensuing addiction to that purple treat (! Despite all the starry eyed, first time experiences, the real impact came from somewhere I never expected.


I sat in the bull pen for hours. My match was 3 hours behind schedule but finally it was time to walk out on the mats. I was ready. We slapped hands and bumped fists and the ref started the action. I got my first grip, got my second grip, (I could even hear my training partner in the crowd say “he has his grips”) and went to my best take-down! The attempt was too timid.  I did not put my full weight into the throw. He defended enough to stop the take-down even though he was caught off guard.  We went to the ground, neither scoring points, but he was in the dominant position. We battled and I finally tried a move to get out from under his pressure. As soon as I did, he was ready and passed to side control. We both knew things had changed. All he had to do was hold on to win and I had to make something happen. The longer the match went on, the more risk I was taking in order to overcome my deficit. I fought with all my skill and escaped several positions.  With each escape i learned that my opponent sensed the escape and moved to his next position ahead of me. I had never rolled with anyone that was so in tune with my movements.  He made no mistakes. This is not a fairy tale, come from behind story. When time expired, I had lost 6-0.

How did I feel to lose my match at the Master Worlds? Kind of sucky! I do not like losing a match, no competitor does. Other than that, it was one of the best moments of my life. My opponent was better than me.  He deserved to stand on the podium. I put it on the line and gave a good battle.  He needed his skill to get the victory. No shame. In a world where less than 1% ever step on a mat, let alone compete on the biggest stage possible in their sport, everyone at the World Master’s was a winner. For me to compete there for my 50th birthday is something very few will ever do!  Most importantly, it is something that no one will ever take from me! That is BJJ, it gives each person opportunities to be their best, no matter what they battle in life.


The unexpected impact and the real story is this. My academy is one of 16 schools in our organization that spreads across the country.  Our organization had about 30 representatives competing at the tournament. My match was to be at three and didn’t start until six. Nearly everyone else had already competed.  It was well beyond time for some food and fun in Vegas. I am a 50-year-old businessman, diabetic, and brand new blue belt.  My experience was competing in only three other tournaments. Many on our team did not even know me and only a few enjoyed smashing me in training on a regular basis. Yet, when I stepped out on the mat, almost every one of them had stayed to support me!

The leader of the whole organization was there to coach me. When the match was over, they shook my hand and commented on a good match.  They did this with a respect that only comes from someone that knows what it takes to put it all on the line. Although surprised, as I never dreamed my team would support me this way, I knew this was Jiu-Jitsu at its finest.

Those that are just starting BJJ or maybe just watch will think it is an individual sport. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of these guys taught me, some rolled with me, some crushed me, but every one of them supported me.  They all helped me be a better man!

If you do not realize that BJJ is a team sport, your voyage to circumnavigate the world of BJJ is far from complete.  Your understanding of the greatness of BJJ yet to be fully experienced. If you do understand what I am speaking about, I can only equate it to the bond of soldiers facing battle together. Pretty great stuff!  I will never forget this adventure while sailing on the high seas of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  Epic!

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