Monday, July 4, 2011

Do you compete against your teammates?

What happens when you are at a competition and you are bracketed with one of your teammates, and it comes down to you and your teammate(s)?

At Fabio’s he has a strict non inner-team competition.  He likes to foster a tight knit group of people who are friends on and off the mat.  Our team is very much like extended family.  If we had to fight each other in competitions it might get more heated while training, we might be less apt to help each other in class, and people might harbor hurt feelings or vendettas after competitions.

Personally, I completely agree with that point of view.  Especially considering my best friend and sister has in the past been in my division in competition.  I just cannot fight her in any kind of intense fashion.  (The fact that she would super tool me if I tried doesn’t even play into that mind set.  I just love her, so I can’t.)
However, I also can see the point where you don’t train BJJ to make friends or have a huge extended family.  You train BJJ to learn BJJ.  Fostering a super friendly gym environment is not required to do that.   Some people may even feel it might hinder their progress for the reason I mentioned above.  If you can’t go hard with some people, you might think you can’t get the most out of a training session.  (Personally, I disagree, but I can see why or how someone would feel that way.)

So, back to my point.

What does your gym do if it comes down to you and your teammate in a competition?

Do you fight?  Do you flip a coin?  Do you defer to the higher belt? 

Fabio lets us work it out among ourselves. 

At my first competition Allie and I were in the same group.  It came down to the two of us, and she deferred to me.  She said she felt like I deserved it because I had two overtimes with a 200+ pound beast woman.  (Allie later had to fight too!  Doh!) 

At the NAGA I went to watch this weekend, it came down to one of my Lakeland teammates and a teammate from Fabio's other branch in Brandon.  (No competing against teammates still applies.)  Fabio told the ref they would not be fighting each other, and the ref asked who was higher ranked, and based on that, he was going to award gold to the higher ranked of the two.  However, they ended up flipping a coin.

Before the Pan Ams Fabio and I were talking about something like this happening to him because there was another Carlson Gracie black belt in his division.  Fabio said he would just defer to that guy if it came down to the two of them because Fabio had already taken home gold from the Pan Ams and to him that would be the only fair thing to do.  He said if it is going to the team, he doesn’t really care who takes it home.

Some of the guys on my team make arrangements before hand with the other guys in their division.  For example, they decide that one person will take gi if it came down to the two of them, and the other would take no-gi no matter how things played out during the competition.

So, what does your team do?  Do you like that?  Would you prefer something different?  What seems the most fair to you?

Inquiring minds want to know!

I love these ladies!

Team Fabio Novaes!


  1. Personally I don't have a problem fighting teammates. It's important to me to fight clean- I don't do anything in a comp that I don't like having done to me (rough crossfacing, etc). Thus I wouldn't do anything in a comp that a teammate could be annoyed at. One of us would just fairly beat the other, as happens every day. No biggie.

  2. I try to do the same... but in class, I over analyze things. For example, I worry someone is going to be annoyed with me if I submit them or if they get stuck in a bad position for too long. So, I am prone to move, or let things go to avoid hurting feelings or annoying people... (Dumb, I know) ... but I don't have those same feelings when I compete... So, I would be lying if I said I grappled the same in class as I do in competition.

    In a competition I won't let go of a choke because some hair is caught in it... but I would in class. Stuff like that.

    I will say this though... before my first competition I thought I would have to compete against Allie. A few weeks before the competition, before I knew I didn't have to fight her, I noticed she was doing something incorrectly, and I questioned whether or not I should tell her... considering that she might be my competition. I did tell her... but I was horrified at my self for even considering not telling her. I could see a lot of that happening if you knew the people you trained with are the people you may have to face in competition. ...Or maybe I am just a douche bag. Who knows. lol

  3. If people at our school didn't compete against our own teammates, half of the time we wouldn't have anyone to fight, since we are in an area with few practitioners.

    While I can understand the idea behind not fighting your teammates, I don't think there is any reason why adults should not be able to compete with each other and remain friends. Our school has people who have trained together and fought against each other for 20-30 years, yet they remain very close friends. As a family, we are able to do that.

    We're having a competition this Saturday strictly for people who train at our school (and our affiliates), so there will be a lot of teammates competing against each other. We've done this before, and we didn't have any drama before, during, or after.

    However, I will admit that I do have a teammate who does NOT like to fight me in competition. I can't answer why, because I really don't know.

    At the end of the day, competition is just a game. Who better to play with than your friends? ;)

  4. That is interesting Gina. I didn't think about smaller areas that might run into that problem.

    I don't think I would compete if I knew I had to fight my teammates. Not because I wouldn't want to fight them... I am sure I could cope if that is how it was from the beginning... but between my teammates and I there is a fairly clear line of who can beat whom. So, I wouldn't really be willing to pay to compete based on that alone. ..but who knows. I have never been put in that situation, so I might feel differently if that was the case here.

    Another reason I enjoy competing is the thrill of a new person I have never grappled before. Though, it is getting to the point now that I see the same faces when I go to competitions.

  5. Oh, I definitely agree that I would much rather fight someone new!

    As far as not competing against your teammate because you know you are going to lose...every time I fight a particular teammate of mine, I know she is probably going to win, but I do it anyway. Why? Because competing against someone who is more experienced than I am only makes me learn more. Imho it's better to compete and lose than not compete at all.

    Of course, I'm totally used to being a loser, so I guess it just doesn't bother me as much any more :) Honestly, though, sometimes I kind of wish my teammate would not sign up for all the tournaments, so that I wouldn't have to fight her all the time.

  6. haha! Me too. I am in the loser boat right there with you... and it doesn't bother me. It bothers me more when I see a teammate lose then when I lose myself.

    I had sweat rolling down the side of my face just watching some of my teammates compete.

    So it just boils down to how much it costs to me... I don't want to pay for something I already know the outcome of... especially since I could experience the same thing in class.... BUT I know the tournament setting is different... and like I said, I have never had to make that choice so I might feel differently if those were my options.

    It is really interesting to hear about the way other people do things.

    Thanks for all of your input, Gina and Anon! =)

  7. As far as I know there's no official rule at my school, and it's up to the two teammates competing whether or not fight.

    I don't compete that often and haven't been faced with being paired up against a teammate, but I don't think I'd have any problem fighting them. It would be a little awkward, but I'd most likely trust them more than a random person to not crank a submission longer than necessary, for example.

    Even if I know going in that they get the best of me 9 out of 10 times during training, maybe I'd get lucky in the tournament :)

    On a related note, I understand why it happens, but from a spectator's perspective, it's kind of a buzz-kill when a gentleman's agreement decides a World Championship final...but, maybe it's just me.

  8. If my teammate catches me with a technique that I helped her with, there's some rueful embarrassment, but I'm proud of her. Any help I give her is making her a better training partner for *me*, and thus making *ME* better in the long run. If she caught me with that, obviously it's something I need to work on defending.

  9. At a cincinatti tournament in january, i had already won the beginners nogi and white belt gi but was asked to compete against the only other girl at our gym, shannon in the intermediate division for more matches and we deferred. It just didn't feel right in that moment. That, and i was exhausted. My boyfriend and another teammate rock, papaer, scissors at the the same tournament when they closed out their bracket as well. It's a tricky situation. I've known some teammate sot play around. One will do a flying armbar, the other a flying triangle, and then they'll roll "forreal". With our gym it really just depends. If it's a smaller tournament our instructor for the most part will let us decide but i believe there have been times where he expressed his dislpeasure at the thought

  10. Having fought teammates in competition, I can say definitively that it's not the same as fighting someone else. I really understand Gina's point, though, as there are some places where you wouldn't have any fights, and as I've said many times, I think that competitions are important to development in this sport.

    I fought one of my best friends for the gold in the Abu Dhabi Trials, and it was tough. But, quite honestly, there was never any doubt between the two of us whether or not we would fight.

    To me, making sure you are in separate parts of the bracket is the coach's job. Once it's fight time, that's up to you. Justin and I were basically dead even in practice - some days he would tool me, other days I held my own. On that day, at that time, I lucked out. He knew what I was going to do, and I knew his game. And it happened the way it happened. But I think that we both benefited from it, and there was no weird feeling in the gym afterward. We all know why we enter competitions.

    If you want to agree beforehand, great. If you want to look at it as an opportunity to spar with your buddy for free, I am fine with that. :) and if you want to go 100% because you almost never go that hard with friends in practice, so much the better. All those perspectives are fine, and I definitely think it's up to the two people on that day, at that time, to come to terms with however they want to do it.

  11. I personally think it's bad sportsmanship when competitors refuse to fight or fix a match. I think it's a bit of a culture clash between me and the brazilian way. I was really disappointed when someone I knew and admired decided not to fight. I also think it's bad for the sport. Agree with Kirsh about it killing my enthusiasm as a spectator.

  12. Kirsch - I didn't consider the spectator aspect. I am sure that would be a huge disappointment.

    Anonymous - I agree 100%... which is why I was so horrified with myself when I considered not being helpful. I will also openly admit where I suck the most... and if people choose to take advantage of knowing my weaknesses, that is all the better for me because they will be attacked, and it will force me to get better. But in reality, people don't need to take advantage of my weaknesses to beat me. It's really not that hard to do. =)

    Dev - I know I wouldn't care if one of my teammates beat me in a competition. I learned a long time ago that I totally suck at BJJ, and my options were to quit, or get over losing. I honestly think all of the women on the team would be cool afterward if it came down to two of us in competition... BUT I have seen grapples get heated in class. I've seen people lose their temper and storm off the mat. It happens, we are all human and fail at keeping out cool from time to time, and I do think that it has potential to get even worse in a competition setting. If we could all be sure to wear our big boy pants to competitions (and to class) I think it would be totally fine for teammates to compete... but I think to prevent the off chance of someone getting pissed and creating drama in the gym Fabio makes it a non-issue.

    Other Anon =) - Fixing a fight.. yes, totally bad sportsmanship, but I don't think refusing to fight your teammate is bad sportsmanship. Though, that is most likely because it is the way I was taught. The way we are raised greatly effects what we preserve as rude or wrong later in life. So it is very likely that I would feel differently if I trained somewhere else. But my personal dislike to going hard with my friends would remain the same, because that is just how I am. I don't think it is bad, or wrong to go hard with your friends or anyone, nor do I get offended when people go hard with me. I just don't like it.

    And thanks everyone for your perspectives and thoughts on the subject... I always find it interesting how other gyms go about things.

  13. have a look at this video, it's not a tournament but I think it refers to your post.
    If your the best of friends I don't see why you should not fight each other, it will only make your friendship stronger.
    ps- great blog keep up the excellent work

  14. I can only speak on behalf of my kids team, I don't believe our adult team has had that happen to them yet. Our kids team has had only two matches against each other in over two years. One just happened in the last tournament we had two weeks ago. We had three kids in a large bracket and before the tournament started, I pulled the three kids aside and explained it to them. Then I told them I expect that we get first, second, and third, it doesn't matter who gets what. Well it ended up being two of the three in the finals, and the third kid barely lost the third place match. Before the two went out for the finals match, I reminded them that they are friends and teammates and told them that they are scoring points for the team and that's all that matters. They ended up putting on a great match and gave the thumbs up to each other when they were done, then posed for a ton of pictures. It didn't even phase them. They receive no coaching in those situations either, they just go out and roll just like they were "in the gym". We have mock tournament matches all the time in training, so they are used to fighting each other in ultra competitive situations. Team comes first in our class, and that is stressed everyday. However, I push the action and competition levels between the students so I can get the most out of them. That being said they are one of the strongest bonded teams around, and it is noticeable. So my long-winded answer is I believe you can still have the goodwill between the competitors as long as your instructor makes that clear in class all the time, and bonds his/her team. If that's the case, let them fight.

  15. Anon - I agree that you that best friends should be able to roll, no questions asked, hard light, however the day calls for... the fact that I don't want to or can't is just me. Maybe it is something I need to work on, but I think it is a personality thing. ... And it isn't my whole team, it is just one person really. And thank you so much! =)

    Rollo - That is an awesome story! Thanks for sharing it! Especially since kids tend to be the more honest with their feelings than adults. Adults can say one thing and feel the exact opposite, where as kids tend to wear their hearts and emotions right out on their sleeves.

  16. I see boths sides, personally I hate bowing out. I feel like I worked to hard, put in too much time and paid too much money to bow out. However, all of the points against fighting your own teammates are very valid.

    In some schools if there are two people in the same bracket that are likely to meet at competition they let those two fight a week or so in advance of the tournament and usually after class when there is no audience. The winner of that match gets the win at the tournament if it comes down to that. I like that method because if takes most of the politics and emotion out of play.

  17. I'm not sure if there is an official policy, but as Roger Gracie never closes out with team mates (AFAIK: he's fought Romulo Barral a few times), I assume you'd be expected to fight.

    I'm not a competitor, but I imagine I would see it as another spar: the main annoyance would be that I wouldn't be able to spar with someone new.

    The team thing in BJJ is a strength, in that it builds firm ties and a real sense of camaraderie. However, it is also a major weakness: the way BJJ is so bound up in teams is a major part of the destructive politics everyone hates so much.

    It's also responsible for making a number of Mundials events much less interesting than they could have been (I like BJJJudo's solution: much better than rock paper scissors).

    I think it would be better if the team thing was de-emphasised, as IMO, the negatives outweigh the positives. More babbling on teams here.

  18. BJJJudo - That is a really interesting way to work things out.

    Slidey - Another really interesting thought on the matter. The team drama IS a major downfall of the sport. It can be very soap opera-esque sometimes.