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Rollapalooza ‘Back To Roots’ – Musings from the Third Man on the Mats



Since its inception in 2008, the Rollapalooza Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Competition has styled itself as an open venue to help bolster the sport in the Philippines. I had the pleasure of refereeing some of the matches at the latest installment of the event last October 11. The event’s theme was “Back to Roots”, and was aptly held at the Martial Arts Center, located in the covered courts of the Ateneo de Manila University campus.

For those who may not know or are new to the local Filipino jiu jitsu scene, the Martial Arts Center was the original home of Rollapalooza when it was starting out. The old grassroots elements were in play once again last weekend: the music, the informal way the audience could sit right beside the mat area, and the overall laid back and friendly atmosphere.

After reflecting on how the event went, I’ve compiled a few thoughts I’d like to share.


Being friendly or unfriendly has nothing to do with being competitive or uncompetitive

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Rollapalooza 'Back To Roots' - Musings from the Third Man on the Mats News
Even though the event has always been casual and approachable, it has never failed to deliver competitive and entertaining matches. Seeing the matches up close, I oversaw some inspiring displays of heart and technique. The competitors were going all out in the best ways you can expect from a jiu jitsu match – aggressively exchanging attacks while demonstrating technique and strategy, making it almost human chess.

Despite the ferocity and desire to win that they showed, practically all competitors who stepped on the mats – winners and losers alike – displayed sportsmanship before, during, and after their matches. There were no hard feelings (as far as I could tell), and each match I oversaw ended with a congratulatory handshake or hug. It’s easy to respect mature martial artists that carry themselves that well even off the mats.

It ain’t over until it’s over!

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Rollapalooza 'Back To Roots' - Musings from the Third Man on the Mats News
It sucks when your opponent gets the better of you early in the match, or even maybe most of the match, for that matter. It’s demoralizing for your opponent to catch you unprepared or rack up a bunch of points against you. But it’s moments like these when some competitors can really show their tenacity and guts.

There were several matches with come-from-behind wins that would make Rocky Balboa proud. Many of the blue belt matches turned out this way, such as when one competitor was just inches from securing his second rear mount hook for the four points, only for his opponent to escape and snatch enough points for the win.

My favorite come-from-behind win, though, was the finals match of the Men’s Blue Belt Pena division between Michael Tiu of Origins BJJ and Jerald Espinoza of 90/Eight BJJ-Valores. Tiu used excellent positioning and control to build up a huge lead in points and was on his way to winning, when Espinoza pulled off a gutsy and well-placed armbar submission with mere seconds to go in the match.

The best thing about competition is experience

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Rollapalooza 'Back To Roots' - Musings from the Third Man on the Mats News
This may seem like a cliché, some consolation from a coach after losing a match, but this point can’t be overstressed. Of course it feels great to win championships, and nobody competes intending to lose. Winning is an affirmation that your hard work is paying off. But if you’re in it for the end goal of stroking your ego, you miss out on what you really gain from competition.

Competition is an opportunity for everyone involved to gain experience against new opponents and to test themselves in a way that they may not be able to in their respective gyms. Sparring in the gym is different from giving your all against someone who’s trying to beat you.

In the end, the goal is to get better at jiu jitsu, and that’s the best thing about competing. It’s great to see how many new competitions have sprung up over the past decade for Filipino Jiujiteiros to join. Events like these raise the quality of the local jiu jitsu community and help the sport grow.

Check out Rollapalooza’s Facebook page for updates on the December 12 Rollapalooza Grand Prix in which gold and silver medallists from the two most recent Rollapalooza events will battle it out for a chance at cash prizes.

Aldo Vergel de Dios

Aldo is a purple belt from Atos Jiu Jitsu Philippines who has been refereeing for the Rollapalooza’s events since 2014.

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