“Today the European Jiu-Jitsu Open is a Title All Elite Competitors Covet”

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Faixa preta Kiko Menezes nos preparativos para o Europeu 2013 da IBJJF Foto Divulgacao

Jiu-Jitsu Professor Kiko Alves da Silva (blue jacket) is going through final preparations for the 2013 IBJJF European Open. (Publicity/GRACIEMAG file photo)

In 2013, the European Jiu-Jitsu Championship will be reaching its tenth installment. Among the four biggest events on the gentle-art calendar, the Europeans sets the tournament ball rolling in the charming and welcoming Lisbon, Portugal.

The Portuguese capital has been stage to great matches from events past, and the 2013 European Open looks set to live up to the tournament’s reputation. From the 24th to the 27th of January, athletes of all ages and belts, men and women, will heat up the Lisboan winter once again.

Ever since it’s conception, the European Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship has been a joint-venture between the IBJJF and the FPJJB, the Portuguese Jiu-Jitsu Federation, presided over by black belt Kiko Alves da Silva, with also-black belt Diogo Velença serving as vice-president.

GRACIEMAG.com had a chat with Kiko about the history and impact of the European Open on the local martial arts scene, and most importantly about the news the 2013 installment brings. Sign-ups for the European Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship remain open until January 16. Waste no time; sign up at the IBJJF.org website.

GRACIEMAG.com: The European Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship will be reaching its tenth installment, in 2013. What is your take on how the last ten years have gone?

KIKO ALVES: It was a pleasant surprise to see how the championship has evolved. What started out as a dream and project for the future has become reality. The European Open quickly became one of the most important championships in world Jiu-Jitsu. The popularity of the tournament has spread around the world, and today it’s a title coveted by all elite competitors.

Is there any way to measure how much the European Open has influenced the rise in the number of Jiu-Jitsu practitioners around Europe?

Though with every year we see exponential growth in the number of participants, federated Jiu-Jitsu in Europe is still in its embryonic stage. More federations are being created, of course, but there are still a lot of countries in Europe where the highest ranked practitioner is purple belt. They manage to open up branches of their schools by placing the highest-ranked student there to, between the different seminars by the Jiu-Jitsu professor throughout the year, assure the training program is followed. It’s a situation that happens when there’s no resident teacher, mainly in countries where the language they speak makes communication difficult, despite Jiu-Jitsu being a universal language, as we all know. Either way, the European Open has led to new schools being opened, and the new students have also helped the European Open to grow.

What was the greatest moment for you in this ten-year history of the European Open?

To me every year has great moments, when friends meet up to share news, knowledge and experiences. Truth is, that’s the essence of Jiu-Jitsu. However, there are also great moments in terms of competition as well. One of them was the champion Lucio Lagarto’s 2011 return after a prolonged period of illness. The other was Bráulio Estima’s conquest, also in 2011, when he fought only to pay tribute to a student of his who passed away. The most emotional moment was perhaps the respect thousands of students showed when, halfway through the tournament, news broke of Grandmaster Helio Gracie’s passing, in 2009. More than 3,000 people stood in silence for a minute when not a fly could be heard in the gymnasium… It was simply striking.

For those going to Lisbon, what tourism tips can you give them this year?

Lisbon is a very welcoming city and there’s great cost-benefit compared to elsewhere in Europe. We have five-star hotels that cost an average of 50 euros per night, excellent restaurants and fantastic weather at this time of the year. For those not yet familiar with the city, the imposing monuments and whole coastline are must-sees for tourists. Lisbon and the European Open have been the setting for many pleasant occurrences, re-encounters between old friends and the start of new relationships, perhaps influenced by the magic of the city of the seven hills…

What about you, how about competing with or accompanying your team to the European Open? Share what you expect to find in Lisbon in the comments fields below.

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