San Francisco Open: Getting Ready for the Big Day

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Gustavo Elias chokes Caio Terra for the black belt absolute gold at the San Francisco Open

Gustavo Elias chokes Caio Terra for the black belt absolute gold at the San Francisco Open

One month from this Sunday, the Jiu-Jitsu community will be living the last day of competitions for the 2013 Pan Championship.

With the second most important event of the year so close in the agenda, BJJ athletes take every chance they have to get in competition gear as soon as possible.

The 2013 San Francisco International Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship was a perfect trial event for that.

In a chilly morning of late winter in Northern California, over 600 participants from juvenile to senior gathered at the Kezar Pavilion, close to Golden Gate Park and the world famous Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, the birthplace of the hippie movement in the 1960’s.

From 10 a.m. on, the six mats saw nonstop action with athletes giving their all and saving no drop of sweat in the search for the gold. Some of them caught the attention of the crowd, like MMA and Jiu-Jitsu legend Nino “Elvis” Schembri.

Once a Pride FC hero and always a Jiu-Jitsu world champion, Schembri had only one fight in San Francisco, but that was enough for his fans to ask a simple questions: “Are we going to see more of Nino competing from now on?” To which he answered, “I love Jiu-Jitsu, it’s my life and the only reason I don’t compete more is that I have to work so hard at my academy, and then I don’t have time to properly prepare to face such high skilled and physically fit opponents.”

Point made, Schembri promised to be more present.

“I want to fight this year at the Pan and then at the Worlds,” he said. “For that, I need to train more with black belts.

In San Francisco, Schembri proved how dangerous he can be. Elvis is 38 and even so he had a great performance to outscore Gustavo Pires 5-0 with a guard pass and a takedown.

“I remember Sirizinho as a child in Rio and now he is huge, much bigger than me. He is a great guy and it was a honor to roll with him,” Schembri said about the victory that granted him the superheavy division gold.

The black belt division had other attractions, like the Mendes brothers naturally closing out the featherweight division after one fight for each.

Rafael Mendes tapped out Geoffrey Villareal with an armlock and Gui had a 4-2 sweep exchange with Osvaldo Moizinho.

Teaching classes daily in their academy in Costa Mesa, Calif., the Mendes’ manage to stay in competition mode no matter what.

Another set of brothers also used the S.F. Open to prepare for the big league. Paulo and João Miyao tagged along the Mendes to compete.

As usual the duo displayed a lot of berimbolo for the pleasure of some and the distaste of others.

At the brown belt open class quarter final, Paulo needed five or six attempts until finally getting the opponents back to get the tap.

“That’s what we do in the academy,” he said. “We do every movement over and over until we get it right.”

In the end, they closed out the featherweight and the absolute.

Nevertheless, the main character of the day was Gustavo Dias Elias. The Gracie Humaita black belt had no easy task to win the black belt adult absolute category.

First, a face-off with rising star Magid Hage IV, the man with the killer baseball choke. Heavier and more experienced, Elias imposed his game to pass guard, almost take the back, get the mount and win 7-0.

In the semifinal, the opponent was Osvaldo Moizinho, who also fell victim of a precise submission technique, this time a leg lock.

The big final was a weight mismatch against roosterweight Caio Terra. The world champion did what he could to defend and even tried a triangle choke that gave Elias a lot of trouble. Even so, in the end, Elias once again combined a lot of technique with the weight advantage to sink another bow and arrow choke to secure the gold.

Such a performance made Elias think of greater goals.

“When I was in Brazil, I couldn’t train because I was working so much,” he said. “For a year and a half now I have been in San Diego training with other Gracie Humaita black belts and my game is coming back. I am a world champion in all the colored belts and now I wan’t the gold medal also as a black belt.”

At the Teams competition, the local schools reigned absolute:

1 – Brazilian Top Team Long Beach – 99
2 – Yemaso Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – 76
3 – Ralph Gracie – 70

If you want more details on Graciemag’s full coverage of the 2013 San Francisco International IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Open Championship, go to our Google+ page.

Here are 62 great images of the 2013 San Francisco Open.

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