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FILM REVIEW: The History of The SoCal Jiu-Jitsu Scene, “ROLL: Jiu-Jitsu in SoCal”

AJ Camacho

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Roll, is a love letter to the Southern California Jiu-Jitsu scene. Ironically, it was crafted from the UK-centric production company, Eat Films, and English filmmaker Dan Lewis. Their UK roots may make the filmmakers seem as outsiders, interlopers to the So-Cal Jiu-Jitsu scene, but it’s clear that their heritage and lineage is sourced from this very epicenter of Jiu-Jitsu. They approach the So-Cal scene with an almost fanboyish wide-eyed adoration, but it’s this very same approach that grants them access to core auxiliary participants of the blooming early 90’s Jiu-Jitsu scene.

And who can blame them? These were the early garage days of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, where a BJJ black belt was considered a no holds barred street fighting god who could destroy every man in the room in any gym in the country. This was a rare time period where Brazilian Jiu-Jistu was still atomic warfare in a martial arts landscape which was still in the stone age.

The film gathers a broad range of So-Cal Jiu-Jitsu compatriots to help flesh out the history of Jiu-Jitsu in Southern California. Old school grapplers like Richard Bressler, Ethan Milius, Scott Nelson (OTM founder), and even Dirty Dozen legend Chris Hauter share their experiences. With the aid of archive footage and interviews, they paint the setting of early 90’s BJJ scene. A time that consisted of 30-minute private sessions in garages with clandestine groups of practitioners who had to be in the know, just to know about the art.

Archival photo from the film.

Archival photo from the film.

And these core contributors lay it all out bold, blunt, and with pride. From the Gracie Challenge bouts down to Rorion’s borderline thuggish dojo storming PR campaign, these veterans explain their implicit roles in the domination and maturation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the landscape of an early 90’s California leading to the debut of UFC 1. It’s an amazing insight into a time period that most people were never aware of let alone got to live.

From there, the film moves on to the next phase of BJJ’s growth. Once the Gracie’s broke ground with The Ultimate Fighting Challenge they unleashed a demand for Jiu-Jitsu that they alone could not accommodate. Almost immediately, Brazilian BJJ champions migrated to California to establish roots in the burgeoning Jiu-Jitsu scene. Jokes are made, that the women and the waves are what brought the Brazilians, but sheer economic survival was reason enough. Saulo & Xande Ribiero anchor this leg of the film, sharing how they started their Jiu-Jitsu University school in the mid-west before realizing that they belonged in Southern California.

With the waters tested, more Brazilians kept flooding in to meet the seemingly bottomless demand for high-level Jiu-Jitsu training. With them, they brought elite competition and even the tournaments saw the financial value of hosting their major events in Southern California. JT Torres and Marcus Almeida make an appearance sharing their view on the modern BJJ scene that emerged from these circumstances. And even Shoyoroll founder, Bear Quitugua, and Budo Videos founder, Budo Jake, make an appearance to talk about the commercialization of Jiu-Jitsu and even Jiu-Jitsu apparel.

Shoyoroll founder, Bear Quitugua, keeps his collection of champion Gis in a pile in the back of his warehouse next to an old Tekken machine. Are you fucking jealous yet?

Shoyoroll founder, Bear Quitugua, keeps his collection of champion Gis in a pile in the back of his warehouse next to an old Tekken machine. Are you fucking jealous yet?

The film gives an expansive overview, but it’s not to say that the documentary is without its faults. Ultimately the core mechanics of the piece relies heavily on talking head interviews, gym footage, and roadside art montages of the California coast. And it’s a beautiful combination demonstrating Dan Lewis’ mastery of the short form documentary format as he applies it to this full-length film treatment. In its length, though, the connecting concepts between each component becomes tenuous and the structure almost monotonous as the short form approach is pushed to its limits. But the film seems to know this, even presenting a forward saying that the film was made during a 7 day trip from the UK to California. It almost feels as if the sheer size of the subject just couldn’t be contained under such a brief production schedule. Or maybe, it was intended to be a short film that just ended up busting out at the seems from all of the amazing stories they collected?

I say that it almost becomes monotonous, because it actually doesn’t. Despite these structural criticisms, a documentaries’ strength will ultimately lie in its subject matter. And the subject matter here is rich and entertaining. These are essential SoCal Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stories cementing the foundation of what would grow into the Jiu-Jitsu that we live and breath today. No BJJ practitioner should live without witnessing this film, and most would revel in the anecdotal storytelling alone.

From the film. The Miyao Brothers teaching a free seminar at Studio 540 in San Diego.

From the film. The Miyao Brothers teaching a free seminar at Studio 540 in San Diego.

Sure, the speeches against modern sports Jiu-Jitsu can run a little long in the tooth but it’s still a message that needs to be respected and understood even at the core of any pure sports oriented grappler. The discussion itself though feels a little disconnected from heft of the earlier portion of the film and many times I found myself wishing for more stories with Chris Hauter. With more time and access you almost wish they would make a separate film about The Dirty Dozen just to exhume the stories behind the first twelve American black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But that’s a different film and the goal of Roll is much more expansive.

Ultimately, the thesis of the film is that Southern California is the current mecca of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The case is convincingly made and even if you disagree, the importance of the story is vital to the heritage of Jiu-Jitsu. The film does a great job of laying out a topical road map for those that are not familiar with the background story. We get to see a handful of key figures and hear their stories from their own mouths. From this overall encompassing take on the scene, you can already see how the culture is brimming and waiting with awesome stories to be told. But with their 7-day stay in the States, the filmmakers just began to scratch the surface. Here’s hoping for more.

“ROLL: Jiu-Jitsu in SoCal”, is currently being hosted for free on YouTube so definitely check it out. And if you like it be sure to donate back to Eat Films so that they can keep putting out amazing content about the Jiu-Jitsu scene.

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Interviews

Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”

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Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:

Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”

Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.

Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”

Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.

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Announcement

Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217

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UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.

The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:

It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.

Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.

 

This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.

With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th?  Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.

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Announcement

*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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