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2016: IBJJF Rome Open & IBJJF European NoGi Championship

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Laurien Zurhake

Rome, often called the eternal city, speaks to the imagination: her famous and glorious history as Caput Mundi, Capital of the world during the Roman Empire, as well as her renowned demise.
The 7th century author Bede once wrote: “as long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand;
when the Colosseum falls, Rome will fall; when Rome falls, the whole world will fall.” This passage reveals the importance and centrality of a city in general and of a specific structure in particular. Luckily for us the Colosseum, originally called amphitreatrum Flavium, still stands and what a sight it is! Upon approaching it for the first time I tried to imagine how it would be like to enter the arena as a gladiator and hopefully depart again through the Gate of Life and not through the Gate of Death.

I write extensively about the Colosseum, because the gym, Palazetto dello Sport, were we all fought, was clearly built with the Colosseum in mind. It has the same oval shape and entrances everywhere. In ancient times, these entrances were designed to structure the entry of the sometimes 60.000 spectators and to let all of them vacant the place within minutes afterwards.
Up to a point the Rome Open and Europeans BJJ No-gi may have been similar to ancient times: many different people, faces, languages, gestures, but all assembled for a similar purpose, namely either to watch or to compete. To be sure, nowadays we do not fight to the death, nor are we perceived as that which is not Roman (that is to say not civilized) yet while being at the same time highly popular and venerated by countless Roman ladies. Moreover, we fight because we choose to, not because we have to and we also do not let the audience decide our faith, whether we are about to die or live to fight another day. Still, competing in this modern-Colosseum-like structure as ‘modern gladiators’ enhanced the atmosphere.

From the Pound for Pound Team, only a handful competed. For some it was their first performance in a new belt division. For others it was another important steppingstone on their BJJ journey. Our success was this time not necessarily measured in securing many medals, with the exception of our professor Sergio ‘Canudo’ Zimmermann who secured three golden medals, but to figure out were we are at in our BJJ. What are our strengths and weaknesses? Which holes do we have in our games? For me, it was being unable to escape from the lasso-guard, for another to react faster, or to make sure to stay in your game. All these elements are of paramount importance to improve not only our BJJ, but also our mindset and general attitude.

When it comes to showing what is possible when one keeps training, our professor Sergio ‘Canudo’ Zimmermann’s performances were revealing. He won gold in his own weight class and open class gi and became European No-gi champion in his own weight class! He tapped many of his opponents under 3 three minutes. Not because he just bulldozed them with weight and strength, on the contrary, he did it with technique, patience and precision. This you develop when you test yourself infinite times on the mats. In the end, Sergio too had to go through all the hoops we are going through now and will go through.

In other words, Rome proved herself to be a stage of confrontation, change and improvement. She once again hosted a spectacle, in which the old ways have joined the new. We thank our professor and all our Pound for Pound teammates both present in Rome and at home for their support and investing in us by rolling with us.