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I’m constantly amazed by the steady progress at which jiu jitsu has been able to spread its influence across the world. I’ve seen and experienced this evolution first hand here in the Pacific Northwest. When I say the Pacific Northwest I’m primarily talking about Oregon and Washington. I’ve seen jiu jitsu spread its wings through the growth of academies, the promotion of more high-level black and brown belts, and the increase of local competitions in the Portland and Seattle areas.
When I first started training jiu jitsu in late 2002 I was fascinated by the way this type of martial art engulfed my interest, as well as many of my closest friends. And apparently I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. Shortly after I started, jiu jitsu had gone viral and was spreading like wild fire. I knew we were a part of something special, something that would eventually be mainstream. The lime light finally came for jiu jitsu in the form of UFC and its television show the Ultimate Fighter Series. This was the defining point when jiu jitsu was becoming a house hold name that people recognized. At that point and time I trained with a small academy in Astoria, Oregon, and I also attended NWMA in Eugene, while attending school at Lane Community College. When I started training at NWMA there was about 30-40 students including only a few purple and blue belts. Now fast forward to 2010 and their academy is in a new location with easily 100+ students with black and brown belts on the rise. The school I attended in Astoria is still there today but hasn’t seen the growth that most schools in the Northwest have. I’ve noticed rapid growth in the NW with competing teams: Gracie Barra, Marcelo Alonso Team, Impact, NWMA, Pedro Sauer Team, and of course our home academy in Seaside which has grown from a handful of students to over 70 members now.
Along with the abundance of academies that have popped up in the last few years, there has also been a huge influx of higher belts. There’s close to twenty black belts in Oregon alone, along with a slew of brown belts. Even though I believe we as a whole are behind the curve as far as the national competition scene, there’s been major gains in the last few years. Having access to so many black belts in the state is helping rapidly raise the technical level of jiu jitsu players in the NW. More advanced positions and training partners are contributing to build ultra tough guys who are starting to make a name for themselves locally, and at the national level. There’s been students from local academies winning the World Championships at the blue and purple belt levels and I don’t think the brown and black belts trail far behind. Along with the Worlds competition, local guys and all belts are medaling at the Pan Ams, Nationals, US Open, American Cup, Grapplers Quest and IBJJF International Open events. Its good to see the steady growth of the competitors coming from the Northwest. In the next few years I can guarantee some of the tough schools around here will produce even more champions.
Since I love to compete and have been frequently competing in tournaments since 2003 I’ve experienced the huge explosion of the competition scene first hand. When I competed in my first tournament in Hillsboro, OR in the summer of 2003 there was about 85 competitors all crammed on the top floor of an old gym with a room temperature hot enough to make you pass out by just standing there.
Since then tournaments like the Oregon Open have had close to 600 competitors, and The Revolution Tournament has above 500 competitors. We now have huge blue belt divisions and at least a few fights for the purple belts at all weight levels. There’s even starting to be brown belt divisions with a few competitors in each bracket.
Along with more colored belts competing, the level of the competitors is also almost on par with some of the smaller tournaments across the nation like Grapplers Quest and NAGA. With local tournaments busting at the seams it wont be very long until we have an event with over 1000+ competitors. All these combined factors are pushing the evolution of jiu jitsu at a rate this area of the world has never experienced. If your like me, you are excited for what the future will bring for this amazing martial art.
Article Written by: Zach Adamson, Seaside Jiu Jitsu Brown Belt