Marcelo Garcia and I at 2014 NY Spring Open. Photo: John "Ric" Ricard

Marcelo Garcia and I at 2014 NY Spring Open. Photo: John “Ric” Ricard

Today is not like most Friday’s. Instead of being home at 5pm on a Friday and writing out this post, usually I am across the Hudson River in New York City and at Marcelo Garcia’s academy–probably waking up from a nap in the MGinAction room and starting to get myself prepared for the second half of my day training and drilling. At this point I may also be checking my phone to make sure my 6pm drilling partner, Adam Benayoun, will be on time. But I don’t want to throw him under the bus, he’s usually right on time.

Today is an unusual rest day because tomorrow the IBJJF New York Summer Open at City College in New York City starts at 9:30am EST and I will be there again competing in the black belt lightweight category. Besides the World Championships in California, the IBJJF tournaments in the City are the tournaments I look forward to most throughout the year. Of course, one reason is because I actually get the opportunity to wake up in my own bed the morning of the competition, but that’s not the only reason for my excitement to compete at home.

I love competing at home because I like the idea of  fighting to”defend the home turf.” Nowadays the hype is always behind how high of a level the Jiu-Jitsu is on the West Coast, and it’s true. But at the same time it feels as though the East Coast doesn’t get enough praise when it comes to some of the teams out here, so whenever there is a notable East Coast tournament I feel that it’s important to hold our ground and show what East Coaster’s are made of. I feel like this can turn into a powerful speech some high school football coach would tell to his players, but I won’t go that far. Simply, I like to show everyone what we’ve got.

Another reason why I always look forward to competing at home is because of having the home crowd to support me, and that I can give the support right back. Don’t get me wrong, Copa Podio and the World Pro in Abu Dhabi were unique and great experiences but there is nothing like having all your teammates behind you and rooting for you. While in Brazil and Abu Dhabi I felt like I needed the extra mental push to get through a tough match, the loud and encouraging cheers in New York helped me through the tough matches without the extra mental strain.

I remember the first No-Gi Pans in New York City when I was 16 competing at blue belt light-featherweight. I was so excited when I won my final because not only was it my first adult IBJJF title but my first win in the adult category overall! Also, what made the moment even better was that I remember an excited roar in the crowd when I started celebrating. Seeing others cheering me on and celebrating with me in the victory made the win all the more memorable.

Then going back a few months ago to the last New York Open in April where I won the black belt absolute category was also something very special to me. It was a great feeling to have guys like Paul Schreiner, Bernardo Faria and of course Marcelo in my corner giving me commands, I felt like with them there nothing could go wrong. I knew as long as I stayed calm and listened to them everything would work out. Also having 100+ teammates there in full support (especially in the absolute final) was the biggest motivational push and the biggest confidence boost.

So, I am looking forward to tomorrow and not just for my own personal reasons. I am also really excited to see all of our 80+ competitors from Marcelo’s in action. I like to have the opportunity to coach others and support teammates in any way so that they can achieve there goals and in New York there’s always plenty to help out over the expected 12 hour-long day.

Okay, time to end this and start focusing more on tomorrow. Hopefully when I post again I’ll have some good results to share with you all. Osss.

Gianni Grippo
Marcelo Garcia Black Belt | English Major at Montclair State University | NJ/NYC

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