The other day, one of my favorite black belts, Tom DeBlass, made a post on his Facebook page about his student Garry Tonon’s first black belt, Gordon Ryan, with whom DeBlass is very close. Over the weekend, Gordon had a match at the Onnit Invitational in which he played an unorthodox defensive offense. He went on to win that match, but some people in the BJJ community felt that Gordon’s actions during the match were disrespectful. Here’s the text of DeBlass’ post:
“I see numerous comments saying Gordon Ryan was disrespectful in his match last night on the Onnit invitational?
Why? Because he allowed his opponent to mount him?
Do you not realize that was in his game plan?
After Gordon submitted his opponent he did not cheer obsessively, he shook his opponent’s hand.
Just because it’s not your style of Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Watch he and Garry Lee Tonon you will realize they do things much different then most, so what!
If you ever train with Sha in the city he will let you mount him repeatedly, then he will leg lock you repeatedly.
I don’t understand how that was disrespectful by any means; it was part of the game plan.
If I’m training with Gordon and he lets me mount I will either totally avoid it or try and smother him.
Different styles for different individuals.
I found this post to be interesting and telling of the BJJ community. I’ve experienced a lot of backlash for having an unorthodox style. I’ve been told by several instructors independently that the way I roll upsets their students. However, at the gym where I currently train many of my teammates choose to roll with me BECAUSE the way I roll upsets them. That is to say, it takes them out of their comfort zone and makes them expand how they roll.
I think that DeBlass touched on a few key points. For starters, sportsmanship doesn’t mean that you play the game your opponent or training partner wants to play. Not playing their “game of choice” doesn’t mean that you dislike your opponent or training partner, or that you don’t respect them. It means that you are trying to take them out of their element in order to implement your own game plan.
One thing I’ll do that has been seen by some as disrespectful is to reach my arms above my head when an opponent or training partner is in my guard. Sometimes I’ll even wiggle my fingers at them. I don’t do this because I think poorly of the other person or because I’m trying to hurt them emotionally or physically, I do it because it forces my sleeves down towards my elbows making establishing a grip on my arms more difficult and because it serves as a distraction from what I am doing with my lower body. But time and again I’ve had people think that I’m doing what I am doing out of disrespect…
We are doing a combat sport. The goal of a combat sport is to overcome another person. When you’re playing chess you don’t get mad when the other person uses a gambit (giving up a piece to gain positional advantage,) thinking that they just did it to upset you, why would you get mad when someone does something similar in jiu jitsu?
If someone doing something silly or distracting is enough to take us out of our element then, guess what, it is working! If Gordon Ryan wants to give his opponent mount in order to try to set up leg lock entries, it’s not out of spite or disrespect towards his opponent; it’s out of wanting to win the match…
We are doing a combat sport… Harden up. Don’t let someone else trying to work their own game upset you, don’t take it personally unless they make it personal by showing poor sportsmanship or refusing to let go when you tap. See Video Here
EDIT: Gordon Ryan’s opponent, Jams Partridge, reached out to make a clarification: while there was ire and upset over Gordon Ryan’s conduct during the match, Partridge himself was very happy with Gordon’s sportsmanship and the opportunity to compete against Gordon. Any and all hard feelings were from people who weren’t directly involved in the match.