An Australian Elite Team grading is the stuff of legend. Among the BJJ crew I mix with, anyway.
Ninos doesn’t tell a student when they’re about to grade – he tells everyone else. The class begins as usual, but sometime midway through a demonstration he or she whose time it is will suddenly be pounced on by a pre selected student – a collective roar will go up, accompanied by the thunderous sound of bare feet and hands, slapping and stomping the mat in encouragement.
“The chosen one” quickly realises it’s time to put up their biggest fight yet and gets to work, while Ninos regally makes his way through the crowd of students selecting the next opponents.
On the battles go, until everyone has rolled with the suffering student. The most senior team members give him or her a hard time before it’s Ninos’ turn.
The crowd again roars as the head of AET shows how it’s done, and when he decides they’ve fought hard enough, a submission is applied which signals the grading is complete.
I was hoping to witness this and the hardcore belt whipping that follows before I left, and last weekend I was able to.
AET held an open day at the new headquarters; a bigger warehouse than the old digs, kitted out with arguably one of the biggest mat spaces in the country (and even then training can still feel crowded).
Around 300 people came – mostly grapplers and their family members from affiliates, but also rival club members, to show their support.
Three students graded, two to purple and one to blue.
Poor Dany dislocated his knee halfway through, but he continued on with all the moves he was able to do.
The line up at the end for belt whipping was pretty epic – whites and blues the full length of the mat with a second line needed for purple, brown and black belts.
Some really heartfelt speeches followed, then it was barbecue and open training time!
I got to hang with a gorgeous bunch of jits girls, and received some tips from one, Emily – to get more comfortable on my neck/shoulders and in situations where I’m being stacked. (“bring your knees into your chest, people forget they have another joint between their neck and legs!”)
I’m gonna miss these kids.
– How do your club gradings work?! Do you like the surprise approach?