Martial Arts – Rumble in the Redwoods

It started out as a challenging situation, as most great endeavours do. It wasn’t the first time I would stand in line for an entire day just to weigh in for an event. Irritated, hungry, edgy, we stood. In the baking Hawaiian sun or the intense Florida heat, we stood, waiting. Many lost the fight before they ever weighed in. Many more just left out of frustration before their feet ever touched the scale. Was it all part of the plan? Tire them out. Wear them down. Break them. Or was it just a lack of organization?

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“Them”, who’s “them”? The first Americans to compete in our beloved Brazilian jiu jitsu on our home soil. “Hey, that weigh-in line is moving a lot faster, but you have to speak Portuguese to be in it.” So we waited. In retrospect and, to their credit and my pleasure and dismay, I was shuttled through a small hole in the wall, at the Tijiuca tennis stadium outside of Rio, while competing at the world championships. Apparently the roles were reversed as I watched the Brasileiros have to wait , as I, an Americano , was led directly to the scale. Times have changed but you can’t make this stuff up.

Back in the states, I obviously realized that to change anything about the circumstances, at this juncture would be futile, yet I had a vision. Someday, I would create an event that would put the athletes first. Take into consideration their needs. Recognize the Herculean effort that is required to compete. The time, effort, money, putting aside of life for the sole purpose of testing ones meddle. From those trying times, the Rumble in the Redwoods was manifested.

Brazilian jiu jitsu has come a long way in the last two decades. Weigh-ins are much more timely. Bracketing software allows for up to the minute updates at the bigger venues. Professional referees add to the validity of the events. It’s not just Americans and Brazilians anymore. We are now truly on the global stage. There are tournaments held almost every weekend, an unthinkable accomplishment twenty years ago. Yet still it comes down to the athlete as performer. Without them, there is no show. Treat them fairly, do your best to give them the best. It’s a win/win. Of course, things can and will go wrong. There is always something that will throw a wrench into the system. All things considered however, things are much better and we are all the better for it. Fair unbiased judging is absolutely essential, so we make it a priority to get the top referees. Safe mat areas and organized competitive pools help to expedite the process. Volunteers, lots and lots of volunteers to help with everything from set up to take down.

A vision of symbiosis, where the athletes, staff, and spectators emerge as one entity. All for the benefit of evolving our art. For there inevitably comes a time, in all endeavours, that the fruits of your labor ripen. The taste is bold and brilliant. The energy sings to the skies. The time when all the elements combine, if even for a split second. Athletes intensely engaged, spectators enamored with the game, staff and crew working hard behind the scenes. Listen for the roar of the crowd. That’s the sign.

Professor Chris Smith is the tournament director of the 12th annual Rumble in the Redwoods Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition held on 2/11/17 at DeAnza college in Cupertino Ca. . He is the owner of Tiger Martial arts in Aptos Ca. and has been teaching in Santa Cruz county for close to thirty years.

Professor Smith holds five black belts in different arts and is the only black belt in Santa Cruz county to be awarded his rank directly from a member of the world famous Gracie family. His website is and the facebook page for the competition is

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Prof. Chris Smith
Prof. Chris Smith is the only Black Belt in Santa Cruz county to be awarded his Black Belt directly from a member of the world famous Gracie family. Please visit his website at