Survivor Series, one of the pinnacle events of the WWF of yesteryear. It was also the name given to a submission only 5 man grappling event held in little old Christchurch New Zealand. The brain child of the Scott Hamilton doppleganger himself, Jason Koster.
It was the first of many things. First time all the gyms came together and competed in this format. First time I had experienced a true “open mat” situation with all the grappling community (nearly) in Christchurch and even a school from Dunedin taking part. First time Paul Eathorne wore a gi to compete, and Kerry Saggers had gi pants on! First time we all came together as a community of grapplers. It was an awesome concept that really has taken off now all over the grappling world. Looking back now at details to correctly document this historic event, Jase was a bit of a pioneer!
It was truly a monumental day. I am actually very lucky to be alive as I just realised that the event was on the day before my first wedding anniversary, grappling aside, my wife probably should have done the peoples elbow on me, even Hulk Hogan couldn’t have gotten up to shake the finger after that!
So, Jason had the dream-child, it was a 5 person team event so the first 2 would match up, if there was a winner, they would stay on like king of the mats styles and the next member of the opposing team would be up. There was a recipe for some awesome match ups here, Alison Holsts herself could not have dreamt up a better one!! I couldn’t wait. The Groundworx team was new, Hayden Wilson, Jase Ringdahl, myself and ……(another dude, blue belt, didn’t keep training with us). Only Hayden and I had been in a grappling event before, I had only been training for just on 18 months, a 2 stripe killer lol. This was early days for BJJ in the 03 though, the teams were young but very hungry and now looking back, there are some of these good people still rolling today! There are too many to name them all but I will do my best as we go through this post.
Here it was, the day was on us, it was a really sunny day, February 27, 2010. We had teams from Strikeforce Canterbury, Groundworx BJJ, Academy of Combat, MyBJJ (Dunedin BJJ then), Canterbury Judo. Some of the bigger gyms had 2 teams but I believe there were 9 teams all up. We each got 2 match ups for the teams, Groundworx first went up against the Judo team and to be fair, I was nervous about this one. The judo team was Graeme Spinks, Kerry Saggers, Andrew Butterfield, Andre Pinkert and Peter Broom. These aren’t typically names that we associated with BJJ at the time but they were all very experienced grapplers, me, the white belt 2 stripe killer weighing in at 70kgs was not such a formidable force. The first match for our team was Jason Ringdahl and Kerry Saggers. It was maybe the 2nd month of BJJ for Jase, we had already decided we weren’t going to stay standing with the judo team for fear of being thrust at a great rate of knots into the earth and Jase had pulled closed guard. Kerry did what he does very well and he put Jase out cold with an ezekiel choke. Hayden went out onto the mats to put him in the recovery position and he said something I will never forget, “Hayden, what are you doing out here?”. He had done very well to grapple against someone of that calibre and in his defense, he had never seen an ezekiel and thought he was doing well with the guard and he was! This was also the time that I really saw first hand how good at newaza the judo players are. Even without the focus being on the ground game, the control and concepts are very similar even though now I am trying to learn judo, it doesn’t seem as obvious to me but then again I am a special little boy, I did punch myself in the face the other day whilst grappling! I ground out a draw against Andre Pinkert, though in the 4 minutes I can remember defending the entire time and never really getting any chance to try and launch an effective attack! Still, I didn’t lose! Peter Broom went up against Hayden for our last match in this round and again, it was a draw. These Judo dudes weren’t going to be as easy as we all thought!
The Strikeforce team (Forrest Goodwin, Gareth Ealey, Jason Koster, Paul Eathorne and Simon (sorry can’t remember last name) was coached by Deane Brewer and led by the grappling stalwart Karl Webber and we all knew they were not going to be beaten easily! I had already trained with the Strikeforce team for a year before Groundworx opened up so I was good friends with them already and knew how good they all were! They had a very strong MMA fighter base and these guys were all great grapplers. I watched them up against the Dunedin BJJ team who, even though I had never seen them before at this point in time, were a very strong team led by Stuart Marks who is now a 1st degree black belt and an excellent coach for the MyBJJ team in New Zealand. I cannot recall who else was in their team unfortunately, hopefully we can get a recount of this from some other people who took part to fill in the gaps! In these matches, it was the Strikeforce MMA champion Gareth Ealey who was leading the charges, he had submitted some of their team and was up against Stuart Marks in the last match and being that they had team members still left, Strikeforce walked away the victors. Team Judo and Strikeforce both had a win.
I was also excited to see the Academy of Combat teams (Cam Steer, Scott Benson, Jason Branks, Slav and John Erskine) compete, I knew who they all were, everyone in Christchurch did as Geoff was the only BJJ black belt I even knew of in the area and the team were all high grades with plenty of experience!
At this point in time, John Erskine and Gareth Ealey were both at the top of their weight class in MMA and were having epic battles there, today was another treat for us all when they faced each other in the Academy vs Strikeforce semi final match. Gareth had already submitted 3 people in a row before facing John and the battle was amazing! There was no slowing down and I can vividly remember Gareth getting an omoplata only for John to roll out and it was rolling in and out of these from both of them before John escaped to launch his own attacks!! This was a draw that we all really won watching! Again, with team members still remaining, Strikeforce had the win.
With Strikeforce having secured their place in the final, they needed to have someone to face. The Judo team squared up against the Academy team now to see who it would be.
The Academy of Combat teams did not disappoint us at all again, they were in full force. Unfortunately for them, Slav was submitted by Andre and they were just edged out by the Judo team to make the epic final between Judo players Graeme Spinks, Kerry Saggers, Peter Broom, Andre Pinkert and Andrew Butterfield and the Strikeforce team of Forrest Goodwin, Gareth Ealey, Jason Koster, Paul Eathorne and Simon.
We all took our places to witness the final, you could have cut the tension in the room with a knife, or a well timed judo chop.
Kerry Saggers vs Paul Eathorne was first, Paul and I have been friends since high school and I knew he was better than the white belt he always wore! It was a great back and forth match with Paul getting good positions but Kerry always turning the tide and not allowing him to get the control he needed. First match was a draw. Next up was Simon vs Andrew Butterfield, great match between 2 very strong and skillful grapplers, It went back and forth with great technique and submission attempts from both but neither could finish in the 4 minutes that they were given to work with. Draw. This brought out probably one of the most sought out match ups – Jason Koster vs Graeme Spinks. The coach vs the pupil, it was fought on the feet for a long time as we knew it would, both judo players not allowing the other the grips they needed. Once it did hit the mats, it became a battle for the footlock from Jason but with it just not quite on, it also ended up in a draw. If you watch the video below of the final, you see Jason at 2:13 looking to set up an inside heel hook with a cross ashi garami, like I said, pioneer of the grappling! It was used to set up the straight footlock which in turn brought the draw.
Now, next up was Andre Pinkert from the Judo squad and Forrest Goodwin, the lean, mean, string bean, always clean grappling machine from Strikeforce. Forrest used his insanely long legs to play guard and then, from a back escape himself, he managed to secure Andre’s back with a body triangle lock and RNC under the chin, this caused a tap. There was also a discussion about the use of the body triangle but it is not applied as a spine lock, it is just a form of control that is very painful when used correctly. It also brought out Peter Broom for Judo to take on Forrest next. This was the last player that team Judo had and Peter did not disappoint either. Forrest played his game well but Peter blasted the go go gadget legs out of the way to advance with great control to the arm bar position, Forrest clung in there and worked his way out and, when Peter took the face down position thus exposing his back, Forrest managed to get the full back control and again apply the body triangle. Tap. Win for Strikeforce.
It was an awesome event to have been involved in, I believe it really did serve as a platform to help launch the grappling community in Christchurch, we all made new friends, saw some amazing matches and really saw that we have a common ground shared, not a club vs club rivalry. The friendships I established in this time are still strong today. There were some amazing throws going down with the judo teams doing what they do so well, Graeme Spinks sending players into orbit with well timed tomo nagae throws, a bad trap for inexperienced standing grapplers but so well played by him! I am sure that all of us who were there took away our own highlights but these were mine.
“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get” – Forrest Gump
I have posted below two videos that the Pro Judo YouTube channel put up, good insight showing the judo teams matches on their way to the finals. I even got a short clip holding Andre Pinkert in my guard at 4:28 in the prelim video, clean shaven was my first mistake….
See how many people you can spot and name!