2014 Capital Grapple Report

June 17, 2014
The Trinity Center for Girls and Women in Sports, site of the 2014 Capital Grapple

The Trinity Center for Girls and Women in Sports, site of the 2014 Capital Grapple

Washington, D.C., June 15th, 2014


“I’m six and three-quarters years old!” said Cadence Yu, one of the youngest competitors at the recent Capital Grapple Judo and Brazilian Jujutsu event, held at Trinity Washington University in Washington D.C.

Cadence was sitting on the bleachers next to the mat with her two younger sisters Hazel and Calliope, along with dad James and mom

The Yu Family

The Yu Family

Kate. “This has been Cadence’s first competition, and we’re here for the experience”, said Kate.  “She’s been studying jujitsu for a year and a half (at 50/50 Brazilian JiuJitsu in Falls Church, VA), and this is her first opportunity to be at a competition and to compete, and we thought this would be a friendly environment to get started in.”

The Yu family was only one of scores of competitors, supporters, and officials who gathered on a perfect Spring day in the modern and spacious Trinity Center for Girls and Women in Sports to conduct and participate in this second annual women’s grappling event, which included judo and jiujutsu side by side, a unique combination in the region.

Tournament Director Terence McPartland, the Sensei (teacher) at D.C. Judo, explained why he has undertaken the task of presenting this competition opportunity for women of all ages.  “There are many grappling events of one sort or another, but very few that focus on women competitors.

Tournament Director Terence McPartland

Tournament Director Terence McPartland

“The proportion of women to male competitors is often poor, where you have to wait a whole day to have a match or two.  We wanted to provide a shorter format that was focused on women competitors and where women competitors knew that they were going to get good matches.  This has allowed us to draw from a wider region – we have people from New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland, and Virginia, D.C. It’s basically an east coast draw, and that gives people the opportunity to have more matches than they would in a “normal” event.

“We found that many women enjoy the grappling side as much as they enjoy stand-up judo, so we’ve expanded theCRFM_20140615_9540 offerings in terms of categories to include both judo and newaza (matwork grappling) in the judo division, and also BJJ.  So there’s something for everybody and people can get matches.

CRFM_20140615_9528“Our focus is to pool people in a manner that gives them the most matches.  So divisions that have five or fewer competitors wind up being a round robin to maximize matches.  There’s a limit to how much of that we can do and how much people can stand, so in larger pools we do a modified double elimination so that people will always fight at least two matches so no one comes out for nothing.”

Cindy and Sharon

Cindy Simon (top) and Sharon Hemingway

Cindy Simon and Tamara Hemingway traveled to Washington from Fairlawn New Jersey, where they study judo at the Kokushi Kai Judo Academy.  They competed in Katame No Kata, a demonstration form of judo grappling techniques which includes pins, chokes and armlocks (elbow reversals).  The women have been competing as a team for 6 months.

Hemingway and

Hemingway and Simon

“This is the second time we are competing as a team in Katame No Kata. We feel that we’re still learning, and it was a great opportunity to come here and be able to work at this, said Hemingway, who was the “uke” (the partner who is being pinned, choked, and armlocked). Simon, the “tori” (the partner who applies the techniques against uke) added,  “I greatly appreciated the feedback from the judges to help us improve and make our kata better, because that’s what this is about – getting better each time we do it. I’m having a good time and am glad for the opportunity to compete.”

Sensei Takemori leading the advice to the kata competitors

Sensei Takemori leading the advice to the kata competitors

When asked about the all-women’s format, Simon said, “I think it’s good to encourage women to compete in judo because sometimes they feel outnumbered.” Hemingway was also positive about the event’s design: “I like the all-women’s tournaments, since it’s a chance to meet more people and network with the players, and develop that network so you can encourage people to go to more tournaments so there are more women represented at all of the competitions. Today is a beautiful day, this is a beautiful facility, and I’m really happy to be here.”

Sensei James Takemori

Sensei James Takemori

Among the officials and dignitaries present, Jim Takemori, a ninth degree black belt and the sensei at the Washington Judo Club at Georgetown University, was enthusiastic.  “I think it’s a good idea because everybody has their view about women’s judo.  I have four daughters, and they were all competitors.”  Takemori, 88, is an active instructor in judo fighting and kata, and took the opportunity to advise the kata teams on how to improve their performances.  When asked about the training of women in clubs that usually have many more men than women competitors, he offered his (typically) firm opinion: “The instructors should work on the women as hard as they do on the men.”

Gabrielle Byrne is a wife, mother, and fighter in both judo and in jiujutsu.  Coming to the Capital Grapple for the first


Gabrielle Byrne

time, she brought her family along for support.  Hailing from Culpeper, VA, Byrne trains at the Mountain Kim Judo and Yamasaki Academy BJJ, also in Culpepper.  “I came because I thought it was pretty awesome that it was an all-women tournament.  It’s not something that you get from a lot of other tournaments where there may not be another girl in your division or your weight so it’s nice that they are offering something that women of all ages can come to because it gives you  more fights and more opportunity to practice and get better.”  She is CRFM_20140615_9569coached by her husband, Dennis Byrne, who is the judo instructor, and by Paul Bush for ju-jutsu at the Mountain Kim club.

“For judo, it’s always fun to throw people; it’s nice to have that in your arsenal of self-defense.  But then in judo you get a clean throw and that’s it, where in jiujutsu it’s not so much about the takedown but it’s more about the various points and the submission.  So I like to have both of them working together just to get the total package.”

Byrne and Family

Byrne and Family

Asked whether the two disciplines help each other in practice, Byrne said,  “Yes and no – there are certain aspects of both that…sometimes I have to remind myself not to try certain throws because I’ll give up my back, or it’s great when you’re holding a pin but you’re not getting any points right now for jiu-jitsu.  So they do work hand in hand but I think that each one definitely helps me to be more proficient in both.”

Byrne was especially grateful to the organizers and sponsors. “Thanks to Moxie and D.C. Judo for hosting the event.  I think it has been a great and fun day.”

A significant enabler of the success of the event was D.C. Judo’s ownership of two new mats that had been recently purchased through a relatively new funding method, “Crowd Funding”.

D.C. Judo's New Mats

D.C. Judo’s New Mats

“We’re very happy to have had the opportunity to do the “Go To The Mat” campaign, where we raised over seventeen thousand, nearly eighteen thousand dollars to fund two competition mat areas”, said McPartland.  “We had amazing support from people in judo, but also from people from jiujutsu and actually other communities who wanted to see this kind of possibility for doing events like this, small-scale events where it’s sort of an open format that makes small-scale events affordable.  We’ve taken it on ourselves to find the money.  Frankly, we got tremendously more contributions from people we had never heard of before. We had people from Italy, from the UK, judo clubs in Texas and California and Michigan who were contributing because they were interested in how we were doing it and what we were doing.  We hope it’s the kind of thing where we will be able to share our know-how and our experience with others so other people can use crowd-funding for the most expensive thing in judo which is the capital asset of mats.  It’s an exciting success for us.”

Thiago Romaraz and Terencence McPartland, of D.C. Judo

Thiago Romaraz and Terence McPartland, of D.C. Judo

Near the end of the competition, McPartland was pleased and relieved. “Part of the joy of this format is that you’re not here all day.  We’re going to be done early and people can get home and rest and have a nice day.  It doesn’t take the entire weekend to do judo – I can do it in a half a day.  And that’s part of what we’re doing these smaller events for.”




Story and Photos by Chuck Medani

Coach Certification

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