Interview: Chrissy & Brian Linzy On US Grappling

This week, Chrissy and Brian talk about US Grappling, further fleshing out the interview already posted on the Martial Arts Illustrated website (and indeed the article Chrissy wrote a few years ago). Chrissy and Brian talked about their start in BJJ last week, then will be talking about women’s classes and wrapping up next week.


CAN: So, you both started BJJ around 2005, 2006. When did US Grappling begin?

 CHRISSY LINZY: We started running events – they weren’t called US Grappling yet – in 2006. The first US Grappling events were just local tournaments in Richmond, paired up with MMA shows.

 BRIAN LINZY: At this point, Andrew had competed in hundreds of matches, just name the organisation.

 CHRISSY LINZY: Yeah, in jiu jitsu, wrestling, judo, all over the place. Andrew had tonnes of information about how to not run a good tournament, as well as how to run a good one of course, he’d seen it all over the years. 2007 was the first event that was ever run with the US Grappling name. That was a long time ago: it’s been more than seven years now! It’s so crazy, it doesn’t feel like that at all.

 BRIAN LINZY: In Milwaukee.

 CHRISSY LINZY: Yeah, Milwaukee: we went there in February. Best laid plans! [laughs] It was so cold, so cold.

 CAN: US Grappling is known for submission only. How did that come about?

 BRIAN LINZY: I remember the conversation.

 CHRISSY LINZY: Do you? I don’t remember the first conversation, so maybe you should talk about that.

 BRIAN LINZY: I believe Andrew was the first person to say it. I just remember we were standing in the kitchen, after a tournament. We were talking about planning future events in Virginia and we were discussing the possibility of an event in Roanoke. That’s not a big city: it’s probably five or six hours from Virginia Beach, way out west. I don’t remember what it was that was drawing us out there, but we were talking about an event there.


 CHRISSY LINZY: There are some colleges out that way, some jiu jitsu schools that find Richmond or Virginia a little too far. So, the thinking was if we did something a bit further west, it would get those people in. The diehard competitors will travel five or six hours, but we thought we could maybe expose grappling tournaments to a broader audience. I remember that part, we were trying to figure out ways to get new pockets into becoming competitors, then they would join the diehards.

So we started talking about ways to protect ourselves, like what if four hundred people show up? We had never run a four hundred person event at that point, around 2008. We capped registration, said it would be pre-reg only, then opened it up at the last minute saying we had space for a few more people. My brain immediately went to thinking that we would need data on everything. [laughs]

We changed our brackets to make sure that there was a space on there for the result of each match and how long it lasted. Then we just went for it. I think we were going to cap it at 150 people, then we got around 120 for the first event.

BRIAN LINZY: Yeah, this was in Winchester, VA.

CHRISSY LINZY: Which is north-western Virginia. We got all the brackets, I went through them one-by-one, calculating how many armbars were there, how long did each match last: I think you guys have seen the statistics, I’ve done that since the first event. It takes a little while, as it’s match by match and bracket by bracket, but you know, we get really good data.

I see trends in submissions, submission popularity trends, probably before most people. For example, blue belts really like bow and arrow chokes now. Two years ago, that was just starting: I’ve watched the bow and arrow statistics climb over the last two years. It’s an interesting thing. Kimuras are much more popular than they were five years ago. So that’s kind of interesting thing, if you’re into the stats side of things. [laughs]

CAN: [laughs] You know that I am! Yeah, you’ve mentioned that before, I think when you wrote that article for me, but that you didn’t want to release that data.

CHRISSY LINZY: Well, we put it all out there, but if I had more time, I would do even more analysis. I have no problem giving the data to whoever wants it, especially if they’re going to do something with it. If you just want to know what submissions Alliance blue belts are working on, we have that. We can certainly gather that. But if you just want it so you can gun for Alliance blue belts – or whoever it is, that’s the first team that popped into my head…

BRIAN LINZY: You can have our data if you’re going to do good with it.

CHRISSY LINZY: Yeah, you can use it for good, not evil. [laughs] There’s a guy in Richmond, mostly a judo guy, a crossfit, strength and conditioning coach. As part of his graduate work, he’s doing stuff with the submission data. I’m really interested to see what’s going to come out of the information he’s been using. But yeah, whatever information people want about the matches, I’m happy to share it. Women’s matches versus men’s, blue belts versus purple belts, whatever. I think it’s all really interesting.


CAN: Absolutely. I know I would love to have an in-depth breakdown of submissions at the different belt levels, what’s most effective, sweeps, that kind of thing. It is probably financially valuable data, you could release that as a book. There are lots of people who want to know the best submissions at different levels.

CHRISSY LINZY: Yeah, and we’ve certainly had that over the years. Not sweeps, but submissions for sure. Every match isn’t filmed, but absolutely how the matches end. We’ve done it in a few of our points events too, I just have to convince the table workers, “No really, I am going to read all these brackets, please write it all down!” It’s ends up about fifty percent of the matches go the distance, so half end in submission.

Stuff like that is invaluable when you’re trying to make an event that runs on time. Using this information is how we keep our events as close to on-time as we do. I think that’s something we’ve really improved on: we’ve focused on it over the years, so we work hard to make a good schedule and keep divisions going on time. That way you don’t have to sit around a smelly gym all day, it’s not what you want to do with your Saturday.

Almost every event that we do, because we post the events average time up afterwards, it is almost always around eight minutes. 07:49, 08:14. I think one event almost went up to around nine minutes, but we had another where for the whole event, the average match time was under five minutes. It was a smaller event to be fair, so fewer matches for data.

So it’s always really interesting to see that, the big average. I can’t average the five minute tournament with the nine minute tournament and get seven minutes, that’s not how it works. You have to do it by the match counts and get a proper average. But it still comes out at about eight minutes.

CAN: Do you think it could take over from something like the Mundials in terms of prestige?

CHRISSY LINZY: I think for some people it will always mean more to win by submission. I think it would be great if it did that, I would certainly love the opportunity to have four hundred black belts instead of eight or ten at an event. I would love for us to grow to that point, especially if we can do it with submission only and make multi-day submission only events for people. The most important thing is that we can still provide our product, to provide the real US Grappling experience.

One of the biggest things I like is when competitors come to weigh in, we remember them. We know who we’ve seen from place to place. It used to be me, because I weighed in everyone, but it’s no longer just me. The people that are coming now, that we’re training to do this, they remember the men and women from the previous event. “The last time we were in Chicago you were a blue belt, so you must have got promoted: congratulations!”

It’s the little things like that which I think really make a difference, when you can actually connect with the community. That makes you feel they are part of it in the same way you are, not just somebody who got lumped into the role of taking their money and yelling “Next.” We’re all part of the same community.

BRIAN LINZY: And we’re not gunning for any other organisations. I wouldn’t say that we’re trying to ‘replace’ IBJJF or anything like that. I still like to go to the Pan Ams, it’s a whole different kind of thing. In terms of will it or could it replace something like the Worlds, ‘will it’, I don’t know, but ‘could it’, certainly, but I’m not hoping for that. I wouldn’t even want US Grappling to be a monopoly. If we had the opportunity to buy the NAGAs and the Grapplers Quests, I wouldn’t.

CHRISSY LINZY: I agree with that. I think it’s really important for people to try different events to find an event that matches their style of competition, their style of getting ready for a competition. We don’t get a lot of guys shadow boxing in the corner, you know? It’s just a different experience and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is a place for that sort of competition, that sort of mindset for competing.

I’m all for it and think we need that difference, because there are so many types of grappler and styles of grappler out there. Like Brian said, I don’t think we ever want to be a monopoly.

Photos courtesy of US Grappling. ‘Like’ the Artemis BJJ Facebook group to be notified about future interviews: for the archive, go here

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