The 2017 Dirty White Belt Awards For Jiujitsu in the Southeast

For 6 months, we’ve been asking for people to inform us about the best of jiujitsu in Virginia, DC, North Carolina and South Carolina. Finally, our panel of judges has rendered their decisions — and for the first time, we’re proud to present 10 awards.

The purpose of this: to celebrate the people doing great things in the regional jiujitsu community, and to learn about some of the lesser-known folks out there that don’t always get the credit they deserve. This is why we had an open nomination process: so people could tell us who they thought the most deserving people are, and why, and to give them a chance, through emails and voicemails, to explain what makes the person they support so worthy of an award.

We wanted to release the podcast on the awards before this list for one reason: if you listen to the show, regardless of who won or who lost, you’ll hear voicemails representing every nominee for whom we got voicemails. Those voices deserve to be heard. Check out the podcast here:

We couldn’t play all the voicemails we received, or even read all the emails on the air — thanks to everyone for the powerful response — but we did get to most of them, so that nominees could hear from their supporters directly.

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How did we decide who won after all the nominations were in? I’m glad you asked. The last thing I wanted was for this to be the “Jeff picks out the winners” awards. But I also didn’t want an Internet popularity contest or a system that could be gamed, and I did want to get diverse sets of people involves. So we picked 7 judges from three different states AND the District, training at 7 different gyms under 6 different associations. We let all of those judges see the emails and voicemails of support. Then we asked the judges to rank the candidates in order, with the top 3 getting points. You got three points for a first place vote, two for a second place vote, and one for a third place vote.

This is where the contest really opened some eyes, I think. I wound up voting for at least one person I’d never heard of before the contest, based purely on voicemails of support. We also, because so many people were convincing, wound up giving more awards than we planned on.

Here are the 10 2017 Dirty White Belt Awards, each with a traveling trophy that’s engraved with the name of the winner. If your favorite candidate didn’t win, don’t worry , that’s OK — they will still get a certificate as a finalist, and the chance to win next year, when the trophies will move along to new and deserving recipients. All of the categories you’re about to hear will be around next year. Will we add new categories? I don’t know — I really wish we’d had takedown of the year and submission of the year categories. So watch for those all year and keep them in mind.

Let’s start with the people who inspire us.

INSPIRATIONAL YOUNG JIUJITEIRA OF THE YEAR
In searching for people to honor, we kept hearing about certain folks, including young people. I first heard about Hassan King from one of his teammates, who wrote us this: “He is always one of the hardest workers in the gym, and usually one of the last ones to leave the gym. He has determination to always want to get better. And even when he is not competing he is finding ways to help his teammates get better.”
There’s a really touching voicemail on the podcast, too, explaining why Hassan deserves this award, so I suggest you check that out. Congratulations to someone who had a groundswell of community support behind him, the winner of the first annual “Inspirational Young Jiujiteiro of the Year” award, Hassan King.

MOST INSPIRATIONAL
For the adults, this was a stacked field. Look at the nominees: You had Brian Freeman, wheelchairjitsu. You had Rubao Carioca, who had a stroke and rehabilitated himself on sheer force of will. Jason “Bumpkin” Wingate, Anthony Elbert, and D’Juan Owens, about whom we got an incredible voicemail.
Why did Betty Broadhurst win? The judges had lots of reasons, but here’s an email from a supporter that I couldn’t have put better myself:  “Betty Broadhurst, Gustavo Machado purple belt. she’s 60 years old and doesn’t give a crap if her opponent is 21 or 101 she will fight her, friend her on Facebook and invite her to women’s only open mat. She Always steps up to compete at any tournament within a 6-hour drive and gets paired with younger competitors every time, never complains.”
Plus, Betty’s always looking to improve herself and to help others. Here’s some random Australian that she taught some heel hooks to, and look at the guy now:

Congratulations to 2017’s Most Inspirational, Betty Broadhurst.

MATCH OF THE YEAR (MEN)

A late contender for this honor came on strong: Isaac July vs. Jake Whitfield. But … well, if you listen to the podcast, the Fight Lab 155 pound champion breaks it down for you. Nakapan Phungephorn v. Greg Walker at Toro Cup absolutely had it all. Don’t believe us? Just watch:

MATCH OF THE YEAR (WOMEN)

This was another competitive category, with lots of great nominees.  Samantha Faulhaber vs Fiona Watson, Fight to Win Pro Philly. Kim Rice against Tara White at Masters Worlds. But the winner is a match from Toro Cup 6, Taylor Sausser v. Eman Bilbaisi.

THE PEOPLES’ CHOICE AWARD
There was one athlete that got strong support in many different categories. He’s a successful competitor. He owns an academy with lots of killer athletes. And he was nominated in multiple categories by multiple people. I’m going to read you an email that sort of sums up all of this.

“Prior to training with Diego Bispo, I had zero success at IBJJF but since starting to train with Diego i have podiumed at each one. These are numerous successes in his Academy. Diego leads by example and is a great competitor himself and truly wants his students to succeed!”

That’s really encapsulates what the Peoples’ Choice Award is all about: all around excellent. The fact that Diego Bispo has medalled at more prestigious tournaments than just about anyone else serves as icing on the cake. Congratulations to Diego Bispo, 2017’s Peoples’ Choice Award winner.

YOUNG JIUJITEIRO OR JIUJITEIRA OF THE YEAR

When we talked about outstanding representatives of jiujitsu, one name kept coming up. Here, listen to what our voicemail sounded like for a month. We played a few of these voicemails on the show, and also encourage you to listen to our interview last week with Will Loushin, coach of the year nominee. If you weren’t convinced after the Awards podcast, you will be after that.

Our Young Jiujiteira of the Year is someone that no one can argue isn’t deserving: Christina Linn, congratulations!

SELF DEFENSE INSTRUCTOR OF THE YEAR

This one came down to a legend of the art, Pedro Sauer, against someone we’ve always said doesn’t get enough credit, and it was a razor-thin margin.

I don’t mind telling you that my first place vote went to Jake Whitfield. If you’ve heard him on the show, you know exactly how much and how clearly he thinks about teaching real-world self defense. And, true story, one of the judges made this comment when I pointed out they’d only voted for two people instead of three: “If I had a third vote, I’d vote for Jake twice.”

Congratulations to Jacob Whitfield, 2017’s self defense instructor of the year.

TOURNAMENT COACH OF THE YEAR

Looking at the amount of worthy nominees, I was struck by how fortunate we are to have so many good instructors on the area. I want to thank every student who took the time to call our write in. We got to read a bunch of emails and play a bunch of voicemails on the show, including some supporting Cody Maltais of Elevate MMA (“puts the needs of his team before himself time and again”), Jon “JB” Burnley (“a phenomenal coach, period … motivates his students, even through the most extreme challenges), Will Loushin and more.

There were no wrong choices here. But let me quote an email we didn’t get to read on the show, about David Porter.

“1. He creates the opportunity, possibility, and support for anyone who wants to compete to do so. Supports your choice whether you choose to compete or not. He started a competition class to help those new to competition to understand the rule sets and what the are in for. He also expresses that just to step on the mat in competition is a success in itself that many others will never experience.
2. He leads by example. Not only does he compete in a ridiculous amount of competitions but he displays skills and techniques that he teaches in his matches. No do as say and not as I do here! He also shows the demeanor and sportsmanship in his matches that every competitor should model.
3. He doesn’t yell “escape” or “explode.” When Porter is in your corner he gives you clear and concise instructions. He remains positive and helps you feel like you are not alone on the mat.
4. He helps anyone and everyone. Porter steps up to coach/corner anyone who asks without discrimination of team or affiliation. 5. He supports you whether you win or lose. I travelled out to LA to compete in the World Police and Fire Games, I’d been training solidity for 8 months for that competition. He was always willing to answer my questions, give me tips, correct my movement. Of course I’m in LA and Porter was in VA but his coaching was still in my head, asking me “how many lights are out?” (Posture), reminding me that “no one gets guillotined with good posture.” I won gold and my first text was to thank him and let him know. This is the response I got “You’re very welcome. Just remember that YOU did the hard work, so the success is yours. ‘All of your wins are yours, and all of your losses are mine as your coach’ – Dexter Gould.”

In a difficult and close vote with a bunch of tremendous candidates … our Tournament Coach of the Year this year is David Porter.

JIUJITEIRA OF THE YEAR

A lot of incredible candidates this year. Nicole Hunt took 3rd at masters worlds, 1st at IBJJF Atlanta, 1st at IBJJF charlotte and a host of medals at NAGA, New Breed and US Grappling. Mary Holmes became a Pans champ, dominated at masters worlds, and continued to be an example of what a jiujitsu community member should be.

Then there’s Kim Rice. Double bronze at adult worlds. Gold at Masters worlds, silver in absolute. A Toro Cup win against Maggie Ghamry. She’s also a gold medalist at the Abu Dhabi qualifier and went to ADCC. Among a litany of tough competitors, Kim Rice stands out, and is our 2017 Jiujiteira of the Year.

JIUJITEIRO OF THE YEAR
We’ve saved this for last because it was the closest category. With six votes tallied — and no one knew what the “standings” were except me — there was a three-way tie for first before the last judge voted. Any would have been a great choice.

One of those was Diego Bispo. Another was Deandre Corbe. Here’s a great voicemail we got about Deandre: “Deandre Corbe, Coastal BJJ brown belt, went double gold at all but one of the events he did in his first year as a brown belt. While Deandre’s brown belt (and previous belts) accomplishments in US Grappling, IBJJF and other competition events are pretty well-published and well- supported, the Corbe brothers prefer to stay relatively low-key and just keep improving and helping others improve. Outside of competition though, he is a full-time mechanical engineering student, a US Grappling crew, a jiujitsu instructor and assistant wrestling coach. he is also a great contributor and influence to his brother’s accomplishments.”

That last vote went in for a man who won masters worlds at brown belt, fought MMA, taught regularly (and opened a new academy!) and competed more than just about anyone else, while being a regular and positive force on the scene throughout the year.

Congratulations to our Jiujiteiro of the Year: Mr. John Schell.

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