Chrissy Linzy is a petite blonde with a ready smile. She always looks you in the eye when you speak and always has something funny to say, and she is incredibly frustrating to roll with.
She is one-third of US Grappling. She, her husband Brian Linzy and their friend, Andrew Smith (a BJJ black belt and one of the most
active BJJ competitors around for several years) started an organization for grapplers and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu players when they saw a gap in the market after competing themselves at some of the more established events.
I asked her about competition and getting a piece of the pie. She answered, “A few years ago, Alan “Gumby” Marquez was sitting in my dining room talking about this very thing. He said that he didn’t want a bigger piece of the pie, but for the whole pie to be bigger. This really struck home for us, and this is what we work toward all the time.”
In a sport that is male dominated, from competitor, to instructor, to promoter, it is encouraging to see a woman take such an active role in furthering the sport, for women and men. As the partner who bears most of the administrative responsibility
she is efficient and knowledgeable. Chrissy is a practitioner of the sport, training regularly at Mechanicsville Martial Arts, A Yamasaki Jiu Jitsu affiliate just outside of Richmond, VA.
Chrissy says what makes US Grappling events different is that that at their core, they are a competitor friendly event, from the schedule to the food down to the referees. Her main concern is pushing the sport forward and creating more events, so customer service is a great place to start. If a woman registers and has no one to roll against, they will refund your money, let you roll it over to the next event or try to come up with a fair and reasonable solution.
The referees at the US grappling events are experienced grapplers and competitors who go through a comprehensive training. Widely recognized as some of the best referees on the tournament circuit, they are striving for excellence. A typical US Grappling event will have eight mats and twelve referees, to ensure that referees also get to compete, coach their students, or just take a break when necessary.
Chrissy is painfully aware that refs can get distracted or tired after a long nonstop day. There is always a trained Paramedic or EMT at all competitions. These tournaments also have the distinction of running on time. US Grappling runs
contrary to every event I have been to by letting the advanced divisions go first.
Upper belts are then free to coach their lower belt teammates and students, free to concentrate on cornering, and preparation for the less experienced as they are already finished with the anxiety of competing themselves. I recently was at an all women event that US Grappling helped run and there was no chaos. There was a great turn out, and no bullpen craziness. There were brackets that women had seen before the tournament, so they had an idea of how many matches they would have beforehand. She is experienced, efficient, and brilliant.
Sandbaggers beware, Chrissy has a gift for remembering names. Competing under your level will not be tolerated. Blue belts must compete intermediate or up, purple belts must compete advanced. There are no exceptions. She is firm but fair.
US Grappling also holds separate events for the kids and teens. Having heavyweight novice men competing next to a kids’ mat seemed a little too exciting. US Grappling has even gone so far as to try to work with concessions to offer more athlete friendly food choices, noting your first meal after cutting weight should not be a hotdog.
US Grappling also donates their services to a biannual charity event to benefit the Leukemia foundation. The Pendergrass No Gi Classic Tournament in Wake Forest, NC in May of 2010 is next.
I spent more time with US Grappling at the first New York MMA World Expo. US Grappling was asked to run the demonstration mats for the two-day expo. Muay Thai legend Kru Phil Nurse, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu phenom Marcelo Garcia, Olympic Bronze medalist Jimmy Pedro (Judo), and Gold Medalist Mark Schultz (Wrestling) were a few of the incredible athletes who were invited to do demonstrations .There were changes that had to be made on the fly, demonstrators who didn’t show, demonstrators who couldn’t do a second demo after all and Chrissy rolled with the punches (pun intended). Fortunately, she is well acquainted with amazing Black belt Emily Kwok,
who stepping in last minute, and impressed everyone with her knowledge, strength and fluidity. Chrissy handed out new schedules, wrangled athletes and things ran smoothly, and spectators and demonstrators alike enjoyed themselves.
I was curious how they were fitting in with some of the more established events, was there backbiting, smack talking? “No.” replies Chrissy. “There is sense of goodwill. Promoters work in concert to ensure there is not much overlap. It seems perhaps everyone is looking for a larger pie.”