QUINTET Grappling Challenge

From MMA legends Kazushi Sakuraba and Josh Barnett comes a unique grappling contest, where you must compete and defeat other team grapplers. It’s not 5 on 5 MMA like we see from Russia (that’s one extreme many people, including myself, find tough to watch), but it has taken the grappling world by storm with three thrilling events so far.

So what is QUINTET? Why haven’t we heard much about it? And what makes it so exciting?

The concept of submission grappling events has been a very individual based event since its inception. Like MMA fighters in the cage, or 2 boxers in a ring, it is just you and your opponent on the mats. Events such as the Eddie Bravo Invitational (EBI), Kasai Grappling, Submission Underground or the now defunct Metamoris see competitors pitted against one another in one-on-one super fights or a 16-man tournament where the individual must duke it out for glory.

10th planet quintet

10th Planet – Big in Japan

Arguably some of these ‘sub only’ events do not push for finishes, a problem first addressed by EBI’s creator, ‘Edgie Brah.’ Cash incentives were given to finish opponents by submission and make 5,000 dollars for each finish out of the possible 20,000 dollar grand cash prize. Some say this is insufficient because competitors can make it to the finals and gain notoriety simply via overtime rounds and, as it were, ‘game the system.’ You can see this strategy being applied effectively by Joe Soto making it through to the finals of EBI 4 by surviving overtime rounds, ‘beating’ the likes of notable competitors Geo Martinez and Joao Miyao.

quintet tiger muay thai

Team Tiger Muay Thai

Even in Metamoris we saw a lot of matches ending in draws after a frustrating 20 minutes where two competitors were evenly matched and neither competitor had any intention to finish or go in for the kill. When you’re a pay per view event this can kill subsequent events, because many do not want to watch a card in which competitors ‘stall out’ to a long, frustrating draw. This can also be said of the recent results of the ACBJJ events held in Europe and Russia.

The recent ACBJJ in Moscow is another example of this frustration: the event’s president Zaurbek Khasiev publicly stated that he would stop future BJJ super fight events if the competitors do not push the action.


quintet team vagabond

Team Vagabond

So what then has QUINTET done to address these issues seen in previous professional grappling events?

Firstly, the rule set is completely different to that of anything seen in professional jiu-jitsu events.

Four teams of five elite grapplers compete in a tournament series with a rule set all its own:
1. Total team weight cannot exceed 430kg.
2. Matches are open weight.
3. Submission only. If there is no submission, the match ends in a draw and both teams move to the next grappler.
4. Each match is eight minutes long
5. Weight difference over 20kg is a four minute match
6. Penalties are given for closed guard, stalling and not enough action in general.
7. No heel hooks

In other words, the winning man fights on against the predetermined order with the opponent’s team one after the other until he loses or draws. Therefore, if there are extremely strong athletes and that team member is at the forefront of the 5-man team, it can lead them to victory by him alone, defeating everyone by themselves.

quintet team reebok

Team Reebok

As a nerd, I can tell you that this kind of format is well-known in Japan and has been a long-standing part of anime storylines which I’ve been reading since I was a kid. Yu Yu Hakusho, Flame of Recca, and King of the Jungle Ta-chan all have similar storylines in which teams of five are pitted against opposing teams immeasurably stronger than them. So this format of competition is not new to the Japanese audience but does have an air of newness to the western audience.

flame of recca

The incentive to win is there not just for you but also for your team mates and to enable them to effectively attack the other team by taking out multiple competitors that can be troublesome in terms of style or size.

How is this ultimately done? By FINISHING. The only way you actually win is via submission therefore if you perform poorly or go to a draw all it does is eliminate you and the other one competitor on the opposing team. This can be troublesome if you are the last competitor in the team and they still have 3 competitors left.

Losing at a competition is one thing and I am sure some guys who have been to BJJ competitions can relate to this disappointment. But you alone causing your whole team to lose? That’s a tough pill to swallow and you want to work hard to ensure you at least aren’t the cause of the team’s elimination.

Sports such as football, soccer, basketball and rugby have an element of team spirit that has been missing from these events. As exciting as the past events in the US were the one detail missing from these events was essentially what QUINTET has managed to capture in its ‘Grappling Team Survival Matches.’
As Dave Camarillo famously states, ‘rules dictate behaviour’ and under the rule set organized by Sakuraba and co. the event brings about fireworks as well as an element of team spirit unlike any other grappling event.

 Kazushi Sakuraba quintet

Legendary founder Kazushi Sakuraba

Sakuraba’s intention was to bring an exciting, action packed event to grappling and he has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectation. Even the competitors themselves marvel at the atmosphere and the unique event they are part of. The unique team format meant that grapplers had to work together and develop a stratagem to keep the team moving forward to the finals and if one person did well the whole team benefitted having one less opponent to fight.

So why have we not heard much about this event?

Firstly, it’s relatively new. The inaugural QUINTET.1 was just held back in April 11th and since then we have had Quintet Fight night in Tokyo, June 9th with a lightweight division and a recent QUINTET.2 July 16th. The events unique format seems to have captured the attention of grapplers around the world, as Polaris alumni’s and Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet teams have been sent to compete at the event in Tokyo.

You can hear a detailed synopsis from none other than Daniel Strauss AKA the Raspberry Ape on his podcast, the Raspberry Ape Podcast. In this particular episode you can hear his analysis of the first QUINTET and the thoughts going into the event and during the event.

Judging by his analysis of the event and the passion in which he details the event itself it is clear the team format engaged him and brought him closer to his team or ‘tribe’ as it were throughout the competition.

The first QUINTET saw teams representing supplement company HALEO which included Marcos Souza, Sakuraba himself, Nakamura Daisuke, Josh Barnett and Japanese MMA legend Hideo Tokoro, who were favourites (being the local team)to win the tournament. However upset after upset saw Team Polaris mowing through the competition having the likes of Marcin Held and Craig Jones literally mowing through the Sambo team finish after finish.

Even the HALEO team had some moments in the first match up against Team Judo, when Tokoro displayed a masterful armbar within the first 20 seconds of the first round match. Though Tokoro would go on to get choked out twice through the event his stock went exponentially up considering the fact he was a bantamweight fighter going up against much heavier opponents in the competition.

quintet 1

Quintet 1

Quintet Fight night in Tokyo was a little different as the competitors teaming up with weight discrepancies was changed to a light weight format. The event still a success saw less finishes but the event was exciting nonetheless. Team Carpe Diem managed to show case their stable of talented grapplers and to ultimately take home the win from the event, beating team Tokoro and team HALEO that even had world class competitor Roberto Satoshi in the mix. As anti-climactic as the event seems it was a huge success for the local talent, Carpe Diem especially as they have just started their global domination opening schools in both London and Singapore, a feat unheard of by a home-grown Japanese Jiu-Jitsu affiliation.

With the format back to that of the first event match ups in QUINTET.2 saw Carpe Diem’s Ghanaian monster Haisam Rida, AKA ‘Kirin’ a brown belt standout based in Tokyo joining Sakuraba’s Team Reebok. We saw Haisam tearing through 4 of Team Tiger Muay Thai’s competitors via submission in quick succession.

In similar fashion, we saw Haisam looking unstoppable against Team 10th Planet in the finals arm barring CBJJ Welterweight Champ Richie ‘Boogyman’ Martinez. Then, out of nowhere Boogie’s younger brother Geo ‘Freakazoid’ Martinez, current 135lbs EBI champion manages to stop the giant wrecking ball that is Haisam with a mounted guillotine to subsequently lead Team 10th Planet to victory.

Official highlight reel below.

The only way is certainly up for QUINTET and the recently announced lightweight amateur QUINTET tournament to be held in Tokyo on September 23 is a clear indication of its success. The event will be taking lightweight entries for adult, master male divisions and a women’s open weight division.

Official QUINTET site below.


Check out the link below for details regarding the upcoming amateur Quintet promotion in Japan.

Amateur QUINTET.1

Credit to QUINTET for all images and videos.

Author: McCulloch Sakuhei Hamada (Mac)

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