Greg Church tries to armbar his opponent Terrance Souser in the Purple Belt Absolute final. Souser managed to escape the position and went on to win. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

Brazilian JiuJitsu fighters unlock warrior code at Van Isle Open

250 competitors across adult and kids’ divisions, some international players

With fighters being wheeled through the air, or wrapping limbs around each other in a suffocating embrace; Victoria was treated to 250 Brazilian JiuJitsu (BJJ) fighters competing at the 2019 Vancouver Island Open, Saturday.

The tournament was organized by Katana BJJ, founded by Milo and Marcy Hilario, and was co-organized by Lewis Rhodes. They run three tournaments, with the other two taking place in Vancouver. The Open offered both gi and no-gi matches.

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In the early 1990s, fuelled by two decades of kung-fu movies, martial artists wanted a tournament to decide the age-old question – which art is the best? The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was born and the first two competitions were purely style versus style match-ups. Almost everyone outside Brazil was shocked when a lanky kid from Rio, Royce Gracie, brushed aside all in his way, including far bigger opponents, using a grappling style adapted from traditional Japanese JiuJitsu. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, he beat all comers the next year as well.

BJJ is now one of the fastest growing sports in the world, partly because of its demonstrated efficacy and also as it relies on chokes and joint-locks, instead of concussion-causing strikes.

“We wanted to have a well-run, unbiased, fair venue for all the gyms on the island to come together and compete, because one of the cornerstones of BJJ is active competition and live training, as without it you get a martial art that is not effective,” says Rhodes.

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All the big Island academies competed, with Zuma (Victoria) taking home the adults’ team trophy, closely followed by Van Isle BJJ (Victoria) and Island Top Team (Nanaimo). The overall kids’ trophy was won by Apex (Vancouver), followed by Zuma and South Island BJJ (Mill Bay).

BJJ is seen as a modern martial art and is different to many traditional arts. Becoming a black belt takes about 10 years of dedicated training and are only awarded to elite adults. Children have a different grading system and traditional non-contact katas are eschewed. Adult coloured belts are roughly the equivalent to traditional martial arts’ black belt dans.

Arguably, the most exciting match was in the mens brownbelt division, and the blackbelt prize was won by Dan Hryhorchuk, who beat Bill Fraser in a defensive match. Terrance Souser, from Portland, Oregon, won the purple belt division, widely seen as the most competitive on the day.

“It was great to come away with a couple of golds,” says Souser. “The athletes here are superb, the event itself was run really well, I was thoroughly impressed.”

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Van Isle co-owner Matt de Groot explains the appeal of the sport to JiuJitsu players.

“The lifestyle of JiuJitsu appeals to everybody who wants to improve themselves and live a healthy, better life. You have a perfect outlet for any type of aggression or stress, you have a way to exercise without being bored and you have a social network that is world-wide.”

“What we have in the Pacific North West is really positive and lends itself to a culture of respect, honour, discipline and integrity.”

For more information on upcoming events visit katanabjj.com.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

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One of the most entertaining fights in the brown belt division, that had the crowd cheering loudly. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

A competitor in the brown belt division taps out as he experiences a tight lapel choke from his opponent. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

Two competitors in the whitebelt division. The man in the foreground is moments from tapping to his opponent’s bow and arrow choke. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

A competitor sweeps her opponent, who reacts acrobatically, in the white belt division. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

In the overall adult team prize, an accumulation of points from a cross an academy’s fighters, the top prize went to Zuma Martial Arts (Sarah Kaufman, Adam Zugec), second to Van Isle BJJ (Pat Warren) and third to Island Top Team (Rob Biernacki). First and second went to gyms in Victoria. Island Top Team are based in Nainamo. (Courtesy of Katana BJJ)

Adults purple belt division winner Terrance Souser, flanked by medallists Greg Church and Ryan Greenhow. (Courtesy of Katana BJJ)

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