Whistler martial arts instructor Cole Manson stumbled across Brazilian Jiu Jitsu — or as they call it in Brazil, Jiu Jitsu — while he was visiting the country and learning Capoeira. He dropped in for a class, having achieved a black belt in Japanese Ju Jitsu, and was instantly hooked. When he returned to Canada he enrolled in a Gracie Barr Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) program in Vancouver, making the trip once a week to train for yet another black belt.
"I was actually running out of stuff to get a black belt in," said Manson, who is heading to Long Beach, California, for the first weekend of October to compete in the Worlds Master and Senior championship for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. "I knew when I came home that I wanted to get into it a bit more."
At 35, Manson has already achieved black belts in Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Hapkido (second degree), Kishindo (a mixed martial arts program he invented), Japanese Ju Jitsu and Kung Fu, and has studied Capoiera, Bushido and several other disciplines.
The appeal of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is obvious — it's a major discipline shared by all the top mixed martial arts fighters, and he wanted to be able to teach it to students. As well, after two decades of getting punched, kicked and occasionally broken, the relative safety of grappling your opponent to earn points, or a submission, seemed like a bonus.
"I do like the safeness of the sport — there's no punching or kicking in a competition. You don't get broken (like the other disciplines) or get black eyes and broken bones — well, you can, but it doesn't happen as often, and I like that aspect. Plus, it's a completely different workout."
The workout is intense, he said. Unlike other disciplines where you use different muscle groups situationally, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu forces you to use all of your muscles at once for a long period of time.
Bouts can last as long as five minutes unless you submit. If the bout reaches five minutes, then the winner is decided on points. You also get points for takedowns, sweep, reversals, dominant positions and aggression. If points are tied, you can also get points taken away in penalties, such as delaying the bout to rest by pushing your opponent out of bounds or taking too long to retie a belt. If there's no clear winner after that then the referee will break the tie.
Five minutes is a long time, especially when you have to progress through three or four opponents to reach the finals, and Manson said his strategy is to try to get fast submission holds early so he'll have more energy for the next round. On the flipside, he said there are athletes who focus on endurance and winning by points, so it pays to study your opponents and to go into bouts with a strategy.
Manson is only a purple belt in BJJ, the third of five belts, and says he entered the championship purely for the opportunity. "It's a chance to test myself against the highest level people in the sport," he said. "This is the biggest tournament on the scene, the whole world is there."
Manson has been training six or seven days a week to prepare, and is flying to California with one local student and other members of the gym he's been training with in Vancouver.
Manson said he's not really that nervous — he's been in enough tournaments by now that he knows what to expect.
"I wouldn't be human if I said I wasn't a little nervous, but what I really am is excited — I'm excited to step into the ring, to hear my name called and hear the ref say that one word, 'combate,' which is the Brazilian word for 'fight.'"
Oct. 5 is the qualifier day, and the finals are on Oct. 6. All of the events will be broadcast live at www.ibjjftv.com.
Manson runs martial arts programs out of Awesome Arts Academy in Whistler, and has started offering programs in Squamish as well.
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