Gracie Barra Whistler expanding quickly 

Local martial arts club recently moved to Function Junction

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Cutline bold cap lead Gracie Barra Whistler members Alvaro Arocena, Joanna Vieira, Tony Medd, Kengo Hatanaka, Marco Vieira, Tyler Moey, Adam Colpits. and Eric Curran.
  • Photo submitted
  • Cutline bold cap lead Gracie Barra Whistler members Alvaro Arocena, Joanna Vieira, Tony Medd, Kengo Hatanaka, Marco Vieira, Tyler Moey, Adam Colpits. and Eric Curran.

It's been a busy few months for the Gracie Barra Whistler Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club.

The local group, which boasts roughly 100 members, moved into a new Function Junction location in July and is performing well at recent events.

At the Canadian Compnet tournament in Vancouver on Nov. 3 that featured roughly 300 competitors, Gracie Barra Whistler came away with eight medals, including five gold, as Kengo Hatanaka, Bo Grier, Anika Cousins, Derek Perizzolo, Theo Bennett and Joanna Vieira all competed.

Vieira and husband Marco run the club along with coach Alvaro Arocena.

"They all competed with kids more experienced than them, and they all did very well," Marco said.

Three club members also attended a Gracie Barra Challenge Night at Vancouver's BMO Theatre earlier this year, where Joanna said each competitor picked a walkout song as they walked out to compete on a stage.

"It's cool that we can provide that kind of an experience for students here," she said.

While Marco said he tries to foster a friendly environment for the joy of the martial art, those who also enjoy competing are encouraged to do so. Those who aren't interested in competing, he reasoned, are certainly quality competition for their comrades during training.

The club took over the old Awesome Arts Academy space in Function Junction at 1420 Alpha Lake Rd. in July, seeing a spike in membership, roughly doubling in size, since moving there.

The chapter also operates in Pemberton twice a week and Mount Currie once a week. In Mount Currie, the program started without mats or proper uniforms, or gis, but it has subsequently secured those items for the 20 kids that train with them.

Drop-ins are part of the experience as well, as there are several Gracie Barra chapters in the Lower Mainland, and membership in the Whistler club allows a member to train with any of the others. "We have a lot of visitors from all over the world, all different clubs," Joanna said. "That's really fun because they can drop in for a night, and maybe they'll be a brown belt or a black belt. Maybe they have a move they can show us."

As well, Marco was recently named as a Pacific Northwest Gracie Barra Ambassador, qualifying him for funding through the club. He intends to tap into the opportunity quickly, as he, Joanna and Hatanaka plan to head to Portugal for competition early next year.

For more, check out gbwhistler.ca.

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