Sports

Jiu jitsu players descend on Vernon

Nearly 300 competitors will be in the Vernon Saturday for the inaugural Vernon Winter Classic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Tournament.

The event is sanctioned by the Canadian Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation and will become part of the tournament circuit.

CBJJF director Tim Shears is impressed with the high number of participants.

“I was expecting maybe 100 to 120,” said Shears. The tournament, which is being held at the Priest Valley gymnasium, has attracted 282 competitors from 21 schools. The enthusiastic response could lead to another competition this summer in Kelowna said Shears, who is a black belt.

The high turnout also shows the growing popularity of the martial art that first caught the public eye in the 1990s when Royce Gracie tore through the competition in the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Now, being highly skilled in Brazilian jiu jitsu is mandatory for anyone hoping to succeed in the world of mixed martial arts. And with the popularity of the UFC, the sport is catching on.

Shears said Brazilian jiu jitsu is one of the fastest growing martial arts in the world. As a submission style of open-hand combat, there are no strikes which makes it attractive to many people.

“There is no striking so you are not getting punched in the face,” said Shears. “It’s all grappling. It’s better overall for people who want to train in martial arts but don’t want to get hit.”

The one-day tournament will offer spectators a chance to see the competition side of Brazilian jiu jitsu, but Shears pointed out there is a lot more to the sport. The sport offers self defence, fitness and the camaraderie of a close-knit organization.

“You get more of a complete picture inside an academy,” said Shears.

The Winter Classic will feature some of the best Brazilian jiu jitsu athletes in the game and Shears encourages people to come out and learn more about the sport.

“It will be a really nice family event,” said Shears.

The Okanagan will have numerous competitors testing their mettle, with members of Gracie Barra clubs in Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and Salmon Arm meeting on the mats.

Admission is $5, with seniors and children under 12 getting in for free.

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