2012 Kids Pan: Don’t fear “the unknown”; embrace it

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The 2012 Kids Pan brought out the Jiu-Jitsu kids in force, but what they took home with them proved to be more than just gold medals.

Hard work reaps rewards

Jaiden Mortel and his instructor Rod Wilson / Photos: Deb Blyth

Eight-year-old gray belt Jaiden Mortel of Rod Wilson BJJ/Nova Uniao in Las Vegas, Nevada, won four matches at the Kids Pan to take gold. He’s been training for two years and loves Jiu-Jitsu. “All my best friends do Jiu-Jitsu,” he says, “We spend weekends together, and have sleepovers, but my favorite thing is competing. I love it.” Jaiden is one of the lucky ones. He doesn’t feel any nerves before he steps on the mats. He’s also undefeated in his first year of wrestling, and has a championship match this weekend. His dad, Ron, is very proud of him and rewards him for his efforts. “He’s getting his Kindle Fire now,” he says. “He’s good in school and he works hard at Jiu-Jitsu. I reward him for his hard work. I’m proud of him.”

Don’t fear “the unknown,” embrace it

Branson Graf and his family embracing the unknown

Branson Graf and his family embracing the unknown

Gray belt Branson Graf of West Coast Jiu-Jitsu in Oxnard, California, is 12 years old and has been training in Jiu-Jitsu since the first of January, 2012. This was his first tournament, and he had to lose five pounds to make weight, but regardless, he was all smiles. Branson had one match at the Pan, which he won on points, making him a gold medal winner for the day. The youngest of five children, born to missionary parents, Branson’s used to “the unknown,” living in Amsterdam for four years and Portugal for two years before temporarily settling down in Oxnard. Overall, his attitude about Jiu-Jitsu is the same as it is in life, and it’s the secret recipe that’s going to take him far in life. “I like not knowing what’s going to come next,” he says of both Jiu-Jitsu and moving around the world, “I like the mystery of it all.” There’s no mystery to his gold medal win at the Pan. Branson stayed calm and focused, looking happy and loose all throughout his performance. His dad, Phil, really enjoyed watching it. “I couldn’t be more proud of him,” he says.

“Girl Power” can be just as mighty as “Boy Power”

Mia Sandoval looking to employ her girl power

Mia Sandoval looking to employ her girl power

Mia Sandoval is a 10-year-old yellow belt from Checkmat BJJ in Ontario, California. She’s been training for a year and a half and is already in full control of her “girl power.” This little pistol had two matches at the Pan Kids. She submitted her first opponent with her favorite move, the triangle, and her second she won on points. “It felt awesome to use my triangle today, but the best part of my day was winning gold!” she says. Mia trains five days a week, sometimes six. “I’m the only girl at my gym,” she says, “I try to bring girls to class, but they cry and don’t want to come back after their first day. I really want to get more girls to my gym… but I love to train with all the boys.” Mia’s mom, Patricia is amazed by her daughter’s will. “I’m very proud of her,” she says; “She’s come a long way. She amazes me by how well she does on the mats, boys or girls. She’s a tough little thing!”

 Dedication to training brings success

Ian Wilfert showing that training hard pays off

Ian Wilfert showing that training hard pays off

Ian Wilfert is serious about his Jiu-Jitsu. This 10-year-old yellow belt from Ace JJ in Fountain Valley, California, came to the Kids Pan completely trained and ready to face his competition. For the third year in a row, he won gold at the Kids Pan. He had two matches on the day, submitting both his opponents in record time, the first by triangle and the second by armbar, rendering both oppoments to tears. Ian clearly felt bad, but his techniques were flawless. After the final match, the referee walked off the mats saying, “Did you see that kid? His technique is amazing!” Ian was stoic about it all saying, “What I love most about Jiu-Jitsu is the training. I’m dedicated to it. I go to extra training sessions, which can go two and a half hours long.” He says he uses the basic fundamentals at competitions, and doesn’t go for any crazy moves. “I just try to get myself into good positions to work my submissions,” he says. Competing is not his favorite thing because he gets butterflies in his stomach beforehand, but he believes it’s good for him and that his training makes the difference in his results. “I like to fight people I haven’t fought before,” he says, “I like to test my skills.” Ian wants to become a black belt. His professor Asa Fuller says, “He’s going to be a world champion one day. He does a great job, and he works hard. There is no secret to his success.”

Passion makes the difference

“I want to win,” 12-year-old orange belt Romeo Gilmore of Lloyd Irvin says. “My coach always tells me that winning isn’t anything. Wanting to win is.” Romeo has been training in Jiu-Jitsu since he was three years old. He loves it because he thinks it’s fun and he loves competing because he gets to go out of town. But once he steps on the mats, all he’s passionate about is winning, which is what he did at the Kids Pan. He had three matches for the day and won them all by points. His favorite move is the bow-and-arrow choke, which he didn’t get at the tournament, but he was still happy about his performance. “I’ve been to the Pan before but came in second place,” he says, “It feels good to win gold this time!”

The more you compete the less nervous you become

In the past, Patrick Garcia of Ultimate Athlete/Guerrilla JJ in Modesto, California, has always been really nervous before competitions; but not anymore because he does it so much. The 10-year-old yellow belt started out wrestling and then took a Jiu-Jitsu class five years ago at his Uncle’s karate academy, and was hooked. He’s now a two-time Kids Pan gold winner, after winning his two matches on Sunday. He won his first with his favorite move, the armbar, and his second on points. “I love Jiu-Jitsu because you can do so much with it in four minutes,” he says, “It’s not like karate with just kicks and punches. I love getting to do a lot of submissions and I always try to get an armbar.” Patrick wants to be a black belt one day and own a Jiu-Jitsu school. Patrick’s dad says, “He trained hard for this. He has awesome teachers. I’m proud of him. He’s very dedicated. He’s got that fire in his belly.”

Never give up!

Camille Bedard with her Vancouver, Canada team

Camille Bedard with her Vancouver, Canada team

Gray belt Camille Bedard of Apex Jiu-Jitsu came all the way from Vancouver, British Columbia, with her team to compete at the Kids Pan. This feisty 12-year-old, with her endearing mix of brains, frivolity, and resolute toughness, had two matches at the Kids Pan, winning the first with a “Camille choke.” “It’s a variation of the cross choke,” she light-heartedly says, pushing her glasses up her nose, “They named it after me!” In her final match she was down nine points, but in the last 1 ½ minutes of the contest came back to win 13-9. “I can’t believe it!” she laughs of her big comeback win. Camille loves Jiu-Jitsu and says it’s a really good sport. “I like being physical and learning new techniques,” she says, “I’m the strongest at my school and at Jiu-Jitsu. I can beat the boys.” Jiu-Jitsu has made Camille more confident and has brought her respect. “Girls can do just as good as the boys,” she says, “I want to be a black belt. I love to compete. I want to be a world champion.” Her instructors, Marcy and Milo Hilario, laugh and say, “All the guys are scared of her! We’re so proud of her. In her final match she never gave up. It was well worth the trip down here.” And where did Camille go after her big win? Disneyland, of course!

Listen to your coaches

Nine-year-old gray belt Joaquim “Joaca” O’Campa has trained under his idol, Paulo Guillobel in San Clemente, California, for two years. Joaquim had one match at the Kids Pan, which he won by points, 10-0. “I train with some of the greatest coaches,” he says, “I want to be a world champion like Paulo someday!” Joaquim’s favorite move is a judo throw, but he loves to learn new techniques all the time. He competes a lot to test his skills and it has paid off big time for him. He’s been undefeated in the gi for over a year and he competed in about 15 tournaments in 2011. This was his first gold medal win at the Kids Pan and he was very happy about it. “I was so nervous before my match,” he says, “But I am so excited now! I train my hardest each time I step on the mat.” His mom, Erica says, “I’m really proud of him, his dedication, his maturity and his respect for the art. I also love the support he gets from his coaches and teammates.”

Having a role model keeps you inspired

Guilherme Rocha comes on strong.

Guilherme Rocha, son of GB great Master Ze Radiola and cousin of GB fighter Lucas Rocha, took gold at the 2012 Kids Pan after submitting his opponent with a choke from the back. The 13-year-old orange belt grew up on the mats in Brazil, rolling with his father and the other famous names present at the gym. “He’s like a Gracie, born on the mats,” Lucas says, “Jiu-Jitsu is his life.” Guilherme’s favorite move is the De La Riva Sweep, which he used to defeat his opponent. “I train every day,” he says, “I love it. I want to get my black belt and be like Roger Gracie.” With moves already like a black belt, Guilherme, who is currently a five-time Brazilian National Champion and who’s competing for his sixth victory this May, says, “Thank you to everyone who helped me in Brazil. To my competitors – I’m coming for you!”

The best birthday presents come in the shape of a gold medal

Alyssa Wilson claiming her gold medal birthday gift

Alyssa Wilson claiming her gold medal birthday gift

Yellow belt Alyssa Wilson of A-Team Jiu-Jitsu is becoming a household name. This little girl, who turned 10 on February 13, has been tearing up the Jiu-Jitsu circuit. She travels around the country competing, and wins most of the time. At the 2012 Kids Pan, she became a three-time champion, winning both her matches on points. After her final match, her referee, black belt Samir Chantre of Gracie fighter said, “She has better moves than most adult black belts I’ve seen.” Alyssa is confident in her skills, yet humble in her approach. “There wasn’t a moment when I thought I wasn’t going to win today,” she says, “but mostly I just love to compete with my team. I love getting team points for them.” Alyssa says her coach, Ali Saleh, has taught her a lot. “I’ve learned how to finish submissions, get points, and do a lot of moves.” Her gold medal was a great birthday gift for her, but she was anxious to leave the mats to get to her birthday party that was waiting for her. “My birthday party is going on right now and I’m not there!” she exclaims, “Let’s go!”

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