The kids are what it’s all about at Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, and Gracie Barra’s family-style Compnet 11 Jiu-Jitsu event proved just that. As Professor Marcio Feitosa led the kids in the famous Gracie Barra warm-up, their eyes lit up, excited to be a part of such a big event.
Gracie Barra tournaments are all about families competing; moms, dads, kids, brothers, and sisters. If one family member signs up, chances are there’s usually another family member not too far behind. The Wilner brothers, Max and Maza, both signed up to compete at Compnet 11, and they had a great time in the process.
Max, a nine-year-old yellow belt, and his 13-year-old green belt brother, Maza, both train at GB America in Irvine with Professor Otavio Sousa and Instructor Cedric Chamouille. They also train at GB Cerritos with Professor Renato “Babalu” Sobral. They love Jiu-Jitsu and have been training for quite some time: Maza for seven years and Max for about five.
Max, whose favorite move is the triangle, had two matches at the GB tournament. He won one by armbar and one by decision, making him a gold medal winner for the day. He says he was a little nervous before his bouts but he competes a lot and knows, once he starts, the butterflies go away. “I just make sure I stay safe and don’t get hurt and always try my best,” Max says, “I like winning first place medals.”
Max says there are a lot of things he loves about Jiu-Jitsu. “I like to roll and I like getting promoted,” he says, “I like spending time on the mat with my friends, Brennan and Toby. They’re my best friends in Jiu-Jitsu.” Max says he and Babalu grapple for fun. “I can’t beat him but I want to,” he says. He also rolls with his older brother, Maza, at home. “We play, but one day I want to beat him,” he says.
Max obviously has a competitive side and says he wants to be a world champion black belt one day, but for now he will continue to emulate those he admires most in Jiu-Jitsu: Babalu, Master Carlos, Otavio Sousa, and Cedric Chamouille.
Brother Maza had a different experience at the tournament, which turned out to be a good learning experience for him. Being a green belt, there weren’t too many competitors in his division, so he was placed with another green belt who was older and bigger than him. The match was more like an absolute than a divisional bout and the uncertainty was clear on Maza’s face as he took to the mats to face his competitor.
Early on, Maza held his own, but when his opponent pulled guard, Maza says he was hit in the groin. He posted his arm on his opponent’s chest, who took full advantage, locking Maza up in a triangle. Maza did his best to defend but ultimately time ran out and Maza lost the match. “I lost fair and square,” the mature 13-year-old says, “He was the better man this day.”
Maza says he loves to compete but hates the feeling of being nervous. “I hate losing more than I love winning,” he laughs, “I’m a competitive guy.” Regardless of the loss, though, Maza says it was a good experience. “I haven’t lost in a long time,” he says, “So I’m going to learn from this. I’m going to go back and train on how to defend better.”
Maza, who also trains in wrestling and Thai boxing, wants to be a black belt one day. “I want to be the best at whatever it is I do,” he says, “I’m going to keep training to get better and be number one.” Maza would like to thank his family for all they do for him. “I’ll be back stronger next time,” he says.
David Kopelev is an eight-year-old yellow belt from GB San Clemente. This mature little guy says Jiu-Jitsu has taught him a lot of really important life skills. “I’m a small guy,” he says seriously, “It’s taught me how to defend myself against people who pick on me.” Asked if he gets picked on a lot, David replies, “They’ll pick on me once, then they don’t do it anymore. I have my birthday parties at Gracie Barra, so they know what I’m capable of.”
David had two matches at the GB tournament. His favorite takedown is the double-leg, and he put that skill to good use in his first match, which he won on points. He also had an impressive sweep during the bout, which drew a collective, “Wow!” from the crowd seeing such a little guy pull off such a beautiful technique.
Although he lost his second match on points to take silver for the day, the positive-minded competitor felt good. “I’m happy!” he says, “I had a great experience.” And no doubt he did. It was a major feat for David to be at the tournament at all. He’d just had his appendix out six weeks earlier and was already back competing and feeling no pain. “I have no pain and I’m not tired at all,” he says.
David’s favorite technique is the keylock, and he takes his training very seriously. “I have my own rule when I train,” he says, “I practice one kind of sub per round. Otherwise, I would only train the keylock.”
David’s goal is to one day become a black belt. He recently started taking wrestling classes at GB Dana Point with coaches Kanai and Cody. “I want to compete as much as I can and be just like Professor Flavio (Almeida) when I grow up.”
Both David’s parents train in Jiu-Jitsu as well. “Our whole life is Jiu-Jitsu,” dad Sergio says, “All our friends are Jiu-Jitsu friends. We take our gi’s on vacation with us. We just trained at Ricardo Almeida’s school and loved it.” Then Sergio goes one better, “It’s the best marriage therapy ever,” he laughs. “Yeah,” says David’s mom, Christy, “We get it all out on the mats. We lock up chokes on each other!”
GB Encinitas Jude Irons comes from a famous family, but there is no pressure to perform for this light-hearted nine-year-old. As his last name implies, Jude comes from the famous Irons surfing family. His dad, Ricky was a professional surfer, along with his cousins Andy, who recently passed away, and Bruce. But it was Jude’s big day as he took to the mats to compete in his three matches.
In his first match, Jude says he was caught off guard, “He went for a double-leg and I was like, ‘Whoa!’ Last year’s tournament was easier!” Jude ended up winning the match on points once he regained his composure. He says his second match was “gnarly.” “He was very strong,” Jude says, “In the last second I took him down. He was so much taller than me!” In this third and final match, Jude found his flow. “I took him down and passed his guard,” he says, “Then I just kind of held on to him.”
Jude says it was pretty cool to win a gold medal but there was some pressure to try to keep it real in the winner’s circle. “I was so happy standing on the podium,” he says, “I don’t like to make fake smiles, but I was nervous up there. There were so many people watching. There were so many cameras. I’m not one for cameras.”
Like his illustrious family, Jude also surfs and apparently has picked up some of those surfing genes from the one’s who came before him. “I acknowledge that a lot of people are better than me,” he says, “But in my opinion I’m good at it.” Jude can’t pick which he likes better between surfing and Jiu-Jitsu because he loves them both. He’s not sure what he’s going to be when he grows up but says, “I’m gonna let life flow and see what happens.”
Regardless, Jude thinks Jiu-Jitsu is fun and he’s going to keep training and competing. His mom got him into the sport, and he loves his parents for encouraging him to do it. And let’s face it, he was sick of baseball anyway. “There were too many treats in baseball after the games… like cupcakes,” he says, “I wasn’t having enough fun. Now I’m having a lot of fun.”
Austin Gerrard of Gracie Barra Lake Elsinore got more than he bargained for when he showed up to compete at the GB Compnet 11 event. This was the 15-year-old white belt’s second tournament, after recently competing at the American Nationals and taking third, and he was excited about it. At the GB event, he had three matches. Two he won by points and one he won by armbar, which is also his favorite technique, allowing him to claim a gold medal for the day.
Austin, a sophomore in high school, says competing helps him become more confident in his Jiu-Jitsu. Also a high school wrestler, Austin trains in wrestling three hours a day and then goes to Jiu-Jitsu three to four times a week. “Both BJJ and wrestling help each other a lot,” he says, “I think I’ll be better in wrestling this year, from the Jiu-Jitsu training I’ve been doing.”
Austin’s day came to an exciting close when he got a big surprise on the podium. His instructor, Hector Tapia, and Professor Gustavo Pires wrapped a blue belt around his waist to Austin’s and the crowd’s delight. “I feel pretty excited!” Austin says, “I didn’t expect it today.” In Jiu-Jitsu, one must always expect the unexpected.