Combat Sports Academy’s junior Brazilian Jiu Jitsu team travelled to Wolverhampton on Saturday to compete in the Junior World BJJ Championship, taking on the toughest test of their skills to date against a deep field of the best and brightest competitors from around the globe.
With a total of seven CSA students taking to the mats, hopes were high for podium places and medals but tempered somewhat by the recognition of the true challenge presented by the high calibre of entrants the team would be tussling with.
Oliver Thackray, 10, faced an intimidating opponent in his first round match-up and had a hard battle to break through the boy’s defences. With the fight on the ground for the duration, opportunities for a submission finish for either competitor were few and far between but, as the bout approached time-limit, Thackray was caught in a chokehold and forced to submit and was eliminated from the tournament.
Joe Cole, also 10, had a similarly tough encounter in his first round match, with a furious spell of grappling dominating the encounter. Trading points-scoring opportunities with each other, with Cole passing guard and taking mount whilst his opponent took back control twice, the exhausting battle was decided in the dying seconds of match time when the other boy once again took Cole’s back to tally a further 4 points, settling the score at 12 – 7 to eliminate Joe.
Lennon George, 13, took to the mats with confidence for his group’s first round, tackling his opponent looking for a throw before both fighters took to ground. Grappling with the other boy in his half-guard, Lennon was caught and submitted by an elbow-popping americana arm-lock and eliminated.
Elliott Cole, aged 9, had a little more success in his category, submitting his first opponent by kimura arm-lock following a spell of frantic grappling for positional control. Onto his second fight and Cole was able to quickly capture his foe in closed guard to control the fight in his customary style to hunt for and apply another kimura arm-lock for the submission victory. Round 3 next and Elliott attacked with a pull to guard but failed to execute the play. Taking the fight back to stand-up, Cole and his opponent tussled for a throw, with Elliott being tripped and taken to the floor to give away two points to the other boy for the takedown. Immediately closing guard around the boy, Elliott attacked for submissions and sweeps but found his offense ably defended. The fight went to time-limit and with the score at 2-0 in favour of his opponent, Elliott was eliminated.
Eight-year-old Lilly Antley scored the club’s first podium of the day, fighting through a group of five evenly-matched girls to take silver. Going to ground with her opponent in her first match, Lilly fought to pass guard and take a controlling position but was unable to make any moves stick and the fight ended a pointless draw with the win awarded to Antley’s opponent by referee decision. Stung by her first round result, Antley unleashed a more determined attack on her second opponent, grappling on the ground and scoring points but ultimately ending the contest with a firm cross-collar choke to submit the other girl. Advancing to the group final, Antley again committed herself to a full-blooded attack but was met by solid resistance and was unable to score. Her opponent, whilst strong in her defence, was unable to launch any counter-attacks and the bout ended a pointless draw with the referee decision once again going against Antley. Disappointed to not be climbing to the top step of the podium, Lilly was proud to have earned a silver medal.
Aman Kumar, 15, and Cameron Hibbert, 14, both long-time CSA students and veterans of the club’s original junior BJJ squad, were on the mats fighting in the teen green and orange belt combined divisions.
Kumar faced a tough group of experienced teenagers, squaring up to an old adversary in his first round match. With their encounters at previous tournaments sitting at 2-1 in Kumar’s favour, perhaps the other boy considered this a grudge match and was looking for something to prove, but either way he attacked hard and fast, putting Kumar on the defensive. Keeping a cool head, the battle-proven Aman quickly deployed solid jiu jitsu to parry his opponent before launching a counter-attack. With the fight reaching a relative stalemate quite quickly, Kumar’s opponent suddenly launched a strong attack to capture Aman in a dangerous spot with his arm exposed. Unable to defend and reposition quickly enough, his arm was soon extended to force the submission by armbar, eliminating Kumar from the contest but, by virtue of other results in the category, earning him a consolation bronze for his efforts.
Hibbert stepped forward to face his round 1 bout and a typically explosive display of jiu jitsu was on offer, with Hibbert neutralising his opponent’s attacks and controlling him in guard before quickly catching the boy in a triangle choke hold whilst also applying a savage armbar to earn the submission victory. Onto round 2 and a more tactical battle was in the offing, with technical and positional work dominating proceedings. Points were scored by Hibbert for a guard pass and, as the match time-limit expired, this settled the matter and allowed Cameron to progress. With high stakes at hand in the group final, Hibbert engaged in a dizzying battle of wits with his opponent, each deploying some pristine jiu jitsu to foil each other’s attacks. Ultimately, the strong and talented opponent was able to catch Hibbert in a difficult position and, seizing control of Cameron’s arm, applied a powerful armbar to end the contest by submission to relegate Hibbert to silver placement.
Combat Sports Academy owner and head trainer, Lee Johnstone, said "We didn’t get all the results we wanted to, but it’s good to see our whole team fighting with heart and passion. The World Championships is a major challenge for any competitor, with entrants travelling from as far away as Australia and South America it really is a huge achievement to podium here. Our young team has worked hard all through the year to get themselves in fighting shape and, whilst some came home with medals and others didn’t, they are all on a journey and are all improving week on week."
Sam Diplock, CSA lead kids instructor said "I’m very proud of how our juniors performed, to see them put into practice their training is incredibly satisfying, with a few medals coming home a big bonus."
"Our junior team is growing in strength and skill", Lee Johnstone continued. "The kids will all be back in the gym next week to work on their jiu jitsu and get themselves ready for the next competiton. It’s inspiring to see these youngsters work so hard to achieve all that they do."
The CSA junior BJJ team will be back on the road at upcoming tournaments in Colchester, Newquay, Wolverhampton, Gillingham, and Bournemouth through August and September.