Members of an Oak Harbor jiu jitsu club brought home the hardware from a competition in Everett last week.
Seven Wakizashi Jiu Jitsu students attended Grappling Industries, a Brazilian jiu jitsu tournament March 12. Each of the seven who attended placed in at least one of their respective brackets.
In jiu jitsu competitions, participants fight with and without the traditional kimono known as the Gi. These separate contests are referred to as “Gi” and “No-Gi.”
From the Oak Harbor club’s adult class, Abiel Balam won first place in No-Gi and second place in Gi, Brody Carter won first place in Gi, and Jules VonDoom won second in Gi and third in No-Gi, in their respective brackets.
From the teen class, Alliya McAllister, 11, won first place in both Gi and No-Gi; Devon Robinson, 12, took second place in No-Gi; Parker Thompson, 12 won second place in No-Gi and third place in Gi; and Xavier Reid, 13, took first in Gi.
Grappling Industries is a tournament series that runs internationally in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The recent tournament in Everett drew competitors from as far away as Idaho, Oregon and Utah.
VonDoom, who owns the Wakizashi Jiu Jitsu club and coaches the teens’ and children’s classes, said it isn’t unusual for club members to compete at such a high level.
“We do really well,” he said.
VonDoom said the mental aspect of jiu jitsu is what draws him to the sport. In jiu jitsu, he said, brute strength is less advantageous than knowing where to put your body, or how to manipulate your opponent’s body.
“There is a goal that everybody will try to achieve, and it’s to establish dominance over your opponent or partner, but it must be done tactically and strategically,” he said. “Jiu jitsu is a Rubik’s cube that fights back.”
Other competitors, including Robinson and Reid, also cited the strategic challenge as one of the sport’s greatest appeals.
“It’s kind of like chess but physical,” Reid said. “It’s a lot of fun to be here. Even when you’re getting beat up, you’ll walk off the mat with a smile.”
Wakizashi first began in Oak Harbor in 2017 on the naval base, and has been at its current location on Oak Street since June 2020. The club offers classes for children, teenagers and adults and has 66 active members, more than half of whom are under 16 years old.
VonDoom said that beyond simply learning the sport, he and other club members place great emphasis on maintaining the spirit and culture of the dojo.
Club members said the benefits of participating extend beyond the skills gained.
“It definitely keeps me off my couch,” McAllister said. “Because of this space, I’ve found these friends I have now.”
Thompson added that the sport has helped him manage anger, overcome shyness and even keep his grades up.
“I definitely am at my peak right now,” he said.