Josh Russell gives some advice to two young grapplers during the first session of his two-day seminar in Whitehorse on March 2 at Elijah Smith Elementary School. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

Calgary black belt holds Brazilian jiu-jitsu seminar in Whitehorse

Josh Russell held a two-day seminar hosted by Elite Martial Arts Academy and Judo Yukon

Elite Martial Arts Academy and Judo Yukon joined forces to hold a Brazilian jiu-jitsu seminar at Elijah Smith Elementary School in Whitehorse on March 2 and 3 led by Calgary-based black belt Josh Russell.

Russell, who received his black belt in Brazil under Carlos Gracie Jr. of the famous Gracie family, was Elite co-owner Dan Hombert’s instructor in Calgary and that relationship is what helped facilitate the trip.

Bobby Woodman, another of Elite’s co-owners, said the gym had been working on the seminar for a while.

“Dan talked about having a seminar before,” said Woodman. “It’s taken a little while, but we finally got it together and we linked up with Judo Yukon and Schmidt Mining to bring (Russell) up.”

Woodman said that it only made sense to include judokas in the seminar — especially at the youth level.

“It’s good exposure for everybody,” said Woodman. “Our kids hit a plateau and have the same people to go with and with Judo Yukon, they always have the same guys and they kind of plateau. … I think mixing everybody together gives them new options and pushes (through) that plateau.”

Russell, who has a background in judo as well and trained until his schedule was too busy to allow him to continue, said the common ancestor of the two sports — Japanese jiu-jitsu — means a lot of what works in one sport is also beneficial in the other.

“For the judo guys, today we worked on some positions that they’ll find common even in their judo matches,” said Russell after the first day of the seminar. “I wanted to give them something that they can put those tools to work in their respective sport and if they want to crossover and do some jiu-jitsu, it will also serve them well there. I tried to give those little judokas something they can use, techniques that crossover to both sports.”

The level of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the Yukon was a bit unexpected for Russell.

“I was actually really pleasantly surprised,” said Russell. “It’s got the potential to become a hot spot.”

Russell explained that the sport was pretty new in Calgary just 10 or 15 years ago, so to see it grow so quickly in the two years since Hombert began teaching in the Yukon is a good sign for the future.

“There was already some grappling happening here, but not on such a formal basis,” said Russell. “I’m pleasantly surprised to see the level of technique and enthusiasm of children, men and women.”

Day one included a youth session in the morning and an adult session in the afternoon — both with gis, the traditional uniform for the sport — and afterwards, Russell took time to roll with attendees who were willing.

Woodman, a purple belt, seized the opportunity since it isn’t everyday you get a chance to grapple with a black belt in Whitehorse.

“You can feel the pressure because they’re a lot heavier. They’re not going to let you move as easily as a lower belt will because (lower belts) don’t necessarily know how to keep that pressure on you the whole time,” said Woodman. “(Russell) is just constant pressure, not giving me much room to move. I had to expose myself to be able to move, which puts me at risk for all of his submissions and stuff like that.”

Day two of the seminar was held at Elite’s new location on Industrial Road and focused on no-gi grappling.

Russell said that gi grappling is generally slower and more technical, with no-gi grappling being easier for people who are athletic in general to pick up.

“In no-gi, someone that’s just an athlete, has some explosiveness, if they have an idea what’s going on they can survive quite well because you can’t grab them and slow them down. It makes it pretty hard,” said Russell.

Russell had free rein as far as the content of the seminar, and Woodman said he concluded the sessions with suggestions from participants.

“We got some instruction and some help on our weaker points,” said Woodman, adding that Russell gave him some pointers on particular techniques and positions Woodman has been working on.

“I’m working on certain things that other people won’t work or aren’t working, so he just gave me a little tip and a little move to help me out.”

The timing of the seminar couldn’t be better for Elite, with a number of grapplers prepping to travel to Vancouver for the 2019 Tiger Balm Internationals on March 16 and 17.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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