Athletes from Elite Martial Arts Academy show off their medals at the Tiger Balm Internationals in Vancouver on March 16. The gym’s students brought home 13 medals - 12 in jiu-jitsu and one in kickboxing. (Submitted/Elite Martial Arts Academy)

Yukon martial artists bring back baker’s dozen medals from 2019 Tiger Balm Internationals

A group of athletes from Elite Martial Arts Academy in Whitehorse were in Vancouver for the Tiger Balm Internationals on March 16 and 17.

The multi-discipline martial arts event included karate, kung fu, wushu, taiji, tae kwon do, hapkido and jiu-jitsu.

Nine Yukoners brought back a total of 13 medals – 12 in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, both gi and no-gi categories and one in World Karate Commission kickboxing.

The four gold medals went to Aliyah Fortier, James Fortier and Ashley Denisoff in gi jiu-jitsu and Bobby Woodman in no-gi jiu-jitsu.

Leanne Fortier won silver in kickboxing, while Aliyah and Kristjan Eyolfson won silver in no-gi jiu-jitsu and Woodman and Demie Rae Leduc won silver in gi jiu-jitsu.

The four bronze medals went to Denisoff in no-gi jiu-jitsu, Eyolfson in gi jiu-jitsu and Kyle Alexander in both gi and no-gi jiu-jitsu.

The team also picked up four more top-five finishes.

Woodman, one of the co-owners and coaches at Elite, said being at an event with so many different things happening at once was a bit of an adjustment.

“They had a little bit of everything,” said Woodman. “They had jiu-jitsu, they had kickboxing, they had katas for karate, they had weapons demos, they had tai chi – they had a little bit of everything. It was a little weird to see all in one place.”

To further add to the atmosphere, all the different events were happening simultaneously.

“You’d have a grappling match going on,” said Woodman. “And there are little kids screaming doing katas and forms.”

For jiu-jitsu, Woodman said the field was large at the beginner and novice levels but a bit smaller at higher levels.

“For the novice and beginner stuff, there was a lot of people so a few of them got a lot of good matches,” said Woodman. “The more advanced guys, like myself and a couple others, were (in) kind of a small field, but it’s still always good to get out there and compete.”

Woodman said the best part of the event was seeing how far all the athletes have come since the gym opened, just over two years ago.

“Everybody did really well,” said Woodman. “Even from (the Alaska State No-Gi Submission Grappling Championships in October) to now, the amount of growth that some of them have shown is insane.”

Most of the grapplers started at Elite as complete rookies, and Woodman said watching the development is one of the perks of the job.

“That is one of the best parts, I find, of being an owner and coach,” said Woodman. “Seeing their face when you show them something and you see that click in their head. To see them applying the stuff we teach them on a daily basis is one of the most important things for me – I enjoy every second of it.”

In that vein, some of Elite’s youngest grapplers are prepping for a tournament in Anchorage, Alaska, in April.

“Our gym is great, but they are the future,” said Woodman. “It’s their first tournament, so they’re getting really excited. I’m trying to settle them down and focus them up a little bit more and take the training a little bit more seriously. It’s different when you’re goofing around with your friends during regular class, but tournament time you’ve got to train like you’re going for a tournament – that can be a little hard to do sometimes.”

As far as other tournaments on the horizon, Woodman said there are a number of options being considered like the Calgary and Vancouver opens in May and June, and a return to Anchorage in the fall for the State No-Gi Grappling Championships.

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

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