Sheldon Casselman, left, and Kyle Alexander, right, are two of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners from Whitehorse heading to the Alaska State No-Gi Submission Grappling Championships on Oct. 27. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

Yukoners prepare to compete at Alaska State No-Gi Submission Grappling Championships

“We’re hoping to come back with some more silver and gold medals”

The 2018 Alaska State No-Gi Submission Grappling Championships are in Anchorage, Alaska on Oct. 27 and a handful of Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners from Whitehorse’s Elite Martial Arts Academy will be making the trip to compete.

Instructor and co-owner Dan Hombert said a half dozen people from the gym are planning to compete.

“There might be more kind of last minute, and another guy that’s nursing his injury,” said Hombert.

Joining Hombert in Alaska will be the other two co-owners at Elite, Bobby Woodman and Sheldon Casselman, as well as Ashley Denisoff, Kyle Alexander and Ryan Lenssen.

The event is a no-gi competition, meaning athletes grapple in a rashguard — a type of shirt designed to protect against abrasions — and shorts.

“The distinctive difference is we’re not wearing the traditional gi uniform,” said Hombert. “It’s a little bit closer (resemblance) to the jiu-jitsu you would see in mixed martial arts.”

Aside from the uniform, the other big difference is the inclusion of leg locks. Depending on division, competitors will be able to use straight foot locks, knee bars and heel hooks.

“For some of our competitors, it’s going to be the first time they’re thrown into a situation where … it will be the first time they’re introduced — especially to the heel hook,” said Hombert.

Rather than creating divisions based on belt, the championships will divide competitors based on experience — a novice division for competitors with less than two years experience, an intermediate division for competitors with two to four years experience and an advanced division for competitors with more than four years experience.

Hombert said the gym has switched exclusively to no-gi training in the lead up to the competition to give everyone as much experience and preparation as possible.

“Typically, coach (Casselman) and coach (Woodman) are more no-gi coaches,” said Hombert, adding he typically teaches more of the gi classes. “In preparation for the tournament, we’ve been doing the last month all no-gi … so my duties have gone to no-gi as well.”

Aside from leg locks and the uniform, Hombert said sweat and grip can play a bigger role in no-gi grappling.

“It’s a lot slipperier. With the gi, you get lots of traction — you can hang onto collars,” said Hombert. “This one, you’re more looking to grip the back of the neck and elbows.”

Those differences also change the effectiveness and ease of application for certain techniques, both offensive and defensive.

“There’s a few that are easier, like the D’Arce (choke) and the rear naked choke, to get in no-gi,” said Hombert. “But ones like arm bars, it’s just a little bit easier for them to pull their arms out. Instead of using a more technical escape, sometimes it’s just the slippery sweat (and) you just quickly yank your arm out.”

The bonus though, said Hombert, is it helps students focus on proper technique applying submissions.

“It makes for more technical grappling in certain areas for sure,” said Hombert.

The gym earned five medals in Calgary, and Hombert said the hope is to match or best those results, but that Alaska is a bit of an unknown for the competitors.

“We’re hoping to come back with some more silver and gold medals,” said Hombert. “I’ve never grappled in Alaska. … I know they have some good black belts and a couple good MMA gyms in Anchorage, so I’m expecting the level to be pretty good.”

The tournament is a single-elimination format with novice matches lasting five minutes, intermediate matches lasting six minutes and advanced matches lasting seven minutes.

In the event a match continues to the time limit, the winner is determined by points. Points are awarded for takedowns, sweeps from the guard, passing the guard, knee on stomach, mount and back control.

The ultimate goal, though, is to submit your opponent.

“There are certain things people excel at because of body types a lot of times,” said Hombert.

Taller competitors tend to utilize triangle chokes — trapping the head, and often arm, of the opponent with the legs — while shorter competitors lean towards techniques like the Kimura — a shoulder lock.

Hombert said that while that’s the general idea, winning means taking what is available.

“Basically you want to be able, when someone makes a mistake, (to) capitalize with whatever submission is presented.”

The event also has rules in place to prevent stalling, something that can sometimes happen if a competitor gets a good position early in a match.

“It sounds like they’re putting a little more of a focus on it because there is a tendency sometimes with wrestlers, they get a takedown and they stall out a little bit because they have good balance but their technical jiu-jitsu isn’t quite as good,” said Hombert. “That’s good for us. We do lots of takedowns, so if we get stood back up, we feel comfortable on our feet. I don’t think our gym would ever be considered a stalling type of gym, so I think we’re pretty happy.”

The championships start 9 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time on Oct. 27 at Lumen Christi High School in Anchorage, Alaska.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon Employees’ Union says a lack of staff training and high turnover at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter is creating a dangerous situation for underpaid workers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Employees’ Union says lack of training at emergency shelter leading to unsafe situations

Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost said the staffing policy “is evolving”

Justice Karen Wenckebach will begin serving as resident judge on the Yukon Supreme Court early next year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
All-female justice roster ‘a good step’ for diversity in Yukon Supreme Court

Karen Wenckebach is the third woman appointed to the Yukon Supreme Court in history

The Liberal government blocked a motion by Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers that would have asked the federal government to provide the territories with more than a per capita amount of COVID-19 vaccine doses during initial distribution. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Party says a per capita distribution of vaccines would leave Yukon short

The opposition is also asking the government to release their plan for vaccine distribution


Wyatt’s World for Dec. 4, 2020

Dawson City’s BHB Storage facility experienced a break-and-enter last month, according to Yukon RCMP. (File photo)
Storage lockers damaged, items stolen in Dawson City

BHB Storage facility victim to second Dawson City break-and-enter last month

A sign outside the Yukon Inn Convention Centre indicates Yukoners can get a flu vaccine inside. As of Dec. 4, the vaccinations won’t be available at the convention centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse Convention Centre ends flu vaccination service early

Flu vaccinations won’t be available at the Whitehorse Convention Centre after Dec.… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White River First Nation to run for councillors in the 2021 election. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News File)
White River First Nation to elect new chief and council

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White… Continue reading

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new councillor in a byelection held Dec. 3. (Wikimedia Commons)
Watson Lake elects new councillor

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new… Continue reading

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Most Read