Martial artists from across the state gather in Cedar City for Brazilian jiujitsu tournament – St George News
CEDAR TOWN — The growing community of Brazilian jiujitsu martial artists in southern Utah held what officials called a “groundbreaking event” Saturday at Iron Springs Elementary School in Cedar City.
For the first time in the area, Impact BJJ Tournaments hosted the one-day Expo for children and adults, bringing together fans and practitioners of the sport from across the state.
Four mats were set up for the competitions, which paired two martial artists against each other in a match.
Brazilian jiujitsu is a form of martial art that is most often compared to judo or traditional wrestling, in that the fights only involve grappling – no kicks or punches are allowed.
Rounds are timed according to the age and ability (belt level) of the fighters. Victory is won by either subduing your opponent – by having them “tapping” – or by compiling the most points for the technique.
Steve Eargle was one of the sport’s earliest innovators in Cedar City, starting Empire Mixed Martial Arts eight years ago.
“There’s been tremendous growth,” Eargle told Cedar City News next to the mats during competition. “When we started I had the only gym here and now there are three gyms and one on the way. This is the first tournament we’ve held in southern Utah so if all goes well , it could open a lot of doors.
With help from Eagle, husband and wife team Kevin Alvarez (known to his students as “Coach Mambo”) and Angelica Gonzalez formed the KALA School of Brazilian Jiujitsu in Cedar City and helped bring Saturday’s tournament to local fans.
Alvarez said the KALA school (the initials of family members Kevin, Angelica, Laura and Alex) started after working with mixed martial arts fighters at Empire, then branched out into its own gymnasium.
“Everything has been a blessing,” Alvarez said. “We didn’t expect it to become so big.”
Alvarez said police officers, former CIA personnel and local security personnel all train at KALA with children, teenagers and adults.
“People from across the community have come out to support us, especially our friends at D&D Variety Store,” Alvarez said. “These guys are blessings. They are the main sponsors of our tournament here.
Alvarez noted that most tournaments are held in Salt Lake City or Las Vegas, Nevada or California.
“We wanted to establish something here in Cedar that would bring more to our community,” Alvarez said. “Most importantly, our Brazilian Jiujitsu community is growing. We just want us all to get together and have fun. Spread the love.”
“We have no other goal than to share and come together – that’s all we wanted,” Alvarez said.
Aaron Reis has taught at Fusion MMA and Jiujitsu St. George since 2000. A large number of tournament competitors came from Fusion.
“It’s so nice to be able to drive just 40 minutes and compete,” said Reis, “especially for new students and kids. It’s been a really good event for them to learn and compete against other schools and test their skills.
Gonzalez, who teaches most of the kids’ classes at KALA, said Brazilian jiujitsu teaches more than fighting skills.
“I call it moving meditation,” Gonzalez said. “You have to breathe, you have to have oxygen so your brain can think when you fight.”
“We’re modeling a fight, a real fight, but just controlled,” she added. “You need to be in a good frame of mind, and for that you need to breathe, you need meditation. You need to have good healthy habits in general.
Gonzalez said KALA has seen an increasing number of children and teenagers wanting to learn Brazilian jiujitsu.
“It’s really fun, I try to make sure it’s always fun for the kids,” she said. “But at the same time, know when it’s fun and fun, and when we need to have discipline. We have to stop and get serious because we’re modeling a real fight, so we can’t just play.
“For me, discipline is very important. Discipline with love, I call it,” Gonzalez added.
Finn Christiansen, a 10-year-old from Cedar City, has been training at KALA for two years. After winning a match at the tournament, he didn’t need time to answer why he loves Brazilian jiujitsu.
“You can tackle and choke,” he said. “And if there is time on Friday, you can play games.”
Canyon View High School student Samantha Guevara also won her match at the tournament.
“KALA was amazing, I’m so honored to be able to fight with them,” Guevara said. “Brazilian jiujitsu in general has helped me so much in life. I think everyone should do it.
She added that she got into the martial art form wanting to learn more about self-defense.
“It helped me to be more confident and not accept so much bullshit from people,” Guevara said. “Just be stronger and so much healthier. It’s just amazing.
Cedar City resident Mario Calderon has a blue belt and trains at KALA
“It helps me deal with frustration,” Calderon said. “I’m mad and working on everything and coming out soft. Jiujitsu is a way of life.
Tournament fans were thrilled with the appearance of Fabio Santos, who recently moved to New Harmony.
Santos, 65, is considered a Brazilian jiujitsu teacher. He holds a seventh-degree black belt, called a coral belt because his black and red colors resemble a coral snake.
Before moving to America in 1983, Santos trained in Brazil with the Gracie family, the legendary creators of Brazilian jiujitsu.
Santos then opened gyms in San Diego, California; Seattle, Washington; Tijuana, Mexico; and several other locations in the southwest.
“That’s what I do, I go to tournaments, seminars and schools and try to improve their skills,” Santos said. “I really appreciate that there are so many people in southern Utah who are interested in Brazilian jiujitsu.”
“It’s growing,” he said, “and me being here, I can really help people get into it more effectively.”
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