BANFF – Long known as building community in the Bow Valley, a local martial arts club is taking a step further to growing jiu jitsu with its own wide-scale competition.
Dark Horse Grappling Series, the second submission-only jiu-jitsu tournament hosted by Canmore’s Dark Horse Martial Arts, went down Saturday (Sept. 3) with competitors from around western Canada squaring off at Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre.
“It went significantly better than the first one,” said Travis Erlam, founder of Dark Horse Martial Arts. “Nothing but positive feedback from every competitor I talked to, so that was awesome.”
The first Dark Horse Grappling Series (DHGS) in June saw competitors mainly wearing gis – a traditional martial arts uniform – but last weekend’s sophomore event had grapplers losing the “funny pajamas” in favour of a mostly no-gi atmosphere.
No-gi allows for a faster paced and more entertaining match; in the DHGS format, a submission victory is most desired and worth the most points.
“I'm a big fan of the submission-only format and can appreciate that the organizers were working to incentivize action and finishes. That's really important for our sport going forward,” said Calgary's Matthew Marcone, a blue belt out of Affinity Academy. “A few of the staff were wearing T-shirts that had the slogan, 'say no to boring jiu jitsu.' I thought that was awesome. We need more of that kind of approach to grappling."
Local martial artist Jonah Ellis, a white belt at Dark Horse Martial Arts, won bronze at the tourney. He had two submission victories – armbar and mounted guillotine choke – and a draw, throughout five match-ups.
Ellis, who coach Erlam praises as one of the hardest workers in the gym, said he felt growth since the inaugural June tourney.
“I felt comfortable on the floor and I thought I could hold my own, but standing up I always thought I was going to get taken down,” said Ellis. “I worked a lot with my coach Carter (Haines) and he got prepped and ready and taught me a bunch of new takedowns and it kind of just added to my arsenal and I felt much more confident standing up in this tournament.”
Ellis added he has been pleased that jiu-jitsu tournaments have made their way to the Bow Valley.
Erlam, one of the main catalysts to bringing jiu-jitsu to the area, is on the fast-track to landing in the Bow Valley Sports Hall of Fame as a sport builder. He said the community can look forward to more in the future.
“We are working on another one; it all depends on if we can get a location,” said Erlam. “Hopefully before year’s end.”
As many club members helped run the event, there were some who took to the mat on Sept. 3. In their respective categories, Dark Horse’s Jackson Young, 7, won silver; Chelsea Mitchell took bronze; Dave Calder finished in fourth; Adam Harrouche was fourth; Yoshiya Isayama placed fourth; and Dark Horse affiliate Jared Babich was fourth.