Standing on top of the podium was a milestone moment for Luke Harris at the IBJJF European Jiu-Jitsu Championships.
The Brazillian black belt won five matches and four by submission as the gold medallist in the super heavyweight 40 to 45 age division at the 2018 European tournament in Lisbon, Portugal.
“Personally, it’s great. I’m definitely happy about it,” said Harris, the owner/instructor of the Hayabusa Training Centre Ltd. in Campbell Business Park. “But to represent St. Albert, to represent the gym here and to represent Canada it means a lot more.”
Harris, 40, is also a nine-time American national champion and is a world medallist at No-Gi, which is grappling without the traditional jiu-jitsu uniform.
“As for career highlights for jiu-jitsu this is absolutely the top that I’ve accomplished so far,” Harris said. “It’s one of the biggest Jiu-Jitsu tournaments in the world. It’s open to everyone.
“It’s very prestigious to win it.”
Only one match lasted the full five minutes with Harris winning on points and the rest ended with tap outs.
“A lot of them went almost the full time but I ended up getting four submissions: one Kimura lock (named after Masahiko Kimura, who used the move to defeat Helio Gracie, one of the founders of Brazilian jiu-jitsu), one chock, one straight-arm lock and one knee bar,” said the St. Albert Catholic High School alumnus.
“The objective is to win by submission,” he added. And if the match goes the distance, “You get points for basically taking down your opponent or getting certain positions on the mat.”
The rock solid six-foot-two Harris competed at 222 pounds, which is three pounds less than his current weight.
“The division over 222 is unlimited. I competed at that division at worlds last year and basically I got out-sized by guys who were somewhere over 300 pounds so it pays to spend the extra time getting your weight down.”
Harris is “a life long martial artist” who got his black belt in judo at age 18 and this is his sixth year as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
“I love both judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. They complement one another,” he said. ”A lot of it is sort of like personal goals with competition but my main passion is really teaching. We have a big program here (at Hayabusa) with about 100 adult students and close to 80 kids that we teach, all ranging from five years old all the way to 15 for kids, and that’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu. We also have a judo program here too.”
The product of the St. Albert Judo Club started training at the age of eight and later competed on the Canadian national judo team before making the transition to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which focuses on grappling and ground fighting, and eventually working his way into the MMA ranks as a light-heavyweight with a 10-3 record as “Hayabusa” Harris.
“Martial arts, especially jiu-jitsu and judo, are just incredible in shaping your life. People come here and do it for a number of different reasons. Some kids get bullied so they do it. Some people want weight loss, some do it for the social aspect, some people do it because they like to compete or they just need that outlet. There are so many different and great reasons for doing it but for me I really enjoy the competitive aspect and the cognizant aspect of it. It’s much like a chess game. You’re always learning and you’re always learning new techniques. Someone could apply a technique to you and then you’re working on a counter but sometimes they’re doing that technique only so you counter so they can counter you. It’s quite an interesting art.”
After completing a technologist degree in landscape architecture in Edmonton, Harris transferred to the University of Guelph for an undergraduate degree and continued his education at Penn Sate to earn his masters degree.
Harris also spent time in Tokyo learning from the top judo masters in the birthplace of the sport and his evolution as a judoka included training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Gelinas Academy of Mixed Martial Arts in Montreal as well as a stint in Brazil.
“I ended up moving back here and opening my own gym and part of that reason was there wasn’t really anything like this around at the time. It was about 10 years ago and since that time I used to compete in mixed martial arts so I competed on the Ultimate Fighter (The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia, in 2014), had a great career with MMA but I put that aside about four years ago and now my focus has been teaching, running the gym and I compete when I get a chance,” who Harris, lost his last MMA fight to Jared Hamman on Oct 11, 2014 by TKO (punches) on the World Series of Fighting 14 card – Canada versus United States.
Harris is currently working towards the Pan Jiu-Jitsu IBJJF Championships next month in Irvine, Calif., and the world masters in August in Las Vegas.
“I would like to win Pan-Ams and worlds this year. That’s really the goal,” said Harris, who is part of a nine-person Hayabusa team going to Pan-Ams. “I go to every tournament with the goal of being number one and winning but that being said there are various strong competitors out there and you never really know how you’re going to stack up.
“I posted a quote to my students the other day and basically it said your will to win has to exceeded your fear of losing and that’s kind of a motto that I go by. It’s kind of a competition mindset. Everyone is going to be a bit afraid or a bit scared of competing but your will to win has to be greater.
“You’re going to feel it but you have to almost internalize that and use that to move forward and do that will to win.”