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Locals win big at jiu-jitsu pan-am championships

Three local jiu-jitsu athletes from the Hayabusa Training Centre in St. Albert had their hard work pay off for them in the form of international competition medals.
A.J. Timm, left, and Luke Harris, right were two of the three local jiu-jitsu athletes to earn medals at the 2022 IBJJF No Gi Pan Championships in Texas between Oct. 14-17. SUPPLIED/Photo

Athletes from the Hayabusa Training Centre in St. Albert had their hard work pay off for them recently as three locals won medals at an international jiu-jitsu competition.

At the International Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu Federation's (IBJJF) No Gi Pan Championships between Oct. 14-17, in Dallas, Texas, Luke Harris, Shaun Donald Holmstrom, and A.J. Timm brought home five combined medals. 

The No Gi Pan Championships, hosted annually, is one of the most revered competitions in the sport, according to Harris, who captured his fifth career Pan gold medal, as well as a silver medal. There are two streams of competitive jiu-jitsu: Gi, which involves athletes wearing a gi, the standard martial arts garment, and No Gi, where athletes don't wear a gi.

Harris, 45, the owner and head trainer of Hayabusa Training Centre, won gold in the black belt super-heavy division in his respective age group, Master 3, and silver in the open weight class event in Master 3 as well.

Harris beat five opponents on his way to the podiums, including Luiz Felipe Bragiao of Brazil, twice.

“When you’re facing someone twice like that, it’s an advantage because you know what they’re going to do, but it’s a disadvantage because they know what you’re going to do too," Harris said. "The first one I won by submission, the second I won by points.”

Harris went into the Pan Championships ranked the number one competitor in the world for his age and belt category, and his results from Texas will allow him to hang onto that ranking heading into the World Championships happening in December.

A long-time world class martial arts athlete, Harris said one of the keys to his success is that he never lets himself become complacent.

“You always have to keep on top of your game. This sport is ever-changing and new techniques being added, people getting in better shape … so you have to train a lot and you have to stay current with the times,” Harris said. 

“I’m always on the mat, I’m always training a couple of times a day, but it’s not always the hard sparring I used to do when I’m a bit younger."

Holmstrom, competing in the Master 7 (over 60) black belt division, secured gold in his weight class, as well as bronze in the open weight class for his age and belt group. 

Timm, fighting through a poorly-timed case of food poisoning, was able to earn bronze in the Master 1 (30-35) brown belt ultra-heavy division. In the open weight class for Master 3 brown belt competitors, Timm was eliminated in the quarter finals by Miguel Angel Barreda of Austin, Texas.

“Unfortunately, [on day one of the competition], I believe I got food poisoning, so I wasn’t feeling the best," Timm said in an interview.

“To medal in any of these competitions, I just feel very lucky that I can get there and do these things and any type of result is quite good.”

Despite beginning jiu-jitsu just six years ago, Timm has managed to medal at multiple IBJJF events.

“I feel like there’s a lot more to learn, and there’s just so much more to do," he said, adding, "you can only continue to grow.”

Now that the athletes have made the trip home and are back in the gym, they'll turn their attention to the IBJJF No Gi World Championships set to take place in Anaheim, California come December. 

“We’ll work some technique then we’ll start ramping up here in the next two or three weeks," Timm said of his training plan. "You want to see how you’re handling the best guys, and if I can pull any type of placement out of it I’m more than happy with that."

"If I can [medal] consecutively as a brown belt, for me that’s a very achievable but realistic goal and something I really strive towards.”

For Harris and Timm, the World Championships will be their last competition in their respective age categories as both athletes will be starting from scratch in new age classes next year. 

In 2023, Harris will compete in Master 4, for competitors between the ages of 45-49, and Timm will compete in Master 2, which is the 35-39 age group.

When competitors move up to a new age group, they lose the points and rankings they've earned from previous tournaments. This means that for next year's tournaments, Harris and Timm will be assigned low seedings, and will face stiff competition in the early rounds of each event.

“You can travel to the other side of the world, lose first round, and you’re out – better luck next time," Harris said. 

"I always look at it like these guys need to fight me, so they’re the ones that need to feel the pressure.”

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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