Jiu-Jitsu
Mikepesh pixabay.com
Although Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is still considered by many to be one of the most effective martial arts in the world, its role in the sport has changed over time. What was once a dominant fighting style all on its own has evolved to become an essential piece of a much larger puzzle. Some of the best fighters to date came from backgrounds in wrestling, sambo, muay thai, and karate. While the role of jiu-jitsu in most fighter's arsenals has undoubtedly changed, it still play a pivotal role in their training programs. So how exactly has jiu-jitsu evolved with the sport MMA? Let's examine some champions from different eras to see how jiu-jitsu has changed throughout the more than 25 years of the sport.

Royce Gracie was the UFC 1 tournament champion and went on to also win UFCs 2 and 4, compiling an overall MMA record of 15-2-3. Going in to UFC 1, Royce was on a mission to prove that the fighting style his family refined throughout the years could defeat all the other well-known styles. Royce dominated the early UFCs, submitting nearly every opponent. He finished all but one of his first eleven fights by submission, finishing the other one via TKO from a dominant position. From the early to late 90's, it was almost universally agreed upon that jiu-jitsu was the most effective martial art in a real fight. On May 1, 2000, Royce suffered his first professional defeat at the hands of Kazushi Sakuraba via TKO. Sakuraba became known as the "Gracie Hunter," as he also had wins over Royler, Renzo, and Ryan Gracie. It was around this time that MMA was gaining more popularity and more participants, so fighters were beginning to adapt their styles and become well-rounded. Royce Gracie showed that if a jiu-jitsu expert went into the cage or ring against someone without any grappling experience, the odds were in the jiu-jitsu practitioner's favor.

As the UFC began to gain more notoriety, more stars with different backgrounds began to develop. In the late 90's and early 2000's, former Division I wrestler Chuck Liddell began to take the sport by storm. Liddell was a power puncher, who used his wrestling to counter his opponents' takedowns and keep the fight on the feet. Using this strategy, Liddell scored 13 knockout victories and eventually became the UFC Light Heavyweight champion. His style was nearly the complete opposite of Royce Gracie's. So where does jiu-jitsu come into play? Liddell started his jiu-jitsu training in the late 90's during the start of his MMA career. He was submitted in his third professional fight by submission specialist Jeremy Horn. However, since that fight, Liddell competed in 27 more professional fights and never again suffered defeat via submission. He even went on to avenge his loss against Jeremy Horn in 2005, this time winning by TKO. While Royce's jiu-jitsu was used offensively to finish fights, Chuck Liddell used his jiu-jitsu in a purely defensive manner, keeping his matches on the feet and utilizing his striking to put his opponents away.

The first women's fight in UFC history took place on February 23, 2013. Since then, the women's divisions have been some of the most exciting and competitive in the sport. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Amanda Nunes currently holds the UFC bantamweight and featherweight titles. Her run in the promotion has been nearly flawless, compiling a 15-1 record with 10 finishes. Amanda's style represents a very modern approach to the game. Though she is most well known for her striking, she started her jiu-jitsu training at age 16 and has trained the martial art consistently throughout her professional career. Amanda's style represents the current apex of the sport as she has highly developed skills in every area of a fight. She currently holds 4 wins by submission and has proven that she has finishing skills on the feet and on the floor.

The UFC currently has 11 champions across all of its male and female divisions. Out of these 11 champions, 6 currently hold the rank of black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Ultimately, jiu-jitsu is an absolutely necessary part of a high level fighters' training program. Whether they plan to finish the fight on the ground with a submission or simply gain enough awareness to defend against common submission threats, it's clear that jiu-jitsu is highly effective and is only going to further evolve over time.

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Judo
Saddleburn

Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer Hayward Nishioka has been campaigning for judo in the United States to harvest more shodans (1st degree black belts) Shodan literally means student. It's analogous to being a freshman in college. It's not the end but the beginning according to Jigoro Kano, the Founder of Judo.

A very dear friend and sensei of mine the late Allen Johnson, may he rest in peace made a home at Emerald City Judo. In Redmond, Washington.

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Competitive Edge Karate
Photo Courtesy: Jackson Rudolph

Team Competitive Edge, coached by Jackson Rudolph, Reid Presley, and Cole Presley, has become one of the premier teams in the sport in recent years. The team consistently takes home individual overall grand championships and they are the reigning U.S. Open ISKA Team Demonstration World Champions. Moving into the 2022 tournament season, they have made a huge move to deepen their roster and add seven junior competitors to the team. The new additions range from proven champions bringing their talents to the squad, some skilled workhorses who have previously joined the team for the Team Demo division, and some promising young stars who will be making their debut in the black belt division this year. Keep reading to learn more about each of the new additions (ordered alphabetically).

Gavin Bodiford

Gavin Bodiford

Photo Courtesy: Kellie Austin Bodiford via Facebook

Bodiford is twelve years old and hails from Lebanon, Tennessee, a product of Premier Martial Arts Lebanon (formerly known as Success Martial Arts Center), where the Competitive Edge coaches have all earned black belts. He has five years of martial arts experience and was the 2020-2021 ProMAC Southern Region Champion in four divisions. He also finished the 2021 NASKA season in the top ten for creative, musical, and extreme forms and weapons. Bodiford is one of the competitors who has stepped up for Competitive Edge in the past, joining the demonstration team to help them secure the 2021 U.S. Open ISKA World Championship.

Riley Claire Carlisle

RC Carlisle

Photo Courtesy: Mallory Parker Carlisle

Carlisle (pictured with coach Sammy Smith) is a 10-year-old rising star from Starkville, Mississippi who has been training for four years. In the underbelt division, she has won grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and numerous regional events. She holds multiple divisional and grand championship titles from the ProMAC circuit, and has amassed over ninety divisional wins in recent years. She is moving into the black belt division in 2022 and looks to continue her winning ways.

Kodi Molina

Kodi Molina

Photo Courtesy: Priscilla Molina via Facebook

Molina is a 13-year-old world champion from San Antonio, Texas with 10 years of martial arts training under her belt. She has won many grand championship titles on the NASKA circuit, and has claimed world championships from NASKA, ISKA, ATA, and WKC. At the 2021 U.S. Open, she became the reigning ISKA world champion in 13 and under girls creative/musical/extreme weapons. She is a versatile competitor who can win with extreme bo or kama routines, performs beautiful traditional forms, and is a solid point fighter as well. She is an active member of her community and participates in a variety of leadership programs, making her a great role model for younger members of the team.

Michael Molina

Michael Molina

Photo Courtesy: Michael Molina via Instagram

"Super Bomb" is the 9-year-old brother of Kodi, who is a world champion in his own right. In his seven years of experience, he has already won a variety of titles across multiple leagues, including NASKA overall grand championships at the 2021 Battle of Atlanta and AmeriKick Internationals. Since he began training at the age of two, his regimen has included strength, speed, agility, and conditioning training at "Rojo Dojo", where a number of world champions and national contenders gather to train. He is known for his incredible performance ability, always putting on a show when he graces the stage.

Gavin Richmond

Gavin Richmond

Photo Courtesy: Bobby Benavides

Richmond is yet another world champion being added to the Competitive Edge roster. The 13-year-old from San Antonio has been training for five years and has accumulated several grand championship titles, including wins at prestigious events like the Diamond Nationals and U.S. Open. The young star is a well-rounded athlete, not only because he competes in a variety of divisions at sport karate tournaments, but he also finished in 7th place in the pentathlon at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympics which included the high jump, long jump, 100m hurdles, 1500m run, and shot put, resulting in him being named an All-American. He is currently recovering from a knee injury, but his high-flying routines will be back on the mat soon.

Madalynn Wiersma

Madalynn Wiersma

Photo Courtesy: Gabrielle Dunn

Wiersma (pictured with coach Gabrielle Dunn) is another rising star moving up from the underbelt division who is expected to make waves in the black belt division. She first moved up into the black belt ring at the WKC world championships, where she won her first world title. The 9-year-old Georgia native was the 2021 Underbelt Competitor of the Year for ProMAC and she secured underbelt grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and U.S. Open this past year.

Elijah Williams

Williams is a 16 year old from Lebanon, Tennessee who trains at Premier Martial Arts Lebanon. His eight years of martial arts training has culminated in black belts in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do. He is on an upward trend as a competitor as he has started breaking into the top four in his divisions, which are some of the most stacked on the NASKA circuit. Williams has been a great asset to Competitive Edge in the past, stepping up to fill in for team demonstration, such as in the world championship effort at the 2021 U.S. Open.

The Competitive Edge coaching staff told Black Belt that they are thrilled to take their roster to another level with these moves. They believe that these new players will create the perfect storm to win more overall grand championships now, strengthen the team demo, and build a great foundation for the future of the program.

Jose Also
cdn.vox-cdn.com Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
The seemingly ageless Jose Aldo won his third straight fight at bantamweight Saturday claiming unanimous decision over Rob Font in the main event of UFC on ESPN 31. Font started well against the former featherweight champion working behind a strong jab that kept Aldo on his back foot and allowed Font to consistently land sharp punches. But with 30 seconds left in the first round, Aldo threw a stiff left jab and immediately followed with a powerful straight right hand that dropped Font though time ran out before he could do more damage.
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