Most people in the local Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community are well aware that I have a Judo background, which is where my martial arts journey all began. I was 8 years old when my father (who is a Judo black belt himself) enrolled my younger sister (Yacinta) and myself into a Judo program. This was family tradition by now because my two older siblings, who are much older than me, had been enrolled in Judo since they were young and were very successful in the local competitions. I started doing Judo at the Shin Bu Kan judo club which was located at the Etobicoke Olympium. I was 7 years old and the only thing I remember doing in the kid’s class was shrimps (hip escapes), cartwheels and playing British Bulldog, man that was fun!!!! I did that for about a year and then my father switched me over to the community center Judo classes because it was right beside our home. I remember having a lot of fun as a kid at the Judo classes and I don’t remember much about the actual Judo classes but what I do remember is playing British Bulldog.
I competed in my first Judo competition when I was 8 years old, having 4 fights-I beat two kids and lost twice (to the kid who got first); it was a double elimination format. I remember I got the worst butterflies in my stomach that morning of the competition and the first fight was a tunnel vision nightmare. After it was all said and done, I proudly walked away with my second place trophy, exhausted and very excited to have been successful at my first competition and on the same path as my older 2 siblings. I received my first belt promotion the next class following the competition; I was so happy, excited and motivated. I did this for about 2 years and then I begged my parents to let me try Karate classes at the community center, so my mom signed me up. I did this for about 6 months and then took about a year off from all martial arts because my parents were really busy.
I was 10 years old when my dad took Yacinta and I back to the Shin Bu Kan Judo club which had just moved to a new location in Oakville. There were a lot of kids for us to practice with including the Sensei’s kids. I had a great time, my sister and I would even do weekly Judo camps at the dojo. Most of the kids at the club and I would destroy the local competition at all the tournaments, it was a really fun part of my childhood. When I got into my early teens there was less people my age to train with and I became complacent and wanted to play with my friends at home-I saw Judo as a burden but I was forced by my father to continue. This was a huge blessing in disguise that I would not recognize for many years to come. I remember my Sensei (Goki Uemura) telling me if I don’t practice hard I won’t come in first at the competitions-I boldly lied to him and that I was just there to train recreationally for exercise. After that point he stopped giving me any special attention or instruction, and we didn’t talk much. I was 15 when I started really enjoying Judo, I started training hard and always placed at the local competitions, at this point there were no other people around my age for my sister and myself to train with, only adults and each other. Around this time, my younger sister Yacinta, started surpassing me in competition results, while I had previously been beating her my whole life-this was a really tough pill for me to swallow so I started training extra hard doing push ups and sit ups after class among other exercises.
I was 17 when I fought in my first Canadian Nationals in Moncton, NB in which I came 7th in the under U18 division. The year after that I again got 7th in the U18 at the Nationals in Ontario. I kept up the training and at this time I was in my later years of high school. The following year I came in 7th (yet again!!!) in my first year in the adult nationals. Although I won a lot of pretty big local competitions, I would repeat this result (7th at Nationals) the following year in Alberta. It was shortly after the Nationals in New Brunswick, I had just turned 18; that my Sensei recommended that I start doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which was a separate program running on different days at the same dojo.
My Judo Sensei and the BJJ instructor Scott Schilling made a mutual deal that a few of the competitive Judo students could cross train BJJ and vice versa. So I started going to the BJJ classes once or twice a week.
Man it was much different, coming from a Judo background where there is mainly throws and they quickly stand you up, BJJ frustrated me big time. I was a white belt and would throw all the blue purple belts but when we got to the floor they would dominate me but I didn’t care because all I cared was that I tossed them-I had the attitude of an 18 year old! Scott taught me a lot, but I thought I knew it all and I didn’t pay much attention, although I did pick up a lot of good basics through a lot of repetitions he made me do(such as stand up and base).
I did my first BJJ competition 6 months into my BJJ training (at this time I was still doing Judo full time and this is where my focus was). It was the Kombat Classic, I was a white belt but chose to compete with the blues. I ended up throwing everyone and winning two matches but I got arm bared in the finals. I received my blue belt shortly after.
The next competition I did was the Bravado Open in 2008 I believe. I won my first match by throwing my opponent multiple times and disengaging on the ground. My second fight I threw the guy and held him in side control for 3 minutes until the ref said I had to move or I would be penalized-the guy got my back and I lost on points.
All of my BJJ success started at my next competition-the Ontario Provincials. I won my first blue belt gold medal winning a lot of very close fights. My BJJ skills were very sloppy but I didn’t care because I still won, I even went months at a time without going any BJJ classes. I didn’t do any more BJJ competitions until the end of that year because I was busy with Judo. I fought at the Ontario Provincials in December and I won 3 fights to win my weight class, and I won the open weight class Video of Open weight class finals. I won the Ontario Open in my division at blue belt and the Absolute again (Watch the Open weight finals here: At this point I really believed that BJJ was inferior to Judo because I wasn’t practicing much and destroying the local competitions, I got even more close minded about BJJ and I didn’t care to learn anything because I was winning.
I got my purple belt after winning the Ontario Open at blue. I started winning all the time again and my attitude continued until I started losing a few matches. I lost 2-0 to Ostap watch here although I was later told by my coach and a few others that the referee had missed a few points for me.
I still didn’t have a clear understanding of the rules at the time, but I didn’t really care, until someone a lot smaller than me stuck it to me and I began thinking how did he do that!!!??? I woke up and quickly realized that my close mindedness about BJJ had cost me a lot of valuable knowledge and tools and I began going to class with an open mind wanting to learn new techniques.
It was in February of 2012 that I decided to make a permanent switch over from Judo to BJJ. Judo had taken its toll on my body and the good places to train were a 35 minute drive or further. I was frustrated by not being able to win the Canadian Nationals or any of the big International competitions I went to.
I saw BJJ as being easier on the body(not getting smashed 6 feet into the mat everyday) and I was already really successful at it-winning lots of gis and free prizes while in Judo, I was paying out the nose just to compete in big tournaments internationally. I had a lot of ups and downs at purple belt, I won a super fight, lost another, placed at almost all the competitions I went to but my highlight at purple belt was winning two gold medals and silver at the Ontario Open last year.
This was a crazy tournament for me, I lost a very debatable match with a friend whom I had just met at Nova Uniao Mississauga a few weeks earlier (Open weight finals video: ). There was a lot of controversy after this, especially because the winner of the purple belt open weight received a trip to the Worlds (which I really wanted to do). Louie ended up getting the trip but cashed out the prize and due to the all the controversy gave me half of the money (which was really nice of him).
The Ontario Open was also my first time competing in nogi (I had just done my first nogi class 3 weeks prior to the competition) and I wound up winning gold after a crazy final’s match where my opponent David Knopfler, triangled me from his guard and then while in his triangle, I triangled him, and he tapped 1 second before I was about to pass out (you can watch that match here, man that was lucky!!! David has since than became a good friend of mine. Shortly after, I won my super fight against David Garmo at the Grappler’s Quest and the Black belt Absolute to win a trip to Vegas.
This was a really fun time-I made a good friend in Jon-Taine Hall from Toronto BJJ and we did really well at the Grappler’s Quest UFC fan expo in Vegas-walking away with a few medals.
I got my brown belt right after the Grappling Industries first competition in Toronto (October 13th, 2012). I didn’t want to get it because I didn’t feel ready, but my coach insisted it would really help me with my development and I would soon find out that he was right yet again.
My first match at brown belt was against Ryan Kellar at Fights for Charity in Montreal in which I volunteered myself to compete. I knew this would be a really tough challenge because I had been watching Ryan smash almost everyone at the higher belt ranks when I was a blue belt. I was really nervous for this match and it was a real nail biter, I was winning by 2 points until the last 8 seconds he tied it up and Ryan Hall (the ref) decided to let us decide it in overtime in which I scored 14 points to win 16-2. At this point I thought man I really surprised myself, Schilling was right about giving me the brown belt to overcome challenges.
Let me tell you, brown belt is a WHOLE new level from the other belts. So far I have been pretty successful at brown belt, I recently fought at the Pans in California (End of April 2013) and I lost in the quarter finals in a close fight after beating Thomas Oyarzun and Morris Ayala in two matches that went down to the wire. One more match and I would have been in the medal rounds, but I was happy with my performance at my first major competition.