BY CLAIRE CUDAHY
“It’s not punching. It’s not karate. It’s not kung fu.”
Those are a few things to get straight before you step into the padded basement room in the Goldcorp Recreation Centre where members of the Red Lake Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club meet to practice what they describe as the most effective martial arts for self defense.
“It’s designed for a small guy to beat a bigger guy in a fight,” explains club organizer Chris Gaspar. “It’s heavily reliant on natural body movement, leverage, and techniques. It has nothing to do with strength or power or how quick you are.”
Jiu jitsu focuses on grappling and ground fighting and promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger opponent through proper technique and most importantly, taking the fight to the ground.
Chris and his brother Brandon Gaspar were first introduced to jiu jitsu in 2009 when they were striking pads at the gym and a former Red Lake OPP officer asked if they would like to try it out. What started as an informal group getting together to practice jiu jitsu turned into a formal club complete with insurance and traditional uniforms (gi) when the Gaspars took over.
“We found dedicated people like Logan McDonald, a Red Lake kid who just won his first mixed martial arts fight. He’s away at school and representing our club,” says Brandon.
Today the club boasts a registry of twelve members with a solid core of five who train every week. Without an instructor, the group relies on videos, peer critique, and out of town classes to improve.
“We try and train everywhere we can. When I was in Europe I would Google a jiu jitsu gym and pop in. The comradery is the same almost everywhere you go,” explains Brandon.
Usually twice a year the group travels to bigger cities such as Winnipeg, Minneapolis, and Thunder Bay to participate in competitions.
“I come here because it’s fun and it keeps me in shape,” says Alex Dorval, who has been training with the club for almost a year now. Alex has even gotten his girlfriend Jeanette Marcotte into jiu jitsu; it’s not just for men.
But all of the members agree that it’s about much more than just the physicality of the sport.
“Any thug can throw punches in the street, but when you come to jiu jitsu and you learn technique, you’re going to get choked out and you’re going to lose. You have no choice but to accept that you’ve been beaten by someone smaller than you or someone who has only been doing it for six months. You have to accept that. And once your ego is checked, you become a more humble person,” says Chris.
“At the end of the day, if you end up in a fight and you walk out without being damaged, you won that fight,” adds Alex.
The Red Lake Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Club is opening up to new members over the next few months. To find out more, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow along on Instagram, @redlakebjj.