Adam Basaraba is a quick learner.
The 26-year-old Prince Albert man won a pair of medals last weekend at the Copa Sask in Saskatoon, which is Saskatchewan’s largest Brazilian jiu jitsu and submission grappling tournament. More than 150 athletes from across Saskatchewan and Manitoba were competing.
Basaraba, who won gold in the Cruiser Adult Beginner Division Gi and silver in the No Gi Division, said the victory was a shock.
“It was pretty exciting because I surprised myself,” he says. “I didn’t expect to be in the gold-medal match.”
Quintin Wismer of Prince Albert also brought home gold in the Feather Adult Beginner Division No Gi.
A gi is the uniform worn by martial arts practitioners. The Cruiser division includes anyone between 185-204 pounds.
Basaraba says it’s common for people to mistake jiu jitsu for mixed martial arts, which has surged in popularity with the rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Jiu jitsu is one of the major martial art forms used in MMA, but it’s a sport in and of itself.
Each match lasts five minutes with no striking. There are three possible results.
• One of the competitors taps out to a submission.
• A judge decides who won on points.
• If the two are tied on points, a one-minute overtime is held and then the referee decides.
The fight starts with both competitors on their feet. Points are assigned to various moves, such as takedowns.
Basaraba describes the sport this way.
“It’s a mixture of wrestling, grappling and submissions,” he says. “You’re going for the position before the submission. It’s not just wrestling. There’s more to it than that because in wrestling you’re just trying to pin the guy to the mat.”
Basaraba won three fights to take gold. In the gold medal match, his opponent pulled guard (went to his back) and Basaroba dominated him as a result.
For his silver, he had one opponent not show, so he took one match before falling by points in the final.
All five fights were held last Saturday.
Basaraba’s main instructor, LDP Martial Arts owner/operator Lucian Phillips, wasn’t surprised by his pupil’s success.
“You could tell right away that he had a natural ability for movement,” Phillips says, noting that Basaraba was much heavier when he started training. “You always knew he had a knack for moving his body and we always said to him ‘When you learn how to use this and use control, you’re going to be so good.’”
Phillips says Basaraba also brings a work ethic and ability to quickly integrate what he’s taught.
Basaraba followed his cousin to the class a year ago and was quickly taken with the sport.
“It’s pretty humbling when you first start because you’re new to it and you don’t know what’s happening,” he says. “But the more that you roll and gain mat time, it just comes naturally.”
The sport has deep roots in Japan but the modern version of jiu jitsu is largely the result of its evolution in Brazil after it was first taught there more than a century ago.
With mixed martial arts riding a wave of popularity, LDP has 20 guys training on a Thursday night where even a year ago it might have less than half that.
“Jiu jitsu is just catching on here,” Basaraba says. “More and more people are coming out because of Hard Knocks coming to P.A. and all of the MMA.”
The Hard Knocks Fighting Championship brings a 16-bout show to the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday, July 19 at 7 p.m.
Not surprisingly, Basaraba is giving it a try, with a 170-pound matchup against Mitch Pearson (0-2) of Kenora, Ont.
“It will be a good measuring stick,” he says. “I just threw my name in to try it out. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try just so that I can say that I tried it.”
As a result, Basaraba has trained in kickboxing as well for his first MMA fight.
Try bringing that news to your friends and family.
“There was lots of like ‘Really?’” he says with a chuckle. “People are like ‘Good for you if you want to do that’ but, of course, my parents just shake their heads.”