I don’t know about everyone else, but I feel like I’m stuck somewhere between when we arrived in Alaska in July and where we are now – well into November. We’ve done so much since we moved back to the States, and even though our adventure pace has slowed somewhat this season, we’ve done so much since we arrived. A few weeks ago, we took a trip to Anchorage as a family for the 2023 Alaska State Submission Grappling Championships, which was also the boys’ first jiu jitsu competition. It was such a learning experience for all of us, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a little bit about the experience!
2023 Alaska State Submission Grappling Championships
For those of you unfamiliar where Fairbanks – where we live – is located on the map, we’re a solid 6-7 hours from Anchorage, which is further south. Fairbanks is in interior Alaska, which is vast and largely remote. So, needless to say, unlike living in a big city or in the lower 48 where it’s pretty easy to get to/from jiujitsu competitions and sporting matches, getting to the 2023 Alaska State Submission Grappling Championships was a trek. Literally.
The competition took place on October 14, 2023, and when the boys first decided to compete, we were pretty sure Ryan was going to be TDY. Due to a tragic training accident, however, Ryan had a safety stand down and was able to attend the competition with us, for which I am so grateful. This was the boys’ first tournament, and none of us really had any idea what to expect. Let’s just say that my background as a swimmer did us no favors!
What a Single Elimination Jiu Jitsu Competition is Like
I feel like I should caveat all of this with the fact that when the boys started jiu jitsu last February in Korea, I didn’t know the first thing about the sport. Now, I know that there are a bunch of ways to run a kids’ jiu jitsu competition including positional submission, single submission, point-winners, and more. This competition was single elimination, which meant the competitors received points for positions throughout their match, but a submission or tap-out declared a winner.
Single elimination is spicy, guys. It literally means that if they or their competitor taps, the match is over, and they’re done. Matches run for about five minutes for the kids, and if nobody taps, they go based off of points. Most matches, however, ended in submissions.
The Boys’ First Jiu Jitsu Tournament
Neither boy really had any idea what to expect, but let’s just say that the experience was very humbling! The boys have very different styles of competing. Spencer is extremely strong, so he goes for muscle moves but tends to forget his technique. Porter is tiny, quick, and technique driven. Thankfully, they had weigh-ins, and their individual weight classes were pretty well-matched.
Spencer was up first, and you could see he was pretty confident (if not overly so) going into his match. His opponent was an extremely technical young lady who was initially overtaken by his fast muscle-heavy moves, but she quickly learned what he was doing. She knew he’d go out fast, and she quickly spotted his weakness and got him in an arm bar, and he tapped. Within about 90 seconds, his competition was done, and he was heartbroken.
Porter was up next, and he managed to overpower his first opponent with an arm bar about two minutes in, so he made it to the next round. In his second match, his cute opponent quickly recognized he kept going for a double-leg takedown, managed to sidestep him and sprawl, and eventually got him in a choke. And, in true Porter fashion, he didn’t tap, so the ref tapped him because he was changing colors.
What the Boys Learned from the Tournament
Ultimately, both boys learned a lot from the tournament. They’ve never competed in anything before, so this was an eye-opener! They learned where there strengths and their weaknesses lie, and they’re both motivated to compete again soon. They also learned they can’t judge a book by its cover. Their opponents were petite but fierce little girls, and that was humbling for them.
Jiu jitsu is such a cool sport. The amount of discipline and effort it takes is extraordinary, and they have to repeat and drill movements over and over to get them. I loved seeing them put on their game faces, and I can’t wait to see them compete again – hopefully learning even more!