What a pleasure it was to join Team Canada this weekend as assistant coach while they competed in the JJIF world championships in Malmo, Sweden. Two of my students earned their spot on the team, including some of the best competitive Jiu-Jitsu athletes in Canada:

Estefan Joseph of Lin Martial Arts in Markham
Alison Tremblay and Jessica McNeill of Alpha MMA near Ottawa
Janine Mutton and Kevin Wheeler of Action Reaction in North York, Toronto.
Ashten Sawitzky of Primal MMA in Toronto
Vicky Hoang, Nathan Dos Santos, Shakeel Sammady and Michael Sheehan of Toronto BJJ
Stevie Yap of World Champion Martial Arts in Peterborough
Carl Fagnant of Gyme Le Locale in East Montreal
Andrew Buckley of Cavalo BJJ Canada in Keswick
And my students Denis Beenen and Rodrigo Goncales of OpenMat MMA in Toronto.

It was a world-class event on many levels. It had a feel akin to the of professionalism of World Class/olympic judo tournaments.

There were teams from Abu Dhabi, Sweden, Brazil, France, Belguim, Kazakstan Jordan, Israel, Thailand, Korea, Poland, Russia, Montenegro, Spain, Italy, Greece, Moldova, Slovenia, Hungary, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Colombia, Denmark, Mexico and Bahrain. It was every nation’s best vs Canada’s.

Team Canada shined.

While we know we have good talent locally, there’s something special about seeing the world’s talent all fighting with so much grit, skill and passion. Though it didn’t include all that many of the IBJJF superstars it did include Black Belt world IBJJF champions – some of whom our athletes faced and beat!

The athletes are all wizards and warriors and displayed incredible skill, grit, passion and character. Amazing wins, tough lessons and incredible results – on day one, we were ranked 1st overall, earning 2 golds (Alison Tremblay and Janine Mutton), two silver (Shakeel Samady and Ashten Sawitzky) and two bronzes (Estefan Joseph and Mike Sheehan who graciously bowed out of the fight in the semi-final round so Shakeel could fight for the gold.).

6 medals from 9 athletes – a 66% medal ratio, putting us in first place. On day two, we went two of six (o 33% – still an excellent showing at that level), silver medals from Vicky Hoang and Nathan Dos Santos. Both fought ferocious and controversial battles, but were gracious about accepting how things played out.

During the Vicky and Nathan’s finals matches, I sat in the front row beside a Mike Sheehan on one side and members of the Abu Dhabi team on the other. The fellow beside me was quite knowledgeable about the rules. I asked if he was a professional in BJJ “you could say that”. As we left, I introduced myself and asked his name. “Faisal. Faisal El Khetbi.” Elliott, I responded before leaving. I later found out that Faisal Al Ketbi, the son of Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a Prince. He mentioned that “we” (Faisal’s father, Sheikh Tahnoon is founder of The ADCC World Championships and the man who put Jiu-Jitsu in every Schoo in Abu Dhabi!) think this organization is the one to take Jiu-Jitsu to the Olympics.

It was thrilling to be able to part of such a quality event, a great example of the power of sports to bring people together. Athletes from every country were cheering for and supporting each other while themselves fighting valiantly – all while being respectful and friendly, mostly, with all other countries.

After the event, we all attended a gala – a great final dinner and party which put such a wonderful touch on the whole experience. Hard-working athletes from dozens of countries who just spent three days fighting each other were dancing and cheering to great music in a beautiful place. The spirit and positivity was so warm, open and fun – a real gift for each of us.

And getting to talk to Mike Tremblay, BJJ Black Belt doing his PHD in Philosophy at Queens University and currently training at Hayabusa Academy in Kingston was a treat. Brilliant guy bringing stoicism to the people – we had great discussions about making a positive impact – a perfect compliment to the global feel of the event.

The whole weekend was, as Estefan put it in our group chat – a wonderful experience guys 🙂 something I will remember for a long time.

Thank you to the Ontario Jiu-Jitsu Association and the JJIF for the opportunity to be a part of it, Peter Tremblay for tackling a ton of coaching and taking care of the athletes and Marco Costa who coached tirelessly from morning til night.

Something special has been created with this new team and format and look forward to seeing how it evolves to help Canadian BJJ athletes rise together.

Proud, strong and free.

Elliott Bayev