Athletes from Defendu Academy in Taos gathered for a demonstration and celebration at Kit Carson Park, July 14. The group was is full gi regalia and fresh off their latest competition at the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) Championships in Albuquerque June 30.
Fighters from all over the state trained in the mixed martial arts converged on the Lujan Exhibit Hall on the New Mexico state fair grounds to compete in the world's largest fighting circuit. The range of ages included 5-year-old kids up to senior adults. Weight classes ranged from 40 pounds to "super-heavy" in both men's and women's categories.
Five fighters from Taos representing Defendu traveled to the competition - five came away with medals. Morgan Massey, Tyler Massey, Brendan Brady and Breanna Taylor and David Vargas made the trip with coach and Defendu owner, Ryan Daly.
All were entered in the gi division and the results were four gold medals and one silver.
In gi competition, fighters wear an all-cotton uniform consisting of a jacket-like top tied with a belt and trousers - much like the kimono outfit used in the Japanese martial arts such as karate. Fighters are allowed to pull at the thick-grade clothing of their opponent or use different parts of the uniform for leverage or escape. The no-gi competition does not allow the grabbing of the clothing and some aspects differ with regards to scoring points. Fighters in the no-gi must rely on different skill sets and maneuvers to grab hold of their opponent.
In the kids gi beginner, 80 to 89.9 pounds, 10-year-old division, David Vargas came away with a first-place finish - earning a gold medal and a samurai sword for his efforts. A relative newcomer to the sport, this was only Vargas' second competition ever.
Breanna Taylor came from behind in her match against Cadence Ramone from Durango Martial Arts to claim a gold in the girs gi beginner, 85 to 90 pound, 10 and 11 year olds. Her coaches raved about the focus employed by the young warrior who had to overcome a point gulf late in her match to secure the victory.
Other medal winners included Morgan Massey who won gold in the women's gi blue belt flyweight division, Brenden Brady who garnered gold in the men's gi directors blue belt middle weight division and Tyler Massey who earned a silver in the masters gi blue belt light weight.
Brady was a gold medal winner in last year's competition as a white belt.
Comparable to other martial arts, such as jiujitsu and Brazilian jiujitsu, grappling entails opponents trying to win their fighting matches via submission, point accumulation, referee decision or by an opponent disqualification. The strategy is to gain a physical advantage in hand-to-hand combat that generally starts with two opponents in a stand-up position and eventually ends in ground grappling. Unlike the commercial mixed martial arts (MMA) fights that can be viewed on television, such as those in the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) series, striking is not allowed. A match is often ended when an opponent "taps out" with an open hand or by a verbal utterance.
Often, bouts will have one opponent on his or her back - a key distinction for grapplers that separates the sport from freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling - a strategy many fighters utilize in competition. "It then gives us four weapons to use against our opponent," said one of the instructors at Saturday's demonstration, alluding to the arms and legs that can be used simultaneously as offensive and defensive tools. "Many jiujitsu champions prefer to fight from this position."
Offering a variety of self-defense techniques and classes, Defendu Academy has been at its current location on 1335 Gusdorf Road for two years now. Daly recently celebrated the three-year anniversary in business in Taos May 16.
Defendu is holding an "Ultimate Ninja Training" camp for kids July 23-26. This full-week martial arts training will include Brazillian jiujitsu kick boxing, wing chun, yoga and other strength and agility training. Space is limited, but slots are still available. For more information or to reserve a space, call Defendu at (575) 758-7991.