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New city gym teaching art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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Troy Shantz

Made popular by professional fighters in the UFC octagon, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can now be learned and mastered here in Sarnia.

Cunningham Jiu-Jitsu is new to the city, offering classes in various Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques.

Head instructor Rowan Cunningham said the gym can accommodate whatever a student wants out of the experience.

“Most people coming in just want to get fit. If they can defend themselves a bit better then I think that gives someone a different perspective on the world. It’s a freeing thing.”

Cunningham has practiced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for over 20 years and describes it as a fighting style developed on the streets of Brazil.

Over time, it became mainstream thanks largely to the rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC.

“With everybody, we start with self-defence,” said Patrick Lilley, who manages the gym with Cunningham. “With self-defence, in the street, the biggest and most important thing is recognizing a situation before you get into it.”

Classes are open to beginners, children, women and seasoned fighters interested in competition or self-defence

Intrigued, I decided to don the “Gi” and learn the art first-hand.

I arrived at the gym at 1308 London Rd. one night with no fighting background, and I wasn’t alone.

The beginner’s class had men, women and a couple of kids all fairly new to the sport.

Hopefully the kids take it easy on me, I thought.

After warming up with some laps, Cunningham showed us how to fall properly, and then some maneuvers to do while flat on our backs.

“(Brazilian) Jiu-Jitsu is a full fighting system. The emphasis is on the ground techniques,” Cunningham instructed.

Soon we were all partnered up. I was paired with a chap named Trevor Waller, who’d been 10 times since the gym opened.

At least I won’t be knocked out by one of the kids, I thought.

Waller took it easy on me. With Cunningham nearby, I was instructed to put Waller into a headlock, something one may be unlucky enough to experience in a bar fight.

Here goes nothing, I thought.

Waller quickly performed a sequence of leg, arm and back movements that quickly turned the tables. In milliseconds he had me on the ground, nearly blacking out.

Then he held me in a proper headlock, wrapped around me like a vine. Cunningham and Waller walked me through the series of steps and I had a chance to try it on Waller.

I soon saw how this versatile fighting method could get you out of a dangerous situation.

By the end of the class I was pooped. It was an amazing workout and because my mind was pre-occupied I didn’t realize until then that I was out of breath.

It was, in short, more chess match than boxing match.





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