Kelowna women roared at the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world masters championship in Las Vegas on the weekend.
Pacific Top Team’s Brown Belt Sarah Draht defended her world championship in Master 1 division and won a silver in the open division.
Kathy Hubble, who also trains at PTT, won gold in purple belt lightweight and gold in the purple belt open division.
“This is, by far, mentally the hardest tournament I have competed in,” said Draht after fighting in the largest jiu-jitsu tournament in the world.
“Being at the venue for 10 hours, the waiting in between matches, the breaks in
between divisions, and the pure exhaustion that sets in becomes very difficult.
“The battle is mentally exhausting just as much as it is physically exhausting,” added Draht, co-owner of Pacific Top Team and its women’s head instructor in jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai kickboxing.
“I compete because I believe it is so important to set goals that not only challenge us, but scare us. Because how else can we find out what we are capable of?”
Hubble, a third-degree black belt in judo, the 2013 judo world champion and seven-time Canadian champion, relied on her mental strength to get her through the competition, especially since her opponent in the open gold match was 210 pounds.
"It was probably mentally anguishing this year. The mental game was more important than last year," said Hubble, who relied on the training from her years with the Canadian judo team to get her through.
“I have key words I use during a fight. I had to use them all at this tournament. All that training came back.”
She was concerned she wasn't competition ready because she has been spending so much time training at judo and buying, with partner Chris Smiley, the Lake Country Judo Club, while also getting ready for her fourth-degree black belt test. She was also pursuing her TV and movie stunt career.
“But I thought I could do it if I tried hard enough.”
Draht always tried hard — on and off the mat.
“There are no shortcuts, no ways to ‘fake’ what you can and cannot do or what you know. It all comes down to hard work,” said the former professional MMA fighter who has more international medals in jiu-jitsu than anyone else in the Okanagan.
“This is why the rewards from jiu-jitsu are something to be very proud of, and for me so worth it. The skills, experience and passion of training over the years is what I seek to instill in my students through my instruction at Pacific Top Team.”
Draht compares jiu-jitsu to a human chess game where the opponents are seeking to gain the more dominant position, or even a submission.
“The beautiful, yet challenging, aspect of jiu-jitsu tournaments is like any other fair tournament, the athletes are on display.
Their work ethic, their understanding of the sport, their diet, even to the level of what their mental state is that day. Who is the better athlete that day? This is the athlete who wins.
“It’s not for the faint of heart.”
Hubble learned that in her 35-year career as a stunt double where she broke her leg, right along side Jackie Chan who broke his ankle, in Rumble in the Bronx. She had three fights and flew over 25 cars on a motorcycle in the movie shot in Vancouver.
She just finished a movie with John Cena (Playing with Fire) and is shooting a new TV series for Netflix (The Motherland).
The kind of nerve and dedication on the set is transferable to the mat (or is it vice versa?). After winning gold in her division, 30 seconds before the sign-up for the jiu-jitsu open division closed, at the urging of her coach and husband, she rushed over and put her name down.
“Life’s too short. I’m glad I did it because I got to fight some bigger girls.”
During the gold-medal match, she debated whether she should go for a throw, fearing that if she messed it up, she would be crushed by the weight of her far bigger opponent.
She learned something when she decided to go for the throw.
“Big girls can fly, too.
“But she was the sweetest thing. We haven’t stopped talking since.
“Opponents become lifelong friends.”
Draht would argue that, along with the confidence, self-defence skills and physical fitness, friendship is one of the great things about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the family approach of Pacific Top Team.