Five local competitors take national jiu jitsu titles

Pictured are the seven youth competitors for Triad Martial Arts of Ruston that competed last weekend in the North American Grappling Association National Championship tournament in Foley, Alabama. From left to right are Amelie Hebert, Nate Blundell, Abram Hebert, Bennet Williams, Reed Williams, Owen Hebert and Gray Williams. (Courtesy photo)

By T. Scott Boatright

Grabbing a national championship is always a thrilling experience.

Grappling for seven of them is even more dynamic.

Dynamic would be a good description for the performances of five local competitors from  of Ruston, who all captured national jiu jitsu titles in their respective weight divisions over the weekend at the Foley Events Center in Foley, Alabama.

Bennet Williams (7-8 year old; 60-69.9 pound class), Reed Williams (10-11; 80-89.9 pound class), Abram Hebert (10-11; 90-99.9 pound class) and Nate Blundell (14; 140-149.9 pound class) all captured youth national championships in the No Gi Division. 

Trey Halder took home a national championship in the adult 160-169.9 pound weight division.

“This is obviously a very large and prestigious tournament to compete in with very tough competition from all over the country,” said Triad Martial Arts Academic owner and instructor Josh Lee. “In jiu jitsu tournaments, there are typically two categories that are contested — the gi division, which is a uniform worn by jiu jitsu grapplers, and the no gi division, in which just shorts and shirt are worn. Most people compete in both. 

“Out of the seven kids that we took to the competition, in the no gi division we had four kids who placed first and became national champions. In the gi division we had three kids who placed first and became national champions. We had a host of other medals with all of our Triad kids placing in the top three of their divisions.”

Blundel, Hebert and Williams also took national titles in the Youth Gi division.

Halder captured national championships in both the Gi and No Gi divisions.

Of the competitors at the national championships, only Blundell and Halder had any jiu jitsu experience before Triad of Ruston opened seven months ago.

According to, during a Brazilian jiu jitsu match such as the one the Triad athletes competed in, things start as two competitors step to the center of the mat. 

They are then directed by the referee as to the rules for their division; for instance, certain moves are not allowed at lower levels for safety reasons, and lower level competitor matches are shorter than those of more experienced competitors.

Competitors are then directed to shake hands and square off with matches beginning from a standing position. 

The competitors then engage with each other, sometimes hand fighting to get a good grip on the gi, sometimes wrestling to execute a takedown. The action usually eventually goes to the ground, where the competitors vie for position on one another. 

Different positions earn different numbers of points, which the referee awards at his or her discretion. Matches can be won either by submission, by points, or by overtime or referee’s decision in the case of an even score. 

At the end of the match, the referee raises the winner’s hand like is done in boxing and mixed martial arts fighting and the opponents hug and shake hands.

“Basically, the goal is to win by submissions,” Lee said. “There’s a time limit on matches (three minutes for youth and five minutes for adults), so whoever has the most points when time expires wins. 

“They get points by takedowns or by taking dominant or Mir positions. And obviously, a submission ends the fight.”

The Mir lock is a shoulder and elbow lock that has its roots going as far back to Japanese jiu jitsu. It was popularized in mixed martial arts fighting  by Frank Mir.

Mir is an American mixed martial artist who most recently competed for Bellator MMA in the Heavyweight division. He formerly competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for sixteen years and  is a  former two-time UFC heavyweight champion and holds the record for the most finishes and the most submission victories in UFC heavyweight history.

According to, modern Brazilian jiu jitsu tends to be focused on sports, with few gyms teaching students how to use techniques in a self-defense setting.

Japanese jiu jitsu tends to mostly focus on self-defense techniques.

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