PARIS -- The Hohenfels Brazilian Jiu Jitsu team wrestled its way to third place among 115 teams at the North American Grappling Associations (NAGA) international event in Paris, recently.
Twelve competitors, including six children, earned a combined total of 28 medals -- nine bronze, 15 silver and four gold. The NAGA sponsors said the event was much bigger than they anticipated with more than 500 adult competitors and 30 children.
The event featured three separate tournaments divided into three skill levels with multiple weight classes. Fights featured two combatants of similar weight and experience with victory determined either through voluntary submission with chokes or joint locks, or at the end of a timed round where one opponent had shown dominant control over the other.
Every Hohenfels competitor participated in three or four divisions, and on multiple occasions Hohenfels BJJ team members ended up battling each other for first place in a common division.
"I cannot express how proud I am of my team at such accomplishments," said Hohenfels BJJ instructor Jeremy Workman.
White belt beginner John Godwin competed in an advanced division where he fought his way to the top by defeating several seasoned competitors, including a brown belt and a black belt.
For Tom Haskins, every match he accepted put him at a 20-40 kilogram (about 40-90 pounds) disadvantage. Though he's only been training with Hohenfels BJJ a few months, Haskins battled his way to a silver medal.
Likewise, Haskin's son, Zack, earned silver the same way against older and larger opponents. The Hohenfels BJJ teens were so effective that they each medaled in multiple divisions, often battling among themselves for first place.
"These athletes were some of Hohenfels' best examples of sportsmanship," said Workman. "The best part is that the only folks that could beat our Hohenfels BJJ teens were other Hohenfels BJJ teens!"
Workman said of all the competitions he's done over the years, this was by far the most fun. Not only did he, as a purple belt, score a few notable victories with wins against a brown belt and a black belt, but he said having such a large turnout with his team and sharing the weekend with so many friends made it truly special.
At the end, event staff members honored Hohenfels BJJ with a NAGA banner and special thanks in appreciation of their exceptional sportsmanship throughout the day. This sportsmanship was exemplified on multiple occasions with Hohenfels athletes accepting additional, unplanned, unexpected fights in order to help other competitors who registered late or qualified for smaller brackets and wanted more fighting experience.
"Every fight is a tremendous physical and mental challenge, and accepting additional fights is no small thing for any athlete," said Workman.
Despite the many victories, the Hohenfels BJJ team was not interested in gold or glory. Team members competed to have fun, to learn and to put their dedicated training to the test.
"The gold is a testament to the legitimacy of our program, but the banner is worth more to me because it is evidence of the sportsmanship and the exceptional character my team possesses," Workman said.