Infinity National Champion Zoe Brown

14-Year-Old Karateka Sweeps Divisions, Grand Championships

By Brett Hart

Zoe Brown Infinity Nationals Karate 2017 GreatmatsAttending kinder dance class at the age of three opened the door to a passion in Karate for 14-year-old Zoe Brown of Ontario, Canada, who recently won Grand Championships in both Junior Japanese Forms and Junior Korean Forms at the Greatmats-sponsored Infinity National Championships in Wisconsin Dells, WI.

The junior black belt member of Team Infinity also won her divisions in creative forms, creative weapons, traditional weapons and sparring, making it a clean sweep in the two-day event.

This success is nothing new to the martial arts phenom, who has been competing for eight years and currently competes twice per month.

Zoe Brown Karate GreatmatsLast year, Brown won both the National Blackbelt League (NBL) and North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) overall title for point fighting.

The Infinity National Championships impressed the seasoned competitor as much she did the judges.

”I love the location and the competition that is there, and also that it is run so well,” Brown said of the tournament held at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center. ”The Grands trophies are really cool too.”

The seed for Brown’s martial arts career was planted at the age of three when she had to walk past a karate school on her way to kinder dance class in the same building.

Zoe Brown 2016 Super Grands Greatmats”Every time we walked by the karate school to go to dance I would want to stop and watch the karate kids through the window,” Brown said. ”They always looked like they were having so much fun. One day my Mom and I went in and she signed me up, and that was it for dance.”

Brown currently trains under the instruction of Casey and Trevor Nash at United Family Martial Arts in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, as well as privately with Keith Weston.

”I love the training and the friendships and the constant learning,” Brown said.

Zoe Brown and Casey Nash Team Infinity Karate Greatmats”I’m very thankful to have coaches that push me, motivate me and believe in me. So, I’d like to thank Mike Welch (Infinity Martial Arts founder), Keith Weston and Trevor and Casey Nash. They are amazing!”

Greatmats is the official mat supplier of the Infinity National Championships. Learn more about the Infinity National Championships and other Greatmats-sponsored martial arts events.

Zoe Brown 2015 World Karate Championships GreatmatsZoe Brown
United Family Martial Arts
Hamilton Ontario
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Blood or No Blood, BJJ is Family Business for Blake Dvorak

Train, Compete and Teach: Tools for Bettering Self and Others

By Brett Hart

Blake Dvorak 2016 AGF Dallas Summer Classic BJJ GreatmatsWhat began as a father/son bonding excursion turned into a lifestyle for 24-year-old Blake Dvorak. Big fans of the UFC, Blake and his father, Dave, spent a lot of time watching the mixed martial arts fights. One day a co-worker of Dave’s mentioned that he was training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at a local academy, and the father/son duo decided to check it out.

”We went in and tried a class, and we’ve been hooked ever since,” Dvorak said, noting BJJ is his first and only martial art. ”From the first time I stepped on the mat, I’ve been consumed by it, and didn’t want any other art to get in my way of progressing.”

His family is equally as thrilled with Blake finding his calling in the sport.

”The first time my wife’s parents came to watch me compete was at a BJJ classic event, which is a no points/no time limit event,” he said. ”My match went for over 17 min. Once it was over, and I finally landed my submission, I began to walk over to them and say hi, but quickly had to run to a trash can to vomit. They were a little weirded out, but after a few more events, they were on board.”

Now a 4-stripe brown belt, competing at between 145-160 pounds, Dvorak will celebrate 10 years in the sport this September. Along the way, he and Dave (also a brown belt) have accomplished many feats.

As a blue belt juvenile, Blake placed second at the Dallas ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) trials. He’s also earned bronze medals at the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) Dallas open in both Gi and NoGi competition. Twice he’s competed in F2W (Fight to Win) Pro events.

”I have always had my best results at submission only events,” Blake said.

Blake Dvorak 2015 AGF Oklahoma BJJ Champion GreatmatsBut what may just take the cake for his own personal satisfaction is leading his team to multiple team titles at American Grappling Federation (AGF) championship tournaments.

”My favorite thing about BJJ is teaching,” Blake said. ”I was fortunate to have the opportunity to run the kids program at my previous academy, and instantly knew that I wanted to do this forever. Having someone come through the door looking for something – be it, fitness, camaraderie, a new skill, or whatever they may be looking for and helping them find it. I’ve seen men, women and kids become new people, and no accomplishment I’ve had in the sport compares to that.”

Blake Dvorak and Allen Mohler trophy BJJ GreatmatsThree years ago, Blake and Dave opened their own academy – Top Game Jiu Jitsu Studio – in Denton, Texas. When he’s not teaching or training at his academy, Blake is training in Coppell, Texas at Mohler MMA under the instruction of 4th degree black belt Professor Allen Mohler.

When it comes to competing, AGF tournaments are where Blake finds himself most comfortable.

”The American Grappling Federation is like a second home to me,” Blake said. ”Chris (Carlino) and the team are always working hard to make their events better, and it shows every time. Best customer service; the medals are high quality; professional photos of competitors and podium winners; and it’s a family business. If there is an AGF tournament in town, you’ll always see me and my team on the mats.”

At the recent Greatmats-sponsored AGF Winter Classic on Jan. 22 in Duncanville, Texas, Blake won his first NoGi match by a heel hook but injured a rib in his finals match and had to bow out the rest of the event. Meanwhile, much to his delight, his team put together a strong performance, earning a second place in the Adult NoGi Division and third place in the Adult Gi Division.

”BJJ is a part of my life,” Blake said. ”It’s how I make my living, how I deal with my stress, how I make new friends, how I get to give back to my community and help people find what BJJ has to offer.”

To learn more about American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

Blake Dvorak
Top Game Jiu Jitsu Studio
Corinth TX 76208
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Leading By Example with Zachary Hansen: Kyuki-Do Instructor

Kyuki-Do Instructor Competes in Throwing and Grappling Tournament

By Brett Hart

Martial Arts haven’t always been on American Kyuki-Do Federation (AKF) 2nd Dan Zachary Hansen’s radar. A former fiber optic communications professional, Mr. Hansen was introduced to Kyuki-Do seven years ago when his then 4-year old daughter, Olivia, won a free two-week trial at a 4K family fun night.

”She was having fun, and we weren’t in any other activities at the point, so we decided to enroll her. She excelled at it and enjoyed it,” Mr. Hansen said, ”I watched her for a year and said ‘That looks like way too much fun.”

Joining the fun
Zachary Hansen kyuki-do competition AKF GreatmatsAround that time Master Greg Garves cornered Mr. Hansen and encouraged him to enroll as well.

”I kind of blew him off and gave him the, ‘Check back in two weeks.”’ Mr. Hansen said. ”He held me accountable… and here I am seven years later. … It’s never something I envisioned myself doing, but I am thankful for it, and it’s been something my entire family has been able to do together.”

In fact Mr. Hansen, his wife, Bev, and daughter, Olivia, all promoted to their first degree black belt together. Mr. Hansen is now the owner and chief instructor of two academies – in New Richmond and River Falls, Wisconsin.

Competitive Spirit
Zachary Hansen grappling kyuki-do tournament AKF GreatmatsRecently the AKF, which blends multiple disciplines of martial arts into one, held its second ever throwing and grappling-centered tournament in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and Mr. Hansen decided to participate in both the judo and jiu jitsu brackets, earning first place in jiu jitsu and second place in judo.

”You want to put yourself out there,” Mr. Hansen said. ”I’m an instructor and an owner. I’ve got to be willing to put myself out there if I’m going to ask my students to do the same. Plus, being 38, I’m not exactly young, but I’m not old. (It’s one way to be) a good role model for my little bit older students, parents and other adults. You don’t have to be this ripped 20 year old to go out there and compete and have fun. It’s about the camaraderie and just the experience and learning about yourself.”

As someone who’s participated in folk style wrestling since second grade, it may seem this style of competition would be a natural fit for him, but Mr. Hansen said judo and jiu jitsu is a ”whole other can of worms.”

He enjoyed the change of pace from the traditional Kyuki-Do Tournaments, which focus mainly on forms, sparring and weapons.

”The grappling tournament is definitely more of a physical challenge, compared to the more mental challenge of our other style tournaments,” he said. ”Yes there’s sparring, but when you start getting into judo, jiu jitsu – the grappling stuff, there’s definitely a whole other level of physical involved. There’s strength and conditioning, especially the cardio workout. It’s a whole other level.”

As for the judo portion, he recognizes that he’s got a lot of work to do on this throws, but was happy to last a long as he did against an opponent he’s lost to a couple of times before.

”He’s definitely a good judo player,” Mr. Hansen said. ”He’s definitely got skill and knowledge. I survived longer than I thought I would. It goes to show, don’t cut yourself short against somebody else or based strictly on size because cardio comes into play and technique too. It’s not always strength and size.”

Ripple effect
Zachary Hansen kyuki-do tournament AKF GreatmatsFollowing his example, 15 of his students also took part in the tournament and enjoyed the experience.

”I had a young man who took last in both events, but as I was watching him, he was smiling and had a great time,” Mr. Hansen said. ”He was just there to have fun. Whether he won or lost, it didn’t affect his spirit. He had a great time, and he was excited that I was able to watch him compete. That meant a lot for him to say that, coming from a student.”

”(AKF federation events) paint a bigger picture of what Kyuki-Do is about outside of our academy and our local area and meet more of our extended Kyuki-Do family,” he added. ”I don’t use that word family lightly. It truly is an extended family. The camaraderie and the friendships that I’ve made are priceless, and they’re going to be here for a long time. It’s fun to walk into an event and know that your kids are in a safe environment, and they can just run about and know that someone’s going to be holding them accountable besides you. … To have that feeling and be in an environment like that is unbelievable and it’s almost unheard of. It’s one of my biggest reasons to promote the federation events.”

”For me its just the personal health benefits from being physical and training and just fun.”

While competition isn’t his primary focus, Mr. Hansen said, ”I’ve got that competitive bone in my body, so it’s a way for me to feed that competitiveness. I loved the tournaments and wrestling in high school, and this is a way to still kind of fulfill that childhood need.”

Learn more about American Kyuki-Do Federation Events and Athletes.

Zachary Hansen
AKF Martial Arts Academy
New Richmond WI 54017
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Kristina Barlaan – Inspiring Women of BJJ

Caio Terra Black Belt Building Legacy in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

By Brett Hart

Kristina Barlaan BJJ competitor GreatmatsFor 30-year-old jiu-jitsu black belt Kristina Barlaan, martial arts movies and television shows grabbed her attention at a very young age. But it wasn’t until she was 20 years old that she was able to start training. Now it’s become her full-time passion.

By the time she was a purple belt, in 2011, Barlaan had created Inspire: All Female Open Mat, a jiu-jitsu open mat that brings hundreds of women of various ages, teams and states together to train and inspire women to be champions on the mat and in life.

”Competitive wins are solely for myself,” Barlaan said. ”But creating something for the women’s jiu-jitsu community leaves a lasting legacy.”

Training under 11-time world champion Caio Terra at the Caio Terra Academy in San Jose, California, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has become her way of life, despite getting her martial arts start in Muay Thai. Now she focuses completely on training and teaching jiu-jitsu.
Kristina Barlaan BJJ award Greatmats
”I love how I feel like I am most in my nature state,” Barlaan said. ”Jiu-jitsu allows me to be myself, and it feels very liberating.”

Barlaan, who is the first in her family to practice martial arts, said at first her family was a bit concerned about her entering a sport that was uncommon to her family, but ”Once they started seeing my passion and ability to do good with it, they have become very supportive.”

Competitive Spirit
Barlaan mainly competes in the light featherweight division (118 pounds), but has been known to move up to the featherweight division (129) pounds at smaller tournaments. While her competition schedule as slowed since becoming a black belt, Barlaan still competes about six times per year. BJJ tournament Kristina Barlaan IBJJF Greatmats

”I’m driven to bring my goals to fruition, and that will only happen with hard work, determination and perseverance,” Barlaan said.

Barlaan recently competed in the Greatmats-sponsored Rumble in the Redwoods on Feb. 11, in a superfight against Bethany Schulze of Tiger Martial Arts – a rematch from a 2015 bout at the same event when they were both brown belts. Barlaan won the superfight by points.
Kristina Barlaan BJJ competition Greatmats
Barlaan said she enjoys competing at the Rumble in the Redwoods (in its 12th year) because, ”It’s a well run local tournament that is excellent for young and lower belt competitors to gain valuable experience.”

Kristina Barlaan womens BJJ competition Greatmats

Kristina Barlaan
Caio Terra Academy
San Jose CA
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Justin Rader: Two-Time World BJJ Champion Passes Along Passion

Third Generation Martial Artist Finding Rewards in Coaching

By Brett Hart

Martial arts are in the blood for two-time world champion Justin Rader. A third generation martial artist, the 30 year old has been involved in grappling arts for 26 years, nine of which he also trained in striking arts. For the past six years, he’s been passing on his knowledge of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in which he is a second-degree black belt, as a coach for the Lovato Warriors Kids BJJ program – which recently dominated both kids divisions of the American Grappling Federation Oklahoma State BJJ Championships.

Justin Rader coach at Lovato's School of MMA and BJJ Greatmats

Rader couldn’t have been happier with the tournament, from the way it was run to the way his team represented Lovato’s School of MMA.

”The AGF Oklahoma Championships was probably the best, most well-run tournament AGF has put on to date, as well as one of their biggest,” Rader said, adding, ”It was definitely one of the strongest, most solid performances by our team ever.”

Proud of how his Teens Leadership Team led by example in their preparation, Rader was happy it was able to see the results of that prep work as several of his athletes won multiple gold medals.

Sara Lau claimed gold medals in both the green belt teen and juvenile gi divisions. Ian Foster added a pair of golds in his weight class for both gi and no gi. Hannah Degand, who competed in the juvenile gi division for the first time, also grabbed two gold medals.

Others earning gold were Blake Nance (Green Belt Gi) and Madison Griffin (Green Belt Gi).

Rader was also pleased with the tenacity of 16-year-old blue belt Jacob Absher, who competed as an adult blue belt and claimed a silver medal in his no gi division.


A Lifetime of Martial Arts
Rader started wrestling and tae kwon do (at Poos Tae Kwon Do school) as a four-year-old. At the age of 12, he switched from TKD to BJJ, training at Lovato’s School of BJJ and MMA, in Oklahoma City, under Professor Rafael Lovato Jr. He wrestled through high school and during that time also began and five-year run in Kyo Kushin Karate.

”I always seemed to be training multiple disciplines of martial arts throughout my entire life,” Rader said. ”My father (who trained in martial arts with his father) got me started at a very early age. He thought martial arts was a great way to teach me self defense, build my confidence and self-esteem, as well as help instill the many values, virtues, and principles that come with learning martial arts.”

Justin Rader and Rafael Lovato Jr Lovato's School of MMA BJJGreatmats

Continual Highlights
In 2010, Rader won the IBJJF No-Gi Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Featherweight World championship. Three year’s later, he repeated the fight and was also a bronze medalist at the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships in Bejing, China.

”I really like how efficient BJJ is as a martial art, both in sport and in self-defense,” Rader said. ”I like how it applies concepts of leverage and technique to overcome strength and athleticism (within reason). This makes it a great art for instilling confidence and self-esteem, as well as teach and instill respect and humility. … I have seen firsthand through both myself and through others, the power martial arts has to transform and positively impact people’s lives, and I wanted to help others come to realize their true potential through this art by passing on what I have learned as a coach.”

In his six years a coach, four of Rader’s students have remained with him the entire time.

”I could never have imagined how rewarding and fulfilling it has been watching them grow up into the young adults they are now today,” he said. ”They are all now strong, confident, humble, disciplined, honorable and respectful young adults with an incredible amount of potential to impact the world in a positive way with any route they choose to pursue in life.”

With that being said, Rader recognizes, ”We are never perfect, and there is always something new to be learned or something to be perfected.”

That’s something both his team and the AGF have embraced.

”The AGF has, in my opinion, has done the best of any tournament organization out there right now to listen to feedback and make changes to deliver the best possible tournament experience, and not just to the paying athletes, but also to the spectators and coaches,” Rader said, noting improvement in every area from rules to scoring to venues and refereeing.

”I want to throw a shoutout to the table workers as well, who did a solid job running clocks all day,” Rader said. ”AGF has their crew running things very well. Overall, they put on a fantastic tournament with the AGF Oklahoma BJJ State Championships.”

Justin Rader AGF Oklahoma State BJJ Championships Greatmats

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

Justin Rader
Lovato’s School of BJJ and MMA
Oklahoma City OK 73112
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Gracie Barra dominates AGF St. Louis BJJ Championships 2017

Rodrigo Vaghi BJJ in distant second place at St. Louis Tournament

At the American Grappling Federations’ St. Louis BJJ Championships, Gracie Barra claimed the overall team title by a landslide. The tournament was held at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri on July 15, 2017.
Gracie Barra claimed 732 points which was more than triple the points of second place finisher Rodrigo Vaghi BJJ with 239 points. Illinois BJJ Academy took third place with 185 points. Gracie Barra took all four divisional titles with its largest margin of victory of 172 points in the Adults No Gi division.

”St. Louis continues to grow,” said Tournament Organizer Chris Carlino. ” It was our largest tournament to date in Missouri.”

The closest division was in the Kids No Gi. Gracie Barra claimed the tile by 15 points. Illinois BJJ Academy claimed second while The House MMA Academy took third place.
Illinois BJJ Academy claimed second as well in the Kids Gi division following Gracie Barra by 68 points but ahead of Rodrigo Vaghi BJJ by 57 points.
Rodrigo Vaghi BJJ took second place in the Adults No Gi division edging out Absolute MMA. Rodrigo Vahi earned 121 of it points in the Adults Gi division, even though they finished 118 points behind Gracie Barra. Rubalcava Jiu Jitsu finished in a distant third in Adults Gi division.

Top 10 Overall Team Scores
Gracie Barra 732

Rodrigo Vaghi BJJ 239
Illinois BJJ Academy 185
Bquick JJ 81
Cavalo BJJ 67
BJJ Lifestyle Academy 55
The House MMA Academy 54
Rubalcava Jiu-Jitsu 51
Watson’s Martial Arts 49
American Top Team 36

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

adult BJJ tournament AGF St Louis Greatmatsadults division AGF St Louis GreatmatsBJJ tournament AGF St Louis 2017 GreatmatsBJJ Championships AGF St Louis 2017 GreatmatsAmerican Grappling Federation St Louis BJJ 2017 Greatmats

2017 St. Louis BJJ Championships
American Grappling Federation
St. Charles MO 63303
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Gracie Barra wins AGF’s Jacksonville BJJ Overall Championship

Brazilian Top Team Jacksonville owns Adult Divisions

Gracie Barra Jacksonville picked up a convincing overall team win at the first-ever American Grappling Federation Jacksonville BJJ Championships on July 1. The tournament was held at the Prim Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville, Florida. The Championships was sponsored by Greatmats.

The Gracie Barra squad topped runner up Brazilian Top Team Jacksonsville by 51 points in the overall team standings while each team collected two Divisional Titles.

Brazilian Top Team Jacksonville claimed the Adult Gi and No Gi Divisions while Gracie Barra topped the Kids Gi and No Gi Divisions.

Marra Senki Jiu Jitsu took second place in the Kids No Gi Division while Searcy Wrestling Club was third.

Soul Fighters Flagler was the Kids Gi runner up, followed by Twin Tigers BJJ in third.

Jean Jacques Machado edged out Swamp Academy by one point to earn second place in the Adults No Gi Division.

Gracie Barra was second in the Adult Gi Division, followed by American Top Team.

Top 10 Overall Team Scores

  • Gracie Barra (Jacksonville) 243
  • Brazilian Top Team Jacksonville 192
  • Marra Senki Jiu Jitsu 117
  • Spartan Academy 98
  • Five Star Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 79
  • Jean Jacques Machado 76
  • Swamp Academy 63
  • Twin Tigers BJJ 57
  • Soul Fighters Flagler 52
  • American Top Team 48

kids grappling AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmatskids no gi AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmats 2017youth grappling AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmatsgrappling action AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmatsgrappling action AGF Jacksonville BJJ tournament Greatmats 2017

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

2017 Jacksonville BJJ Championships
American Grappling Federation
Jacksonville FL 32204
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