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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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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Triton Fight Center claims 2017 AGF Tulsa Open Title

Clinch Martial Arts Academy Takes Second Place

Triton Fighter center claimed the Overall Team Title narrowly edging out Clinch Martial Arts Academy. The overall team tile was a tightly contested race at this year’s American Grappling Federation Tulsa Open. The competition was held on June 17 at UMAC in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Lovato BJJ placed third place, with the top 3 teams finishing within 28 points of each other. 80 teams earned points in this tournament.
Lovato BJJ had an outstanding performance in the Kids No Gi division where it topped second place Triton Fight Center by 73 points. Triton Fight Center took second place, and Oklahoma Martial Arts Academy was only two points behind them, finish third.
Lovatao BJJ claimed first as well in the Kids Gi division with a 36-point margin above Triton, who finished second. American Elite MMA claimed third in the division.
Clinch Martial Arts placed first in the Adult Gi division with a 102 margin over the runner up, Oklahoma Martial Arts Academy. Triton Fight Center finished in a close third place.

Triton Fight Center’s persistence and consistency paid off in the Adult Gi division where they defeated Clinch Martial Arts Academy by 32 points, allowing them to secure the overall team title. Rubalcava Jiu-Jitsu claimed third in the Adult Gi division.

”Tulsa was HUGE,” said event organizer, Chris Carlino. ”It was our 2nd largest tournament in Oklahoma – second only to our state championships earlier in March.”

Top 10 Overall Team Scores

    • Triton Fight Center 399
    • Clinch Martial Arts Academy 387
    • Lovato BJJ 371
    • Oklahoma Martial Arts Academy 271
    • American Elite MMA 226
    • Rubalcava Jiu-JItsu 221
    • Omar French BJJ 154
    • Sandro Sampaio BJJ Academy 146
    • Valor Martial Arts 115
    • Team LDMA 114

youth AGF Tulsa Open grappling competition Greatmatsyouth boys competiting AGF Tulsa Open Greatmatsyouth grappling AGF Tulsa Open 2017 Greatmatscompetition AGF Tulsa Open 2017 Greatmatsgrappling competition AGF Tulsa Open 2017 Greatmats

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

2017 Tulsa Open
American Grappling Federation
Tulsa OK 74133
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Soul Fighters win AGF’s New Orleans BJJ Championships

AGF Draws Nearly All Louisiana Academys to New Orleans Championships

  The 2017 New Orleans BJJ Championships featured almost 400 competitors on June 10 held at the Alerio Center in Westwego, Louisiana. Soul Fighters Louisiana won the Overall Team Title by a landslide. The tournament was sponsored by Greatmats.

”We had representation from almost all of the schools in Louisiana, which was a really nice plus,” said tournament organizer, Chris Carlino. ”We had people competing from 7 different states as well.”

Soul Fighters Louisiana claimed the most points in Kids No Gi and Adults Gi divisions. They placed second in the Kids Gi and Adults No Gi divisions.

BJJ Revolution was the Overall Team runner up. They placed second in the Adults Gi and third in the Kids Gi divisions. They tied for sixth in the Kids No Gi division.

Cyclone BJJ claimed the Kids Gi Division title and placed second in the Kids No Gi and fourth in Adults Gi divisions. Cyclone BJJ placed third in Overall Team standings.

Clementi’s Gladiators Academy finished 38 points behind Soul Fighters for third place in the Kids No Gi Division.

Gracie Barra (Lake Charles) was the second runner up in the Adults No Gi Division, finishing 37 points behind BJJ Revolution.

No Limit Jiu Jitsu took third in the Adults Gi Division, coming in 123 points behind the divisional champ.

Top 10 Overall Team Scores

  • Soul Fighters Louisiana 485
  • BJJ Revolution 276
  • Cyclone BJJ 255
  • No Limit Jiu Jitsu 121
  • Empire MMA 91
  • Clementi’s Gladiators Academy 83
  • Gracie Barra (Lake Charles) 76
  • Busted Knuckle MMA 75
  • Alan Belcher MMA 74
  • Guerrilla Jiu Jitsu 72

youth AGF New Orleans 2017 Greatmats youth grappling AGF New Orleans BJJ 2017 Greatmats AGF New Orleans BJJ Tournament 2017 Greatmats youth grappling at AGF New Orleans Greatmats youth AGF New Orleans BJJ Greatmats

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

2017 New Orleans BJJ Championships
American Grappling Federation
Westwego LA 70094
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