LAC LA BICHE - Kabz Martial Arts students put their jiu-jitsu skills to the test at the 2022 Alberta Provincial Open tournament on January 22, in Calgary. The day-long event drew over a dozen of the Lac La Biche club’s students—ranging in age from 5 to 54. The team came back with nine medals, said coach and black belt world champion, Ahmad Kabalan.
“Our club did very well, we had five adults with three coming in first, one in third…the kids also did excellent, we had one gold and four silver medals, I’m very proud of how everyone performed," he told Lakeland This Week.
The event was hosted by the Ambassadors Brazilian Jiu-jitsu club, part of a new the jiu-jitsu circuit in the province that operates like a sports league for the clubs, says Kabalan. The experienced black-belt, who holds titles from competitions around the world and is taking his current world-title belt to the world Pan-Am event in Florida in April, is looking forward to more competitions for his students.
“The Ambassadors are planning on having two or three this year, and whoever has the most points at the events they’ll sponsor them to fight in tournaments overseas like the world competitions I competed in.”
Last fall Kabalan won a gold medal in the black-belt category at the 2021 IBJFF World Master Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Las Vegas, and although he’s was off the mats and on the sidelines supporting his students during the recent tournament, it was even more nerve-wracking, he said.
“I get more nervous when I’m watching them competing than when I am competing. I just want to jump in sometimes,” he said with a laugh. “But the most important thing is that they have fun out there.”
The next scheduled tournament in the new league for the club is on March 26. It’s another chance to promote the local club and the sport, and most importantly to give the club members more experience.
“A few of the kids competed before but there was about four that competed for the very first time. It’s always good to have all of my students compete. It helps them become better and it allows them to achieve more,” he said.
Along with regional tournaments and more league-play, Kabalan is looking forward to the Canadian Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (CBJJF) provincial tournament held in Red Deer on April 9.
“It has been running for over a decade; that’s the one everyone is really looking forward to.”
While several of the Kabz members will be at the Red Deer event, Kabalan himself will not, as the event falls at the same time as the Pan-Am Jiu Jitsu Championships in Florida.
“It’s during the same time as Pan Ams—there will be about five of us going, so I’m sure whoever is not going to Pan Ams will be competing at the event,” he said, explaining that the Red Deer event will offer even more learning experiences for the club members attending. “The guys will coach each other and they’ll make sure they support each other along the way.”
While it’s important to train and be part of his own club’s progress, as a competing athlete himself it’s also vital for Kabalan to continue his own weekly training at Edmonton’s Frontline Academy run by world-renowned third-degree black belt Pedro Lott.
The combination of being a student and teaching others is a benefit.
“When I’m in Edmonton, the athletes are more advanced and it really helps me prepare for the next competition, but also by teaching you learn lots, which also helps. The more you teach, the more you learn. There are a lot of techniques I’ve been doing for years that I don’t realize because they’re so natural now, but when I break it down for my students to understand, it helps me remember the moves.”
Students climbing the ranks
As all club members train and prepare for upcoming competitions, Kabalan says it's important to commemorate the milestones his students achieve. Last week student Greg Chiasson graduated to a jiu-jitsu blue-belt after excelling in competitions, advancing in skill level and dedicating time to the craft, said Kabalan.
Chiasson, 43, has been with the club since it opened three years ago. After an ankle injury early on forced him to put a pause to his training, getting back to a four-times-a-week routine over the last year has been life changing, he said
“It’s great training under someone who holds that black-belt so well. It’s probably the greatest decision I have made for my mental and physical health.”
Pushing yourself to participate and compete, says Chiasson, builds character while trying something new.
“It’s a great experience, competing, I think everyone should try it once in their life. It lets you know where you stand and rank with everybody while learning from your mistakes.”
Moving forward, Kabalan is thinking about his own Pan-Am competitions, but says the success of the club and the support of its members always takes the top spot.
“It’s a good feeling, especially when your students thank you for opening the club and being there for them…I'm excited to see them all compete and how well they all do whether it’s their first time or not.”