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home : current news : current news July 21, 2017

3/14/2017 1:13:00 PM
Sisters man thrives with BJJ
Gary Yoder puts a kimura hold on Marty Kaczmarek in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. photo by Jim Cornelius
+ click to enlarge
Gary Yoder puts a kimura hold on Marty Kaczmarek in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. photo by Jim Cornelius

By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Turning 60 is a milestone in any man's life. Like most, Gary Yoder of Sisters found himself at a kind of crossroads.

"When I turned 60, I thought I could get a rocking chair and be an old man - or I could try something new," he told The Nugget.

Intrigued by the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) program offered by Outlaw Martial Arts in Sisters, he decided to hit the mat and give it a try. BJJ is a grappling-based martial art that emphasizes control of an opponent through locks, chokes and submission holds. BJJ workouts and sparring are known as "rolling."

"It's the best thing I've ever done," Yoder said of the martial arts practice. "I feel better than I have in 20 years."

Now 63, Yoder recently qualified for his blue belt - a major milestone in BJJ.

"It's a very significant step," said Outlaw Martial Arts proprietor and BJJ instructor Marty Kaczmarek.

BJJ is not about constant validation, with regular progression through the ranks, Kaczmarek notes.

"It's an art that's really true to itself," he told The Nugget. "It takes, typically, three to four years between belts."

Thus, a blue belt could be considered close to the equivalent of a black belt in many other martial arts systems. As a blue belt, Yoder has the skills, knowledge and technique to handle himself in ground grappling - even against a younger, bigger and stronger opponent. A skilled practitioner can neutralize a size and strength deficit and compel his opponent to "tap out" in ways that are quite mysterious to the uninitiated.

"They don't understand what just happened half the time," Kaczmarek said.

That's because BJJ is all about efficiency of movement, and technique. It's a methodical practice of working into position, and it requires patience - both to learn the art and to apply it. Novices who attempt to gain advantage with sheer physicality find often find themselves quickly frustrated and "gassed out."

"I'm rolling with these 20-year-olds in our class and they're huffing and puffing and I'm not even breathing hard," Yoder said.

The emphasis on technique and the focus on ways for a smaller, weaker combatant to prevail over someone larger and more powerful makes BJJ an effective and popular self-defense option for women, both men noted.

Yoder and Kaczmarek both emphasized that the BJJ ethic does not emphasize "winning" in the sense of showing up a lesser-skilled opponent.

"Everyone is just trying to make everyone else better," Kaczmarek says.

In addition to the pure pleasure of continually improving in a demanding martial art, and the confidence of being able to defend himself at need, Yoder says he's reaped significant fitness benefits. At 63, he's stronger and more flexible than he's been in a couple of decades.

"My pants are looser, my shirts are maybe a little tighter," he said. "I'm as solid as I can ever remember being."

Yoder rolls three nights a week.

"I love it," he said. "I'm kind of addicted to it."

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