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Event breaks new ground

As far as martial arts history in Demopolis goes, Ross Martial Arts & Fitness Academy claimed two ground-breaking events this past weekend during the 2011 Complete Martial Arts Seminar and Challenge.

The third annual seminar and tournament brought instructors and martial arts practitioners from all over Alabama and Mississippi as well as from as far away as Virginia for two days of training in submission grappling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on Jan. 14 and 15.

First, the academy capped off the Friday submission grappling for mixed martial arts session with Ross MA instructors Jay and Ronda Russell being awarded blue belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from BJJ black belt Joe Cunningham, of the Yamasaki Academy in Woodbridge, Va.

“This makes them the only ranked BJJ practitioners in their hometown, and we are extremely proud to have them be a part of the Yamasaki family,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham added that the ranking was approved by his instructors Francisco Neto, Fernando Yamasaki and Mario Yamasaki. He said the Russells’ blue belts certified them to teach the Yamasaki BJJ curriculum and also made them the academy’s official representatives in the state of Alabama.

According to Cunningham, ranking in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is extremely difficult compared to most other martial arts and is based on a person’s skills during fully resistant sparring as well as his or her ability to explain and demonstrate techniques.

On average, it takes a person from two to four years to earn the first rank, which is blue belt. A black belt rank can take from 10 to 15 years.

“We’re honored that the Yamasaki Academy feels we have progressed enough in our training to achieve blue belt,” said Jay Russell. “This is a big step forward not only for my wife and me but also for our students because we can now offer them ranking in this style.”

The second historic event came following the Saturday BJJ seminar with the first-ever open martial arts tournament in Demopolis.

The Challenge held at the Demopolis High School gymnasium Saturday afternoon featured more than two dozen competitors in grappling and kickboxing matches.

“I’ve received more than a dozen messages and phone calls from people who came out and watched or who participated,” said Jay Russell, “and they’ve all been extremely positive. It seems that everybody had a great time.”

In the children’s divisions, winners were Brett Schroeder, first place in lightweight beginner gi and no gi grappling as well as kickboxing, and Dalton Sewell, second place in lightweight beginner gi and no gi grappling and kickboxing. Both competitors are students at Ross Martial Arts.

Grey Madison, of Ross MA, took first in medium weight beginner gi grappling and second place in no gi grappling while Jacob Boland, of Ross MA, placed first in medium weight beginner no gi grappling and kickboxing and took second in gi grappling.

Logan Fendley, of Ross MA, captured first place lightweight intermediate gi and no gi grappling after participating in exhibition matches against Tayvon Charles, of Cross Training Academy II. Charles captured first in medium weight intermediate gi and no gi grappling.

Logan Swartz, of Cross Training Academy, took first in heavy weight intermediate no gi grappling.

Although the women’s division only had one competitor to step forward, Nikki Smith of Ross MA, she earned her first place medals in gi and no gi grappling by participating in exhibition matches against her instructor Ronda Russell.

The men’s divisions were loaded and featured some exciting match-ups between schools.

Robbie Grey, of Ross MA, captured first place finishes in lightweight beginner no gi and gi grappling as well as kickboxing.

Tony Brown, of Cross Training Academy, took second in gi and third in no gi grappling.

Travis Lewis claimed second in no gi grappling and third in kickboxing. Randall Sanders, of Ross MA, took second in kickboxing.

For men’s medium weight beginners, Brandon Keith, of Ross MA, captured first in gi and no gi grappling as well as kickboxing. Josh Pitz, of Cross Training Academy, claimed second in gi and no gi grappling. Denzel Witherspoon, of Ross MA, took second in kickboxing.

In the men’s heavyweight beginner division, Hunter Wells, of Ross MA, claimed first in gi grappling and second in no gi grappling as well as kickboxing.

Ben Killen, of Gracie South, took first in no gi grappling and second in gi grappling. Dakota Smith, of Ross MA, captured first in kickboxing.

For the intermediate divisions, Sanders took first place in gi and no gi grappling while Chad Wright finished second in gi and no gi. Both competitors represented Ross MA. Daniel Alexander, of Ross MA, claimed first in gi and no gi grappling and kickboxing. Jim Roberson, of Meridian Extreme MMA, took second in gi and no gi grappling. Justin Jackson captured first in heavyweight intermediate gi and third in no gi grappling while Tom Barnard finished first in no gi grappling and second in the gi. Jason Chandler took second in no gi grappling and third in the gi. All three competitors were from Cross Training Academy.

Russell said the event was so successful that plans are already in the works to put on a bigger and even better seminar and open challenge next year.