The Slippery Rock Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Club took to the mat to compete in the art of jiu-jitsu at the Western Pennsylvania Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Championships where five of its members placed in the tournament’s adult brackets.
Keystone Oaks High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania played host to the tournament organized by Steel City Martial Arts on Saturday, Oct. 25 where five members from the club went to compete in both the gi and no-gi grappling divisions against local competitors of similar age, weight, and skill level. Gi and no-gi grappling differs in both the type of clothing that competitors wear, as well as the technique that competitors must abide by.
Junior psychology major and philosophy minor Josh Fremd, 20, who serves as the president of the MMA Club competed in the tournament in both the gi and no-gi divisions, where he earned first place in each and received an award for most outstanding competitor for the tournament. Fremd who has been training on-and-off for five years in MMA also teaches jiu-jitsu and wrestling to members of the MMA and Wrestling Clubs.
For this competition, which was based strictly on jiu-jitsu, Fremd’s experience, weight and age determined his standing in each division. Competing in both disciplines gave him the opportunity to showcase his skills in both areas of the sport, but seeing those who he had trained do well was a more rewarding experience.
“I’m usually the one trying to learn and better myself, and I never really thought about teaching jiu-jitsu, but just to get people more involved was cool,” Fremd said. “Two people that I teach consistently, Austin and Sam, who pulled off a move that I taught her two days before was awesome, and Austin did extremely well. He put up a good fight.”
Going forward, Fremd hopes to see more students become involved with the club, and would like to see its female membership increase as the sport continues to grow in popularity. Even if students choose not to compete in the sport, learning how to defend yourself is valuable should an opportunity present itself where self-defense is necessary, Fremd said.
“A lot of girls are starting to get involved in it,” Fremd said. “Women’s martial arts are getting huge in Pittsburgh and the MMA scene in Pittsburgh itself is growing.”
One of the women who has become involved in the sport is sophomore exercise science major Samantha Campbell, 19, who began her training in jiu-jitsu at the beginning of the semester. Campbell competed at the competition in the adult women’s beginner bracket where she finished in second place.
Campbell became interested in wrestling at a young age after watching WWE events on television and then transitioned into watching UFC fights, which peaked her interest in competing in MMA in college. Being a female in such a male-dominated sport has been challenging for the newcomer who has had to work hard to get to where she is today.
“It was kind of rough at first because everybody is bigger and stronger than I am, but I don’t think about that too much,” Campbell said. “I like to tell myself that being the weaker one is only going to make me better in the end. Being a female in a sport like this, I feel like you have to prove yourself to the guys, but it’s really just about self-confidence.”
After learning the basics of how to takedown her opponent, transition to new positions and ‘live-rolling’ with other members to get hands on experience, having her hard work pay off at the competition was satisfying for Campbell.
“I did this tournament to find out where I was at compared to other people, and I found out that I have a lot of work to do, but I found out that I’m catching onto the technique,” Campbell said. “It feels really great that I’m not sweating and working hard for nothing. The busted lips are paying off.”
The MMA Club meets Monday through Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Field House, and practices are open to those who wish to learn wrestling, jiu-jitsu and MMA techniques.