Why do we fight? Featuring Alexandre Rioux: Gracie Barra Orange/Black belt
Why do we fight? What is it that compels the Jiujiteiro to press on and continue to train, day-in and day-out, with little to no return? This year, I’ll be interviewing members of the GB Montreal family to try and get to know them better and gain insight into their jiu-jitsu journey. We are an eclectic bunch with diverse backgrounds. One thing binds us together on the mats though; we train, we persevere, we fight.
This is Alexandre Rioux. Alex is 11 years old and has been practicing jiujitsu for about 6 years. His primary gym has been GB Laval (under David Guigui), but you can see Alex and his dad, Patrick Rioux, at just about any GB in the Montreal area when there is a special class or GB event. So, what’s so special about this soft-spoken practitioner of the gentle art? Well for starters, he has 3 katanas that he won at NAGA over the years, along with 9 belts from the same organization. Add to that, he has around 60 gold, 9 silver and 6 bronze medals from various other tournaments.
What got me curious about Alex was that I kept seeing him at various events around the GB community, always participating, always attentively picking up cues from coaches, helping other students, and always with his father watching from the sideline. And that’s a very important detail; Alex’s father, Patrick, has not only supported Alex’s strenuous training and competition schedule, but he does so quietly and calmly from the stands. Patrick is absolutely supportive of Alex’s endeavour, but he also understands enough about jiu-jitsu and the mental concentration needed to perform. That’s why he usually sits, quietly watching and quietly studying his son and his fights, so they can go over them afterwards in detail, and work together towards Alex’s growth. Patrick does not shout, get agitated, or coach Alex over the sound of Alex’s coach during fights; he observes and takes mental notes.
Alex’s competition history actually started before jiu-jitsu; he began his martial arts journey (as many of us do) with Karate, and was competing even back then. But when GB Laval opened it’s doors, both Alex and Patrick were curious and began training since it was so close to home for them. After less than 2 months of starting jiu-jitsu, he went to his first competition and was instantly hooked. During the first year, Alex and his dad took stock of his results, went over his strengths and weaknesses, and about a year after starting jiujitsu they decided that in order to give him an edge in BJJ he would start doing judo. In competition, Alex thinks that Judo has been a big part of his success in grappling tournaments because it has given him a new set of tools to use. He finds he has a better awareness of his stance and balance overall, not only from standing but also on the ground. Alex also understands the importance of grip-fighting, something strongly emphasized in judo. Alex also competes in judo tournaments and also does exceptionally well. Fittingly, he finds jiu-jitsu equally gives him a special advantage in judo; many times, incomplete throws mean both judokas can continue fighting on the ground until the judge resets the fight. As such, he finds all the ground work from jiu-jitsu gives him a competitive edge, particularly when fighting around side control and the turtle positions.
I was curious to know whether or not he gets bogged down between the two arts, and if it’s confusing to fight in two very similar arts with vastly different rule sets. Essentially, Alex told me that when he puts on the gi, it’s just grappling for him. Sometimes, his body is on autopilot and he might automatically do something in one milieu that isn’t allowed, but he usually catches himself and adapts right away to the situation. His favourite judo moves are the Harai Goshi and the iconic Uchi Mata, whereas his jiu-jitsu move of choice are the triangle-to-armbar and back again sequence.
Alex has been training for more than half his life and doesn’t see himself stopping any time soon. He is very excited to begin training in the adult class in the next couple of years and recognizes it will be a new challenge. The transition from training with adolescents to adults will definitely be difficult, but he knows it will only help him improve and rely on his technique. Like many of us, he wants to get his black belt, but Alex says so with an assertive yet embarrassed smile; he will get his black belt. Having observed the way he trains in class and how he helps other students with pointers and techniques and having seen him compete in various venues with the utmost respect for his opponents, I can attest that Alex already has many of the traits that characterize jiu-jitsu black belts.
All content by Dan Aponte. Follow him on instagram @just.dan.thingz