Raglan grandmother Shahn Ellis not only drew in all three rounds of the town’s inaugural jiujitsu tournament last Friday night but the fighting fit 51-year-old was up against an 18-year-old who’d practised the martial art four years to her two.

Meanwhile Raglan 18-year-old Aram Higgins, who admits to having been “quite nervous” before the comp, won both rounds of his fight with an armbar — a technique used to get an opponent to submit.

It was a “brilliant” event, says local jiujitsu teacher Dean Message who teaches Kiaido Ryu or mma (mixed martial arts) twice-weekly at Raglan Area School. He organised Raglan’s first fight night last week which saw 38 competitors — more than he’d expected — from all over the North Island fighting it out in the school hall.

Kiaido Ryu is a family-oriented self-defence system which includes not only stand-up fighting like karate and kick-boxing, says Dean, but also the takedowns and controlled ground fighting of jiujitsu. “This is the closest you can get to the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Champion).”

He told the Chronicle the tournament was supposed to be a small fundraising event, but with eight dojos or training groups involved — Raglan, Hamilton, Cambridge, Thames, Auckland, Katikati, Tauranga and Kerikeri — it turned out to be a “full house.” That meant three fights being run at the same time with three referees.
It’s normally one ref doing one ring with three judges, Dean explains.

At 29, Dean’s trained for 15 years in Kiaido Ryu throughout the country with different dojos, and plans now to organise three or four more Raglan events for the year.
It’s good for Raglan to see this form of mixed martial arts, he says. “It’s something that really hasn’t been here before.”

The discipline uses the coloured belt system to grade its students, similar to that used in karate, progressing from a white to a black belt.
And Shahn, one of the original members of Raglan’s Kiaido Ryu training sessions, can vouch for its benefits — not only in self defence but in self confidence and fitness.

Now a green belt, she reckons she couldn’t do two push-ups when she started two years ago. “Now I’m doing 75 (push-ups) for the belt level I’m at.”
Edith Symes