This summer had some of Easton’s kids students competing for their first time at the Easton Training Center Summer In-House Tournament! The experience was emotional, overwhelming, fulfilling and gratifying on all levels. Easton Training Center had a total of 287 individual registrants, with 139 of them being Tigers for No Gi and 176 Tigers for Gi.
One of the best parts about watching our communities flourish includes seeing the kids grow and blossom year after year. Even just in promotion pictures from the academies, we see them visibly grow — outgrowing old gis, getting taller than each other, catching up to their friends. When it comes to learning how to compete, the experience opens a whole new bag of worms that has no shortage of mixed emotions.
We spoke with Heather Horton, mom to one of Easton Longmont’s competitors, Everett, about the experience. After a morning of watching the kids compete from the sidelines, Heather joked that she had to take a nap when she got home — the day was as exhausting and emotional as it was amazing, and she didn’t even compete! The energy was rampant, filled with both joy and so many tears from everyone, she recounts to us.
“Tears, like the kids were nervous?” We asked her. “Sad they lost? Happy?”
“Oh all of it,” she replied, “Crying during matches — and after because they won or because they lost. It was good though, I know Everett will do it again. He was up against some pretty stiff competition yesterday.”
In Everett’s case, he wanted to jump up to the grey belt rank instead of white or grey/white belt, and he went up against a lot of kids with more experience under their belts at that rank (or they were bigger in general.)
Though Everett wanted the challenge of the competition and went up against a lot more experienced kids at that higher level, he ended up taking home a bronze metal! Still, next time he competes, Heather think that they’ll go back down to the white belt and that’ll help with his sense of confidence in his Jiu Jitsu. We can’t help but commend his heart, though!
The beauty of an in-house tournament at Easton is that it gives kids a real-life trial run at competing against some of the highest caliber students in our all-Easton community while still within the safety our a home gym.
Another competitor from Longmont’s kids program, Bailey Boatman, also crushed it.
Bailey started Jiu Jitsu in July of 2021 but though she loved the people, she wasn’t super into the sport at the time. Class was more like playtime, and initially she wasn’t working too hard. She decided to quit in lieu of gymnastics, but she really missed everyone at Easton. Around that time, her brother began competing in BJJ, and Bailey, who attended his competitions, decided she wanted to give Easton another try.
Eventually, Bailey decided she too wanted to compete! Her mom, Anna, who we spoke with, was hesitant initially since she didn’t know how Bailey would do, but after talking to Coach Jordan they decided to just throw her in! Bailey did a few tournaments and while at first she never won, she kept getting back out there.
“When she lost her first competition, it lit a fire under her,” Anna tells us. “The next one she did she lost again but not as bad. Jordan and Jen call it Tiger-mode with her — something turns on and she won’t stop fighting.”
At the In-House- they put Bailey up two weight classes, so she was with a boy 20 pounds heavier than her! Within seconds, her mom tells us, she had him on the ground. (She didn’t realize it was no submissions – oops!)
She also went up against a kid who had beat her before and though he did beat her a few times in the In-House, she beat him once too.
“Bailey was a different person at that tournament,” Coach Jordan said. “She was like a monster — she went out there with all this ferocity and fight in her, and it’s stuff she’s really been working on.”
Maybe it’s watching her big brother’s success at Kids Pans, or she’s just coming more into her Jiu Jitsu after years of dance and gymnastics, but Coach Jordan says Bailey’s focus in class has been visibly improving and she’s been trying harder. From her success at the In-House, it was clear that Bailey made a huge leap in progress. Recently, Bailey did fight to win, and she made it to the finals! Safe to say, this fiery girl loves it.
Heather, who also recently started training Jiu Jitsu at Easton Longmont, went on to say that at this point she’s not sure she’ll compete. The pressure can really stunt one’s ability to think in the moment if you’re not ready for it, which is why we’re so constantly in awe of all of our kids who do!
And truly, she — and others — doesn’t need to. Competition is just one aspect of any athletic practice, and while some people love it, there are many ways to enjoy Jiu Jitsu.
“I think the kids love the thrill and excitement of competition,” Heather says. “As an adult, I’ve been there, done that with other sports in my life and I want to just enjoy learning Jiu Jitsu instead of putting that pressure on myself to be the best.”
“They [kids] are so new in their lives, and maybe this will take them places in their careers and journeys,” Heather says of the kids competing, “and shape whatever they do as adults.”
Heather mentioned that there’s a mom IG profile she follows that talks about how crawling has a huge impact on babies and forming certain parts of their brains. The mom goes on to say that if you didn’t crawl as a baby then later in life you might have different things that could hold you back.
“Turns out BJJ is very similar and primal!” Heather says. “It makes you think and use your body differently than you normally would.”
We think this is a magnificent observation, and why Jiu Jitsu is amazing at all ages for everyone. Not only does it help with learning how to exist in your body as a child, but as an adult as well. We are constantly relearning our relationship with our surroundings and having to unlearn certain patterns or habits that don’t actually serve us.
While competition is a part of Jiu Jitsu for those who want to put themselves to the test under pressure, even just showing up to class and working specific forms and body movements can help us immensely in growing comfortable in our own skin.