Jiu-jitsu club gaining prestige

As the club’s membership and trophy case grow, so too does team spirit at Island Top Team.

Umesh Thillaivasan

Umesh Thillaivasan

There’s a science to jiu-jitsu, says Robert Biernacki, instructor at Nanaimo’s Island Top Team. It’s based on leverage, torque, body mechanics, physics.

Yet sometimes it feels like magic.

Biernacki likes to teach the rolling back take, a high-level manoeuvre and a signature Island Top Team move.

“It’s the only technique that I’ve ever done in jiu-jitsu where your opponent is smiling after you do it to them,” he said. “They turn around and they’re like, ‘What did you just do?’”

Biernacki has a standing offer of $50 to any of his charges who use it to submit an opponent in competition, and as it happens, his student Taylor Jones pulled it off this month at the Washington State Grappling Championships in Seattle.

It was just one highlight of an incredibly successful weekend for the fledgling club. Shane Malone won four gold medals, Umesh Thillaivasan and Biernacki won two golds each, Eli Wyse took a gold and a silver and Jones earned two silvers. Despite having the smallest contingent at the tourney, Island Top Team managed third place in the team competition.

“The results were even beyond my expectations,” said the instructor.

Biernacki started up the team, based out of the Nanaimo Athletic Club, last October, and registration has been steady since then.

“I had projections laid out for how many students we’d have by certain periods of time. A three-month target, a six-month target … and we obliterated every one of those,” he said. “Nanaimo’s been kind of starved for quality instruction in this field.”

Wyse, an amateur mixed martial arts athlete looking to go pro, said Island Top Team has really balanced his game.

“The first day I came in here, I got beat pretty good and it was a nice, humbling experience,” he said.

He’d always been a stand-up fighter, but now he’ll feel more calm when the action goes to the mat.

“I have yet to take anybody down in a fight, and I might just do it,” he said.

The club isn’t just for MMA athletes or grappling competitors. Jiu-jitsu can be a form of self-defence or it can just be a workout and a hobby.

Biernacki said sometimes people imagine it as an overly “macho” sport.

“We still roll hard when we need to, but it’s not as much as most people think,” he said. “We’re not trying to wear anybody’s body down. We’re trying to make sure that this is accessible to anybody who wants to do it.”

As the club’s membership and trophy case grow, so too does team spirit. Biernacki is proud to see that as he continues to try to build what he hopes will be a world-class club.

And a club that pays its debts, like for example after a rolling back take.

“I have never felt happier to part with $50 in my life, put it that way,” Biernacki said.

MAT MATTERS … For more information, please visit www.islandtopteam.com.