A Nanaimo jiu-jitsu instructor helped one of the world’s best grapplers reach the top.
Robert Biernacki of Island Top Team was a primary sparring partner for Yuri Simoes in the lead-up to the Brazilian grappler’s world championship victory last month in Sao Paulo.
Biernacki had previously trained at the Caio Terra Academy in San Jose back in February, and jumped at the chance to travel down there again this summer to work with Simoes.
“I thought I would just be one of a bunch of guys that would be a training partner for him,” Biernacki said. “And I was quite surprised … I ended up being his main training and drilling partner for most of the days that I was down there.”
Rolling with a world-championship-calibre grappler was a physical test. Simoes needed to go full bore to be at his top conditioning level, and Biernacki needed to keep up.
He was able to challenge the champ “here and there,” he said, in short bursts.
“If I gave it my all, I felt like I could give him good training where I could get positions on him and force him to escape certain things,” Biernacki said. “To know that you can get to positions on a world champion is pretty damned awesome, but I don’t want to pretend like I did anything other than occasionally threaten him.”
All that training together made Biernacki become “quite invested” in Simoes’s efforts at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championship. Biernacki followed along on the internet and screamed like crazy, he said, when Simoes won the title.
Back at the Island Top Team gym at the Nanaimo Athletic Club, the instructor hopes his experiences will motivate his students.
“I want them to see that you don’t have to hold yourself to a lower standard just because you’re in a small town…” Biernacki said. “Go out and test yourself against the very best in the world and see how good you can get.”