Martial arts: Nathan's mat magic floors British junior rivals

First published in Youth Sport by

DEDICATED Nathan Johnstone has his eyes on world glory after winning the British junior championship in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

The 11-year-old from Moordown, won four contests to clinch the gold medal in Walsall. His longest bout lasting just 38 seconds!

It was just reward for Nathan, who trains two to three hours a night, and spends two months a year in Brazil to develop his ‘full-contact grappling martial art.’ Nathan’s next goal is in February when he travels to Nevada in the United States for the world championships.

In preparation, Nathan and his dad Jimmy clock up the miles to find suitable training partners.

“There are hundreds of kids around the country practicing our sport, but at Nathan’s level only a few lads can push him,” explained Jimmy.

“We drive to Birmingham, London and Manchester just to get him training partners.”

And twice a year Jimmy and Nathan visit Rio de Janeiro.

“Nathan can be pushed even further by the local kids who see the sport, not as a hobby but as a way of life that could one day lift them out of poverty,” added Jimmy.

“The level is much higher in Brazil, but Nathan still competes and wins there.”

There are no punches or kicks in Brazilian jiu jitsu with competitors wrestling or ‘grappling’ their opponents into submission by tapping the mat.

“It is considered to be the most powerful martial art in the world,” said Jimmy. “It is more about using leverage and position rather than strength.”

Among Nathan’s sponsors is leading American company OK! Kimonos.

Nathan currently holds an orange and white belt in Brazilian jui jitsu – the best he can achieve for his age in strict rules set down by the sport’s governing body.

“Although he is technically worthy of a much higher grade the guidelines are clear on this and must be respected,” explained Jimmy.

Nathan will not be allowed to progress to a green belt until he is 13-years.

Coach Micah Atkinson, a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt, said: “Of all the athletes I've worked with Nathan is one of the most talented and hardest working people I've had the pleasure of training with.

“He is always watching competition footage looking for new moves to try.”

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