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BJJ open tournament, first in Windsor-Essex, empowers the next generation, organizers say

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The inaugural Windsor Open Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament marks a milestone in the city's martial arts scene, celebrating the sport's growing popularity in the city while offering a significant platform for the next generation to showcase their skills.

More than 320 athletes of all ages participated in this unique BJJ tournament, held Saturday at the Atlas Tube Recreation Centre in Belle River, Ont.

"My kids and I love Brazilian jiu-jitsu," said James Linton, a lead promoter of the Windsor Open Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament who also trains at Hybrid Training Academy. "We've been going to other places for tournaments and we thought, 'Why isn't there one here?' So I contacted Atlas Tube and the Ontario Jiu-Jitsu Association."

Linton estimates approximately "60 to 70 per cent" of the athletes who participated in Saturday's open tournament have never competed before. He said many families struggle to afford the registration fees for tournaments located elsewhere.

"This is a celebration of just years and years of jiu-jitsu growing in Windsor. I've only been doing it a couple years but there's people here who have been doing it 30 or 40 years," said Linton.

He continued, "They've been coming up to me and have been thanking me for doing this because it's growing that next generation."

Ten-year-old Luca Leonardo, who secured a submission victory at the tournament, said he has been training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu for two years.

"I like people taking down. It helps me take my anger out," said Leonardo, who added his coaches inspire him to show up everyday for training.

Nine-year-old Sebastian Black called the two years he has spent doing BJJ training "amazing."

"I love jiu-jitsu. I like grappling and I like that it's fun," said Black. "I started off wanting to do karate but my parents couldn't get me into that. But then they found about jiu-jitsu and there was one spot left. Thank goodness for that."

But despite their personal love of the martial art, many young BJJ practitioners shared one common reason for why they continue training.

"I like that it helps me defend myself in case anything happens," said Addison Linton, James' nine-year-old daughter.

The inaugural Windsor Open Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament transcends the pursuit of championship titles and major accolades. According to Linton, it serves as an inclusive platform — providing athletes of all skill levels an opportunity to test their mettle.

"So a kid who steps on to the mat and loses their match is still a winner. They're helping to progress the sport," said Linton.

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