Fighting for the worlds

Nasu heads for jiu jitsu championship inspired by his children

Mike Nasu’s motivation lies in his pocket.

He pulls out his cell phone and shows videos of his children. “They’ve won 10 medals between them,” he says. “This is my daughter. I have lots of videos of the kids competing.”

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The Squamish resident of 10 years presses play and the short clip starts. It’s of seven-year-old Mariza in a jiu jitsu match. She’s up against a boy of the same age. After tumbling around for 10 seconds, Mariza positions herself so that she’s poised to get her opponent caught in an arm bar. She quickly wins the match. 

“I am doing it for the kids,” says Nasu, a financial advisor. “I am just trying to show them that it’s like anything in life, it’s all about the journey.” 

The journey Nasu is talking about sees him training seven days a week. It started five years ago, after he watched old fights of famed Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner Royce Gracie sweeping through the Ultimate Fighting Championships in the early ‘90s. 

“I thought, ‘Who is this guy?’” Nasu remembers.

His curiosity peaked, Nasu joined a jiu jitsu training centre in Vancouver. Three belts later, he now practises with head instructor Cole Manson at Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Club Flex in Squamish. 

Seated on a stool at the gym, he gingerly puts his phone back into this pocket and straightens his back. “I am quite tired now,” he admits. “I had an early morning session.” 

Next week, on Sept. 25, Nasu will be under the Nevada sun in Las Vegas. In front of hundreds of spectators, the 42-year-old will take to the mat alongside 2,300 athletes in the 2015 IBJJF World Master Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championships. Nasu will be competing in the featherweight masters purple division against 18 opponents from around the world. 

This marks Nasu’s first tournament. 

“I am going straight into the deep end,” he jokes. 

Nasu’s putting everything he’s got into it. Besides jiu jitsu, he also squeezes strength training and conditioning into his week’s tight schedule. 

“I want to make sure I get ‘out-techniqued’ rather than not having enough gas in the tank.”

Nasu’s co-workers at Edward Jones think he’s crazy, he says. 

“My colleges at the firm think it is a barbaric sport.”

Jiu jitsu is often misunderstood, Nasu says. It’s not dangerous or violent, with competitors tapping out before injury. What aroused Nasu’s love of the sport is its intellectual side. 

With a certain number of submission moves in one’s toolkit, jiu jitsu is alike to a human game of chess, he notes. Weight and height don’t matter. A competitor must stay calm throughout the match, out-thinking and strategizing the next step in continuum of movement.

“It’s all about problem solving.”

While Nasu says he’s attracted to the pureness of jiu jitsu, he’s also seen a transformation within his children. Their self-confidence has grown and they don’t become stressed over minor issues. 

Nasu hopes his performance at the championships will serve as an example for Mariza and Evan. 

He’s not afraid of losing, as long as he leaves all his energy and hours of training on the mat. 

“I don’t want any regrets,” Nasu says with a smile. 

“It’s really about the kids. I’ve talked the talk, and now I have to walk the walk.”

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