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Saturday, December 27, 2014

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76-pound grappler a world jiu jitsu champion

Tags: Arts Sports Abu Dhabi. champion gold medal jiu jitsu martial arts
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Noah Kales, centre on podium, after receiving his gold medal at the world championships in Abu Dhabi. Noah defeated fighters from Brazil, Jordan and Bahrain.

He’s 11 years old, tough as nails, agile and quick and he loves to fight. So when Noah Kales began contemplating what he might do when he grows up, a career as a mixed martial arts brawler in the UFC came to mind.

Then he got some fatherly advice and he realized there was more to the sport than the glamour as presented on TV – the brain injuries, traumas, the lights-out punches, which make a career as a UFC fighter not quite as desirable as he once thought.

So instead, Noah will stick to what he does best, jiu jitsu, which doesn’t include multiple kicks to the head. 

Noah’s been into the sport since he was six and he’s already had close to 200 matches in Ontario and the United States. He’s a five-time provincial champion and earlier this year, he entered the world trials in Montreal, winning gold and earning a ticket to the world championships in Abu Dhabi.

Kales continued his winning ways in the Mideastern emirate, winning gold there and earning for himself the well-deserved title as the best little jiu jitsu fighter in the world.

Kales defeated fighters from Brazil, Jordan and Bahrain to capture the Junior Orange title in the 34.5 kilo (76 pounds)class, winning all his matches with submission holds.

His gold medal came in the inaugural Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Children’s Cup 2014, which was held as part of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

 “It was special because I’ve never been there before and it was with fighters from all across the world,” he said. “I was really excited when I won.”

Going into his matches, Kales admits he was a bit nervous. “But I calmed myself down. I said to myself, if I win, I’ll be the world champion.”

A look at the overall results showed there were a few fighters from the United States and Canada, a handful of Europeans, a good number of Brazilians – they dominate the sport – and plenty from the UAE and the surrounding region.

As for the grappling itself, it was pretty much what Noah was used to. “The fighting was fairly the same,” he said. “The grips might be a little bit different.”

With his experience, it was clearly nothing he couldn’t handle.

Noah’s dad, Sheldon, recalls introducing his son to the sport when he was six.

“We knew he was very athletic,” he said. With his own background in mixed martial arts, he decided to enroll Noah in a local club, but he soon outperformed all the other kids. Noah changed clubs several times, and now trains out of Gringo Jiu Jitsu, where he gets high level coaching and competition.

Noah knows what it takes to reach the top of his sport. “I’m really good because I really train a lot,” he said. Usually he works at the sport four out of seven days a week, spending 90 minutes on the mat. Before tournaments, he’ll up that to three hours at a time.

So what makes him so tough to beat?

“Probably my speed,” he said. “I’m really fast. I usually get to positions really quickly, so the kids I’m fighting don’t even see it coming.”

“He’s very strong for his age and size,” adds his dad. “He grapples with kids who are 100 pounds. He’s very strong and he’s been training four days a week for years.”

Noah plays hockey during the winter and he’s on the basketball team at Ledbury Park Elementary and Middle School, playing point guard or small forward.

But it’s jiu jitsu that is his first love and he hopes to one day acquire a black belt in the sport. Unfortunately for him, jiu jitsu is not an Olympic sport, though there are lobbying efforts under way to make it one.

It’s also not one of the sports at the Maccabiah Games, though judo and karate are. “There are a lot of Jews all over the world who do the sport,” said Sheldon, referring to the people he’s met at the tournaments Noah has entered.

When his fighting days are over, Noah  plans to get a black belt and open his own club to train others.

That’s strategic thinking but after all, thinking ahead has always been one of his strengths.

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