AUNDECK OMNI KANING—Alex McGraw fell in love with the mixed martial art of jujitsu shortly after finishing high school, attending the tri-weekly Troope Manitoulin sessions at Aundeck Omni Kaning under the tutelage of Darren Madahbee. Mr. McGraw continued his intense connection with the sport and recently was rewarded with two gold medals at the Grappling Industries Gi Nogi Jujitsu tournament held at Toronto’s Ryerson University, where he won all 10 of his matches, but a year and a half ago things were looking pretty grim.
“I wasn’t expecting to win all 10,” admitted Mr. McGraw. “But as it turned out I won nine of my matches by submission and the other one by ref’s decision.”
Mr. McGraw now trains with Sudbury’s Troope MMA under 2nd degree black belt Richard Nancoo, but back in the day it was all Manitoulin. “Darren started it all,” he said. “Now I try to get on the mats every day.”
“I am very proud of that young man,” said his former mentor Mr. Madahbee, who admitted he did not at first see the champion in the making. “To be perfectly honest he came in with a bit of a chip on his shoulder,” he laughed. “But then he got a bit of humble pie. We all get that at the start, I know I got plenty of my share. But he stuck with it and that’s what separates a champion.”
Sticking with it is right. A year and a half ago, Mr. McGraw was in a car accident that left him with a pelvis broken in three places along with five broken ribs. “The first thing I asked the doctor was ‘will I be able to wrestle again, will I be able to do jujitsu?’” he said. Mr. McGraw heaved a sigh of relief when the doctor told him it would be six months to a year before he could return to the sport. “I was back at it in six months,” he recalled. A year later he was in top winning form.
Today the 23-year-old Manitoulin Secondary School graduate is working in Sudbury at the Townhouse Tavern as a doorman/bouncer and working out on the mats every chance he gets. “I love the job at the Townhouse,” he said. “I get to listen to great music and the people are great.”
His next tournament will be in Toronto on December 2. Are the Olympics in his sights? “Jujitsu isn’t an Olympic sport,” he said. “Maybe in 2020, but that’s okay, there are a lot of big tournaments.”
The Aundeck Omni Kaning Troop Manitoulin Jujitsu sessions are open to everyone and take place three times a week, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 pm. Apparently it’s where champions get their start.