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MARTIAL ARTS

Rocklin jui-jitsu academy scores well at Pan Am Championships

Athletes now train for world event
By: Amanda Calzada/Placer Herald Correspondent
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Nearly half the individuals from Rocklin’s Synergy Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy who competed at the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championships returned home with a medal.

“I learned a ton about myself and never giving up,” said Loomis resident, Ed Van Aelstyn who finished second overall in the blue belt senior II division.

Van Aelstyn, along with Rocklin residents Sean McCormick and Aaron Pombo medaled in their events. Pombo took silver in the white belt featherweight division while McCormick finished second in the white belt heavyweight senior II division.

The event, held at the Bren Center at the University of California in Irvine, showcased performances of 1,700-1,800 athletes from all over the globe. It is celebrated as the second-largest event in jiu-jitsu, surpassed only by the world championships, and the largest jiu-jitsu event in the United States.

Nate Burnette, a head instructor of Synergy, said the team really focused on the mental aspect before heading into the elite field of athletes. He described the weekend as “thrilling, difficult and fulfilling.”

Additionally, the team trained specifically for the event two months prior to the competition to supplement their daily training. Burnette oversaw the training.

Dedication was the only qualification Burnette set for the school’s athletes to travel to Irvine. He had told the athletes that if they wanted to compete, they had to be dedicated and fully committed to the training. The invitation was extended to all of the school’s students.

“In January, I gave them a goal and said, ‘I really think you guys should compete in this.’ I really wanted to push my guys to compete against the best guys in the world,” he said, knowing that his athletes could rise up to the occasion.

Eight Synergy athletes responded to the challenge and trained an additional three to four times a week. One team member suffered an injury and was unable to continue leaving seven. The team ranged from 18 to mid-40s in age.

The Pan Championships are the largest competition Synergy has attended to date. In past years, the school visited local events in the Bay Area, including the U.S. Open in San Jose.

Some divisions held over 100 athletes.

Although the team consisted of all men, Synergy is working to train women for future Pan Championships.

Burnette was familiar with the level of difficulty as he had competed in the Pan Championships three years ago as a brown belt. The head instructor also has experienced the world championships, the next event Synergy wants to compete in. He finished as a quarter-finalist in the purple belt division at the championships. Now a black belt, Burnette is ready to see what else Synergy can accomplish.

Burnette said even the students who did not medal improved tremendously from training for the event. He added that he knew the team would be successful as long as they focused.

The world championships are to be held in July at Long Beach State University. Synergy also plans to compete at the Pan Championships next year.

Burnette said the event serves as an opportunity for the athletes to constantly improve. He said seeing his guys perform so well on stage was a huge accomplishment, as even those who did not medal came so far.

“There really are no losers,” said Burnette.

Burnette extended an invitation to all those who would like to train or learn self-defense to check out the family-friendly facility.