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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

No Holds Barred: Dan Schon and the Rise of Jiu-Jitsu in Mexico 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with grappler Dan Schon.

Representing his home country of Mexico, he recently made headlines at the 2013 SportAccord World Combat Games in St. Petersburg, Russia. In a dominant performance, on October 24, he won a gold medal in the -85 kg men's ne waza division over David Ben Zaken of Israel by a score of 4-0. This competition, organized by the JJIF (Ju Jitsu International Federation), had rules which were very similar to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rules, with some minor differences such as a shorter time limit of six minutes. This was the only medal won by a Mexican athlete in the JJIF competition at the World Combat Games.

Besides running a jiu-jitsu school, he has competed in numerous other competitions run by IBJJF, ADCC, NAGA, and other organizations.

We spoke with Dan Schon by Skype Thursday.

"It was a tough match. It was a tough tournament," he said, noting that his semifinal match was even more difficult than the gold medal final.

"I can say that Mexican jiu-jitsu is growing in a way," he said.

"We Mexicans are tough guys. We like boxing. We like a lot of the combat sports. So jiu-jitsu is new here in Mexico, but we're trying to grow it. Thanks to this jiu-jitsu federation, the JJIF, it's been able to grow, because the government is giving us a lot of help in taking us to all these international tournaments and having us compete with some of the best guys."

While he still plans to compete in events organized by other groups, he had high praise for JJIF and said he would recommend that people "at least look into us. None of the federations are exclusive, or at least not in Mexico and not in the States. You can compete in the Brazilian federation, and you can also compete in the JJIF." He also said that all his travel expenses and accommodations were paid for during the World Combat Games.

We discussed his background, and how he was born in Mexico, moved to the U.S. and graduated from UC Davis in California where he had a wrestling scholarship, and moved back to Mexico City where he also works. He talked of his love of jiu-jitsu, why it "is for everybody", how he advanced step-by-step up to black belt, his victory in the 2013 World Games in Colombia, the other styles of traditional jiu-jitsu in which JJIF holds competitions, how JJIF has gained ground in regions where other organizations have not, how he works full-time while training two to four hours a day, his thanks for the guidance his parents continue to give him, and much, much more.

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