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Ennis fighters heading to their first European Championships

Two Ennis-based martial artists will be heading to Portugal this week to compete in the European Brazilian Jiujitsu Championships, the biggest competition of its kind to be held in Europe this year.
John Eustace, who runs Fight Sports Clare and one of his students, Jack Darmody, will head to Lisbon next week in advance of tournament that begins next Saturday.
“For this one for sure I want to see how good I am against other guys, other blue belts,” Eustace said this week.
“It’s a good test, it’s the reason you do any competition. Why I started doing competitions was to put myself in the stressful environment.
“When you’re training here (in the gym) it’s very relaxed – though it’s a little bit stressful when you start – after a while you get used to it and it’s very relaxed it’s not like a fight really it’s more like you’re playing a game. But when you go into a competition it’s more like a real fight where you’ve got the adrenaline going and that’s another obstacle to overcome. That was at the start when I competed first and now I want to compete to test how my jiujitsu is against other guys.”
“At the moment there’s about 60 guys registered in my division so there could anything between 70 and 80 in my group, under 76kg with the gi [the uniform jiujitsu players wear]. The gi weighs about 2kg.”
Despite having not competed in a year, Eustace is happy with his performance in training against other fighters of his level both in Ireland and in Miami.
Without being cocky the fighter is cautiously confident of his chances of success on the international stage.
“Honestly, I think I can win it. But I wouldn’t be – I don’t know if it’s even a loser’s mentality but if I got into the semi finals, if I got around there I’d be happy too, but I do think I can definitely win it,” he said.
“I think I’ve got a good strategy and I’ve got a different game to what a lot of blue belts would have seen.”
Eustace says he’s spent a lot of time developing very specific aspects of his game, raising them to a level beyond what would normally be expected of a blue belt fighter. While he concedes this might leave other aspects of his game slightly weaker he says he “would prefer not to be a jack-of-all-trades”.
His confidence in this method training is rooted in his desire for depth of knowledge over breadth – a philosophy that may reap even greater dividends for the fighter as he develops in both the sport and the martial art.
The depth of the sport and its training and the various ways a match can be won and lost are also a factor Eustace is realistic about.
“Everybody’s different. You don’t know what you’re going to come up against. You could come up against a guy that has a move you’ve never seen before in your first fight and you could be gone in 20 seconds.”
Jack Darmody, will also make the trip to Lisbon to compete in the white belt -70kg category. Nineteen-year-old Darmody, from Ennis, who only began training in Brazilian jiujitsu in September, is relaxed about the upcoming competiton but still has victory on his mind.
“Win for yourself morseo than anything else,” he said, adding philosophically that he planned to just apply what he’s learned, give a good account of himself and “see how it goes”.
The fights start standing up with competitors allowed to either throw or wrestle their opponents to the ground or “pull guard” which involves literally jumping onto your opponent and pulling them onto the ground, often with the opponent landing on top of them.
In Brazilian jiujitsu this prone position is not always considered a weak one so long as a fighter knows what they’re doing. Scoring comes from performing takedowns and gaining positions of dominance like getting your knee on an opponent’s belly or reversing their position to one in your favour. Victory can also be achieved by forcing an opponent to “tap” or quit due to a joint lock or a choke.
“Last year I was focussed mainly on improving my game and training, training, training as much as I could; opening this place and getting the guys up to a good level so I’d have good training partners here and we’d have a good gym. Which we have already. There’s some good guys here. There’s no real egos.”
“This year now I’m going to focus on competitions. The guys that have been here since September they’re ready to start competing now so we’re going to do as many competitions as we can this year,” he said.
Ahead of their teammates’ trip to Lisbon, a small group of white belt fighters from the gym, Ethan Kerin, Craig Ryan, Eamon Joyce, Colin Moloney and Cian McDonnell, will make their competitive debuts at an open tournament in Belfast this weekend.

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