The Canadian jiu-jitsu championship is suddenly coming to Ottawa Sunday, after the event was postponed in Montreal over a warning by police that the sport is illegal and organizers could be charged.
In a posting on Facebook late Wednesday, organizers announced the championship, which is expected to attract about 240 competitors, will be held March 5 at the EY Centre near the Ottawa airport.
"We're just happy it's been resolved. It feels really good, especially for the competitors," said Danny Vu, a spokesperson for the event.
The championship was originally scheduled for February 26 at the Pierre-Charbonneau Centre, near the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
During the lead up to the event, Montreal police indicated they considered the sport to be illegal, since Article 83 of the Canadian Criminal Code states that only combat sports recognized by the IOC are legal.
But organizers argue their sport is the Brazilian form of jiu-jitsu, which involves grappling and submission holds, rather than fist, foot and hand strikes.
During a jiu-jitsu practice Thursday morning at the Ottawa Academy of Martial Arts on Carling Ave, the mood was upbeat as word spread of the event coming to Ottawa.
"It's going to be fun," said Mick Roy, who'll be competing in the championship. "First you don't have to travel as far, and now you have the opportunity to compete with friends here. We've been training hard, day in, day out for weeks."
'It's not about being violent'
As Roy and fellow competitors practised their submission holds, instructor Matthew Haché pointed out how the sport is often misunderstood.
"It's not about being violent," said Haché. "It's actually about teaching people how to be kind, how to be caring, and actually how to build a strong community."
As for any potential legal issues, Danny Vu believes he won't face the same problem in Ottawa as he did in Montreal.
"We're not concerned because Ontario has a different approach to the sport of grappling versus the province of Quebec," said Vu.
Once the championship is over, Vu said he'll turn his attention to encouraging lawmakers in Quebec to be more lenient to the Brazilian form of jiu-jitsu.