State champion at nine

State champion at nine

Nine-year-old Jonah Grey shows his Jiu-Jitsu skills with Nura Elahee. Photograph – Aaron Van Rongen.

With only three years of experience under his belt, Canning Vale grappler Jonah Grey has climbed to the top of the WA ladder and now has his sights set on the Pan Pacific International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Championship in Melbourne this October.

Nine-year-old Jonah, who currently holds the AFBJJ WA State Championship in his age and weight class, is hopeful of victory over east, despite feeling a little out-of-his-depth when he first ventured into competition.

“I was really scared in my first competition, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know where to weigh-in or the rules of the competition,” Jonah said.

“I nearly was disqualified for guillotining my opponent, even though I didn’t know what a guillotine was at the time.

“I lost all three of my matches, but I loved the excitement of competing.”

That love of competition is clear for all to see, with a training schedule that sees him in the gym nearly every day.

Despite that early loss, Jonah enjoyed consistent wins on the mat until he ran into competitors who seemed to have a competitive edge over him.

They say that iron sharpens iron and Jonah decided that if he couldn’t beat them, he would join them, shifting his training to Legion 13.

“I fought in a competition in May 2021. Previous to this I had won consistently, but I went up against Legion 13 kids and lost five of my six my matches,” Jonah said.

“Dad and I realised that if I wanted to get better, I needed to move to the gym where I was being challenged, so we took the leap and moved to Legion 13.

“It was the best decision we have made as I am being trained by world class champion black belts,” Jonah said.

Proud father Leon is glad to have found a sport his son enjoys, recalling memories of the endless katas, or drills, that put him off martial arts training as a child and led him into more traditional Australian sports.

“I tried karate as a child but I was bored quickly when needed to memorise the katas,” Leon said.

“I never went back to martial arts but went on to play social basketball and cricket.

“I wanted Jonah to learn a martial art where he could actually engage and utilise his skills in competition without the need to kick and punch, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu seemed like the perfect sport.”

When he isn’t on the mat, Jonah enjoys playing basketball with his friends, but he says they share the same sentiments his father once did.

“I’ve invited them to come and train with me but they prefer soccer, cricket or basketball,” Jonah said.

“I’m training close to seven days a week in preparation for Pan Pacifics. I will need to work hard on my technique to beat my heavier opponents but I feel I can win.

“I like doing all sorts of submissions from chokes to armbars but my favourite submission is the Kimura.

“I try to mix up my submissions to build my versatility and keep my competitors on their toes.”

Channelling the energy of his BJJ hero Thalison Soares, it sounds like Jonah isn’t planning on slacking off any time soon.

“He is only 23 and has won multiple world championships, I want to be as successful as he is.

“I want to win championships all around the world.”