Words by Nick Hansen, Wentworth Courier
JUSTIN Williams was looking for hope when he took up Brazilian jiu jitsu after losing his leg in a work accident four years ago.
But far from a sympathy case, the 33-year-old has stunned devotees of the martial art by winning tournaments against able-bodied opponents.
“It’s hard to be depressed or upset when someone’s trying to choke you,” Williams said, admitting life dipped desperately low after the accident in which his left leg was crushed by a falling steel beam.
“I used to never let anyone see me without a fake leg on.
“But in here they didn’t treat me differently … when I’m (fighting) I forget there’s anything different about me.”
Pedron Dronalles (in white) grapples with Justin Williams (in blue) at their Bondi Junction jiu jitsu school. Picture: John Appleyard
Williams, who lives in Maroubra and trains at Bondi Junction, won his division at a 2015 tournament drawing students from Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu schools across Sydney and won two silver medals in the internal Gracie Barra Compnet competition in October.
He won his first silver medal in his weight division and the second in open weight.
In tournaments, fighters begin each bout on their feet, where Williams accepts he is at a competitive disadvantage.
“I have to start standing up and get them to the ground somehow before they take me down. It’s worth a lot of points,” he said.
“I try to put my game on them, trick them for falling for my take-down.”
Once in a ground fight though, Williams contorts frantically and looks to have the grappling measure of his sparring partners.
Justin Williams is an amputee Jiu Jitsu fighter. He has recently won gold at an international tournament. Picture: John Appleyard
Williams started training 18 months ago and does not want other amputees to endure years believing they will never enjoy sport again.
“If I could just inspire one young kid who is an amputee, that’s what I want,” Williams said.
His head instructor Pedro Dornelles said Williams was “an inspiration to everyone here”.
“I smash him as hard as I can. That’s what he wants from me,” Dornelles said.
HOW IT STARTED
Brazilian jiu jitsu is a martial art, combat sport that focuses on grappling and ground fighting.
It promotes the concept that smaller, weaker people can defend against a bigger, stronger assailant.
In 1917, Carlos Gracie saw judo and began adapting it to a softer form focusing on ground fighting.
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