Kauai academy brings home two dozen jiu-jitsu gold medals

  • Photo courtesy of Evan Esaki

    Esaki Jiu-jitsu Academy includes from left Jimar Domingo, Kent Nuivo, Ethan Chong and Roderick Soriano.

  • Photo courtesy of Esaki Jiujitsu

    Nine-year-old Konalu Yamamoto (top) pins an opponent at the recent NAGA Pacific Championship.

  • Photo courtesy of Esaki Jiujitsu

    Front row from left: Kaeden Maghanoy (8), Konalu Yamamoto (9), Po’okela Punzal (10), Ka’eo Punzal (9), Bentley Yamamoto (7), Makai Kua (7), Hobie Fujimoto (8) Back row from left: Aliyah Maghony (11), Ambrie Rocha (12), Loikena Yamamoto (12), Makoa Kua (10), Naomi Valdez (15), Tiger-Lily Paresa (13), Ramiah Valdez (12)

LIHUE — Kauai youth ages 7 to 13 won 24 gold medals in Brazilian jiu-jitsu at the NAGA Pacific Championship in April. They also recently won first at the Pan American Hawaii state tournament.

Eighteen members of Esaki Jiu Jitsu Academy competed in the NAGA Pacific Championship held on April 14 at Mililani High School on Oahu. Among the 14 competing kids and 4 adults (Ethan Chong, Jimar Domingo, Rod Soriano and Kent Nuivo) the team was able to take home a total of 24 gold medals.

“I have been training for almost a year,” said Konalu Yamamoto, age 9. “I was able to win double gold after fighting a lot of kids. I was less nervous because it was easier than the Kids Pan Ams championships that we competed in California earlier this year. I really have lots of fun training hard for the competitions, our next tournament is the Kauai Open.”

The adult competitors brought home a total of three golds, a silver and a bronze medal. Every single member of the Kids competition team was able to take home at least one or more gold medal each.

“I was a little bit nervous because last year I got one gold and one silver, but this year I got double gold,” said Makai Kua, age 7. “Jiu-jitsu is good its my favorite sport and I like training and I like competing it’s really fun. I met so much new people I never knew here at the gym and now they’re almost all my friends.”

Lihue’s Esaki Jiu Jitsu Academy opened in February 2017 and was able to bring a team of eight kids and three adults to the same tournament last year in October.

“We like to encourage our students to compete, especially the kids, because we want them to see some of the possibilities for them to compete with kids in the biggest tournaments there are,” said academy founder and head instructor Evan Esaki. “These smaller local tournaments are a great opportunity for the kids to gain confidence. Whether the kids want to compete or not we just want them to enjoy the art and sport of jiu-jitsu, have fun while getting active, and gain better self-discipline and confidence in a healthy activity.”

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