Truro fighter prepares to take on international jiu-jitsu championship

Published on September 12, 2017

Harnish has been training in jiu-jitsu since 2007, and is currently the lead Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor at Marmac Athletics. He is also a Gracie Barra brown belt under professor Flavio Almeida.


TRURO, N.S. – A Truro martial arts instructor will be heading to New York to compete against elite competitors in an international Jiu-jitsu tournament.

James Harnish, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor at Marmac Athletics, is preparing to compete in the Pan Am International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation No-Gi Championship in New York on Sept. 30.

“I’m pretty confident I am going to walk away with a podium finish at this tournament,” he said.

“I train every night for at least a couple of hours to keep my mind sharp and work on my techniques. Its not just training either, I also work on drilling where I go over specific positions, passes and escapes over and over again.”

Coming off a loss at the 2017 World Jiu-Jitsu IBJJF Championships in Las Vegas, the brown belt competitor is determined to take home a win.

“I’ve been training really hard, and I am confident I will have a good finish this time around,” he said.

“I trained hard for the worlds too, but unfortunately even if you are in the mindset that you are going to win, sometimes things don’t turn out that way.”

Harnish was knocked out of the world championship after losing his first round by two advantage points.

“I was trying to get some sweeps going to get top-end control and use some submission techniques,” he said.

“The guy kept his base really well and was quick to recover; he was able to keep his composure. Neither of us were able to get any scoring points, but he won by two advantage points and continued into the tournament.”

Advantage points are given when a competitor is able to pass their opponent’s guard, but is unable to hold a point scoring position for the required three seconds.

The Pan Am tournament will be a much faster-paced competition than the worlds, as it is a no-Gi tournament.

“In Gi matches, competitors wear a traditional competition kimono,” said Harnish.

“In no-Gi matches, they only wear shorts and a rash guard. It tends to be a faster-paced combat, and there are less grips and holding points. You can’t hold onto the Gi’s collar, belt or pants because they aren’t there.”

Harnish will be competing in the men’s brown belt Master 1 featherweight division of the tournament.

His love for jiu-jitsu flourished over a decade ago when a friend of his came up with the idea of holding an amateur MMA fight after watching UFC.

“As a kid, I always wanted to do some sort of martial art, but I didn’t really know what I would like,” he said.

“Around 2007, my buddy came up with the idea for the fight. Neither of us knew how to fight so we decided to start from the ground up, which is how I got into Brazilian jiu-jitsu. We didn’t go through with the fight, but I stuck with it.”

Aside from the competition, Harnish also chose jiu-jitsu because of its self-defence properties, as the sport focuses on grappling and manoeuvrability over striking.

“As an adult, and to an extent as a kid, you need to know how to defend yourself if anything happens. I think jiu-jitsu is one of the best martial arts out there to defend yourself with,” he said.

Harnish will be heading to the Pan Am championships on Sept. 29 with his student Mitch Redmond, who will be competing in the purple belt heavyweight division.