TRURO, N.S. – Jake MacKenzie lives and breathes Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Training and competing since he was a teenager, MacKenzie has gone on to become one of the best in the sport, taking home over 100 championship medals and dominating the jiu-jitsu scene in his current home of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
As with any athlete making their way through the ranks though, MacKenzie is preparing to face his biggest challenge yet as a competitor – age.
“I’m going to be 33 this year, so I don’t know how much longer I will compete full-time,” said MacKenzie about the future.
“Right now, I’m competing full-time and coaching a little on the side, but in the next few years I think I will make the switch to coaching full-time.”
Coaching is something MacKenzie has become fond of over the years, and has turned more than a few competitors into both national and world champions.
“I’ve always coached a little bit and have always enjoyed it,” he said.
“In Brazil, I coach a couple of young guys who I go to tournaments with probably twice a month. There’s no big secret to jiu-jitsu, it’s just a lot of dedication and hard work, so when you see that pay off for someone who goes the extra mile who you’ve helped, it’s almost as rewarding as when you win.”
While competing may not have a full-time presence in his future, he won’t be walking away from his thrown atop the sport anytime soon, as he prepares for another big competition at the Rio International Open in April.
“I think I’ll win,” he said.
“I was ranked number one in Brazil last year in the federation, so I’ll probably go in as the favourite. There are so many good guys in Brazil though, so it’s never a guarantee you’re going to win, but I always go in with the mindset that I will.”
Currently, MacKenzie is taking a breather from his busy schedule to spend some time with his family back in Truro while he holds a few jiu-jitsu seminars around the Maritimes, teaching East Coast competitors new moves and techniques he has created and used in competitions.
“It’s a lot of stuff that maybe people here might not have direct access to,” he said about his seminars.
“In Brazil, because we have so many tournaments and performers, a lot of moves and techniques get developed over there before they get here, so I try to give people here a little head start by showing them new stuff and techniques I’m using.”
With a big competition coming up, MacKenzie and his wife Melissa are in full prep mode now, finding time to train at least twice a day while in Truro.
“I’m usually up at the RECC doing something a couple days a week,” said MacKenzie.
“This is kind of our downtime, so I haven’t been trying to train as much as usual. I do feel very confident about the competition coming up though and I have about a month to get ready, so that’s been my focus for the last couple days.”
Aside from the RECC, MacKenzie was also offered a spot to train at his old high school, Cobequid Educational Centre. To thank them, MacKenzie is donating an autographed Gi to the school, which will be hung in their martial arts room.
MacKenzie will wrap up his vacation with two more seminars in Bathurst and Saint John before heading back to Brazil for two weeks of training leading up to the competition.
While his change to coaching is still a few years away, one thing is certain – MacKenzie is ready to give it his all.
“I really do enjoy coaching and I think that is what I will eventually end up doing,” he said.
“I believe I’ll be just as passionate at coaching as I am at competing.”