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'We built this together': Pictou County jiu-jitsu school going strong after 12 years

Instructor and owner of Pictou County jiu-jitsu, Jaret Macintosh demonstrating how to get past Liam Walsh's guard.
Instructor and owner of Pictou County jiu-jitsu, Jaret Macintosh demonstrating how to get past Liam Walsh's guard. - Brendan Ahern
WESTVILLE, N.S. —

Five minutes before class starts, 25 people stretch out and catch up with each other in a brightly lit room. Everyone’s shoes are shelved against the wooden walls and the springy mat on the floor is very clean.

For Jaret MacIntosh, this place isn’t just where he works, it’s where he lives.

“We built this together,” said MacIntosh, owner and instructor at Pictou County Jiu-Jitsu. “Me, my dad, my brother and the team.”

Pictou County Jiu-Jitsu was built as an attachment to MacIntosh’s house in Dexter Court. After moving the club from one place to the next, first in New Glasgow, then to Pictou, the decision was made to build something more permanent.

“Me and my wife were thinking, 'you know what? We’re getting a lot of interest so why not build our own place in the backyard,'" said MacIntosh.

Currently, the team that practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu with MacIntosh is close to 80 members strong.

“I think some people look for self-defense, others just want to belong to something that gives them exercise and healthy living, and some of them get really into the competitions,” he said.

“It’s a lot to take in,” said Mark Cormier of Little Harbour after finishing his first class on Dec. 2. “But I’ll definitely be coming back.”

Kelly Horvath carries Eldie Muchison around the gym during warmup.
Kelly Horvath carries Eldie Muchison around the gym during warmup.

 

Cormier’s introduction began with a warm-up. Students formed three lines and started rolling a little like the way an elementary school gym teacher might tell beginners how to fall and roll without getting hurt. They somersaulted like this until MacIntosh’s voice announced the next exercise, which involved lifting each other in a fireman's carry and running three times around the room.

There are no striking pads in sight, and not a single heavy bag; all they have to practice with, it seems, is each other.

As they pair-off for practice it’s clear members are close with each other.

“You compete individually,” explained MacIntosh. “But it’s such a bonding experience because of the closeness that you have to be with each other. It’s more like a family to me.”

Like judo, jiu-jitsu is a grappling art where opponents are close; much closer than the striking distance of a boxer’s arm or a taekwondo practitioner’s leg. Students spend a lot of the class learning new ways to utilize that space, and the number of options they have to choose from is shocking.

“It’s a ton of strategy,” said MacIntosh, who has been practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu for the last 25 years. “There are thousands of different moves and techniques.”

One at a time, his students are learning them. And that, MacIntosh says, is extremely gratifying.

“I love it. I get to do what I love to do. I get to show what I’ve learned and then, hopefully, they’ll take that and branch off and innovate their own moves.”

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