After years of wear and tear on her right shoulder, Kathy Hubble wondered if her days as a martial arts competitor just might be over.
Then the 47-year-old Kelowna woman discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
A decorated national and international competitor over the years in judo, Hubble won a gold medal last weekend in her debut at the World Master Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Las Vegas. The head coach of the Kelowna Judo Club, Hubble stood at the top of the podium in the women’s over-30 (blue belt) 52 kg division.
As much as competing was the focus of her trip to Vegas, Hubble said the social and human aspects of the worlds were even more rewarding.
“It was a wonderful experience,” said Hubble. “The masters competition is such a cool event. Competing is one thing, but it’s really about the camaraderie.
“Learning about other people’s backgrounds and what we have in common…it’s so much fun to hear those stories. There was such a neat vibe there.”
A Pan American bronze medalist in judo in 1987 and a seven-time Canadian champ, Hubble returned to the competitive side of the sport in 2012 after a 24-year absence.
A year later, she was back on the podium, winning a gold medal at the International Judo Federation World Veterans Championships in Abu Dhabi.
But with all the punishment the shoulder taken over the years, Hubble has to undergo surgery in 2014, putting her competitive aspirations on hold.
Because jiu-jitsu involves 95 per cent ground work, and far fewer throws and standing than judo, there is considerably less impact on a competitor’s upper body. For Hubble, jiu-jitsu was just what the doctor ordered.
“I wanted to compete, I had this pent up desire, but judo was just too hard on my shoulder,” she said. “I tried jiu-jistu and that was it…I was in, hook, line and sinker.
“It’s similar to judo, there are chokes and arm bars, but jiu-jitsu is fought on the ground, it’s a chess match, quite strategic, just very cerebral. I love it.”
Hubble has been working on her new craft since last fall with the Pacific Top Team Martial Arts clubs in both Vernon and Kelowna.
She credits instructors Jorden Reichenbach, Dave Rothwell and Sarah Draht for all helping to make her transition to jiu-jitsu both smooth and enjoyable.
Hubble is admittedly almost obsessed with her new endeavour and, not surprisingly, is eager to learn.
“It’s kind of crazy, I’m going (to jiu-jitsu) every night, I can’t seem to get enough,” she said. “It was nice that this happened for me the way it did.
“I’ll probably want to get my skill level up,” she added. “So far I’ve been relying on my brute strength, so I have some things I need to work on and refine. It’s a lot of fun.”
In addition to her natural aptitude for the martial arts, Hubble’s athletic abilities keep her in demand as a stunt double with more than 200 appearances in films, TV shows and commercials.
Among her past appearances were Rumble in the Bronx with Jackie Chan, and in the Lizzie McGuire Movie as Hillary Duff’s stunt double.
Hubble most recently worked on the sets of Power Rangers, The Movie, and the TV series, Lucifer.