Pacific Top Team Kelowna’s Sarah Draht celebrates a gold medal finish at the 2019 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Masters World Championships. (Pacific Top Team Kelowna Facebook)

Martial arts growing for Okanagan dojo as they celebrate 10th anniversary

Pacific Top Team specializes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai kickboxing

Ten years of Okanagan martial arts training will be celebrated by Pacific Top Team this September.

The dojo started as a simple way to train for owners and passionate martial artists Sarah Draht and Jorden Reichenbach, and over a near decade Pacific Top Team has grown into a family-orientated dojo which the duo have been proud to operate in the Okanagan.

“We started it from nothing,” Draht said. “And it just grew and grew and people started to love it. Our goal was to target the family people and create a home away from home for people.”

“Martial arts gives people a lot. People step onto the mat to learn something new and sometimes they don’t realize the journey that they’re starting on.”

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While Draht specializes more on the jiu-jitsu training—she recently won gold at the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Masters World Championships—she’s seen a rise in local interest in martial arts with the growing popularity of MMA, the UFC and recognizable people in the industry such as Joe Rogan and Canadian martial artist Georges St-Pierre.

In a release from the provincial government earlier this week, B.C.’s athletic commission authorized and sanctioned professional kickboxing as an option for martial artists.

Kickboxing was previously recognized as an amateur sport where athletes would need to transition into MMA or leave the province in order to kickbox professionally. The sports sanction will increase athlete safety by integrating existing training practices and standardizing regulations.

“The B.C. Athletic Commission has been working toward the inclusion of professional kickboxing for quite some time,” B.C.’s athletic commissioner Kelly Gilday said.

“The decision to allow professional kickboxing in B.C. as a subset of MMA is a significant step toward reducing the risk to fighters by allowing them to transition from amateur to professional in the sport they have trained in for years.”

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Draht said the approved sanction will lead to more interest in the Okanagan and more people embracing the sport other than just for self-defence, but as a way of life.

“It’s good for the mind and the body,” she said.

“All these layers of training move into lifestyles. Through martial arts, I’ve seen people leave poor relationships, overcome addiction and do complete 180s in their lives.”

In celebration of the growing sport and the growing dojo, Draht and the Pacific Top Team are hosting free workshops as a way to thank and celebrate Okanagan martial artists.

Self-defence, kids classes, women’s only classes and classes with head instructor and former world champion Adolfo Lozano will be free to the community at the 10th anniversary party on Sept. 21.

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