A SLIGO student has proved that he is among the best in the world at the popular martial arts sport, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, after winning gold at a prestigious international championship in London.
Ryan Smyth, a third year student on the Bachelor of Business in Recreation and Leisure programme at IT Sligo, won gold at the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation) International Open Championships at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.
A member of the Alliance Jiu Jitsu club in Sligo where he is also a coach, Smyth has been competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournaments for a number of years but this is his first major success at an international level. He won gold after beating Norway's Jomel Engtroe in the final of the under 64kg purple belt division.
It was a hard fought victory for the Sligo town man who has already had considerable success at national level in this increasingly popular self defence art.
"I've come so close, so many times before, and fallen short many times, ", said Ryan (32) who also founded the Jiu Jitsu club at IT Sligo. "This time I was able to get the job done. All you can do is train hard, give your best and never give up."
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a competitive sport and self-defence art where the focus is on taking your opponent to the ground, achieving positional control, and applying joint locks or strangles. This art has become increasingly popular around the globe in recent years.
Smyth paid tribute to his training partners at the Alliance club for their support and pointed out that the training facilities at the Knocknarea Arena in IT Sligo had been a great boost as he prepared for the championships.
A former electrician, Ryan had to change careers when the economy collapsed.
"Work dried up and I decided to pursue something totally different, something I was really interested in. I had been an electrician for 12 years.
"The course at IT Sligo is exactly what I wanted. There is a great mix of sport and business. When I qualify I'd like to teach professionally in the martial arts - I already coach kids and we go into schools – so the recreation and leisure course is giving me the tools I need," he explained.
Ryan's focus now is on the European Jiu Jitsu Championships which will be held in January in Lisbon.