Malibu jiujitsu fighters win silver, bronze

Raphael Carrao leads his team at the American National jiujitsu Championships.

By Ben Marcus

Special to The Malibu Times

A team of four Brazilian jiujitsu fighters from Malibu, lead by martial arts teacher Raphael Carrao, brought home a silver and a bronze medal from the American National jiujitsu Championship at California State University, Dominguez Hills on Sept. 12-13.

Aolani Ennis, Jason Puklus and Mike Robertson are Malibu residents who have been practicing jiujitsu with Carrao, 34, a Brazilian native who began studying the martial art in Sao Paulo State in 1997. After 12 years of study and competition, Carrao earned his black belt from Master Rigan Machado in December of 2008 and began teaching classes at Malibu Fitness the same month. Carrao has competed in dozens of tournaments but this was his first as a black belt, while his students were competing for the first time ever, as white belts.

Jiujitsu is a Japanese martial art introduced to Brazil in 1914 by a Japanese sumo and judo expert named Mitsuyo Maeda. During the last 100 years, Brazilian jiujitsu has evolved into a martial art form with an accent on submissions: “Arm locks, leg locks, triangle choke, many others, also take downs,” Carrao said. “For all the other martial arts, the ground is the end but for Brazilian jiujitsu the ground is the beginning.”


Ennis, 28, is a Malibu native who has been training only since December. She did not know what to expect, and was amazed by the intensity of the event. “There were hundreds of fighters in a dozen divisions, but what caught my eye was the open division,” Ennis said. “There was one fight that looked like David against Goliath. One guy was about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and maybe 150 pounds, and he was up against this huge guy who had to be 6 feet, 5 inches. I thought, ‘No way.’ But the littler guy beat him! He got points on him and the big guy didn’t get any. I couldn’t believe it.”

Ennis attends Carrao’s classes twice a week, where she spends an hour and a half sparring with her instructor and fellow students. But this was the first time Ennis faced a complete stranger. “ It was surreal, going against someone who’d never done anything wrong to me,” Ennis said. “I had her in submissions and there were times when if I had tightened up and gone there, I would have won. But I saw her slip away both times. I couldn’t seal the deal.”

Ennis was forced to tap out in her fight, but took home a bronze medal.

Puklus, 22, also started training with Carrao in December. He felt confident and ready for his adult lightweight fight. “In the first fight I won by vantage-the referee broke a tie and gave it to me,” Puklus said. “The second fight was a little better. I got a couple of positions and started to move a little more, so it was good. I went for a couple of submissions but couldn’t get them. And the third fight, well, I’d like to forget about that, but I can’t.”

Robertson competed in the ultra heavy division for fighters 221 pounds or more. “He did a good fight but lost by points,” Carrao said. “This was first fights for all of them. They did good. They were proud and I was proud.”

As for the Carrao, he was competing in his first tournament as a black belt, in the six-person middleweight division. He won his first fight, and then came up against an opponent who had been a black belt for five years. Carrao finished with a silver medal.

Carrao said the ride back to Malibu was like a New Orleans funeral. Where his students were somber and quiet on the way to Dominguez Hills, returning to Malibu they were ecstatic. Ennis and Puklus faced the unknown, did well and are ready for more. “The reason why I compete is not just to submit other people and make myself known to be better than everybody else,” Puklus said. “I compete to learn about myself and how to adapt and cope in real life situations.”

“I can’t stop thinking about that fight,” Ennis said. “I dream about it.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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