The red padded mat covering the living room floor is the first indication for a visitor to the Breget family home that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is tremendously important to them.
For the past seven years, Winter, 12, and Elan, 13, have been training in the martial art, which focuses on grappling and ground fighting.
The Breget brothers began training at North Okanagan Shuswap (NOS) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and MMA in Salmon Arm. They now train at NOS’s location in Grindrod.
To say the brothers have been successful in the sport is an understatement. Since taking up BJJ, the brothers have amassed more first place and podium finishes in national and international competition than they are able to count.
BJJ has been more than a hobby for the Breget brothers, it has helped them manage and overcome the effects of a rare disorder they were both born with. The brothers have Ectodermal Dysplasia, a group of disorders that manifest in the Breget brothers as an inability to sweat, as well as sharp pointed teeth. Elan is also unable to produce tears.
Lacking the ability to produce sweat, overheating while performing physical activity is a constant issue for the brothers.
“We couldn’t really do any other sport except for swimming because of our condition,” Elan said.
Winter said when the boys first began training in BJJ, they would keep spray bottles on hand to soak themselves down and help regulate their temperature.
“We just learned to adapt to the heat while we’re doing it. Like calm our breathing down,” Elan said.
Elan added that strategy and having a calm mindset going in to each match is as important as any physical training.
“When you get in a certain position you just kind of hold the person and you take a breather… When you come in you should always have a game plan of what you’re going to do.”
Another solution the boys have found for overheating in competition is to win the match as soon as possible. While BJJ does have a points system like Olympic-style wrestling, the objective is not to pin the opponent to the mat, but to make them tap out through joint manipulation and choking.
“You can really control how fast it ends or how long it takes… If you submit your opponent you win so that’s basically what we always do,” Winter said.
Of the approximately 300 matches under each of the boys’ belts, their father, Dennis, estimates more than 100 have ended in victory for them within the first 30 seconds.
BJJ competitions are divided by age and weight as well as the belt the competitors have achieved.
Both Breget brothers are orange belts in BJJ. They have routinely had to compete against opponents as much as 30 lbs heavier in order to find matches.
“This sport is all about technique,” Dennis said of the brothers’ ability to overcome larger opponents. Dennis says he thinks one of the boys greatest advantages is having each other to constantly hone their techniques against.
As their resume of high-profile podium finishes at BJJ events such as Copa Katana and the American Championships grows, the Breget brothers are looking to the future, and ways to turn the sport they love into a career.
The Bregets hope to dedicate themselves to teaching others the sport they love; they already host seminars and private training sessions that are attended by BJJ athletes from as far away as Edmonton, Merritt and Calgary.
Dennis said he has received lots of comments about how his sons’ confidence has inspired other kids.
Training and competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been a life-changing experience for the Breget brothers.
“It’s not just a hobby,” Elan said. “It’s kind of the thing that allows us to do daily regular activities, because before it would be really hard to go outside – we wouldn’t be able to do any of that stuff, running would be impossible.”
The Brothers say they notice the effects of overheating much less now, even during strenuous training and competition. Winter says in the last two years they have hardly needed to use the spray bottle anymore.
“They could fight 30 kids right now and they would keep their heart rate down and they wouldn’t even flinch, where at the beginning it was different,” Dennis said
Elan and Winter’s experience with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu demonstrates dedication to a sport’s ability to transform the mind, body and spirit.