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'If you put the time in, it comes': Sault Ste. Marie brothers earn black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Brent and Mitch Fryia awarded prestigious black belts in November, after years of hitting the mats - and helping to build a jiu-jitsu community locally
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Brothers Brent and Mitch Fryia of Sault Ste. Marie were awarded their black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu by Dan Moroney, the first Canadian-born Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, in mid-November during a jiu-jitsu grading session in the Sault. Left to right: Mitch Fryia, Dan Moroney and Brent Fryia.

Two brothers from Sault Ste. Marie have recently been awarded black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, making them the first in the city’s history to do so. 

Steel City MMA owner and head coach Brent Fryia and his brother, Steel City MMA coach Mitch Fryia, were awarded their black belts during a jiu-jitsu grading session in Sault Ste. Marie in mid-November. 

Dan Moroney, widely considered the first Canadian-born black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, came up to the Sault from Bravado Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Vaughn, Ont. in order to present Brent and Mitch their black belts.  

“If you put the time in, it comes,” said Brent, speaking with SooToday Sunday about their milestone. “The goal isn’t really the main point of it - we’re training because it’s what we like to do. It keeps us healthy and fit, and it’s fun, and we have a good social group. It’s part of our social activity.

“The black belt is nice, but as cliché as it sounds, it’s all the other stuff that comes along with it  along the journey.”

Brent says that the integrity of the belts is extremely important within the jiu-jitsu community, which has seen ‘pay the money, get the belt’ scenarios compromise the integrity of some other martial arts.

The jiu-jitsu community, he says, is very keen on preventing that from happening.

“The belt system in jiu-jitsu is definitely the toughest and slowest belt system in basically all of martial arts,” said Brent. “You always hear about kids who got a black belt at 12 years old and that type of thing in some martial arts.

“But in jiu-jitsu, you don’t even start getting the actual adult belts until you hit 16 years old. And then it’s kind of a rule of thumb, the bare minimum is 10 years from white belt to black belt as an adult.”

The Fryia brothers have practically spent the majority of their lives on the mats. 

“We wrestled on the same high school team, we wrestled on the same university team. We trained together in the Sault. We went to Korea and trained on the same team, trained at the same gym in Korea - then we came back,” said Brent. “We've been coaching and training together since we were 11 years old or so.”

When the Fryias returned to the Sault from a year-long training stint in Korea, there was no such thing as a jiu-jitsu community locally. 

“When we came back, there was only one or two guys who even had a jiu-jitsu gi - like a uniform - to train, which is required to train properly,” recalled Brent. “Just to get people to train, my brother would lend out his extra gi so people could try it out.

“There was no community of jiu-jitsu that existed.”

Brent didn’t want to go on at length about attaining a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu - he’s actually more proud of the jiu-jitsu community the Fryia brothers helped build in Sault Ste. Marie. It took a long time, he said, but it has finally happened.

“Now there is this community of people in Sault Ste. Marie who do jiu-jitsu and know jiu-jitsu, and the fact that we built that is probably more of a sense of pride,” he said.