Eight year-old Richmond Hill resident Emma Williamson has spent the last three years learning the art of jujitsu in hopes of earning her junior black belt.
And on May 11, that’s exactly what she did, making her one of the youngest students to earn her black belt that John Glimmerveen, Sensei (instructor) at the Jujitsu Center of Richmond Hill on Highway 17, has ever met.
“She is the youngest black belt in America, for sure, but one of the youngest black belts I’ve ever known,” Glimmerveen said, noting he has been in the jujitsu business for about 35 years.
Emma said she fell in love with jujitsu after her mom suggested it.
“My mom said ‘Would you like to do jujitsu or cheerleading?’ So I said ‘I want to try out for jujitsu’ because she said it was kind of like karate, but it wasn’t exactly karate,” she said. “And I started and I kept going and I really wanted to get to black belt.”
Her favorite part of jujitsu is using weapons, and her favorite weapon to practice with is the kama, which is similar to a farming sickle. Emma uses a set of kamas when she performs her kata — a routine of various defense positions used in jujitsu.
Glimmerveen described Emma as a dedicated student. He said she always was ready for each grading, which advances her to the next belt level. She worked especially hard in the months leading up to her black belt grading, he said.
“She just worked really hard last few months and she got one of the highest scores I’ve ever seen (for black belt),” he said. “She just didn’t make a mistake — it was brilliant.”
Emma said she received a 100 on the black belt grading, which was administered by a jujitsu instructor from Europe. Glimmerveen said he brought in someone from the World Jujitsu Federation based in Liverpool.
“When we come to black belt (grading), I don’t agree with clubs doing their own,” he said. “I always bring somebody in because it’s not just a test of your students, it’s a test of you. If Emma had gotten everything wrong, it wasn’t her fault — it was my bad teaching. So I therefore need to bring someone else in to check up that we are doing it in the right way.”
To be considered for her black belt, Emma had to perform a kata, show knowledge of general anatomy and perform throws in which “she literally picks somebody up and throws them on the ground,” Glimmerveen said.
“But jujitsu is all about using the other person’s strength against them,” he added. “So if somebody comes charging at you don’t try and stop them, you just redirect them and make them fall over.”
Emma also had to do a sparring sequence.
“They would punch or kick and you had to block it with your hands and you can fight, or do something back, like push them back,” Emma said. “You can’t just stay in one place you have to move around them and they go after you and you have to do that for two minutes.”
Her mother, Annie Lamb, said she is proud of Emma for remaining so dedicated to her journey.
“I love the fact that she’s dedicated herself to it and she is determined to see it through,” Lamb said. “Especially over the summer months when we’re together out at the pool and hanging out and it’s time to go to jujitsu, she never — not one time has she complained about having to come out of the pool early … or whatever the case may be. She’s put in a lot of time and a lot of hard work, and not one complaint.”
Lamb said Emma’s grandfather, Terry Mayall, has helped Emma with her jujitsu lessons and without him, Emma may not have reached this point. Mayall said he is very proud of Emma for achieving her black belt.
“I’m real proud of her for being so dedicated,” he said. “It’s discipline, plus it’s self defense, not just for her, but for her sister, mom or dad or anything … it could be defense for her whole family.”
Mayall said he always encouraged Emma, even when she had doubts.
“I told her as long as you try and show me that you care, you don’t always get what you want, but all you’ve got to do is try and you’ll make it. And I knew she could,” he said.
Emma plans to continue her jujitsu journey and eventually earn her adult black belt.