Ronald Mann, who lost the bottom half of his left leg in a motorcycle accident 22 years ago, won the gold medal in para jiu-jitsu and split bouts against able-bodied opponents during the Sept. 23-24 UAEJJF Grand Slam at The Los Angeles Convention Center.
Mann, 45, organized the para jiu-jitsu portion of the competition with the UAEJJF (United Arab Emirates Jiu Jitsu Federation), training out of the Rockville-based Yamasaki Academy belonging to instructor Fernando Yamasaki.
Competing at 85 kilograms (approximately 188 pounds), Mann submitted Chad Vandelgoot of St. Paul, Minn., in 75 seconds with a “mounted cross-collar choke” in para jiu-jitsu and overcame his able-bodied rival, Khalid Aldamaki of the UAE, 6-4, despite suffering a dislocated jaw.
Although Mann was submitted in just over five minutes during his loss, his submission of Vandelgoot was the tournament’s fastest.
“This was the first time that they’ve allowed a para-division with males and females, and we register as para-fighters who compete against able-bodied athletes as well,” said Mann of categories including wheelchair-bound and site-impaired athletes.
“The United States Para Jiu-Jitsu Association, which I founded, built the para jiu-jitsu team for this tournament. This is a huge step forward to have a separate division. We had 25 people from the United States, Brazil, Cosa Rica and Venezuela for this tournament, which is a qualifier for the worlds next April in Abu Dhabi.”
Mann had the swiftest submission at the inaugural world championships on April 16 in Abu Dhabi, where he was the lone American among 65 competitors at the World Para Jiu-Jitsu Festival. It was the first-ever major international event involving athletes with a range of disabilities.
A former U.S. Army medic from Lansing, Michigan, who enlisted at age 18 and served as an Army reservist in South Korea, Mann won an Army-wide Tae Kwon Do Championship in his youth.
“The Peaceful Warrior” won four of five bouts and the gold medal during a March 11 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition at the Capitol Sportsplex in Glenn Dale, earning three of his four victories by submission.
“For all of us to step up to the able-bodied, we were kind of like ‘The Bad News Bears,’” said Mann. “Nobody expected us to win, but all of a sudden, at the end of the tournament, we not only had our para-division, but out of the nine fighters who fought able-bodied, seven of them took home medals. We cleaned house.”