Graeme Gibson describes his daughter, Maggie, as a quiet, polite and kind person.
The 11-year-old jiu jitsu athlete considers herself to be tough.
Maggie, a sixth-grader at Islander Middle School, made her mark by notching a pair of gold medals in the gi and no-gi divisions at last month’s Sport Jiu Jitsu International Federation (SJJIF) World Championships in Dallas, Texas. Stepping on the scale at 77 pounds, the grey-belter was the smallest in the light weight class that ranged from 77-90 pounds in the two divisions.
Maggie especially enjoys the grappling aspect of the Brazilian style of martial arts. In gi, the athletes wear a traditional martial arts uniform, and in no-gi, they compete in a shirt and shorts.
When describing the atmosphere of the matches, she added: “You can be very nervous at the start and that’s not the best, but once you do it, you get used to it and then it just gets easier and more fun.”
Graeme was impressed to watch Maggie in action at worlds, where she submitted two opponents and won by points in another match. Her parents and coach Aric Wiseman of Team Wise Jiu Jitsu in Lynnwood believed in her abilities.
“Her mannerisms before the match, you wouldn’t expect her to go out and do what she did,” Graeme said of Maggie’s quiet side. “I personally wasn’t surprised because I know her, but I think she surprised a lot of people with just (how) technically sound she is at jiu jitsu, especially her defense and her offense.”
After all was said and done on the mat, she was excited to stand atop the victory podium with everyone sending loud cheers in her direction. Graeme said that coach Wiseman has been a big part of the family’s lives and he was ecstatic to see all Maggie’s hard work come to fruition at worlds.
During Maggie’s six years of competing in jiu jitsu, she’s gained confidence and has learned how to defend herself.
She told one friend who is interested in trying jiu jitsu, “That it teaches you how to be more tough, and you get to meet a lot of people there. It’s like a big community.”
Maggie’s brother Gordon, 15, has been involved with the sport for eight years and has reaped loads of success with his aggressive and strategic style at tournaments. Maggie surpassed her brother’s achievements at worlds, where he has never won both the gi and no-gi divisions, Graeme said.
“It was pretty neat for her, and again she’s pretty quiet about it, but it was pretty exceptional,” said Graeme, who grew up playing hockey and has dabbled in jiu jitsu for the last six or seven years.
Maggie said that Gordon is the best jiu jitsu athlete in the household. Graeme added with a laugh that when they were younger, the two kids would try moves on their mother around the house. Now that they’ve advanced to a higher echelon in the sport, they try to keep the action out of the house.
Graeme noted that Maggie endured some grueling practices over the last two years and her determination grew as the tournament neared. When she first stepped into the jiu jitsu realm at age 5, Maggie wasn’t too fond of the sport, but all that has changed over the years.
“Now, since I’ve gotten better, it’s been easier. It’s been more fun to me to enjoy. It’s fun to see all my teammates and just has a good feeling to it, and you can learn a lot of skills doing it,” said Maggie, whose favorite classes in school are language arts and math. When she’s not playing sports, she likes to dig into a good book.
As Graeme reflected on the family’s jiu jitsu journey, he discussed what they’ve soaked up along the way.
“I put them in jiu jitsu so they would have exceptional self defense in life, so they would be able to protect themselves,” he said. “The sport component for my son and daughter has just been kind of an extra bonus where it’s a lot of fun to test their skills.”