Braden Ray is a fast learner. The Kosciusko Junior High School seventh grader took up jiu jitsu as an 11-year-old last year and is now top-ranked nationally in the American Grappling Federation for the 12-13-year-old age group.
“He took to it like a fish in water,” said his father, Daniel Ray.
Braden has won seven gold medals and age group championships for Mississippi and Louisiana.
Jiu jitsu is a form of martial arts.
“It's really fun for me. A very active type of martial arts that I like,” said Braden, who had previously studied karate.
“Now he’s all in on jiu jitsu,” his father said
His strongest disciplines are chokes and take downs.
Braden gives credit for his success to his instructor Jae McIntosh.
“He spent time with me, making sure I got the moves correctly,” Braden said.
He won the state title last year in Jackson after training for only six weeks.
“We were all kind of surprised,” his father said of the stellar performance.
Braden hopes to repeat when the tournament is held March 19 at the Jackson Convention Center. He also plans to defend his Louisiana title in New Orleans.
He hopes to expand his jiu jitsu horizon this year, possibly competing in Arkansas and Alabama state tournaments, as well. The Arkansas tournament is next month in Conway.
A long-range goal is to open a class of his own.
Jiu jitsu is not Braden’s only athletic endeavor. He is a wing on his school's soccer team and plans to play baseball in the fall as a pitcher and/or infielder. But he sees jiu jitsu as the endeavor with the greatest future for him.
“There are not many people who do it and stay with it,” he said.