A lot of people could find themselves in rear naked chokes, Americana arm locks, and guillotines this weekend in Hawkesbury.

Those are all Brazilian jiu-jitsu and grappling moves, and the Ontario-Québec Jiu-jitsu Games, a major amateur tournament, is taking place on Saturday, January 26 at the Robert Hartley Sports Complex.

According to Martin Nguyen of Montréal, founder of Submission Arts United (SAU), which promotes and organizes Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions, up to 600 competitors could be taking part in the tournament.

Originally billed as “Québec’s biggest jiu-jitsu tournament,” there’s a reason it’s being held just over the boundary in Ontario.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions, even amateur ones, are illegal in Québec.

Two years ago, Nguyen organized a tournament in Montréal. He said an anonymous call someone made to the Montréal police ended that plan.

The legal snag goes back to a 2013 amendment to the Criminal Code aimed at regulating mixed martial arts (MMA) that changed the definition of illegal prize fighting that suddenly—and inadvertently put Brazilian jiu-jitsu’s status into question.

Québec does however recognize amateur sports that have an organized governing body in the province. Nguyen said the Fédération jiu-jitsu Brésilien du Québec is still working with the provincial government to get that recognition so it can officially sanction tournaments.

Ontario and British Columbia are the only provinces where Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments are legal.

The tournament in Hawkesbury is sanctioned by the Ontario Jiu-jitsu Assocation (OJA), which is officially recognized by the Ontario government.

Nguyen said Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo—which is an Olympic sport, are like “cousins.”

He explained that there is no fighting in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and the opponents do not strike each other.

According to Nguyen, the focus of activity in Brazilian jiu-jitsu is on the ground where the grappling takes place. He said many people take it up as an activity after playing other sports for years and decide to try something different.

Competitors coming to the Hawkesbury tournament are amateurs of all ages.

Nguyen said personal strength and achievement are a big part of what drives competitors.

“I think there’s a certain beauty to seeing these are just normal people surprising themselves,” he said.

The Town of Hawkesbury is pleased to host the Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament.

Mayor Paula Assaly extended the “the best of luck” to Nguyen and the organizers and said the town is “honoured” to be selected as the location.