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Gavin Tucker makes a stop at Gander judo club

Gavin Tucker uses local coaches as a way to introduce new drills into their sessions.
Gavin Tucker uses local coaches as a way to introduce new drills into their sessions. - Nicholas Mercer

It is in the early evening Oct. 15 and an interesting scene is playing out in the viewing room of the Gander Community Centre. 

Gavin Tucker uses local coaches as a way to introduce new drills into their sessions.
Gavin Tucker uses local coaches as a way to introduce new drills into their sessions.

Amid the chlorine-drenched air emanating from the swimming pool below, a pair of parents sit in a corner watching their kids' swimming lessons.

Opposite them is Ship Cove’s Gavin Tucker. He is in town for a seminar with the children and adults attending Sosei Judo Club in Gander. 

Clad in a white gi and kneeling on a set of red and white mats, the professional mixed martial arts fighter puts young area athletes through a set of jiujitsu activities. 

A veteran of 12 professional fights, with his last three coming in the Ultimate Fighting Championships, Tucker addresses his pupils with a mixture of patience and a firm, steady hand. 

For the sessions with Tucker, the locals were divided into two groups. One group included children aged nine and 10 years old, and the rest were in the adult group. A third session for younger children was planned for the next night. 

As the students roll in pairs of two, Tucker gives extra guidance when needed and expects them to work hard and pay attention. 

At different times, he calls the group together and drills a new technique with one of three local coaches helping out. 

For an hour, Tucker put his young charges through their paces. He shows them some warm-up drills, followed by a series of techniques he calls essential learning. 

“It is great for me because I get to come back and showcase a little of what I’ve been working on for even 10 years ago,” he told The Central Voice. “To be recognized as someone who has been practicing and get to share it with the kids is really nice. 

“It is very good validation that I am putting the work in, and kind of seeing something back from it.” 

At the end of the first session, the series was put together into an attack and defense scenario. 

As the young athletes threaded each technique into the next, Tucker bounced from one group to the next and offered subtle tips. 

“Now you’re drilling. Now you’re drilling,” he said to everyone in the room. 

More than a dozen young athletes with the Sosei Judo Club in Gander got the chance to learn from Ship Cove native and UFC fighter Gavin Tucker.
More than a dozen young athletes with the Sosei Judo Club in Gander got the chance to learn from Ship Cove native and UFC fighter Gavin Tucker.

Brayden Mitchell drilled in the first session. The nine-year-old from Gander has been a member of the Sosei club for the last five years. 

He said he likes judo because it is fun. He stuck around because it gave him an excuse to throw people as a part of what he was learning. 

He was excited to learn from Tucker and believes he will remember the lessons taught to the group for the rest of his life. 

Dawson Hodder-Pittman is another nine-year-old with the judo club. He joined after his mother found the group on Facebook. 

He, too, stuck around because he gets to throw people around. 

“I thought it was really good,” said Hodder-Pittman. 

 When the chance to give back to his home province presents itself, Tucker takes the opportunity. 

He loves teaching and does a fair bit when he isn’t preparing for his next contest. During those times, he’s more focused on not getting punched in the teeth than anything else. 

Tucker had some high praise for the athletes he met in Gander. 

“I was very impressed,” he said of the early session. “There is so much untapped potential in Newfoundland...especially in athletics.”  

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