The kids and their coaches at Redemption MMA in Soldotna. (Photo provided by Redemption MMA)

The kids and their coaches at Redemption MMA in Soldotna. (Photo provided by Redemption MMA)

Redemption MMA takes kids, adults titles at state jiu-jitsu tourney

Part of being an incredible mentor is comfort with the fact that doing a great job means the student may one day pass the teacher.

Anchorage Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been an incredible mentor to Redemption MMA in Soldotna, a fact that has been evident at the last two state tournaments of the Alaskan Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation.

Up until last year, Anchorage Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu had won every kids and adults team trophy since the tourney began in 2010. Last year, Redemption MMA was able to wrest away the kids team trophy. April 13 in Anchorage, Redemption won the kids and adults trophy.

“It was bittersweet beating them,” said Isaac Kolesar, owner of Redemption. “I’m happy for us, but they made us who we are.

“They love that we won. They’re super awesome about it.”

Kolesar started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2006. When he moved to the Kenai Peninsula in 2010 and started Redemption, he was a blue belt, just one belt up from the white belt that beginners wear.

Shortly after Kolesar started Redemption, Anchorage Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu affiliated the newcomers.

“We didn’t have anyone to belt us and guide us on our jiu-jitsu journey,” Kolesar said. “Anchorage Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu said we want to help. They didn’t charge us anything.

“They helped out with everything, from the business side to setting up. They sent us light years ahead.”

Even today, with 100 members, Redemption does not have any members with black belts, which take 10 years of consistent practice to earn. The closest are Kolesar and George Grossman, both freshly promoted to brown belts. Brown is one level below black.

Whenever Redemption moves a student up a belt, that promotion is authorized by Ryder Spadafore, a black belt with Anchorage Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

“Honestly, I had no expectations of beating them for the adults trophy,” Kolesar said. “We somehow ended up about doubling their points. Holy cow, how the heck did that happen?”

Anchorage Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu had Redemption outnumbered by a 3-1 ratio. Kolesar said Redemption has thrived because it has adopted the high standards for performance and knowledge base from Anchorage Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

“I hope this shows how much care we put into our program,” Kolesar said.

He said black belts take 10 years to attain because it doesn’t do any good to have a black belt if you can get beaten up by a purple belt, which is two notches below a black belt.

Kolesar is particularly proud of the kids program. In addition to Kolesar and Grossman, Mae Britton, Cy Cox and Jimmy Jack Drath are coaches. Kolesar said all must be at least blue belts because that knowledge is necessary to keep things safe for the kids.

When Kolesar got into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2006, he said he was in a job that put him in high-threat situations. He thought, with his boxing skills and kickboxing skills, he could hold his own.

“I later learned that if you want real-world fighting, you’d better learn to fight on the ground,” Kolesar said.

So that’s why he turned to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But that’s not what keeps him going these days.

“Tribe is what keeps it going, because I do run out of gas,” Kolesar said.

He said the tightknit group of members includes doctors, dentists, lawyers, oil field workers, law enforcement, missionaries, fishing guides and other professions.

“They’re all helping each other out, not only in the gym but out of the gym,” Kolesar said.

The gym also includes a weekly self-defense class for women that is completely free and scholarships for kids in need.

“We drag them in and put them on a straight path, teach them to lead a better life through jiu-jitsu,” Kolesar said.

The feeling of tribe is what made some moments at the tournament very special for Kolesar.

Caitlin Peterson lost to a competitor in her weight class competition at white belt. There is also an absolute category in each belt that is open to all weight classes, though, and Peterson came back to beat that same competitor and take bronze in white belt absolute.

Another special moment came when Enzo Drath and Jacob Cox, sons of coaches Jimmy Jack and Cy, fought it out on the mat. Cox would take gold at gray belt 64 to 74 pounds.

In the same vein, brothers Eamon and Zairhen Traxler met for the championship at white belt 64 to 74 pounds, with Eamon taking gold.

“Who do you root for?” Kolesar said. “You don’t coach when that happens.”

State tournament of the Alaskan Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation

Redemption MMA placing competitors


White belts — Joel Downum, gold, 45 to 54 pounds; Peter Scilzo, bronze, 45 to 54; Eamon Traxler, gold, 64 to 74; Zairhen Traxler, silver, 64 to 74; Shane Penrod, bronze, 64 to 74; Phillip Jackson, bronze, 74 to 84; Matthew Innes, gold, 94 to 104; Cole Langham, gold, 104-114; William Bogart, gold, 144 and up.

Gray belts — Jacob Cox, gold, 64 to 74; Anya Scilzo, bronze, 64 to 74; Nathan Cox, gold, 74 to 84; Owen Payne, silver, 74 to 84; Jack Bennett, bronze, 74 to 84; Oliver Parshall, silver, 84 to 94; Anthony Payne, silver, 94 to 104; Juliet Innes, silver, 104 to 114; Lauren Chircop, bronze, 114 to 124.

Yellow belts — Logan Duyck, silver, 104 to 114.

Orange and green belts — Logan Duyck, silver, 104 to 114.


White belts — Alena Bennet, gold, 129 to 141.5; Chiara “River” Burkett, silver, 129 to 141.5; Amy Penrod, bronze, 129 to 141.5; Jennifer Chircop, bronze, 152.5 to 163.5; Bethany Bogart, gold, 163.5 and above; Kiana Lowery, bronze, 163.5 and above; Bethany Bogart, gold, absolute (or open); Caitlin Peterson, bronze, absolute.

Blue belts — Elizabeth Kippling, gold, over 163.5; Callie Bennett, bronze, over 163.5; Elizabeth Kippling, gold, absolute.


White belts — Bradley Janorschke, gold, 127 to 141.5; Dexter Grayson, gold, 195 to 208; William Bogart, gold, over 222; Jesus Silves, silver, over 222.

Blue belts — Orion Satori, bronze, 141.5 to 154.5; Jacob Montgomery, gold, 154.5 to 168; Sean Babitt, gold, 168 to 181.5; Christopher Roofe, gold, 195 to 208; Sean Babitt, gold, absolute; Jacob Montgomery, silver, absolute; Christopher Roofe, bronze, absolute.

Purple to black belt — Jimmy Jack Drath, bronze, 195 to 208 pounds.

Redemption MMA competitors that did not place

Kids — Brylee Steinhage, Colt Steinhage, Zander Burkett, Eva Wonnacott, Corbin Grimm, Carson Grimm, Holden Kenner, Milo Bogart, Iann Scilzo, Sebastian Duyck, Enzo Drath, Adeline Sparks, Kate Bennett, Billy Jack Drath.

Adults — Daniel Bennett, Ryan Traxler, Kyle Downum, Mario Reyna.

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