Sydney Mason: From Gymnastics To Jiu-jitsu

January 4, 2024 | 0 Comments

[Written by Stephen Wright]

When Sydney Mason retired from gymnastics aged 18, she did not expect it to take five years to discover a sport that excited and challenged her as much as her first sporting love.

Mason was once the top gymnast on the island, representing Bermuda at the Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015, competing in the vault, uneven bars, beam, and floor.

With gymnastics notoriously a pursuit for the youth, Mason hung up her leotard after graduating from Bermuda High School in 2016 and thought her competitive days were behind her until she walked through the doors of OpenMat Bermuda on Mills Creek Road two years ago.

“Gymnastics isn’t a sport you continue well into your thirties,” Mason told Bernews. “Most gymnasts say goodbye to the sport when they’re pretty young.

Sydney Mason Bermuda Gymnastics January 2023

“It’s not like I gave it up earlier than I should have. It’s a sport that meant so much to me for so long. It took a long time to find another that piqued my interest.”

The 25-year-old had no martial arts experience before her first session at OpenMat – the island’s first Brazilian Jui-jitsu academy – but said she immediately felt at home in such a friendly environment.

“I was apprehensive to start with but felt really comfortable at OpenMat,” said Mason, who will further her academic studies at the University of Law in London, where she starts this month. “Everyone was encouraging and willing to teach.

“Any of my natural athleticism had probably expired in my five years without gymnastics! I was happy to find a sport that challenges me as much, though.”

On the face it, there are few similarities between gymnastics and a close combat sport such as jiu-jitsu; however, Mason believes her years vaulting, cartwheeling, and somersaulting provided her with solid athletic foundations.

“I already had a good understanding of biomechanics, body movements, and a natural strength, which really helps,” said the former University of Southampton student.

“Jui-jitsu is like chess – you’re trying to outthink your opponent. In gymnastics, there are routines; if you replicate your training, the outcomes will show on the mat.

“With Jui-jitsu, your training will reflect on the mat, but you have an opponent to account for. You must be a flexible thinker.”

Mason, who competed at the Jui-jitsu No-Gi Championship in Toronto in Las Vegas last month, added: “Like gymnastics, there’s always a new skill to learn and your game needs to change depending on your opponent.

“I enjoy the diversity and want to become as well-rounded a competitor as possible.”

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