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This Port Coquitlam student is going to fight his teacher, so he can graduate

A Riverside Secondary student has just one more assignment to complete before he graduates. He has to beat up his teacher. Fortunately, the jiu jitsu showdown is for a good cause.
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Riverside Secondary student Ryan Plessl is challenging chemistry and physics teacher Jeremy Brown to a jiu jitsu showdown on July 17. But it isn't a grudge match over bad grades.

A Riverside Secondary student is getting ready to rumble against one of his teachers — for class credit.

Ryan Plessl has organized a jiu jitsu battle against chemistry and physics teacher Jeremy Brown, to be held July 17 at 6 p.m.

But the showdown isn’t a grudge match to settle a score over a bad grade; in fact, Plessl’s never taken a course from Brown.

The two spar regularly at Ascension Martial Arts in Port Coquitlam, though, and putting the match together fulfills Plessl’s Capstone requirement for graduation.

Plessl said he wanted to express his passion for jiu jitsu in the course that challenges students to make connections between their lives and career ambitions.

Plessl’s original idea was to stage a tournament, but ever-changing public health restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic made that untenable.

Instead, he decided going mano-a-mano would be the safer option.

After all, as training partners, Plessl and Brown have spent considerable time in each other’s bubble. And what better way to capture the imagination of his peers than challenging a teacher?

But even that succumbed to the shutdown of indoor sporting activities imposed last December as the match was originally supposed to happen later that month.

Now that restrictions are easing, Plessl and Brown are ready to throw down after many extra months of preparation.

Plessl said the long delay was sometimes challenging.

“It’s been tough to keep consistent training throughout the months,” he said, adding their mutual love for the sport got them through the motivational slog and occasional minor injuries.

The event is raising money for the Sunny Hill Health Centre at BC Children’s Hospital that helps young people rehabilitate from accidents or disability. Each donation to the GoFundMe page that Plessl created gets a code to view the showdown on a livestream.

Since the page launched last October, he’s raised $5,500.

Brown said he was quick to jump aboard the idea when Plessl approached him. Despite their 30-year age difference, he added the two are pretty evenly matched, with his strength and pressure balanced by his young challenger’s speed and agility.

“It’s always fun to roll with Ryan,” Brown said. “I don’t have to worry about getting hurt because we train together so much.”

Plessl said he was comfortable breaching the student-teacher divide because, while the two have a professional relationship at school, they’re more like friends at the martial arts gym.

The match will be comprised of six 10-minute rounds: The first three will be contested with the combatants wearing traditional gi, but for the final three rounds they’ll be battling in street clothes like shorts and T-shirts.

The winner is determined by who scores the most submissions.

The garb that the grapplers wear dictates different styles and rules of fighting, Brown said, as loose-fitting gi gives opponents something to grab onto, but bouts become more technical when opponents are in regular clothes.

Plessl said jiu jitsu is as much a mental test as physical. “It’s calculated,” he said. “It’s very much like a chess match.”

At an hour in length, the event will also test the martial artists’ endurance. While each holds their individual training regimes close to their chest, they both admit they’re doing some running.

Plessl said he’s not taking his youth for granted. “Even though he’s a lot older, he’s definitely no slouch,” he said of Brown.

For his part, Brown said victory will got to the combatant who can best maintain their technical discipline even as they fatigue. “The important part is being smart,” Brown said.

Spoken like someone who teaches.