Payson Martial Arts Competitors Fight Their Way To Top

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Ryan Sundra's debut on the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament trail was a smashing success.

In the inaugural Arizona Open, held Feb. 25 in Mesa, Sundra took a second place finish in the adult featherweight (147 pound) division.

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Members of the Prankration Martial Arts classes in Payson include: (back row, left to right) Brent Miller, assistant instructor Ethan Taylor, head instructor Wyatt Shepherd, Garry Naylor, Ryan Sundra, (front row) Jacob Gardner, Tony Root and Danny Root.

"It was an incredible showing," his instructor Wyatt Shepherd said.

Sundra studies Pankration Martial Arts -- a hybrid form of fighting -- under Shepherd at the mixed Martial Arts School in Payson.

Also representing the school were Danny Root, Tony Root and Jacob Gardner.

All three participated in the juvenile division. Among the 55-pounders, Tony Root was second and in the 85-pound class, Danny Root took second.

Gardner was third among the 125-pounders.

According to Shepherd, the tournament drew 170 competitors from Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Mexico.

In the World Grappling Tournament in September 2005, the Payson martial arts school had several students earn medals.

Garry Naylor was second in the adult heavyweight division and Ethan Taylor a runner up among the 173-pound adult competitors.

Judy White fought her way to a silver medal in the 134-pound female adults.

What is Pankration?

Pankration is unique in martial arts because it includes ground combat.

"That is where the majority of fights end up," Shepherd said. "(Pankration) is also a hybrid martial arts system that has taken techniques from all arts and put (them) into one.

"It is now being taught to our armed forces as the preferred means of hand-to-hand combat."

Shepherd said experts claim Pankration should be the defense of choice for women, and it can be learned by students of all ages.

He cautions, however, that the real focus is on promoting a sense of balance in one's life and to learn the values of hard work, self-discipline, friendship and respect for others.

Those who master it, he said, will improve their self-esteem, build their character and have the ability to defend themselves.

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