He has been training for four and a half years and is proud of his hard work.
Standing on a Las Vegas podium June 29, Sarasota's Taber Luck Jordan, 9, experienced redemption.
Back in March, Jordan finished third at the 2019 Pan Kids IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Irvine, Calif. It is the closest thing to a world championship the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has at Jordan's level, and it was his first time attending the event. In his semifinal match, he got into a dominant position, holding his opponent in a closed guard, but failed to do anything more. That cost him the win.
It is all Jordan has been thinking about since. Jordan, who trains with Thadeu Vieira at the Vieira Academy, has put the focus of his sessions on opening his guard and doing more with it. BJJ has two ways to win: Accumulating more points than your opponents (as deemed by judges) or forcing your opponent to tap out, or submit, to a hold. Even though submissions are more fun, Jordan said, he is learning to be the most versatile and efficient combatant he can be. According to his coach, it is working. His ability to go through his move set and gain points multiple ways is his most-improved skill.
"Taber has demonstrated the ability to dominate the opponent before pursuing a submission," Vieira said. "We train assuming the opponent is always stronger, so the first element is to take the opponent down to the ground... When the opponent is losing, he spends more energy trying to escape and reverse the situation, while the dominant player is rested and thinking with clarity, seeing all windows of opportunity that are open."
In Las Vegas, at the 2019 American National Kids IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship, Jordan put his lessons learned to the test — and he passed. He defeated Sasha Nixon by triangle choke in the finals of the Junior 1 Lightweight Yellow division to take home a gold medal. That wasn't the original plan; Jordan first tried a standing armbar, but it failed. He went to his backup plan and succeeded. The ability to stay calm and follow your training in the heat of competition is a crucial element of BJJ success, and Jordan never forgets his plan.
"It (BJJ) is really fun," Jordan said. "I like ground fighting and I think I'm pretty good at it."
The championship win is now his favorite memory from his four and a half years of training. Jordan is a yellow belt with one stripe. His long-term goal is to become a black belt, but he also has his eye on March 2020, when he will be jetting to California for another shot at the Pan Kids title.
Jordan's mother, Jocelyn Jordan, was a bit nervous when he first joined the sport. After all, chokes are part of the deal. After watching how Vieira works his students slowly through the process, only adding advanced maneuvers when they are ready to both use them and defend themselves from them, she relaxed. Watching her son in competitions is still a source of stress, though.
"It's intense," Jocelyn Jordan said. "My knees are always shaking, buckling. I think I get more nervous than he does."
She got so caught up in her son's BJJ that she now takes classes herself, she said. At least once a week, sometimes twice. Jocelyn Jordan has also tried her hand at competitions, though she has not won anything close to Taber's level.
As Vieira said, despite Jordan's middle name, his success has nothing to do with luck.