TRUE GRIT: Mildura Martial Arts athletes Nick Mazza, Brad Harrop, head coach Mick Moloney, Augustas McCallum and Mathew Jackowski. Photo courtesy of VISION HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY

By MITCH RODD

BRUISED and battered, but triumphant, Augustas McCallum proudly wore his new First Dan black belt.

In the ultimate test of physical and mental fortitude, the 17-year-old junior world Jiu Jitsu champion made it through his 40-man fight, or Sho Dan, on Saturday to become the youngest Mildura Martial Arts athlete to receive the First Dan honour.

Not too many teenagers reach that stage in stand-up fighting, but ‘Gus’ McCallum is no ordinary teenager.

In a 40-man battle, participants contest 40 one-minute rounds with just 15 seconds rest between each, bar extra time between rounds 10, 20 and 30.

After finishing his greatest test, an exhausted Gus was mobbed by ecstatic teammates who had thrown their endless support behind his efforts. When they were not trying to land body blows on him that is.

The teenager also shared an emotional moment with head coach Mick Moloney once presented with his reward.

“This one (40 man) was better than the world title,” he said.

“Getting through that test is something I’ve always wanted to do and to do it was an awesome feeling. I’ve been able to stick at this training for nine years, and really I was lucky that I walked into Mildura Martial Arts to train.

“Mick and Sophie Moloney have been very important for me and have helped me along the way. Alastair Eagle was also my first Sensei. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without those three, the support of my Mum and my teammates.

“Because there are only 15 seconds between each round you don’t really get time to think negatively. Muscle memory, conditioning and training all come into it.

“Before I started I gave myself a goal of not hitting the ground, and I managed to last until round 36 before it happened. I was pretty proud of that.”

It was also a massive day for Brad Harrop, Mathew Jackowski and Nick Mazza, who all received their black belts.

The trio faced their own 40-man challenge, known as the Sho Dan Ho, which involved 20 rounds of stand-up fighting and 20 rounds of grappling.

Passing this test means all three have now qualified to follow in the footsteps of Augustas and take on the 40-man challenge next year for their First Dan.

Brad, who has been training at Mildura Martial Arts for 12 months since making the move from Melbourne, said the support of everyone in the club kept them going when fatigue set in.

“I thought I was pretty well prepared for it, but it’s completely different once you hit round 20, and it’s really all heart from there,” he said.

“Having everyone in there supporting made a huge difference. It’s a very good team here and they really support you to push to, and then past, your limits.

“I used to train in Melbourne in MMA and jiu jitsu, and had fought professionally.

“The team is brilliant, it’s like a second family to me, especially with my family still being in Melbourne.”

Moloney paid tribute to the efforts of the four fighters, and added that 2018 is already set to be a big year for the club.

“Next year is going to be even bigger with three athletes doing Sho Dan and three doing Sho Dan Ho,” he said.

“We’ve already got guys lined up to fight professional and amateur MMA and some guys and girls trying out for the National Kudo team.

“We’re also going to be adding more classes to the timetable but most importantly after 18 years of training, Joe Mammone will be going for his BJJ Black Belt, which consists of three hours of grappling with back- to-back rounds.”