JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Dr. Myles Suehiro grappled yesterday with opponent Joe Scovel from Kauai during the Pacific Invitational Tournament for Brazilian jiujitsu at the Ala Moana Hotel. Suehiro got into jiujitsu when he was 53, and now holds a purple belt.
Fighter holds a clinical edge
A 65-year-old doctor gets into jiujitsu
Myles Suehiro jokes that he can be their grandfather. But when it comes to the mat, the just-turned 65-year-old can throw down nearly as hard those a third of his age.
Before Suehiro's first competitive jiujitsu match yesterday, he walked past guys as old as his sons. He stretched and warmed up by doing some jumping jacks when he heard his name called among the 80 competitors in the Pacific Invitational Tournament for Brazilian jiujitsu at the Ala Moana Hotel.
"It's a beautiful sport where it's not just locking someone and hurting him," said Suehiro, a doctor who specializes in respiratory and sleep disorders. "It's a matter of trying to trick him so you can take advantage. It's like a fast-paced physical chess game."
Suehiro, of Manoa, got into jiujitsu about 12 years ago as an "accident." He wanted his sons -- who were then in high school -- to join and signed up for them. After waiting for three months for open spots for his sons, Suehiro was told since the registration was under his name, it could not be applied to his boys.
Out of spite, Suehiro says, he participated in the first lesson, which was free.
"I ended up loving it," Suehiro said. "It was there that I learned the true meaning of respect and camaraderie."
His sons eventually got into the same classes, then moved on to excel in wrestling. But Suehiro stayed and became an inspiration for others.
"You see him doing it and you think anyone can do it," said Kawika Akiyama, who sees Suehiro every week at the same jiujitsu gym, the Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy on Queen Street. "He's an inspiration for everyone."
Suehiro goes to the academy three times a week. He still works part time as a doctor and schedules his appointments around jiujitsu practices. After advancing to a purple belt in the last 12 years, Suehiro decided to finally participate in a competitive tournament.
The goal of jiujitsu is to force the opponent to submit, in a sense pin the person by tapping out. Even if it does not come to that point, competitors have several minutes, depending on their skill level, to gain points through other moves, like swiping their arms or choking them.
Suehiro's first opponent was 24-year-old Andy Marshall.
"I was scared," Marshall said. "It looked like this guy had a lot of experience, and I thought he would use a technique I never seen before."
Seven minutes later, with a break in between where Suehiro fixed his belt and caught his breath, the two hugged each other briefly while the other competitors and nearly 100 people in the audience cheered.
At the end of the match, which Suehiro lost 20-4, he gave his business card to Marshall, who wants to become a doctor.
"I told him I'll do anything to help for him to become a doctor," Suehiro said. "I'm glad to lose to a kid like that. But I made him sweat. That's all that matters."