Man on a journey: Boesen prepares for world master jiu-jitsu tournament

Published 6:08 am Saturday, August 17, 2019

LAPLACE — Tom Boesen, 65, of LaPlace will soon travel to Las Vegas to compete in the World Master International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Championship, and his journey of a lifetime all started with a March 2018 drive to Formal Connection.

When Boesen, a former high school and collegiate wrestler, noticed the Gracie United gym on Belle Terre Boulevard, he was curious whether any of the skills he’d learned 40 years prior would hold up in combat.

What he found was an environment of camaraderie and mutual respect among jiu jitsu students of all ages.

“There’s a transparency that happens when you encounter someone one-on-one in a physical contest,” Boesen said. “You can’t hide what you are, and the other person can’t hide what they are. There’s a mutual respect that’s gained when that happens.”

This summer, Boesen won a gold medal in his blue belt age division, competing in a category against people born during or prior to 1963. It marked the first national competition to come to New Orleans.

Boesen said jiu jitsu follows different rules from wrestling, where the ultimate goal is to pin an opponent for two seconds. In jiu jitsu, a match is over when one person forces another into submission with a choke or hold that would result in a broken bone.

“The fact that you trust everybody not to break your bones means that you feel safe,” Boesen said. “You’re putting your health and safety in their hands. That’s what humans were made to do, to interact and develop those kind of relationships.”

Almost every person at jiu jitsu competitions is of high character, according to Boesen, even if it seems contradictive visually. He said competitors with big muscles, tattoos and unconventional hairstyles might appear rough on the outside, but they are equipped with the most sincere hearts.

Character building is a part of training, Boesen said, noting competitors are exposed and vulnerable to criticism with each match. When mistakes are made, there is no hiding who is at fault.

“That demands a level of character because you have to be courageous in order to face that,” Boesen said. “It’s not scary in the sense that you’re going to get hurt or die, but it does get into the instinctive behavior of fight or flight. There’s also a feeling within the gym of collaboration. There’s no jealousy. Everyone wants you to get better.”

Just as a rising tide raises all ships, Boesen finds himself improving and adapting each time one of the other students in the gym learns a new skill.

His instructor, Titus Foote of Gracie United, said Boesen has taken great initiative in learning the martial art and joining competitions in the past year.

“He’s been a phenomenal student at our gym,” Foote said. “He’s overall brought a very positive outlook and a general attitude that I don’t think a lot of people can match.”

Lineage is an important part of jiu jitsu, according to Boesen. While he trains under Foote, Foote trains under Black Belt World Champion Rafael Ellwanger, who is a student of the world renowned Ailson “Jucão” Brites.

Boeson met Brites at the most recent tournament, and he looks forward to making a bigger mark in the jiu jitsu world while reminding others you are never too old to enjoy new experiences.

“I see myself on a journey,” Boesen said. “The opportunities that come up, I keep saying ‘yes’ to. Jiu jitsu was a yes. Going to the New Orleans Open was another yes. I don’t have to compete. Many people practice it as an exercise. But each time you say yes, you benefit from the experience. If you keep saying yes, there’s really not a limit to how long you can do things.”

Outside of jiu jitsu, Boesen is troop leader of Boy Scouts Troop 312. He’s a close friend of Harold Keller, who he met at PJ’s Coffee of LaPlace.

Keller said Boesen is a family man and an outstanding person.

“I’ve got two good friends, and he’s one of them,” Keller said. “I think he’s real and he’s honest. I would trust him with anything. If he says he’s going to do something, he does it.”

Boesen will compete at the World Master Competition August 22-24. For more information about local jiu jitsu opportunities, visit Gracie United at 299 Belle Terre Boulevard in LaPlace.