Picture this: a kid starts tackling sheep on a farm, and then goes on to compete in Brazilian jiu-jitsu world championships.
That’s the origin story of 10-year-old Robbie Sanderson, who lives with his parents and two younger siblings on a Bungendore farm.
“My dad started doing jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts when he was younger,” Robbie said.
“At our first house, he set up mats in our living room and a bag hanging down from the roof.”
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a sport in which fighters attempt to pin down their opponents using various techniques and holds.
After starting to learn about the sport from his dad when he was five, Robbie joined an academy about 18 months ago.
The early start has paid off, with Robbie competing across Australia and internationally in the sport.
Preparing for competitions takes a lot of time and effort – not only from Robbie and his siblings (who are also national champions in Brazilian jiu-jitsu), but from his whole family.
“Sometimes, Mum will pick us up from school a little early, but mostly we go to training after school,” he said.
“We train six days a week, sometimes seven, for about two to three hours a day.”
At the end of the 2023 season, he topped the state championships in Victoria, the ACT, NSW and Queensland.
Robbie also took home bronze for Australia in November 2023 at the 2023 AJP World Youth Jiu Jitsu Championships in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
There, he faced off against 27 boys in his bracket.
In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Robbie fights for GFTeam Grappling Brothers, and he also plays soccer and boxes.
Robbie’s 2024 competition season will kick off with a competition in Sydney in late February.
“It’s going to be pretty full-on this year,” Robbie’s mum Alison said.
To help her son reach his goals, Ms Smith has put the call out for sponsorship from businesses in the Bungendore area.
“It’s a lot of time on the road,” she said.
“We do a lot of traveling, but the kids are great.”
Ms Smith said that as Robbie competed as a solo athlete, he wasn’t eligible for several grant programs aimed at team sports.
“An airfare for Robbie from here to the US would be over $2000 just for him – Dad’s got to go because Robbie’s a minor so we have to double that,” she said.
“It’s in the thousands for airfares for international – let alone domestic – travel.
“Every dollar helps. It makes a big difference, and we are very grateful for any level of support.”
Those interested in sponsoring Robbie can e-mail [email protected].