Jordan Branker will represent Canada and the University of Ottawa next month as he travels to Taipei with Canada’s delegation to the 29th Summer Universiade which will run from August 19-30.
The Universiade is organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) as an international multi-sports event for university athletes. At the last edition, over 11,000 athletes from 140 countries took part; the Universiade is second only to the Olympic Games in the number of participating athletes and countries.
Branker is a Sanda athlete, a martial art discipline which falls under the International Wushu Federation. He trains out of the Cumberland Martial Arts Academy with his coach, Robert Teske, while pursuing his degree in the Faculty of Social Sciences, majoring in sociology with a minor in political science.
“Misconceptions about Sanda are that people relate it to MMA, UFC, blood and broken bones,” Branker says. “What I like about it is that you can test your abilities without worrying about violence or injuries. To me it’s about: how can my training, my discipline, and my hard work translate to application. I’d like people to know is that it’s as much a chess match as a sport – it’s a lot more cerebral and thought-provoking.”
Branker, who started first year at uOttawa in 2013 and has one semester remaining, grew up in Ottawa and began training in Sanda only two years ago. Thinking of his first competitions he remembers, “I was very new, and I didn’t grasp how to strategize. Coming from a multi-sport background I did have an athletic ability to fall back on. I can rely on it, but I shouldn’t have to – the strategic part is what I need to work on. There’s never too much learning.”
The 6-foot-2 former basketball player has had quick success in Sanda. This spring he made his first appearance at the Canadian National Championships and advanced through the single elimination draw to the final in his weight category. The title fight was incredibly close.
“There are three rounds and it’s the first to win two,” Branker explains. “I won the first round, he won the second, and in the third three out of four judges scored it a tie and the other one scored it for my opponent. It was a little bit of a heartbreak but when I got to that point it made me realize I could really compete and it motivated me quite a bit.”
That performance qualified him to compete at the Universiade and represent Canada internationally for the first time. That honour is something takes seriously, and for good reason.
Branker’s mother was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and moved to Canada when she was in her early teens: her father was Protestant, and her mother is Catholic. “There was friction,” says Jordan, referring to his own family and Northern Ireland in general. He has travelled back recently. “There’s a lot of tensions still – at night they lock the old thirty-foot high ‘peace walls’ that separate the communities. It’s crazy what still goes on.”
Branker’s Dad is from Bridgetown, Barbados and Jordan has a trident tattoo on his arm, reflecting the flag of Barbados. His father joined the RCMP when he was 22 years old and currently serves in the Prime Minister’s protection detail, while raising Jordan and his sister Michaela who plays basketball for Nipissing.
“I think it represents Canada perfectly. My multicultural background – Canada is about embracing people and diversity. Coming from that background shows that I am a product of Canada. I think by having my parents who were both immigrants be able to set up roots here, have kids, and have those kids represent the country, I think that’s the epitome of Canada.”
Outside of his sport, Branker hopes to pursue a career in politics and credits uOttawa part time professor Joseph Sawan as an influence on his thinking. “I had a class with him in first year which opened my mind up to a lot of things. 'How can you comment on the world if you are not trying to change it' is one mentality that I got from him.”
Before joining Team Canada in Taipei, Branker is heading to China for three weeks of intensive training while staying at a University in Hangzhou. “I feel like I have the right team behind me and the ability to do well,” he says.
“How many people get to say they represented their country? To be able to be up there and compete against people from all over the world, test everything I’ve worked on and see how I stack up against the best at my age level – I’m just really excited to see how it goes.”