Saik’uz First Nation’s new recreation co-ordinator is looking to pass along some of the tools he has gained over the years to the community’s youth.
Cody Teed, who also goes by the name CJ Strongheart, grew up in the band and has since gone on to find considerable success practising mixed martial arts (MMA).
While years ago the activity might have conjured up images of human cockfighting, the sport has been considerably refined since its no-holds-barred beginnings and is now heavily regulated by athletic boards almost everywhere it is practiced.
Up until recently, Teed was working as a metal fabricator but was finding the physical demands of the position counter-intuitive to his training, so when offered the co-ordinator role, he jumped at it.
“They wanted people to have dedication and confidence to counteract suicide risk and other issues that plague First Nations people,” he said.
“I was given free range to do whatever programs I wanted to and (because of my background) I decided to teach martial arts.”
Teed has lightweight (155 pound weight class) championship belts from two B.C. fight promotions and is aiming to get his third this November in Vancouver.
“If I win that, I’ll be the first person to win all three titles in B.C.,” he says. “I call it the triple crown championship.”
Winning is something every single person can accomplish when it comes to the discipline, Teed insists.
“It’s not a win-lose game. You come to training and you train to get better,” he says. “If you’re training, you’re doing better. You’re winning by developing confidence and a skill set.
“I’m hoping my accomplishments will encourage them to come and train hard and then hopefully be a part of something by helping me train for my fights.”
Teed is also using the program, hosted at the Saik’uz Multiplex, as a way to tie together the people of Vanderhoof and Saik’uz First Nation.
“I invited people from Vanderhoof out to do it,” he says, referring to some people he was training in town. “Most people have never travelled to the reservation.
“I figured this way they’d train, see the reservation and realize it’s not that bad and there are good people here.
“Opinions will change and it will hopefully build a bridge.”
The program is four weeks old now and Teed has been teaching mixed martial arts, striking and Brazilian jiu jitsu.
The latter is his specialty, having trained in the grappling art extensively in his career, most notably under the tutelage of Bibinao Fernandes, current ONE FC bantamweight champion.
“He’s Amazonian and I’m First Nations, so we communicated very well,” Teed says.
“Growing up, he had to live in the jungle with his brothers while his dad went to look for work, and now he’s a world champion.”
It isn’t always obvious who the future champions will be.
“The teens with the most confidence are the most shy about actually putting gloves on and doing stuff, while the kids who are shy are more willing to be weak and start from the beginning,” Teed says. “The braggadocios young men want to act like they already know.”
However, MMA is much like life, and being humble and open to learning something new can pay huge dividends.