Gracie Barra students are moving on up the grades

Martial artists have taken another step towards their coveted black belts at the Gracie Barra Hastings Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy writes Rob Griffin.

Four members received their next coloured belts from head instructor Paul Bridges in a grading ceremony held at the school’s permanent home in Earl Street.

A further ten were awarded ‘degree stripes’ on their existing belts, which chart progress made between grades.

John Rose and Joe Thompson, who often represent the town at competitions across the country, were both awarded their purple belts.

Rose, 58, who is also a 2nd Dan black belt in Judo, which he teaches at GB Hastings on Tuesday evenings, was thrilled with the promotion.

John Rose with Paul Bridges.

“This means more to me than I can say and I’m only in this position due to the help of all my training partners at Gracie Barra Hastings and the expert tuition of Paul Bridges and Ali Bayley,” he said.

Thompson, 29, won his first tournament less than a year after starting the art and has been a regular on the competition circuit ever since.

Joe Thompson receives his purple belt.

Bridges also awarded Samuli Antonen and Chris Young their blue belts – both of whom have been training for around two years.

Samuli Antonen and Chris Young

Belt promotions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which are notoriously difficult to achieve, are based on a combination of technical skill, attendance and attitude.

Adult beginners start as white belts, with the grades going blue, purple, brown and black. To receive the black belt usually takes up to 15 years of study.

Bridges said he was very proud of everyone as only the most dedicated students that are willing to put in the time get promoted.

“Earning a belt takes many hours on the mats and everyone that has either received a stripe or their next belt thoroughly deserves their success,” he said.

BJJ has established itself as one of the world’s most effective martial arts due to its combination of throws, joint locks and ground-fighting techniques.

GB Hastings, which was set up by Bridges in the mid-1990s, has grown rapidly and is affiliated to the international Gracie Barra organisation.

It caters for all ages – from three-years-old to adults – and recently launched classes specifically designed for the over-50s.

Bridges, a third-degree black belt in BJJ, teaches alongside his wife, Ali Bayley, and James Creaser, who are both BJJ black belts.

If you are interested in giving it a go, then ring Bridges on: 07967 659867 or visit

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