Mauricio Gomes, one of the highest ranked instructors of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, has been in Hastings to share his knowledge at a sold-out seminar writes Rob Griffin.
The red and white coral Belt, known as the Godfather of British Jiu Jitsu for his efforts to promote the sport, visited the Gracie Barra Hastings academy in Earl Street. After teaching a variety of sport and self-defence techniques for more than two hours, he took part in a belt promotion ceremony and posed for photographs with students.
Gomes, who has trained BJJ for more than half a century, praised the Hastings school, which is run by head instructor Paul Bridges and his wife, fellow black belt Ali Bayley.
“It’s always the warmest of welcomes at Gracie Barra Hastings,” he said. “I have known Paul for a long time and it’s such a pleasure to see how far he has come.”
Bridges, who was awarded his black belt by Gomes and Marc Walder a decade ago, said it was a great opportunity for all students to train under such an influential figure: “It’s always humbling to have such a true legend on our mats,” he said. “Mauricio is such an important person in the history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.”
The packed seminar, which had more than 40 people on the mat, saw Paul Eames being promoted to purple belt.
There were also blue belts for Vicki Ayres, Noah Moralis, Craig Namvar, Annie Hildreth, Lou Young, Stefano Revolon and Joseph Gregory.
A further 25 students received stripes on their existing belts, which chart progress between the various grades.
Adult beginners start as white belts, with the grades going blue, purple, brown and black. To receive the coveted black belt usually takes up to 15 years of study.
Gomes, who started training at just four-years-old, is one of an elite group to have been awarded his black belt by the late Rolls Gracie, a legendary figure in the art.
Under his guidance, he became a feared competitor whose success included winning the absolute division of the Rio de Janeiro State Championships back in 1981. Shortly after this victory Rolls awarded him his black belt. Tragically, in 1982 Rolls died in a hang-gliding accident.
Gomes went on to marry Reila Gracie, the daughter of Carlos Gracie Sr, the co-founder of BJJ. The couple’s son, Roger, is a ten times world champion in the sport. Gomes moved to the UK in the late 1990s and established the first Gracie Barra gym in the country. He now helps run his son’s academies in London, Buckinghamshire and Bicester.
His red and white coral belt is the equivalent of an 8th degree black belt.
The Hastings academy, which was set up by Bridges in the mid-1990s, has grown rapidly and is affiliated to the international Gracie Barra organisation. It has also established an enviable reputation for attracting high-level BJJ figures.
Roger Gracie, Royce Gracie – who won the first UFC tournament, Lucio Rodrigues, Victor Estima and Braulio Estima are among the senior figures to have taught seminars in Hastings.
As well as running active – and successful – competition teams for both adults and juniors, GB Hastings focuses a lot of attention on techniques that can be used in real life situations.
Classes are run for all ages and abilities. If you are interested in giving it a go, then ring Bridges on: 07967 659867 or visit www.graciebarrahastings.com.
- Receiving their grades (click on each photograph to see the name)
- All photographs courtesy of John Rose