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Local residents visit with UFC champion
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In the world of jiu jitsu, Royce Gracie is a legend. Local Gracie Jiu Jitsu students recently attended a seminar where they received instruction from the man himself.
“In short, it was amazing,” said Tim Jones, who attended the seminar with fellow student Jasmine Sapp and their instructor Robin Clark, who teaches Gracie Jiu Jitsu at McMinnville Jiu-Jitsu Academy. “I trained with Ryron Gracie, but to train with Royce was amazing. He won the first four UFC competitions in a row. He is a super nice guy.”
The seminar was held in Roswell, Ga., at the Tiger Academy on Jan. 28. Clark says the trip was a must-go situation based on location.
“It’s not often Royce comes this close,” Clark said. “Every time the Gracies are within driving distance, I go see them. This time, I wanted to take a couple of my students with me.”
Royce is the sixth son of Grand Master Helio Gracie. He received his blue belt at age 16 and was promoted to black belt in less than two years. Royce moved to the United States at age 18 to live with his brother, Rorion. In 1989, Rorion, Royce, Rickson and Royler established the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, Calif.
In 1993, Rorion created the Ultimate Fighting Championship and selected Royce to represent the family. At approximately 6-feet tall and 178 pounds, he was the smallest fighter in the tournament. However, Royce shocked the world by defeating three opponents in the same night to become the first-ever UFC champion. His victory proved that leverage and technique can overcome size and strength.
In November 2003, Royce was the first fighter to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame along with fellow UFC veteran Ken Shamrock.
Clark says he teaches self defense, not UFC fighting.
“This family revolutionized martial arts in the United States,” said Clark. “The idea of jiu jitsu is to give the little guy a chance to beat the big guy. It teaches you how to defend yourself, even against someone bigger than you. That’s what I teach, self-defense.”
For Clark, this trip offered something special. He got to have dinner and attend a fight with Gracie the Friday night before the Saturday seminar.
“I ate dinner with Royce,” said Clark, with a smile. “Well, me and 19 other people. Then, we went with him to watch a UFC pay per view fight at the Titled Stilt. Every time I get a chance to be around the family, I take it. This was a memorable experience for me.”
During the seminar, Gracie talked about jiu-jitsu and demonstrated various techniques for the group. Jones says he enjoyed the day and considers his training an extension of his job as a member of McMinnville Police Department.
“I love jiu jitsu,” he said. “It’s directly applicable to my job. When we are out on the street, you can sometimes see a fight coming. If I get jumped from behind and knocked to the ground, you better know how to fight from there. Jiu jitsu teaches you how to do that.”
For more information about McMinnville Jui-Jitsu Academy, Clark can be reached at 931-261-4183 or visit the academy on Facebook.