One of the world’s top martial artists was in Port Alberni in August to spread the art of jiu-jitsu to local students.
Royce Gracie is a professional mixed martial artist, a UFC hall of famer and a member of the famed Gracie family, known for their development of Brazilian or Gracie jiu-jitsu as a system of self-defence. He has been visiting Port Alberni annually since 2001 for the Royce Gracie seminar at Dragon Martial Arts Academy.
Dragon Martial Arts head instructor, Warren Lee, says that he and Gracie have been friends for many years.
“I attended a seminar just to see what jiu-jitsu was about,” explained Lee. “I didn’t even know that [Royce Gracie] was a UFC champion. Within minutes, I was hooked.”
Lee, whose background is in traditional taekwondo, says that jiu-jitsu is different from most martial arts because of the emphasis on ground fighting.
“Most martial arts…that are popular are all stand-up,” he said. “Jiu-jitsu takes it to another level with the ground fighting aspect. It completes the martial arts.”
In a real life altercation, says Lee, no one is keeping track of points. “It’s about controlling the situation, keeping everybody safe,” he added. “So you can survive without getting hurt.”
Gracie jiu-jitsu, says Lee, was developed for smaller opponents so that they have the ability to defend themselves using leverage, rather than strength and power. “It’s developed so anyone can learn it,” he said. “It’s based on leverage and timing, not strength.”
The annual seminar in Port Alberni is geared towards all genders and ages, from beginners to advanced fighters. This year’s seminar, which took place from Aug. 10-11, had more than 50 people on the mat, from Dragon Martial Arts Academy as well as its affiliate schools. People travelled from as far as Tacoma, Washington to participate.
“We start off with one technique, and then we progress,” said Lee. “We review it and add some more. It’s a very structured seminar.”
Dragon Martial Arts Academy offers classes three days a week for kids and adults, teaching taekwondo and jiu-jitsu. Lee, the only certified instructor under Royce Gracie in Canada, was also only the fourth person in Canada to receive a black belt in Gracie jiu-jitsu.
“It’s so important that we’re able to bring [Royce Gracie] here so that we can share such an important art,” said Lee. “My students get the benefit of learning from one of the greatest. Port Alberni is like family to him now.”