Sixteen years of training paid off for Port Alberni martial artist Warren Lee who received his black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Miami, by the Legendary Royce Gracie earlier this year.
The honour makes Lee one of four Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belts in Canada. Lee now holds two black belts in two different disciplines: taekwondo and jiu-jitsu.
Lee said receiving his black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was “amazing.”
“It’s 16 years worth of work,” Lee said. “[Gracie Jiu-Jitsu] takes longer than any other martial arts to get a black belt in.”
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was developed for the smaller and weaker to give them the ability to defend themselves using leverage over strength and power.
Lee was invited by Royce Gracie to come to Miami to take the black belt exam.
“I got invited to take my exam; you don’t just go. It’s up to Royce Gracie to say ‘okay, I think you’re ready, come to Miami,” Lee said. “What they look at is my skills and my confidence.”
Gracie comes to Port Alberni each year to teach a seminar at Lee’s Dragon Martial Arts Academy and during his last visit, Gracie saw that Lee had what was needed to take the exam.
Grading in the exam is “top secret.”
“They take you and put you in a back room with over 40 other black belts,” Lee said. “It’s not one person that grades you, everybody in that room critiques you and they decide as a group if you deserve a black belt, including Royce.”
Lee said Gracie Jiu Jitsu is not a competition system but rather a self-defence system.
“Martial arts were created for self-defence, not for sport, and that’s what they critique you on,” Lee said.
Lee said his exam took about 35 minutes and included performing many self-defence scenarios including grabs, takedowns, having a gun or knife pulled on you, chair attacks and chokes.
“You can’t screw up once,” Lee said. “If you pause at any time and have to think about it, you’re done. It was intense. Time went fast and when I came out of there I felt really good about it and I was excited. Coming out of this I feel more confident. “
Lee said he’s had a relationship with Royce Gracie for 16 years. The two have trained groups together around the United States including a SWAT team, Navy Seals, members of the C.I.A and secret service.
Prior to the exam, Lee said he spent about eight months training and looks for help from his students.
“You have to have good training partners and that’s how I used [students],” Lee said. “I’m teaching them how to do [a skill] and they’re assisting me on how to do it. I’m a really detail-oriented person.”
Lee first became interested in martial arts when he was 13 years old from watching Bruce Lee films.
“I wasn’t interested in other sports or music but I just wanted to train marital arts and that’s how I got started,” he said. “Luckily I was good at it and I continued to grow with it. My ambition was never to be a fighter, my ambition was always self-defence.”
In 1980 he opened his academy where it remains today at 2984 Third Ave. in uptown Port Alberni. Lee’s focus is on self-defence and not tournaments.
“I think that we should teach the kids martial arts just to give them self-confidence. That’s why I do taekwondo and jiu-jitsu because I feel you need a complete part,” Lee said.
Looking to the future, Lee said receiving his black belt motivates him to go even further with marital arts. He now wants to work towards getting “degrees and a professorship.”