9.22.2008

SHANGHAI STORY

A Big thanks to Paul Borrett for sharing his experience in the early days of BJJ in Shanghai, China. I'm sure we can all appreciate how these things get started and to see how far they've come. Thanks Paul! -Luke

November 2006, Shanghai
(l to r) Ian, Ben Wachtarz, Matt, Stanley Tam, Paul Borrett

Shanghai BJJ History….

I thought it might be of interest to have some stories about the early days of BJJ in Asia and thought I would kick-off with some recollections of Shanghai. This is not meant as a comparison of cities/clubs – nor is it fanfare for me. I would rather like to share what it took for a few of us to get things started in the region – and showcase some of the people who helped made it possible through their passion, sense of adventure and hard work.

I moved to Shanghai in China in 1998 for career reasons. I had been living in Winnipeg Canada where I had studied BJJ with a blue belt from Behring Jiu-Jitsu for around one year. When I arrived in Shanghai I soon discovered there was no jiu-jitsu and although I respect the local arts, I was uninterested in training in local martial arts. I soon discovered that, although I was the first to teach in Shanghai, Mr. Andy Pi was the first teaching in China – a blue belt at the time…in 1997 in Beijing. He was a blue belt under Royce and Rorion. I felt a bit awkward teaching as a white belt….but had no other option if I wanted to train.

So with a group of friends I started a small club and we trained on hardwood floors with no mats….with knee and elbow pads…..we must have been crazy! We progressed through a series of locations to arrive in Gold’s Gym in 2000. We had our first set of mats there held in one place by heavy bags laid on the floor around the matted area. It was in interesting time with a lot of local and non-local martial artists coming through to train and roll with us.

On a business trip to Hong Kong I met a blue belt from Australia living in Hong Kong. He became my friend and made several visits to help us with our training in Shanghai – his name was Richard Hutson, a blue belt under John Will, who is a student of the Machado’s.

In year 2000 Shanghai I used some of my savings to finally bring the first BJJ black belt to teach in China – it was Roy Harris visiting for one week. Andy and his students came down from Beijing and we all enjoyed some good training together.

In 2002 I was travelling frequently to London for some architectural studies and I met Mauricio Motta Gomes, his son Roger and their friend and fellow BJJ instructor Felipe Souza. Later in 2002 I was proud to bring what I believe was the first black belt from Brazil to teach in China – it was Felipe Souza (Gavea/Gracie Barra) for 6 week stay in 2002 and a 4 week stay in 2003. I was even more proud that Gracie Barra Shanghai founded in 2002 under Felipe and Mauricio Motta Gomes – I still did the teaching when Felipe was not visiting – but now I had three fancy stripes on my white belt.

In 2003 good fortune came to Shanghai – we had , again what I believe to have been, the first purple belt to live and teach in China - Matt Stevens lived and taught in Shanghai from 2003 until 2006/2007 - now based in UK and training with Felipe. He put his heart and soul into the club and the academy today is a result of his hard work. Matt is a very talented grappler who taught us all a great deal and made the school a fun place to train.

When Matt moved to UK we were very fortunate in Shanghai to have Chet Quint travel from Beijing to teach seminars and update the guys on their training.

Moving forward to 2006 in Shanghai – the first blue belts to be awarded in Shanghai, China – Stanley Tam and Ben Schwartz - under Matt - endorsed by Mauricio Motta Gomes.

I moved to Hong Kong in 2006 – and I am very proud of Stan Tam as under his guidance the academy in Shanghai is still going strong and growing (www.shanghaibjj.com) with Black Belt Tony Eduardo teaching for several months (ironically the first resident black belt in Shanghai after I moved away from Shanghai….. (Tony is now in Phuket, Thailand and a new resident brown belt is there in Shanghai for a long stay).

I now train with Silvio Braga and 2nd Degree Black Belt under Adilson ‘Bita’ Lima – and really enjoy the training – he is an excellent instructor. We have a purple belt and some blue belts in the class and it is a great place to learn and train with good friends. Hong Kong now has 2 black belt instructors, Macau has 1 black belt instructor and Beijing has 2 black belt instructors…….all in the last 2 to 3 years. Jiu-Jitsu is growing strong here and I am very happy to have been part of the story and thankful to all the people that made this 10 year story fun and worthwhile.

Let’s see what the next 10 years has to offer…..

Paul

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