Londesborough man honoured with BJJ purple belt - June 7, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
After nearly seven years of hard work, a Londesborough man has reached purple belt status in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), which has been called the most frustrating belt in jiu-jitsu.
After a stellar six months, Shaun Gregory of Londesborough has been rewarded with one of BJJ’s highest honours and it came as a complete surprise to him.
Not only has his Clinton-based Huron BJJ grown by leaps and bounds, but he’s collected three gold and two bronze medals in five provincial tournaments in the last six months.
It has been this success in both the business and personal aspects of his martial arts life that led Gregory’s mentors Jorge Britto of Toronto BJJ and Ryan O’Shea of Stratford BJJ to honour him with his purple belt.
The purple belt is the third-highest belt in BJJ and denotes the ability to teach others after spending at least two years as a blue belt.
From his humble beginnings renting space two days a week at Jen Fleming’s Workhorse Strength and Conditioning, Gregory now has his own storefront on the town’s main street for Huron BJJ, which boasts numerous students from Blyth. Over the past year, his student base has grown from a handful of adult students (14 and up) to 15 adults and over 30 children.
While he has been busy growing his business, in addition to working his day job as a reporter for the Seaforth-based Huron Expositor, he made a commitment last year to personally enter into as many tournaments as he could manage in order to further challenge himself after winning the bronze medal at the Ontario International Open last year.
Gregory, who is 33, made the decision to compete in the younger division, taking on fighters in their 20s who posed stiff competition. Placing third amongst nearly 30 competitors who were all younger than he gave him the confidence to beef up his tournament participation in the coming months.
He aimed to take part in 10 tournament in the coming year. In the five tournaments he’s competed in since, he’s collected three gold medals and two bronze, never finishing off of the podium.
Gregory returned to his natural division, called the Masters Division for competitors between the ages of 30 and 40. The 33-year-old saw tremendous success at tournaments in Toronto and Niagara Falls and his confidence grew every time he took to the mat.
His most recent success was a gold medal at the 2017 Ontario International Open, the tournament that started it all last year. The biggest jiu-jitsu tournament in Canada, Gregory says it has grown in recent years to annually attract over 1,800 competitors of all ages from all over the world.
Gregory competed against 11 others in his division, winning all three of his matches on the way to the gold. He won his first match by forcing his opponent to tap out and then beat his next two opponents on points.
After his tournament win, Gregory travelled to Toronto for a two-day coaching clinic at Toronto BJJ, the parent location of both Stratford BJJ and Huron BJJ. After two days of education on everything from the administrative and financial aspects of the BJJ business to the introduction of self-defence classes, Gregory and his colleagues were all set to “roll” at the end of the session. (Rolling is what BJJ martial artists call the free time at the end of their sessions where they spar against one another.)
The participants lined up and Britto called Gregory up to him so he could scrutinize the patches of the back of his gi (the suits worn by the martial artists). As Britto looked over Gregory’s gi, O’Shea stepped in front of Gregory and it was clear something was going on.
Gregory says that when teachers decide their students are ready to receive their next belt, in BJJ it usually comes as a surprise.
Sure enough, O’Shea pulled a purple belt out of his gi and handed it to Gregory, who was immediately overcome with emotion and began crying.
After his years of hard work, Gregory said he couldn’t contain his emotions any longer, especially when he thought of all that his wife Sarah and children had sacrificed for him in recent years.
To make his way to a purple belt, especially after a longer-than-normal amount of time at white belt, feels like a great achievement, Gregory said.
Not only had the purple belt been elusive for Gregory, but it is one of the more elusive achievements in jiu-jitsu, he said. Known as the “Blue Belt Blues”, many jiu-jitsu professionals make it to their blue belt, but then quit the sport before putting in the years of work it takes to get to a purple belt.
Gregory stuck it out and put in the work, finally reaching the purple belt level.
A Windsor native, Gregory went to journalism school there before moving to Huron County to work in Seaforth. In opening Huron BJJ, he says he has been able to live a life balancing his two passions: Brazilian jiu-jitsu and journalism.
For more information on Huron BJJ, visit huronbjj.com.