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1st Degree Black Belt Martin Escobar - left, Purple Belt Nick Richardson - center, Fourth Degree Black Belt Rey Diogo

DeBrazil Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy - Tucson, Arizona

Instructor and 1st Degree Black Belt Martin Escobar (left),

19 year old and recently promoted Purple Belt Nick Richardson ( center),

and World Renown Fourth Degree Black Belt Rey Diogo (right)


The belt ranking system in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu begins with the white belt and progresses to blue, purple, brown and then black. For juniors under the age of 16 a yellow, orange, or green belt follows the white belt depending on the age and skill of the grappler. Generally, it takes 8 to 12 years for a student to obtain the rank of black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. This is in comparison to the approximate 3 to 5 years it takes to obtain the rank of black belt in most styles of Karate.

Nick Richardson has been practicing this sport since he was 13 years of age. At age 15 Nick possesed the skills necessary for a blue belt but since he was under 16 he was given the temporary rank of Green Belt. On his 16th birthday he was finally awarded his Blue belt. On May 23, 2009 he was awarded his Purple belt by his instructor Martin Escobar and Martin's instructor Rey Diogo. To have obtained a Purple belt by the age of 19 is a pretty rare feat, especially when you consider he has missed over a year's worth of time wrestling for his high school and college. In the several hundered students and two schools that we have been associated with, I personally only know of two others students that obtained their purple belts anywhere close to this age, and even they were several years older in comparison. Typically, most students do not receive their purple belt until their mid to late twenties.

To give you some idea of how far the sport has come, when I was still wrestling back in the ‘90s, there was only one or two purple belts in the entire state of Arizona. In fact, Nick’s current instructor, Martin Escobar (shown above), was one of the few blue belt’s in the area at that time. In the ‘90s when Martin and I were wrestling, rank was much harder to obtain than it is today, not because the criteria was any more stringent, but because the instructors weren’t ranked high enough to promote their students. Overall, instructors were less knowledgable and this resulted in students that were less technical in their grappling skills. Today, Martin runs the 200 member DeBrazil Academy, which probably has close to 35 students ranked at blue belt or higher. Let me say one thing for certain, if you think Martin gives his colored belts away easily, come on over and give it a try!!! As one of the Gracie T-shirts used to say, "Relax my friend, it will be over soon!"

When I was wrestling, there were very few if any junior students and most adult students were 25 to 40 years of age. The Brazilians were only beginning to reveal their secrets, so in those days, there was very little technique. In fact, for the most part, everyone just pounded the hell out of each other. When Nick first started Jiu-Jitsu back in 2003, he was among the first of the new generation of students to begin as juniors. As with every other sport, the earlier you start, the better you are likely to become. Even by that time, most schools didn’t have enough junior members to hold junior classes. In fact, at the age of 13, Nick was wrestling adult white, blue, purple, and brown belts on a nightly basis and even competing against adult blue belts in tournaments. For the first two years, he had his butt handed to him on a regular basis.

I have a great deal of respect for how Nick has handled himself, especially in those early years, when it would have been so easy to quit. I can tell you from my own experience that this sport is grueling and, after a long day at work, there were many times when I had to force myself to attend Jiu-Jitsu classes. I can also tell you that as a white belt junior, Nick took an unmerciful pounding from the adults. When he used to wrestle the larger adults, he would all but disappear underneath them. Adult white belts not only didn’t want to take the chance of losing to Nick, they were actually motivated to beat him as soundly as possible if for no other reason than he might possibly the only person they would be able to beat all night. But now he almost always has the upper hand, and these past experiences recently helped him win his first state tournament in the blue belt division of the 2009 Arizona Open in February. He also placed third at the 2008 Arizona Grappling Challenge last October and in March he lost a tough third round match to the eventual winner of his blue belt division in the 2009 Pan American Championships. In July of 2009, he will be competing in his first state championship since receiving his purple belt. Through the hard work of Martin Escobar, the entire DeBrazil Academy has the opportunity to win its first Arizona State Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation State Championship after taking second in the Arizona Open and third in the Arizona Grappling Challenge.

Thanks to Martin, Nick and his fellow students are making a name for themselves in this sport.

Congratulations Nick!

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