A seminar with BJJ black belt, Roy Harris
Mikaela Delos Santos, News Editor
Excitement was at an all time high when I hit the mats at the Calgary-based martial arts gym, Champion’s Creed. Chatter filled the whole gym; everyone from buff and lean, young and mature, short and tall, waited for the man in question. That day, our belt colours didn’t matter, as all of us were here to learn from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) black belt, Professor Roy Harris.
Amidst the crowd of us in rash guards and grappling shorts, I looked around for him. When I found him by the cubbies, he didn’t immediately stand out to me. It took me a few seconds to realize it was him. He was wearing a simple blue t-shirt and white cotton shorts, and as a first impression, it embodied for me what it means to be humble in the sport. Something that I learned in the first few weeks of rolling (the jiu jitsu term for sparring).
Harris is a renowned six-degree black belt in jiu jitsu from San Diego, California. Fourth in lineage from the founder of the sport Carlos Gracie, Harris was one of the first non-Brazilians to receive a black belt. In 2007, Harris was inducted into the Masters Hall of Fame for his innovative contributions to the gentle sport.
There was no denying that I was lucky to be in the same room as Professor Harris. He started off the seminar by introducing himself as a man of structure; engaging us with a story of how when his father gave him a radio, the first thing he did was to take it apart and put it back together again. This story of structure set the tone for the whole seminar, concise and simplified for easy comprehension.
The seminar focused on back mounts — a dominant position to take and the worst to be in when rolling on the mats. When Harris wasn’t engaging us with his funny stories, he emphasized the importance of drills.
From then on, it was a haze of both excitement and exhaustion. All I remember was getting mounted on, choking my partner from the back, getting accidentally kicked in the head and non-stop drills. I came home that day tired and sporting fresh purple bruises, but overall it was a positive learning experience.
I asked Harris for some valuable wisdom to impart on those who want to learn jiu-jitsu.
“Jiu-jitsu as well as other styles of martial arts require that a person be humble, because to learn and progress and grow requires humility. It requires the understanding that there are people well ahead of you,” Harris tells me.
Champion’s Creed owner and fourth degree black belt in jiu-jitsu, Brian Bird, tells me about how he feels having his direct lineage instructor come back to teach everyone in the gym.
“He obviously [is] massively impactful not just in me learning martial arts, but in how I coach. So I really enjoy watching everybody getting to learn from him…I really enjoy the opportunity [for] my students to get to share in that.”
Bird also mentions the uniqueness of Harris’ teachings.
“[Professor Harris] has lots of great concepts outside of just the techniques. He shows different training methods, different mindsets, and he has a really good ability to look from a panoramic view of how things all fit together so that people start to see a bigger picture of not just the techniques, but how they blend together and how to make them work more functionally.”
I asked Harris if there was anything about the sport that he believes is important to emphasize.
“It has the community and camaraderie component to it. It has a physical, mental challenge to it that feels like a chess game. And so when you combine all of these, it’s great for the mind, it’s great for the body, it’s great for your spirit. It’s great for life in general.”