Paul Walker: Ambassador for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
By Ricardo “Franjinha” Miller
As Told to Adam BenShea
Paul Walker first walked into my academy and my life in 2004. It was our old academy. We had one bathroom, no showers, and the mat space could not have been more than 700 square feet. A mutual friend had sent Paul my way, but I did not recognize him when he first walked in the door. In part, it was because he did not carry himself like a movie star, or a Hollywood big shot. Without the burden of a heavy ego, he was easy going with a ready smile. Like the Spartan setting of the gym, he was simple and unpretentious.
Although he came looking for lessons in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, our bond went beyond the student and teacher dynamic. We became fast friends. He brought me down to Ensenada for the filming of “The Life and Death of Bobby Z.” We travelled to L.A to watch the UFC. More recently, Paul had me in Montreal to add a personal touch to the fight scenes in his movie, “Brick Mansions.”
He always wanted to showcase Jiu-Jitsu in his movies. Rather than the punches and kicks so common to many action films, he wanted to use his movies as a stage for Jiu-Jitsu. Some of the Jiu-Jitsu techniques from our training sessions were utilized in the Fast and Furious series. Paul would always tell me that he did not just want to be known for fast cars. He wanted to be known for fast cars and Jiu-Jitsu. He wanted to be an ambassador for Jiu-Jitsu.
His dream fight sequence was to end with a bow and arrow choke. We even worked out a sick Hollywood-style set up for the choke. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
His passion for Jiu-Jitsu extended to his relationship with the Paragon academy. Paul became a regular sight at the academy, showing up with his dog in the bed of the truck. When students would see Paul around town, he was always excited to talk Jiu-Jitsu and was never too busy for anyone in the Paragon family.
As I reflect back on his life, I remember one of our first conversations. Sitting in our gis on the mat, Paul was like many white belts; he wanted to know about becoming a black belt. I told him that at Paragon we don’t give away black belts. I said that I didn’t care who he was, I was not giving him a “celebrity black belt.” He loved that! He said that he knew that he was starting late (he was 31), but he was determined to become a black belt. He said “I will get my black belt, even if I need to get it in my coffin.”
Now in the wake of his death, I would like to reward Paul Walker the black belt that he wanted so much during his life.