Establishing Queenstown’s own Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy has been a nine-year labour of love for Jose Gomes.
When he arrived from his native South America, he was one of the only practitioners of the submission-based grappling art in the country and struggled to find anyone to even train with.
Since then, the black belt martial artist has spent countless hours `rolling’ with people on mats across the resort – slowly building interest in the sport.
Now his academy - the sole New Zealand arm of the top worldwide school Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu - has opened its own gym, with a core of committed students, and a national champion in its ranks.
“It’s been difficult in Queenstown because so many people come and go,” Gomes, 32, says.
“Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu takes a long time to learn and it’s hard to find committed students.
“But interest in the sport has grown across NZ and all around the world since I started teaching in 2006.
“We’ve about 30 students and now our own gym – it’s a proud moment.”
The academy moved into its new 80-square-metre gym at Glenda Drive earlier this month.
In November, Gomes’ top student and fellow academy instructor Renan Secco won two national brown belt titles in his weight class.
Gomes and Secco, along with long-term student Ben Boyce, have been invited to the prestigious Artaxias submission-only contest in Wellington in March.
“It’ll be a very good event - some of the best grappling in NZ,” Gomes says.
“There’s no points, it’s submission only – one 20-minute round and the only way to win is to get a submission.”
Gomes has been training in Ju Jitsu since 1998, and has trained with Rogerio Leite from Carlson Gracie Curitiba, Brazil, since 2008.
Leite promoted Gomes to a black belt in 2012. His lineage is Leitre, Alexandre Penao, Carlson Gracie Snr, Carlos Gracie, to father of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Mitsuya Maeda – who won 2000 no-holds barred fights and was billed as ‘the toughest man who ever lived’.
“It has everything,” Gomes says of BJJ. “It gives you health, teaches you respect and it’s very social too.”
The academy has classes for all abilities, from beginner to experienced, and also runs Thai boxing classes.