NORFOLK, VA. – Jiu-Jitsu isn’t for everyone, but it is for Eric Ingram, the first quadriplegic in the world to earn a blue belt from the legendary Gracie Family. On Saturday morning Ryron Gracie, MMA fighter, instructor and Bullyproof co-founder traveled from Torrance, Ca. to tie the belt around Ingram’s waist and see for himself if the techniques used by Ingram are “legit.”
Gracie was not disappointed when he made a move on Ingram and was taken down and tapped out with a kimura that could easily have snapped his arm.
“Legit all the way,” Gracie said. “My Grandfather would have been really happy about this because jiu-jitsu is mean for the smaller, weaker opponent. Everyone should be able to do it and now I see that everyone can.”
Ingram, 20, a physics student at Old Dominion University here has spent the past two years working with his brother Troy, 22, a Gracie instructor, to modify the Gracie Combatives program to create practical, “real life” applications for those who are differently abled.
“I tried karate for a year but there’s too much stand-up technique and it just turned into me watching everyone else do it,” said Ingram, 20, a physics major at Old Dominion University here who. “With Gracie Combative it’s mainly groundwork and the other techniques we were able to adapt to meet my needs.”
By “we” Ingram is referring to his brother Troy Ingram a certified Gracie instructor and Norfolk Karate Academy Owner William Odom. “I would go to group classes and get these crazy ideas on how to try moves. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it was just funny.”
Eric Ingram is a member of the East Coast Cripplers, a quad rugby team here in Hampton Roads and no stranger to grit, danger and determination. The brothers have worked together for a year in private sessions to prepare for the five, videotaped tests in which Eric had to do what Rener Gracie termed, “doing all the moves in a totally legit fashion to show he could really make a practical application of all the moves.” To obtain his belt after more than a year of hard work, Ingram had to demonstrate on video tape that he could perform all 36 Gracie Combatives moves in a series of four tests and then run a fight simulation with his brother as partner.
While the techniques were modified, Ingram’s arm strength and determination gave him what he needed to achieve his goal.
The video of Ingram’s final test went viral on YouTube last month youtube.com/watch?v=fSMdjG7IXE8. The video of Saturday’s ceremony can be seen online vimeo.com/16349697.
Gracie Bullyproof Co-Founder Rener Gracie, likened Eric Ingram’s spirit to that of the Gracie Patriarch, “In his modified blue belt test, Eric demonstrates a level of resourcefulness and adaptiveness that can only be likened to that which Grand Master Helio Gracie used to modify the Japanese Jiu-Jitsu techniques. To the Grand Master, nothing was more fulfilling than to empower the weak against the strong, and there is little doubt that seeing Eric's adaptation his art would have moved him greatly.”
While individuals in wheelchairs are often seen as a taboo target to would-be attackers, Ingram says he has had some close calls since starting college life.
“I have never been in a physical altercation, but that possibility is not completely out the window,” he said, “There have been many times one could have occurred at a college party or social setting. I am much more comfortable knowing a form of self-defense I can really do properly and rely on.”
He added, “I hope many, many years from now get up to the black belt level, but I plan to take it at my own pace.”