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ODU Student's Disability Doesn't Keep Him From Achieving His Jiu-Jitsu Blue Belt

By Lisa Suhay

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. Last week, Ryron Gracie, MMA fighter, instructor and Bullyproof co-founder traveled from Torrance, Ca., to tie the belt around Ingram's waist.

"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. "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."

To obtain his belt after more than a year of hard work, Ingram had to demonstrate on video 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.

The video of Ingram's final test went viral on YouTube last month http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSMdjG7IXE8.

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 to get up to the black belt level, but I plan to take it at my own pace."

This article was posted on: November 3, 2010

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