Hatcher wins gold medal at Pan Am Games
Contributed by Community Contributor - Maryville 4/28/2006
Brad Hatcher started training in martial arts when he was 11 years old. Over the years he has won many awards and tournaments. He owns Hatcher's Martial Arts on East Broadway Avenue in Maryville.
This past weekend he took his team to California to compete in the Pan American Games. The Pan Ams is the largest jiujitsu tournament held in the United States. Over 1,000 people competed from seven different countries.
Hatcher has been teaching the art of Gracie jiujitsu for 10 years now and practicing for 13 years. He was the first American in the state of Tennessee to receive a black belt in Gracie jiujitsu.
Hatcher trained for several months for the Pan Ams, grappling with his school and training with some of the top teachers in the country. Swimming and weight lifting were a large part of his training as well.
He beat both opponents from Brazil to win the gold medal in the black belt super heavy weight class. To date Hatcher is the only person in Tennessee to ever win the gold medal in the Pan Ams in the black belt division.
Next Hatcher is getting ready to go to Brazil to compete in the world championships at the end of August. He is looking for local businesses to sponsor his fighting in Rio de Janeiro. For information call 984-3979 or visit online at www.hatchersmartialarts.com.
Pan-Am champ - Maryville man wins jiu-jitsu title
by LaRue Cook
Daily Times Correspondent
Since Brad Hatcher was 11 years old, he has seldom gone a day without a leg being raised or an arm extended.
Caught up in the Bruce Lee/martial arts craze of the '70s, Hatcher would throw punches and kicks at no one in particular for hours until his mom finally enrolled him in karate classes.
"I was always very athletic and loved karate," Hatcher said. "One day I took all my clean clothes, put them in a duffel bag and hung them on a tree for a punching bag. I'm pretty sure I got a spanking for that.''
But the Maryville native probably never thought all the shadowboxing would land him anywhere. Not California, anyway, and most certainly not Brazil.
Yet here he is, 28 years later, celebrating the gold medal he won in the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt division during April's Pan-American Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Los Angeles. And the trip to Rio de Janeiro for a shot at the world title is less than two months away.
"It's really a big honor," Hatcher said. "The Pan-Am is the closest thing jiu-jitsu has to the Olympics, and it is a great accomplishment to win the gold.''
There are three other qualifiers for the world title -- the Asian and European Championships and the Brazilian National -- and like the Pan-Am, the two top competitors will travel to Brazil in August.
Origination of the art
Hatcher, who lives and owns his own martial arts academy in Maryville, is the first American from Tennessee to receive a black belt in Gracie -- also known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is the first competitor from Tennessee to win the gold in the black belt division.
At 6-foot-1, 222 pounds, Hatcher competed as a super heavyweight in the 35 to 40 age group. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) was first developed by the Gracie family in Brazil, and Hatcher had to defeat two natives on his way to the gold, one of which outweighed him by nearly 50 pounds.
Similar to judo, BJJ is considered the premier ground-fighting martial art, specializing in submission grappling. Fighters use techniques for position control in order to gain holds on opponents such as the "choke" or "arm lock.
In competition, competitors are not allowed to strike but can either submit their opponent into "tapping out" or score points for various throws or grabs.
Hatcher forced his first opponent to submit in 1 minute, 30 seconds, and defeated his second opponent, 9-2, after a complete, 10-minute match.
"I was a little surprised," said Jim Lindsay, a fellow Maryville native who has been a karate instructor at Hatcher's academy for 11 years. "I know he dedicates himself to training very, very well. At the same time, I knew the Brazilian competition would be stiff. But he's good.''
In East Tennessee, the art of BJJ is admittedly a bit of an oddity. For Hatcher, however, the self-defense mechanism has been an emotional refuge for the last 13 years.
Although the art is steeped in Japanese and Brazilian tradition dating to the early 20th century, it has just recently become popular in the United States with the rise of the no-holds-barred bouts of Ultimate Fighting Championships. And it was the first of these tournaments in 1993 that caught Hatcher's eye.
Actively training since 1978, Hatcher holds four black belts in other forms of martial arts and has won hundreds of competitions in both karate and kick boxing. But it wasn't until he watched Royce (pronounced Hoy-ce) Gracie win the UFC title in '93 that Hatcher envisioned himself on a much larger scale with jiu-jitsu.
After working his way to a brown belt in the judo ranks, Hatcher attended a seminar led by Royce and brother Rixon (Hix-on) in North Carolina. He made quick friends with the family, whose relatives invented the art, and for 10 years trained under Rixon, traveling to California several times.
"It's a great sport," Hatcher said. "But jiu-jitsu wasn't originally started for sport. It actually has a very complex self-defense aspect to it.''
Self-defense was what originally drew Hatcher to martial arts. Even though he was an imposing physical specimen on the football field for Heritage High School, Hatcher assumed a meek persona in the hallways.
"I had no self-esteem. I was fearless on the football field, but if someone picked on me, I wouldn't stand up for myself," he said. "(Martial arts) gave me self-respect. It also gave me the spirit not to quit.''
Early on, the internal drive that jiu-jitsu provides was essential for Hatcher. He remembers well the days when only one student would turn out for some of his jiu-jitsu and karate classes.
Now, there are 150 members enrolled at the 7,500-sqaure foot Hatcher's Martial Arts Academy on East Broadway Avenue, where he and 10 other instructors conduct classes in karate, jiu-jitsu, kick boxing and mixed martial arts.
Hatcher said students range from ages 4 to 54 and are both male and female.
His wife Amanda also teaches yoga and Pilates, while his 11-year-old daughter is a brown belt in karate and his 5-year-old son has already begun training; his 8-month-old son will be in the gym as soon as he can.
For now, Hatcher will continue to train vigorously in preparation for the world title, but he envisions a much quieter time with his family in the future.
"Running the academy is my full-time job, and I plan for my kids to take over when they get old enough -- I'm an old man now," he said with a laugh.