BJJ legend Roy Harris has just been promoted to coral belt by Joe Moreira, making him just the third non-Brazilian person to ever reach this rank. Because it takes several decades of dedication to the sport to earn a coral belt, it’s an incredibly rare honor that very few BJJ practitioners will ever receive. Couple that with the fact that the sport was almost entirely confined to Brazil in it’s early days and it makes sense why there are so few non-Brazilians out there who have reached this level.
Roy Harris began his journey all the way back in the 1980s when he first started learning a wide range of martial arts. He began training under Dan Inosanto, one of Bruce Lee’s students and current 5th degree BJJ black belt, when he moved to California in 1986. He discovered Jiu-Jitsu through his time training under Inosanto, as he was introduced to the martial art by another student there. It was December 1990 when he first walked into the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California and the Gracie family had sent several instructors to teach at the location. Rickson Gracie and Royler Gracie both taught there at this point in time; and it was Royler who gave Harris his blue belt.
Both of them left eventually, with Rickson opening his own gym and Royler returning to Brazil to take over Gracie Humaita. Harris wasn’t left alone though, as Royce Gracie was still teaching in Torrance and he continued taking private lessons under Rorion Gracie too. Harris even began learning Sambo techniques and teaching self-defense classes himself, although this proved to be the thing that led to the breakdown of his relationship with the Gracie Academy. He was asked to pay substantially higher fees as a result of him teaching classes at another location, so he left to train with the Machado brothers, Nelson Monteiro and Rickson Gracie again.
His relationships with Rickson Gracie and the Machado brothers broke down for various reasons, as inter-gym politics was a prevalent problem during this time in the growth of the sport. After briefly considering giving up Jiu-Jitsu altogether, Roy Harris found the man who would eventually give him his coral belt. John Machado put Harris in touch with Joe Moreira and that was who Harris stayed with for the rest of his journey through the belt ranks. He was promoted to purple belt in 1994, brown belt in 1996, and black belt in 1998; achieving the rank when only a handful of non-Brazilians had ever done so.
Roy Harris announced the news that he had been promoted to coral belt by Joe Moreira in a recent post to his official Instagram account: