Mohamed Itumen was judging a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship last month in Wolverhampton, England. To his surprise, one of the participants was Tom Hardy, a major Hollywood actor with credits from Mad Max: Fury Road to Venom to the Batman franchise. He also starred in the MMA movie “Warrior” in 2011.
Hardy, a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, ended up winning the REORG Open on August 20 – in both gi (traditional martial arts attire) and no-gi tournaments. Hardy competed in the 36 and up class, 85.5 kg in the no-gi and 82.3 kg in the gi. Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which focuses on ground fighting, is one of the main martial arts used in mixed martial arts.
After Hardy’s final win, he and Itomin spoke up. Hardy works with the charity REORG, which helps UK war veterans when they return home. Itomin was running his own tournament, sponsored by REORG, a few weeks later.
“He told me, ‘Get me down, I’m coming,'” Itomin told ESPN. In his funny voice, he said: Trust me.
However, Itomin doubted that Hardy would actually appear. He’s a huge movie star, after all. Three weeks before the tournament, Itomin had regained the scoring list and Hardy’s name was right there. Itomin decided that he would keep it a secret so as not to draw unwanted attention to Hardy’s post. Hardy competed under his real name Edward.
“He is a man of his word,” said Itomin. “It really impressed me.”
And then, at the Ultimate Martial Arts Championships (UMAC) in Milton Keynes, Hardy came out and won again. Competing in the 41-and-over class, Hardy competed in the 82.3-kg GI category and gave all three of his opponents a path to the gold medal.
The man who played the fearsome Batman villain Bane is really skilled in real life.
“It’s really legit,” said Itomin, a second-degree black belt. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, Tom Hardy – he’s just a star.’ No, you can put him on the carpet and he’ll break you.”
Andy Leatherland said there were some whispers about Hardy’s ability to compete at UMAC after his surprise appearance at Wolverhampton. He knew that if Hardy entered the tournament, he would likely be in brackets. The day before the event, the scoring list was published and Leatherland thought he would face “Edward Hardy” in the finals if they both made it. And they did.
Leatherland said the crowd was “bruising to life” during Hardy’s matches and everyone was taking out their phones to record and take pictures.
“Preparing for the final was nerve-wracking,” said Leatherland. “Neither I spoke to him nor him, we were just concentrating on the match. As we went forward and faced each other, there was a realization of who I was facing but when the referee started the match the focus changed to being in the moment and Tom simply became the guy trying to pull me off – and I was thinking about The best way to counter it is to attack.”
Leatherland said he made a mistake and Hardy jumped on his leg and got a straight leg lock.
“It was just another fight but it was clearly not internationally recognized for Tom, so I will remember this fight for a long time,” said Leatherland. Then he talked about his temper on the day I agreed with him [competing]In general, it is difficult and exhausting. He said that given his life is on stage, it’s okay, but jiu-jitsu is real and it affects him just like everyone else.”
On Wednesday, the 45-year-old Hardy posted about his entry into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on Instagram, while also promoting REORG, which he wrote “encourages veterans, active military and first responders to use Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and fitness. Training as a form of therapy to overcome over physical and mental challenges, strengthening social bonds, and improving overall health and well-being.”
“Simple training, for me (as a hobby and special love) has been an essential foundation for developing a deeper sense of inner flexibility, calm and well-being,” Hardy wrote of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. “I cannot stress the importance it has had on my life and my teammates.”
Danny Appleton, a veteran military and REORG member, faced Hardy in the semifinals of the REORG Open last month in the gi division. He said he was surprised to compete against someone as famous as Hardy and was immediately impressed by Hardy’s strength. Hardy made Appleton with a rod after escaping a choke via a hoop and trying to choke a triangle.
“I was very surprised by his strength,” Appleton told ESPN. “He had really good technique going from one serve to the next. Very cool.”
Next, Appleton said he chatted with Hardy, who told him how tight the cross choke was and that he would come and train with him at Gracie Barra Middlesbrough in the future.
“He was headed for Earth,” Appleton said. “He spoke to my kids who are fans and also practice jiu-jitsu. We talked about the charitable REORG and how much he does for them, takes time to compete as well as to be their trustee.”
Etomin believes Hardy, who represents England’s Roger Gracie jiu-jitsu team and trained under Carlos Gomez in Los Angeles, is close to the purple belt and wouldn’t be surprised if Hardy one day gets his black belt.
“I think it’s going to be for a long time,” Itomin said. “I think he will [get his black belt]. He certainly will. He loves it so much he told me it’s an addiction to me.”
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