6-Year-Old Wins First Ever Joe Van Brackle BJJ Scholarship

Is someone chopping onions in here? Because this adorable child definitely just fulfilled the last promise an inspiring grappler made to his best friend and training partner who died a tragic death:

Raiden Rodriguez, happy new scholarship winner.

You may remember our profile last September of Evan Robinson, whose jiu-jitsu journey with best friend Joe VanBrackle is the stuff of inspirational Hollywood movie dreams. The short version:

Tough city kid Evan Robinson meets hardscrabble white boy Joe VanBrackle after the latter uses martial arts to kick some asses. The two become unlikely besties, living together in a cheap apartment with jiu-jitsu mats instead of proper furniture, dreaming of BJJ greatness. But then Robinson gets into trouble with the law, ending up incarcerated while VanBrackle tours the world ascending the ranks into martial arts mastery. Robinson secretly trains grappling in prison, VanBrackle gets his black belt–this is where the montage of both training should happen, maybe set it to a new inspirational duet by Common and John Legend that later wins an Academy Award, I don’t know I’m just spitballing here–and the two reunite after Robinson is released from prison a new man. But then VanBrackle dies an unexpected death too young. Bereft and heartbroken, Robinson swears to start a scholarship in his best friend’s name to help rescue at-risk youth by giving them the same help and outlet VanBrackle gave to him through jiu-jitsu.

Today, Robinson (now an upstanding businessman and blue belt under Renzo Gracie) announced Raiden Rodriguez as the recipient of his dream come true, the Robinson VanBrackle Scholarship. Rodriguez, age 6, will begin training under Michael Padilla at Padilla Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

According to Robinson, Rodriguez was picked because: “He’s the coolest 6-year-old you’d ever want to meet. He sees the world as Rainbows and Superheros, as every kid should, however we all know that the world we live in can be cruel at times to those that have the biggest hearts. We hope this jump start into martial arts will greatly prepare this awesome kid for his journey ahead as he gets older and learns all the amazing lessons that Jiu-Jitsu offers.”

Rodriguez’s training and equipment will be covered by the scholarship for as long as it is funded, so if you’d like to support this beautiful community moment please contact Robinson via Facebook by clicking here, or just donating to them.

Alternatively, if you are a Hollywood mogul looking to turn this into the story of inspiration and personal accountability that it is, please consider Michael B. Jordan or Daniel Kaluuya in the role of Robinson and, let’s say, Liams Hemsworth as VanBrackle? Suggestions welcome:

The Real Robinson and VanBrackle.

Robinson signed off by thanking his inspiration, and speaking more words of positivity into existence which is what, well, Evan Robinson does:

“I’d like to thank my Brother who is no longer here physically but I’m sure is watching from above, Joe VanBrackle, for introducing me to this amazing art back in 1995. I’d like to thank my Board of Directors, Don Stone and Jeanette Rilling, for helping me now and putting up with my crazy future-self as I come up with all kinds of ways to get kids into Jiu-Jitsu. And I’d like to thank you, my friends and family and anyone who donated to help make this a dream come true for both Joe and I. We can change the world one kid at a time, and I truly believe Jiu-Jitsu is just one of the many ways this can happen. Teach the youth, discipline, confidence, perseverance, in an atmosphere where they become part of a family, and the results are amazing. Thank You All.”

Congratulations Evan, Raiden, and Joe!


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