The aim is to return from the 2019 Junior World Championships in Jiu Jitsu with gold — and Joe Gray has a year to prepare.
The 11-year-old from Thetford is already a little fighting machine, recently bringing home gold and bronze from the Havering Interclubs tournament in London at the weekend.
And he did this despite having to fight several categories above his weight boundary, with no fighters of his level available.
Joe, who trains at Carlson Gracie Gym in Thetford, usually competes in the under-34kg but, with no match available at the event, he competed in the under-42 kg event and the under-50 kg event, and was able to still win gold and bronze respectively.
Dad Joe Gray senior said Joe was disappointed with ‘only’ taking bronze in the under-50 kg category, as a marker of his competitive nature, and he now turns his gaze to the National Championships at the end of the month.
Held over Easter weekend, the annual junior tournament for under-16s will be in Wolverhampton. Joe, who is sponsored by Jiu Jitsu clothing company Faixa Preta, will compete in both the gi and no-gi styles, although he has said he prefers the former.
The youngster said he is ‘confident and excited’ about the upcoming event, as he targets a win.
His dad said Joe is adamant he wants to one day obtain his black belt which, he said, can take somewhere between 15 to 20 years in Jiu Jitsu.
“He’s a determined and competitive kid,” he said.
“He had an incredible year last year with gold at the British Open, English Open and double gold at the European Championships and wants to build on that this year.
“The goal is to go to the Pan-am Kids Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championships — the Junior World Championships effectively — in February next year.
“It’s the biggest tournament at junior level in the sport, he’s had a few friends compete at the event, held in California each year, and he’s determined. He’s set his sights on gold.
“So he has just under a year to develop even further, although he’s already very skilled and ahead of other kids his age. We’re really proud parents already.”
The family were full of praise for the role of coach Lee Doski, who they see as crucial to Joe’s development.