A TALENTED local artist has won gold at the European IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Paris less than five months after receiving his black belt.

Mark Woods, 64, started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) at Kendal Martial Arts Club in 2015.

It was here that he met his coach and mentor Sam Kaye, Europe’s first disabled BJJ black belt and founder of the Lake District BJJ Academy.

Whilst running his own art studio in Kendal, Woods became hooked with BJJ after watching a documentary about the sport.

Woods trained diligently under Kaye’s tutelage and soon earned his blue, purple and brown belts in quick succession, whilst competing in local and national tournaments.

He was awarded his black belt in September 2023 but chose not to rest on his laurels.

Instead, he set his sights on the most prestigious and competitive tournament in the continent; the European IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

The event in January 2024 attracted over 4,000 athletes from across the globe, including some of the best black belts in the sport.

Woods entered the master seven Middleweight division and eventually overcame an opponent in the final that had been at black belt level for over six years.

Speaking after his momentous achievement, Woods said: “Winning the European Championships at black belt was a major goal of mine and to bring the gold back to Kendal felt amazing.”

His coach, Sam said: “Mark is one of the hardest workers in the gym and an inspiration to many, not only in the BJJ community, but also in the art world.

“He shows that age is no barrier to pursuing one’s dreams and that hard work and dedication pay off.

“I’m so proud of him for putting himself out there and working hard on the lead up to this competition.

“I’m so pleased I got to be there to support him in Paris. He is a true example of an artist who conquered Europe in Jiu-Jitsu.”