Paul Walker is being remembered by more than just his family and costars. His Jiu-Jitsu teacher Ricardo "Franjinha" Miller, who trained the late actor during the Fast and Furious franchise for nine years, has posted a heartfelt message about the star, and has given him an honorary black belt in memoriam.
Walker and Miller first met in 2004 when Walker was 31. What started as just training led to a longtime bond and relationship between the two men, and between the actor and the Paragon Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing academy.
"A mutual friend had sent Paul my way, but I did not recognize him when he first walked in the door. In part, it was because he did not carry himself like a movie star, or a Hollywood big shot. Without the burden of a heavy ego, he was easy going with a ready smile," Miller said (as told to Adam BenShea) on the program's website on Tuesday, Dec. 10. "Like the Spartan setting of the gym, he was simple and unpretentious. Although he came looking for lessons in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, our bond went beyond the student and teacher dynamic. We became fast friends. He brought me down to Ensenada for the filming of The Life and Death of Bobby Z. We travelled to L.A to watch the UFC. More recently, Paul had me in Montreal to add a personal touch to the fight scenes in his movie, Brick Mansions."
"He always wanted to showcase Jiu-Jitsu in his movies. Rather than the punches and kicks so common to many action films, he wanted to use his movies as a stage for Jiu-Jitsu," Miller continued. "Some of the Jiu-Jitsu techniques from our training sessions were utilized in the Fast and Furious series. Paul would always tell me that he did not just want to be known for fast cars. He wanted to be known for fast cars and Jiu-Jitsu. He wanted to be an ambassador for Jiu-Jitsu."
Walker never earned a black belt, but Miller remembers one conversation in particular with the handsome star. "Paul was like many white belts; he wanted to know about becoming a black belt. I told him that at Paragon we don’t give away black belts. I said that I didn’t care who he was, I was not giving him a 'celebrity black belt.' He loved that!" Miller recalled.
"But he was determined to become a black belt. He said, 'I will get my black belt, even if I need to get it in my coffin.' Now in the wake of his death, I would like to reward Paul Walker the black belt that he wanted so much during his life." (Miller also shared a collage of the men in their Jiu-Jitsu robes.)
Walker died at the age of 40 in a fiery car crash in Southern California on Nov. 30. His friend and business advisor Roger Rodas, who had been driving at the time, lost control of his Porsche Carerra GT and smashed it into a tree and street light pole. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.