In the days after Paul Walker’s tragic death, the outpouring of support has been endless. So overwhelming, in fact, that the Fast & Furious star’s family and friends have been moved by the incredibly touching messages of love.
And these kind gestures of remembrance keep coming in honor of the fallen star.
Ricardo “Franjinha” Miller, Walker’s Jiu-Jitsu instructor for nine years, wanted to honor his friend with something he worked so hard for and strived for… and in his death, Walker achieved his goal.
In a posting on Miller’s Paragon Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu website, Miller tells the story of his first impression of the modest movie star in 2004, their intimate conversation he’ll never forget, and how the actor’s passion for martial arts led to the decision to give Walker a black belt in memoriam.
“A mutual friend had sent Paul my way, but I did not recognize him when he first walked in the door,” said Miller. “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. Like the Spartan setting of the gym, he was simple and unpretentious.”
Their bond, Miller added, went beyond the Jui-Jitsu studio in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“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,” he remembered. “More recently, Paul had me in Montreal to add a personal touch to the fight scenes in his movie, Brick Mansions,” Miller said.
Walker, he said, was determined to showcase his love of the sport as its ambassador on the the big screen.
“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,” he added. “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.”
They even choreographed a scene Wallker hoped would one day make it into one of his action films.
“His dream fight sequence was to end with a bow and arrow choke. We even worked out a sick Hollywood-style set up for the choke. Unfortunately, it was not to be,” he said.
And despite his fame and fortune, Walker just wanted to be one of the students.
“Paul became a regular sight at the academy, showing up with his dog in the bed of the truck,” added Miller. “When students would see Paul around town, he was always excited to talk Jiu-Jitsu and was never too busy for anyone in the Paragon family.”
So, in the same way Walker touched his life, Miller is returning the sentiment with a heartbreaking and touching tribute.
“As I reflect back on his life, I remember one of our first conversations. Sitting in our gis on the mat, Paul was like many white belts; he wanted to know about becoming a black belt,” said Miller. “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! He said that he knew that he was starting late (he was 31), 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,” he added, “I would like to reward Paul Walker the black belt that he wanted so much during his life.”
In the end, honoring Paul in this way was an easy choice to make.
“Paul was both an actor and unique person/martial artist. He understood in a depth that few men have,” Miller continued on Facebook. “He was tasked in the past few years to spread in the big screen the martial art that we all love. While he knew and understood the Bjj moves, Paul’s kindness and actions in life on and off the mat showed that he had a far greater understanding of the martial art spirit as a whole. For that reason and conversations between us in later years, I believe that Paul was the true modern father of this particular martial art system and honors [sic] him as such.
“Jiu Jitsu is not just tournament medals or showed moves in the proper way. Is not just ‘bust your ass on the mat every single day.’ It is about commitment to the art, to help others in need, keep always improving your soul until you die and the more important one avoid get stuck in the sins of life. Paul was a person that a lot of us should use as a model in our live [sic].”
Miller even shared candid photos from his own personal album filled with many memories with Walker:
“I know he will reach it one day,” Miller posted of Walker’s dream of a black belt. “So in his memory, I presented it to his Dad at his family memorial.”
In a tear-jerking Facebook message Miller posted Nov. 30, the day Walker died in a fiery car crash, he wrote of his longtime friend: “No words can describe my feeling right now, just RIP Bro. Your kindness and friendship will be missed. I just can’t believed [sic] it. But, I want to thank you for the great times and memories that we shared together. I will Never forget It. Go in peace my friend.”
Miller helped train Walker for the fight scenes in his final film, Brick Mansions. He shared a behind-the-scenes look at the two in action on Facebook.