A SCHOOLBOY from Bradford has become a major force in the martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, after being named British and European champion.

Hayden Quirke, eight, first began training in the martial art in August 2015, and did not start competing until the following March.

Since then, he has been on an upward trajectory and in 2018 he enjoyed his most successful year yet, claiming 22 medals in 24 events.

These included 13 gold medals, six silvers and three bronzes, and he was also named the British champion and European Champion for his age in No-Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), when competitors do not wear the usual uniform of a kimono.

He also claimed a silver medal in the World Championships and in the British Championships for his age group in Gi BJJ, when competitors wear their Gi (kimono).

Hayden, from West Bowling, trains at Gracie Barra gym in Beacon Road, Horton Bank Top.

Kelly Quirke, Hayden’s mother, said she and his father cannot put into words how proud she is of his achievements.

She said: “We are immensely proud of Hayden and what he’s done.

“I can’t quite put it into words, and I’m sure his coaches are very proud too.

“When he first started in 2015 he enjoyed it straight away, but also found it quite difficult at first, but, he persevered and trained a lot to improve.

“He lot 11 competitions in a row when he started competing, but he wasn’t deterred and still wanted to keep going and carry on training.

“Last year was amazing, especially considering he is quite small. He weighs 23 kilograms, and some of the boys he goes up against weigh 34kg. He competed in 24 events and won 29 matches, becoming British and European No-Gi champion and getting the world and British silver medals in Gi.

“We travelled all over the UK last year to compete, I can’t remember all the places we went to, it’s his dad who does all the driving. This year we are hoping to travel to Ireland to compete in a NAGA competition.”

The North American Grappling Association (NAGA) organises BJJ tournaments throughout North America and Europe.

Jiu-Jitsu was developed as a way to defeat armed samurai in the 16th Century while using no weapon, instead using pins, throws and joint locks rather than strikes to defeat an opponent.

BJJ was developed when judo was introduced to Brazil by Mitsuyo Maeda in 1914. The emphasis of BJJ switched to ground grappling as it was believed to be a more efficient technique.

The style continues to be popular, particularly in Mixed-Martial Arts competitions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championships.

Keep up with Hayden's progress via Instagram @hayden_bjj.