Perryville jiu-jitsu instructor Chad Morrison received a special honor Saturday in recognition of his work supporting law enforcement and bullying prevention when he was named Most Distinguished Man of the Year and inducted into the Universal Martial Arts Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Houston.
“It was very humbling to be a part of this and see so many people of all backgrounds,” Morrison said. “I think I was the only jiu-jitsu person there.”
Morrison, 42, an Army veteran, began his martial arts journey in the 1990s, when he began practicing judo in high school. Morrison trained for several years until the class shut down.
A few years later, a meeting with Matt Hughes led him to a brief career in mixed martial arts.
“I’ve always been a fan of UFC, even when it was still illegal,” Morrison said, “and I went down to a match and met Matt Hughes. Everyone was taking pictures with him and then walking away, but I stayed and talked to him.”
Morrison asked for advice on getting started in the sport, and spent the rest of the evening meeting trainers and handing out his contact information, telling them he would be available for any last-minute fights.
It wasn’t long before he found one.
Morrison, fighting as an amateur, lost his first two matches, but then won his next four before a knee injury took him out of the cage.
Later, because of his MMA experience, Morrison was invited to join a small jiu-jitsu class with an instructor who held a purple belt in Gracie jiu-jitsu, a variant of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which focuses on ground fighting and grappling techniques. Morrison was hooked.
“I loved it,” Morrison said.
His competitive nature soon resurfaced and he began eyeing tournaments.
“I wanted to see if what I was paying for was doing any good,” Morrison said. “I was reading Black Belt magazine and saw an ad for a tournament in Memphis, and decided to give it a shot. I got a gold and silver medal that first time.”
As a white belt, Morrison won more than 30 tournaments, including Double Gold U.S. Nationals Champion in 2012, Missouri Heavyweight Champion in 2013 and Missouri Ultra Heavyweight and Heavyweight State Champion in 2014.
That same year, he opened his own academy, Perryville Jiu Jitsu, with the goal of helping people both on the mat and off. Since that time, Morrison has been involved in many community betterment projects, highlighted by his decision to allow law enforcement and military members to train free and a bully prevention program.
Morrison’s decision to provide free training for law enforcement grew out of an experience he had in 2016, when he and his son Kobe were attending a camp in Dallas. While they were at the camp, a man ambushed and killed five Dallas police officers and injured nine others, along with two civilians.
“There were a lot of law enforcement people [at the camp] and they were getting phone calls from wives, husbands and kids wanting to know if they were alright,” Morrison said. “Then the next day, we saw officers out on the street doing their jobs. They didn’t even take a day to grieve. I wanted to do something for them.”
As for the bullying prevention program, Morrison, a Perryville High School alum, wanted to give kids the tools they need to stop or deescalate bullying.
“We teach the three Ts,” Morrison said. “That’s ‘talk, tell and tackle.’ We teach them to talk first, then if that doesn’t work to tell a teacher or something. If that doesn’t stop the situation, then we teach them to tackle, just to stop the situation.”
During his years studying jiu-jitsu, Morrison trained under Lawrence Fleming-Rener, J.W. Wright, and Brian Imholz-Royler, before joining the BQuick Network under Professor Brandon Quick and receiving his blue and purple belts.
After leaving BQuick, Morrison, who now holds a brown belt under Professor Rey Diogo and the Carlson Gracie team, trained and taught under his own flag, eventually opening a second academy in Sparta, Ill. He has plans for more in the future.
“I’mπ looking at a new location right now,” Morrison said. “I want to keep growing. That’s kind of my exit plan. I want to retire, and then go around to all my different schools and teach jiu-jitsu.”
A big part of making that happen will be Morrison’s son, Kobe. Just 18, the younger Morrison holds a purple belt and is already an instructor and Chad’s right-hand man, coaching students at both locations.
“He started when he was nine and he had his 10th birthday on the mat,” Morrison said. “I couldn’t have done any of this without him right by my side in the trenches.”