Shortly after turning 18 the undefeated Grace Gundrum was awarded her black belt by her instructors Zach Maslany, JM Holland and 10th Planet founder Eddie Bravo. To put this in context she had just received her purple belt a little over a year ago and was promoted to brown belt last November. This is a very quick belt progression by anyone’s standard. However, for those who have not been following Grace Gundrum’s career she has not lost a match in competition since she was twelve years old.
Gundrum, the prodigious phenom (tautology intended for emphasis), started training at age five. In a twist of fate she took over her brother’s contract for Jiu-Jitsu classes. Gundrum eventually ending up at a 10th Planet affiliate in a city that shares the same name as the birthplace of another prominent progeny, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Since then Gundrum has taken the Jiu-Jitsu world by storm. Competing exclusively in submission-only tournaments she has defeated other promising prospects such as Jessa Khan and Alyssa Mia Wilson. Last year Gundrum faced her most decorated opponent in Rikako Yuasa. Yuasa is a four time IBJJF black belt world champion. Yet, Yuasa was unable to defeat Gundrum and the match ended in a draw. Last week, on the night of her black belt promotion, Gundrum’s victim was another up and coming phenom: Danielle Kelly.
The match with Danielle Kelly ended via triple overtime as Gundrum won via fastest escape. Leg locks were exchanged by the two competitors throughout an action packed bout. Two of the overtime rounds started with both competitors choosing to take the other’s back. In the final overtime round Gundrum switched her tactics and chose to start in the spiderweb position. Submissions were attempted by both but they managed to defend and escape each attempt. Under the EBI ruleset, points and judge’s decisions are removed from the equation by offering the competitors an overtime period in which to win after the regulation time has elapsed.
Gundrum’s promotion to black belt, predictably, was met with mixed reactions considering her age. However, it should be noted that although she just turned 18 she has been training for almost 13 years. Also, Gundrum has a 34-0-2 competition record that belies her unassuming stature and young age. It is worth noting that her rank and promotion do not follow IBJJF guidelines. However, she chooses to not participate in IBJJF competitions so this is a moot point.
Not one to put all her eggs in one basket Gundrum is reportedly in the process of choosing a college. If her success in Jiu-Jitsu is any indication of her work ethic and dedication a bright future lies ahead for this propitious competitor.
Danielle Kelly’s armbar from which Grace Gundrum narrowly escaped: