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‘He’s very special’: Coach amazed by Tom Hardy’s love for jiu-jitsu and competition

Tom Hardy and Carlos Santos
Photo via Carlos Santos

In 2018, English movie star Tom Hardy headed to a boxing club in West London to hit pads. As he laced up his gloves, the star of The Dark Knight Rises, Venom, and other successful movies noticed people strangling each other with their white and blue gis across the room. Hardy starred in an MMA-themed movie back in 2011, Warrior, so he knew what that was about.

Jiu-jitsu coach Carlos Santos was teaching a grappling class, and Hardy decided to give it a try. However, according to Santos, Hardy’s knee wasn’t healthy, and the idea of getting into any grappling exchange on the ground and risking spending weeks or months on crutches was not ideal for a man who needs his body perfectly fit to perform in front to cameras. Santos suggested an introductory class to see what they could do, so Hardy returned the next day for his first Brazilian jiu-jitsu class — and the rest is history.

“He will never stop doing jiu-jitsu anymore,” Santos told MMA Fighting. “Jiu-jitsu is in his blood, in his soul, in his heart.”

Hardy was so hooked that he began doing private classes for three hours a day, Monday through Friday, until the COVID-19 pandemic forced gyms to close all over the world.

Hardy slowed down, but not entirely.

“He’s a great champion,” said Santos, who coached Hardy in a recent no-gi tournament in London, watching his protege clinch a gold medal with a 100-percent finish rate, his third championship win. “He’s very special. He really loves jiu-jitsu. It’s so nice to see someone dedicate like that to the art.”

A black belt under the legendary grappler Roger Gracie, Santos said he instituted a rule in his gym that photos and videos are not permitted when Hardy and other famous students are around, ensuring they can enjoy their classes with privacy.

“He wants to enjoy the art like a normal person,” Santos said. “He always does group classes too. I admire that about him. Famous people usually want private classes. He did that at first so he could understand the art, but then he asked to be on the group class too — and would continue training after the class was over.”

Hardy will be back on the big screens in the coming months and years in all manner of feature films, including Havoc, Venom 3, and The Bikeriders. Santos said the actor, a purple belt in jiu-jitsu, found a way to continue grappling when he’s away from home to film.

“His stuntman trains jiu-jitsu because of him,” Santos said with a laugh. “They practice together when they’re filming. Sometimes I send them videos with exercises, showing what we’re working on in the gym.

“I’m very happy and honored to train him. I was lucky to be on the right place at the right time to work with him. He really is expanding the art. He loves the culture.”

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