COSTA MESA — It's pretty impressive whenever a student of the Gracie Barra school of Brazilian jiu-jitsu gets a black belt.
Even more impressive is when one of those students is 78.
Gene Pace was awarded his black belt Thursday night during a ceremony after his regular twice-weekly class and sparring session at the Costa Mesa studio.
More than 100 of Pace's friends and supporters showed up to see his milestone.
"It was overwhelming. And last night..." Pace started with a pause, then laughed. "Well, it was a little emotional."
The Whittier resident has been training under the Costa Mesa school's founder and instructor, Mike Buckels, for more than 15 years.
"He's Mr. Consistency. He never misses a class, not ever," said Buckels, who holds a black belt in jiu-jitsu, as well as kru in Muay Thai kickboxing.
In those 15 years, before Pace, Buckels had only awarded one other jiu-jitsu black belt, and it was to another instructor.