I am a blue belt masters featherweight BJJ athlete based in Hereford UK at The Combat Academy under Dave Coles.
I'm pretty sure it is a right of passage that any blue belt feels that they need to start a blog, however, I hope that this website will be a reference for myself and possibly some level of help to other competing masters athletes by talking about things that work for me. I already keep spreadsheets for my weight, competition record and training record so I figure I might as well keep them updated here as well as any fight videos that I have.
I plan to write about my training experiences, how I try to stay in shape and good (or bad) products that I stumble across. If you want to read a bit more about my journey to BJJ so far, read on. If not my competition history, videos, sponsors and blog are up above.
Where it began...
I started my martial arts journey with Hanshi Marc Howes in Aberdeen back when I was 15. Back then Marc was still a Sensei and was teaching Ashihara Karate, I was a typical greasy, slightly, angry teen. I did lots of kicking and punching pads and lot's and lots of sparring. It being a full contact squad I learned to take a hit and generally how to control my temper.
When the UFC, Vale Tudo and Pancrase started hitting our shores (mostly on dodgy VHS copies) we shared these around and suddenly realised we needed a ground game, so we started training with various Judoka and a tame Jiu Jitsu instructor called Steve Kilner. It was all pretty... um... robust. We rolled on wooden floors, dislocated joints and spent a reasonable amount of time unconcious. Luckily through the International Ashihara Organisation Marc made contact with John Bluming who is a Dutch pioneer in judo, Kyokushin Karate and mixed martial arts. He started showing us important things like tapping and using mats.
When I hit 21 I made the slightly odd (and hugely regrettable) decision to quit. I was 1st Kyu but I felt that as we were moving into new systems we were ditching the belts and, not that I was particularly worried about the belt, I just started to lose focus. I think if I am honest I was just more into girls than training. I also left Aberdeen where Marc was based and moved to Glasgow.
Marc and John have continued to develop a successful all round fighting system up in Aberdeen and across Europe. If you are in Aberdeen and want to train I would be a fool not to recommend trying out Jigoku Dojo.
Back to the grind...
At 35 I moved to Melbourne Australia. In the intervening years I had joined a few MMA clubs, done a lot of running and gym work but basically not really engaged with martial arts. I would try a club out, then work or girls would get in the way and I would stop training. When I got to Melbourne my wife was working evenings and I decided that I was bored of just staying at my desk and working every night. I knew I wanted to start fighting again and I decided that I was only interested in joining a squad with the name 'Gracie' because that was the name from those grainy VHS days. I might have accepted training with Bas Rutten but he's only got one gym so...
Luckily I found Ben Hall and Carlson Gracie Australia. Pretty much from day one training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) I was hooked (and injured). I spent a load of time on the mats and started competing after about three months. I caught staph twice, definitely broke a rib and spent a reasonable amount of time unconcious. If you are into any martial art you will know it's addictive, in fact if you are into fitness you will know that being fit is addictive and I was that guy; I was on the mats six days a week and I think if someone would have offered me a seventh I would have taken it. I was surrounded by a great squad and made some friends for life. I started logging my progress and when I made blue belt I was able to go back and say I had trained approximately 433.5 hours to get there, which is nerdy and cool. I did my first seven competitions in Australia, five at white and two at blue. I also got the nickname 'Homunculus' for my slightly less than average height, thanks Dieter.
...and then I moved back to the UK.
I was moving to Hereford which really didn't seem to have much of a BJJ scene. With the greatest of respect to Herefordians, I was going from Melbourne where there were about 20 clubs, to a town which had one. Nervously, like a crack addict moving to the North Pole, I spoke to one of my Australian team mates, Vince, who had been in London before Melbourne and asked who I should train with. Without hesitation, and with a slight smile, he said; "Train with Dave Coles.' He seemed pretty confident that I would be ok, and, oddly if you know him, I trust Vince.
After sending Dave a very formal email saying that I wanted to start training I was happy to find that Dave was super laid back. I spoke to Ben about my existing belt and wether it would still be ok to wear it under another instructor, especially as I was switching from Carlson to Barra (creonte I know... read previous note about only one club), and he said it should be fine but I hassled him for a certificate just in case.
It was nervous times. I mean I had attended some other clubs for one off training sessions when I had been away on business or to train with non-Carlson buddies, but this was a big move. Would I be shark tanked for the rest of the year to prove my worth? Would I need to go through some re-training or hazing? Would I not be allowed to see some of the 'secret techniques' until I had properly tested?
The Next Step...
On April 9 2015 (trust me I took a note) I stepped into a new club. The Combat Academy.
...turns out I'm lucky. Dave Coles turned out to be probably one of the best instructors in the UK. Black belt awarded by Braulio Estima, a top IBJJF referee, multiple time international Masters medallist and 5th Dan Judo Black Belt. Also The Combat Academy is a full on competition squad which contains (at time of writing) the UK's number one blue belt adult, Ash Amos, and number one female juvenile grey belt Dali Hopkins, as well as at least ten regularly competing team members. So with this and the huge competition scene in Europe I was able to compete a further nine times in 2015 finishing ranked number three for masters blue belts by the UKBJJA.
And that is where this site comes in. I am learning all the time. Not just Jiu Jitsu but about fitness, flexibility, my longevity as an athlete, diet, discipline and I need somewhere to try and store it all. All martial arts (in my opinion) should be a long game. It's an exercise in being the best version of you you can be. You are going to get beat, injured, disheartened and disillusioned but that's the key, I believe you need to keep thinking about how you can be a better version of you. For me it's not about beating the opponent it's about improving myself and the only way I can do that is to record where I am at regularly, review my progress and plan my next steps.
See you on the mat.