Saturday, 20 March 2010
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
This time we were being hosted by Spenna and Team Fulinkazan over in sunny Bradford on the warmest day of the year so far.
To keep things fresh we changed (most of) the coaches this time as I feel it is important for all our students to have experience of different coaching styles, I don’t pretend that I know everything and with so much talent in our group it makes sense.
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
The combative art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a deep and complex fighting system that spawned the, now legendary, Vale Tudo matches in Brazil. The phrase Vale Tudo literally translated from the Portuguese means "everything is valid" or as you may know it 'No Holds Barred'. This particular form of competition was the forerunner for what is now termed Mixed Martial Arts or Cagefighting as popularised by the Ultimate Fighting Championships held in the USA since 1993.
The idea was simple; the Jiu Jitsu practitioner would fight any other style of martial art to prove the efficiency of their system in a match that had few rules and no time limits. The vastness of this ever evolving martial art is such that there has only ever been 20 British born black belts so far, now meet #21 our very own Darren Currie.
So you just got your black belt, how does it feel?
It feels kind of strange to be honest; the belt feels 'heavy' as they say but I'm growing into it.
When I first started training you were lucky getting to train with a black belt at all, the prospect of home grown UK black belts was a long way off. The only time I got to train with a black belt was when there was a seminar with someone who had travelled in specifically from Brazil or USA. I guess we are indebted to these guys for doing what they did and laying a foundation for the UK scene to be built allowing the level of home grown Jiu Jitsu to flourish to the point that we have our own black belts now. We have really come a long way in 10 years or so.
It is also a privilege to be part of the 1st generation of UK Jiu Jitsu instructors, there are some very talented people passing on our art to the next generation but I guess that is our responsibility to keep the art flowing and passing it down teaching others as we ourselves were taught.
Does it change things at all?
Yes I think it does change things, with greater reward comes greater responsibility. I have black belts in other martial arts but the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt feels like there is more responsibility with it. Maybe because there are not that many of us in the UK compared to something like Taekwondo for example, I trained Taekwondo for about 10 years and saw some really good black belts and some pretty poor black belts too whereas I have NEVER seen a poor Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt.
I would also say that being a black belt brings a much higher level of expectation, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts across the board will strive to meet this high level whereas, in my experience, some black belts from other arts fall a little short.
Again maybe because there are a relatively small amount of black belts in the country that the expectation from them is so high providing some extra motivation to keep improving all the time, not just in your own personal training but also in the coaching and just as you are as a person.
I also think that there are some brown belts in this country that are black belt standard and have just not yet been promoted for whatever reason. We are at a stage where there are quite a few of us who have trained 10+ years so I would imagine more black belts will be imminent.
How did it come about and what did you have to do for it?
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is very informal compared to the majority of martial arts so there is no pomp and ceremony to my promotion. I was grappling some big guy who pulled up my gi top, my coach ran over and whipped me across the back with a belt, threw the belt to me and said 'congratulations, you're a black belt now' then just went back to training.
What did I have to do for it? Quite simple, I had to dedicate myself to training for about 14 or 15 years, make a lot of sacrifices, competed to test myself under pressure, taught to help spread the art and travelled to get some instruction/practice with some top guys. Reduced my hours at work to enable me to train more for the last 3 years and spend countless amounts of money to travel to train abroad a bunch of times.
My friend Simon Hayes, himself a black belt & instructor with the Carlson Gracie Revolution Team, sent me a message when I just got promoted that included "Many years of dedication, time, patience and injuries have been duly recognised".
This sums it up for me perfectly
I believe your wife is a black belt too, how is it being a black belt couple?
I guess it's pretty good most of the time; we wear matching outfits for training.
It's good always having an experienced partner to bounce ideas off and work on new stuff with before we introduce it into the classes. She doesn't moan at me taking over the TV for hours to watch fight footage because she would rather watch that with me than some crap reality show instead.
She has been a black belt for a couple of years now, the first and only female black belt in the UK, there only being one other female black belt in Europe I believe. She is pretty awesome.
It's a pity that she got a competition career ending injury (sacral iliac joint) because I'm sure that she could have been world champion. Watching her spar with some of the world's best was amazing.
On top of that she is 50kg and will train with anyone; the closest guy in weight at our gym is still 68/70kg that is a massive +40% body weight difference. Imagine if everyone in the gym was way stronger than you and everyone outweighed you by at least 40% of your bodyweight, how would you do every session.
She exemplifies Jiu Jitsu, the smaller guy beating the bigger guy and that is why she is a black belt!!
Whilst all this sounds awesome and most guys think it is great that your wife would train with you so you don't get grief for being at the gym all the time, there is a downside. Imagine if you argue with your wife who doesn't train, you escape to the gym for a couple of hours for some "rolling Zen" and forget about her. I don't have that luxury!!
In what way does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu differ from other martial arts?
It differs from most other martial arts because of the training methodology but it is not unique, it shares this kind of training with other 'alive' arts and combat sports such as Judo and Sombo to name but a few. This is why I believe that these 2 examples make perfect add-ons to your Jiu Jitsu base.
With an awful lot of other martial arts there is usually one person doing something and their partner being compliant so the thing they are trying 'works'. With Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, more often that not, you have resistance. You start off trying to apply your technique on a partner offering some resistance then the better you get at applying the technique the more resistance you get in return until you can work the technique correctly against 100% resistance.
Another thing is about belt promotions. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is all based on performance, if you can do it then you are good enough, most other martial arts just have a syllabus that you have to complete which usually involves some kind of kata or pre-determined moves then you can get your next belt.
I went from being an absolute beginner in martial arts to black belt in Taekwondo in 3 years with no prior experience; it took me longer than that to get my first belt in Jiu Jitsu.
Have you competed at all? Who was your toughest opponent?
Yes I have competed in every different style I have done. I think it is crucial to try competition even if it is only once just for the experience of the pressure and having to perform efficiently under stressful situations.
Competing has many benefits but one of the main things for me is that it helps you to overcome yourself. To hear the voice inside your head telling you that you will lose, you will be embarrassed and everyone on the internet will think you are no good, then over-ride that and still compete anyway regardless of the outcome, that's the healthy way. Whether you win or lose the sporting contest has no real world consequence and changes nothing, when you wake up the morning after, you are still you, you just hurt less if you won ;0)
Competition helps you overcome that fear because as long as you try then you never really lose.
I love this quote from Rafael Mendes, one of the best BJJ competitors around at the moment "You learn more from defeat than from victory because winning makes you celebrate and think the mistakes you made were not enough to harm you. Now in defeat you analyze every second and it makes you reflect more.
Everything is Jiu Jitsu is always a lesson learned.
I tell my students to try competition and have these 4 rules for competing;
- If you agree to compete, make sure you turn up and honour your commitment
- Br professional, be prepared and make weight
- Give 100% and do the best you can do
- Enjoy the experience and learn from it
I fought some very tough opponents and even though it's obvious and maybe even a little clichéd but my toughest opponent was always my wife............just kidding, the toughest opponent is always yourself for reasons including but not limited to the reasons as above.
Any time I got worried about the small stuff I would read Man In The Arena etc, the most inspirational quote I ever read.
You have your own gym?
Yes, we are based in Pontefract in West Yorkshire but we also have other gyms affiliated to us for Jiu Jitsu although that wasn't always the case.
When we first started the gym it was purely through necessity, we needed somewhere to train and people to train with so we had to form our own team and take it from there. I had no intention of becoming a coach again but that's how it worked out.
There was only me and my wife so someone had to be the coach, I lost the rock, paper, scissors so I became coach.
The building itself is pretty basic and not what you would imagine of a gym, certainly nothing like the purpose built martial arts gyms that are available now. I call it a gym rather than an academy, school, dojo or something else more martial arts related because it's where people train hard in an athletic activity. I have been to martial arts schools where there has been no energy, no sweat flying, no anything yet they still call it training. That's not my idea of training.
Even though it is a very modest little place we have still produced some excellent competitors, with people training at the gym for everything from local tournaments right up to European and World Championships as well as the guys that we have fighting Mixed Martial Arts too.
Which role do you prefer competitor or coach?
I was kind of forced into the role of coach that I grew into so that is the role I prefer, I guess it's what you get used to.
The feeling that you get from seeing someone who came in to train with no prior athletic training, was overweight, no confidence or anything become a competitive athlete, to see them improve their lives, improve their confidence and grow.
This has happened so many times but the feeling is always awesome. Helping people goes way beyond the feeling I get from personal achievement. Seeing my wife get her black belt and knowing that I had helped her and coached her all the way was more satisfying than getting my own.
One of my favourite students was Gloria. She turned up training one day, a woman with no confidence, no self worth and the victim of domestic violence when her bouncer boyfriend had too much to drink. I worked some stuff exclusively to prepare her for the day in which she would stand her ground. That day came after around 6 months of regular training. He came home after a few beers, one thing led to another and he went to pin her against the wall, she deflected his force, kneed him in the balls then dropped him to his knees by a right hook to his jaw. As he looked up in disbelief she smashed him in the head with a vase and knocked him out. When he came around, she drove him to A&E to get stitches, after which he treated her with much more respect.
Isn't attitude adjustment awesome?
Saying this I looked into doing the Europeans in Portugal this year but was going to be too damn expensive. Was going to cost around the same money for me and Helen to go for a couple of days as it would to fly to LA for a week and stay at our coach's house, train every day, go to the beach every day and get some sun. Not much of a choice for me.
How do you view training as a 'senior' athlete?
For me personally the keys are quality training, rest and recovery, this has been at any point in my martial arts career but especially as a senior.
I started working full time again at the beginning of this year and so far had not had much of an injury, a few strains but not real injury and feel that I have improved, I guess by getting the recent promotion, this is validated. Last year when I was training everyday, I seemed to always be carrying an injury so I was getting more training time but less quality.
What I will do now is get quality, intense training time with our team. Gone are the days of training all day, now it's 2 hours short, sharp, shock. Get the work done then get the hell out of there. I have a great bunch of guys to train with no matter what we are doing - gi, no gi, Judo, MMA, whatever it is they are pushing me all the time.
Immediately after training I get my Aminoload advanced drink to get my recovery started immediately. After the drink I stretch a little to try to dispel the lactic acid build up. Whenever I get chance I will use the foam roller (self myofacial massage) to iron the muscles out again but more often than not I will pester my wife for a massage. She is a qualified masseuse currently studying sports massage so I am her guinea pig anyway but if you are an athlete and you don't get massaged then you are really missing out.
If I am hurting I will use heat/cold treatment if I have to but really dislike this, it's just necessary sometimes.
Correct nutritional is crucial pre and post workout to achieve your maximum potential.
I try to get in the occasional session of weight training, just a little strength training to help support my joints. I had a lot of trouble with my knee last year, I had a MCL partial tear with some bursitis and some tissue damage so after missing 4 weeks of training, have been doing some superslow leg extensions and leg curls to take care of that for the future
I have an exceptional personal trainer named Gaz Vause, anything I need to know he is the man to ask. I try and get some sessions in with Gaz whenever I can, I am trying to persuade him to write for our website to share his talent with the world so keep an eye out www.combatsport.co.uk
If you want to be a competitive athlete as a senior then Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is perfect for you, they have divisions for age and weight. Between 35 and 40 years old you are considered Senior 1, 40 to 45 years Senior 2, 45 to 50 years Senior 3 and so on. You can just keep competing forever.
We have some great senior competitors in the UK, guys who have won gold medals at the International Master and Seniors tournament held in Brazil each year, guys like Dave Coles and Nick Brooks to name but a few who have won world titles despite being over the dreaded 40.
My own coach, Chris Haueter, just won his division at the Pan Ams in the USA and he is a little older than I am. My good friend Leo Kirby won his weight group and the open weight too at the Pan Ams and he is a little older than Chris.
In conclusion, train smart and you can continue while ever you have your health.
Where do you get your inspiration/motivation to train?
Inspiration comes in many forms; it could be watching my wife beating way bigger guys showing exactly what Jiu Jitsu should be like.
It could be watching my coach and the way he lives and breathes Jiu Jitsu, so excited about training all the time.
Seeing my friend Leo still winning titles at 46 years of age.
Knowing that I am helping people to improve the athletic ability, confidence and lives in general of my students, knowing they will benefit the way I did.
Watching my students applying things that I have taught them, helping them win matches and win titles. That inspires me to train harder to try to stay ahead of these guys so I can continue to help.
Just came back from Barcelona watching the ADCC World Submission Fighting Championships, seeing the absolute best in the world and knowing that my journey has barely started, there will always be something new to learn, it really is a life long journey.
My motivation to train is my desire to improve my own performance, to improve my ability to coach and getting a good work out. I can't stand running, don't like lifting weights that much and don't want to join a fitness gym, so Jiu Jitsu is my work out too.
The extra pressure now of being a black belt gives me the motivation to train as no one wants to be a 'weak' belt, like I said earlier there is a certain level of expectancy with the belt so I have to hit at least that minimum criteria.
What next for you, any ambitions left?
I am not really an ambitious person, I don't tend to look too far ahead, I don't want to miss what is happening now for something that might not even happen in the future.
I'd like to bring through some more coaches so I have someone to leave my legacy to, keep expanding the Combat Base group with the right people.
Keep helping my students improve and watch them grow.
If I stay healthy I'll probably do a major competition as a black belt, maybe in USA, which would be cool. Keep travelling and training, great way to meet new people and pick up new ideas.
I guess I just want to keep doing what I am doing, only better.
A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field.
While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him.
As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was.
The dung was actually thawing him out!
He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy.
A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate.
Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung and promptly dug him out and ate him.
Morals of the story:
(1) Not everyone who sh*ts on you is your enemy.
(2) Not everyone who gets you out of sh*t is your friend.
(3) And when you're in deep sh*t, it's best to keep your mouth shut!