January 2012 sees the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Combat Base team, from a small rented room in a small town to a group with 100's of members.
When I first started BJJ properly way back in 1997 after a few years of learning from tapes, seminars and studying with Professors Trial and Error the first thing we had to sort out was getting some real instruction and more training partners but how?
My first real goal was simply to train more and improve. I had to, as I once told John Machado that I wanted to be good enough to wear the Machado patch on my back. He assured me I would if I kept training so I did and competed a number of times with their logo on my back.
Next goal achieved was the blue belt, it is the only belt I ever REALLY wanted, I remembered rolling with Chris and he said something that kind of hinted I was going to get promoted and then got the belt. Great feeling and quite an achievement back then.
Next goal was to get more people training in BJJ, both me and Helen competed and won some relatively minor stuff which got some local press coverage. A few more guys joined, we continued to compete and took to judo as a way of getting more practice meeting Ryan as a young kid who would go on to become a black belt in both BJJ and Judo becoming probably the best competitor in the group.
People started to take note of what we were doing, some attention was not so great as I had to fight a couple of challenge matches against martial artists from other styles who we brought round to our way of thinking ;0)
People came and people went but I like to think that the good guys stayed and suddenly we had more than just training partners, we had friends, we had students, we had a team.
So we had a team, Helen and I were blue belts but everyone else was white so next goal to get some colour on the mats which we did and then some........Note, 5 of the original 7 blue belts are still training today with 2 of them being black belts and the others on their way that way too.
After 3 years of commuting from Northumberland every chance he got, Steve Muckle told me he wanted to open his own club in the north east and would he be able to use the name Combat Base. I agreed and then he let me out of his side control ;0)
I was absolutely honoured to have someone feel that way about something Helen and I actually created, it is the same feeling I still get now when I see anyone wearing our logo.
Then about 7 years ago whilst in LA, Chris Haueter asked if we minded him using the Combat Base name too. The guy that showed me what real BJJ looked like, the guy who taught me the attitude to take while training and the guy who actually coined the phrase 'combat base' was asking to use the name. That's Chris for you.
Fast forward to today and it is simply amazing how far we have come. Who would have thought that a small gym in a small town would end up with 4 black belts so far, with many more to come.
We have carefully added other like minded groups over the years so we have grown but kept the same vibe.
To produce the first female BJJ black belt in the UK, imagine if she had been part of one of the big Brazilian teams, how big a deal would they have made of it?
Combat Base UK have competed in everything from local inter clubs to the Mundials and everything in between. We competed in BJJ, no gi, judo, sombo, mixed styles grappling competition, sport ju jutsu as well as mma at amateur, semi and pro. Not to mention some of the guys competing in boxing, kickboxing, K1 and Muay Thai too.
We have won titles and more medals than I can count but more importantly have built a very strong team, a real team that cares about each other and supports all we do. A team that has raised a lot of money for charity, taught sessions for free and given back to the community. A team that promotes inclusion, everyone is as much a part of Combat Base as the next.
And this is just the first 10 years, who knows what the next 10 will bring?