I know it’s been a really long time since I last posted, and I apologise for that! I’ve just been really busy with my new job and everything. I will try and schedule time to blog about my training exploits, because I’ve got several more comps coming up this year and I’m excited to see what they bring.

The purpose of this post, however, is to wish belated congratulations to everyone who went to Euros 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal, and especially to my friends who managed to pick up medals!

Previous Saturday Spotlight participant Maia Holmes came away with gold in her category(!). Huge well done Maia!

Francisca Nelson won a silver, well done Fran!

Huge well done to everyone else in my extended BJJ fam who stepped up to the plate and put it on the line at Euros including Emily Smyth, Walter Barnes, Sarah Greenwood and Krishnan Chaunan.

I hope to head to Euros next year – it looked like a lot of fun!

Anyway, congrats to all!



Saturday Spotlight

Spotlight Saturday: Samantha Oram



  1. When and why did you start BJJ?

I started jiujitsu on the 6th of January 2016 and it was totally a random decision to start BJJ. I was always asked to start by one of the girls on the team (Sara), who has been there since the class started, but I never thought I would ever stick to it. This is especially true with the gym being about an 40 minute long car journey; but the journey seems to get shorter and shorter every time I drive there!

2. Did you have any previous martial arts experience? What was it? 

I had no other martial art experience whatsoever, apart from my boyfriend being a high level MMA fighter. I had watched lots of MMA fights with him, and had the odd play fight when he gets annoying! When I was younger I used to do dancing, and lots of horse riding I used to own my own horse, but other than that, no other sporting/martial arts experience.

3. What do you love about BJJ?

I love everything about BJJ, it is so interesting and confusing at the same time, but the thing I love the most has to be competing.

4. Where do you train? Tell me about your gym/training partners. What makes it special?

I train at The Dungeon BJJ and MMA academy. It is in my opinion the best gym in the U.K and the results from everyone on the team prove it. They are 3 gyms altogether, but the main gym is based in Sunderland. The other two gyms are based in Thornaby and Consett. The head coaches are Aaron Naisbet and Sean Colfer, who are both black belts. Even though there are 3 gyms at 3 locations, we are all one big gym/family.

My training partners are mostly all female; we have a huge and successful ladies team based in Sunderland, with 10 ladies in total. We all have such a great bond together and always so supportive towards each other in everything we do. 8 out of 10 of us have competed and done amazingly well, especially Rebecca Purvis who is only 15. She competed against a girl of a higher belt, and won gold and silver at the Europeans last month. There’s also Sara Colfer who is the first female from our team to medal in an IBJJF competition, coming away with a silver after some very tough fights against highly skilled girls. I am proud of everyone in my team and so happy to have them all as training partners.


5. What would you tell yourself when you first started BJJ?

This is such a hard question! I would tell myself that you will find weird shape bruises in the strangest places haha! But seriously I would tell myself it is the best thing you would ever do and you will not look back!

6. What has been the hardest part of training BJJ for you?

Having a full time job is the hardest part because all I want to do is train! I recently changed jobs so I could train more regularly and get into a routine, as my old job I used have to work weekends and some days until 8pm, which meant I had to miss a night of training, whereas my new job is monday-friday 9-5. This means free weekends – more competitions waaahhooo!!!!

7. Have you competed? What do you like/hate about it?

I competed in my first competition on the 8th of May 2016 which was Versus Grappling in Newcastle and I loved it, I was sooooo excited! I love everything about competing, I never get nervous which I find strange as it is such a physical sport. I always get so excited to compete, from the moment I find a competition I can do, to the moment you slap hands on the mat.


8. What was the best BJJ-related memory from 2016?

I have lots of great memories this year, my highlights are when I got my first stripe in May at the Leon Amancio seminar at our gym; winning my first gold at the Blackpool Open; competing in the IBJJF; receiving my second stripe on the 14th of December, and being sponsored by Vicky Lynch of Additional Lengths Hair Extensions who helps me towards all my competitions. I wouldn’t be able to compete so much if it wasn’t for her help you will see me wearing ‘remi-catchet’ patches in the upcoming competitions representing her business.


9. Do you prefer gi or no-gi?

I prefer no-gi as I find it a lot easier for some reason I feel like I can move a lot more and a lot faster than I can in the GI! I always seem to do better in no GI at competitions which I find strange as we don’t have a no GI class for the ladies at my gym, the only time I get to do no GI is at open mat! I do love GI as though! It’s all great.

10. Is it hard being a female BJJ practitioner? Is there some things that you think are different to your male teammates?

I do think it can be hard for females, as I don’t think they get as much respect as males. For example I got a load of rubbish from a ref at my 3rd comp, at Empire, he mocked me losing my match, and he mocked my team mate for wanting to get a picture on her phone. That can put a girl off competing, and I can’t imagine him saying that to a male competitor! Males also have more weight classes and better prizes, but I have to say the BJJ competition’s are slowly growing for the women it be interesting to see what 2017 brings for us ladies!


11. What are your goals for 2017? Do you plan to compete?

My goals for 2017 are to do as many competitions as possible, and to do the absolutes as I have never done one before! I also want to get better in the GI at comps.

12. Take down or guard pull?

I don’t actually have a preference I just go with the flow, sometimes I might pull guard sometimes I might try for a takedown. I just wait and see what the other person gives me and react from that.


13. Where would you like to see yourself, in terms of jiu-jitsu, in a years time?

In a years time I would like to see myself competing in a couple of international competitions, going around the world meeting new people, attending one of Mackenzie Derns seminars, and I would also love to do the female bjj camps in Amsterdam.

Written by Samantha Oram,

Edited by Bryony.

Until next time,



2016: Competition Round Up (Part Two)


You can read Part One here.

So after Kleos, I had two competitions in quick succession. This was not a good month for me, the month of September. I went to Glasgow and to Liverpool to compete. I lost every single match. I learned an awful lot about competition mentality and different approaches I needed to take. I had some close matches, some which were won on advantages only by my opponent, but in the end that’s still a loss for myself. Yet, as I said, I pulled through and I learnt a lot about myself in the process. I know that’s a cliche thing to say, but it’s true, and it made me change the way in which I approached competition and my training regime.

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Then after that came the North West Open. This went a lot better for me, because of the losses I had suffered the month before. I changed the way I mentally approached the competition. I had a brain wave regarding how I should be thinking on the mats. Rather than being a passive reactor to my opponent, I knew that I would do a lot better if I was active and aggressive. Most of the girls I compete against are bigger than me, sometimes by quite a big margin – this means I can’t afford to be passive, or on the back foot. I have to be applying my game and my pressure at all times. It paid off at North West and I won one and lost one to take bronze. Even though it was “only” bronze, it proved to me that I was heading in the right direction with my new mentality.

I told myself North West would be my last comp in 2016. It wasn’t. I headed to Newcastle in December and came away with four medals, all the matches I lost being to the same girl (looking at you Sarah!), so I was really happy with my performance there.

As you can see from my competition sidebar, I already have two competitions in the books for 2017, which will hopefully be many more once I can fund them. I love competing and I love jiu-jitsu, I’m really excited to see what 2017 is going to bring!

See you in the New Year!




2016: Competition Round Up (Part One)


Well it’s certainly been quite a year.

I remember talking to some BJJ girls when I went to a camp at Fighting Fit Manchester in Aug 2015, and they were talking about the competitions they’d done. I distinctly remember saying that I would never have the guts to do that because it sounded utterly terrifying. Well, eighteen months and eleven competitions later… I guess I’ve gotten over that fear! I also meant to do this a while ago, but I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t as the sneaky Newcastle Open entry came up this weekend, so it would have been incomplete.

Anyway, here’s a look back at the events of this year, my reflections on my competitions and how things have changed.

It all started back in February, when I went to an inter-club competition at Positive Options gym in Ilkley. The gym instructor is brown belt Fred Greenall, and he sometimes comes to Kaizen to train. It was a nice introduction to competition. There was supposed to be a girl from a gym in Leeds coming to compete, but unfortunately she had to drop out due to an injury, so it was just girls from Kaizen who were competing. To say that my idea of competition was very different then is an understatement.

Needless to say; I lost. The physical pressure of competition was just too much for me, and I had no sense of a developed game. I didn’t know what I would play, and my matches were mostly reactive – wait and see what they would do, and then react. Not the best way to go about trying to achieve a win.


I went to an inter-uni competition in March, that was organised by Hull University MMA Society. This was the first time I would be against girls who weren’t from my own gym. I remember that I was seriously nervous, because the rule set was sub-only and there were various aspects allowed that were outside of IBJJF rules (not that I really knew what these were at the time!). Slamming, for example. This was because most of the competitors were MMA fighters, so their natural game was tailored towards that end.

Anyway, the matches were ten minutes, with EBI overtime rules if no sub was achieved in that time. I won my first match by armbar after a few scrappy moments. I remember the girl I fought was double jointed, so the armbar was so deep. Apparently, according to my teammates standing on the sideline it looked absolutely disgusting, and I definitely felt her elbow pop before she tapped.

My second match I won by RNC, but it was a proper war. I really had to scrap for it I remember, and I think I got the choke somewhere in the eighth or ninth minute. So I came out on top that day, and won my first (and so far only) gold medal.

Newcastle Open

Then came the first Newcastle Open at the end of April. This was a bigger competition, even though the women’s divisions were still small. I was only doing no-gi at this point (I don’t think I even owned my own proper BJJ gi) and it was certainly the side of the sport that I felt most comfortable with.

I headed down with Joe Butler (whose spotlight piece you can read here (insert link)), who since has become my oftentimes companion at competitions. It was great to have some support there and he did very well. I was winning my match, by way of two sweeps, when I got swept into mount. Therefore she got six points and won the match in one move. I was very annoyed at the time. Looking back I realise that I could’ve stopped that by having a slightly better appreciation of the rules of BJJ. I can’t be too hard on myself though, it was my first “big” comp, and I think I did well to score points at all.

I took what I could from it, and didn’t get too upset. I prepared for the Manchester Open which was coming a few weeks later.

Manchester Open

This was even bigger than Newcastle Open; there were over 300 competitors at the event. There should have been three people in my division, but one of the girls didn’t show up. So it was just me and Becky Bursnoll.

She beat my by Kimura, but once again I wasn’t too upset. My coach told me that he was very experienced and had been competing for a long time.

This is a problem.

I then decided to do absolutes, so I would get more matches. I can’t remember who I fought, other than Oyinda, where the final score was 0-0, and she won because she was more aggressive in top position. You can read my full write up of the day here.


Kaizen Academy Competition

I both organised and competed in this competition. I’ve decided that this is something I wouldn’t do again. I loved organising the competition, but if I’m going to do that side, competing as well is a bit too much. My mind wasn’t focused on the personal competition aspect at all, because I was too busy worrying about whether everything was in order and who needed to be where at what time.

As such, I didn’t win a medal. It was my only competition this year that I didn’t pick a medal up at it. I wasn’t too worried though, because the event was a success and we’re looking to do another one in 2017.


Kleos VII

I had had no intentions of doing Kleos, because it was so far away from Lancaster. I was convinced by Maia Holmes into doing the event. I was very glad I did in the end and picked up a silver after winning one match and losing the other. It was a bit of an odd set up because I had to fight the same girl twice. I had a lot of fun though and the medals are absolutely badass. It’s definitely my favourite one so far.

There were also three Bryony’s at this event in the women’s blue/white division which is amazing. I rarely meet one other person with my name, never mind three of us at the same place! The other thing that amuses me when I remember this event, is going through the videos with my coach Michael Wood afterwards and him saying ‘You should have won all of them’ but apparently “I didn’t move fast enough” – cheers Michael!


Watch out for Part Two coming next week…

Until next time,






Saturday Spotlight

Saturday Spotlight: Joe Butler



  1. How and why did you start BJJ?

I couldn’t find anywhere to wrestle in Lancaster, so decided to start BJJ! After a couple of years wrestling in Manchester while at uni there, (minus some time where I broke my leg after a dicky takedown), I was hooked on grappling. I was aware of BJJ through watching the UFC and having a few friends who were competing in MMA, however, I didn’t really know about submissions, or that whole side of the game that unfolds on the ground.

After university, I moved back to Lancaster, and there was about a year where I was doing no martial arts, just lifting and running, Then I discovered that Kieran [O’Brien, Kaizen co-founder], was putting on some MMA classes at Lancaster University Sports Centre, and out of boredom and a desire to fight, got involved. Shortly after that Kaizen begun, and I’ve been training BJJ exclusively ever since!


Joe at his old wrestling gym.
  1. What has BJJ come to mean for you since you started?

After starting with nothing but good fitness and the positional control that comes from wrestling, I’ve fallen in love with BJJ! Any kind of fighting/training to fight is fun, but the prolonged, smothering wars of attrition and limb chess just suits me down to a T. I enjoy it much more at this point, being good enough now to really experiment with no ego and string together far more stuff on the ground.


  1. How do you think it’s changed you (if it has)?

I’m aware, more than ever, of the huge distance in front of me in this BJJ journey. I’m excited about meeting people far ahead down that road, which, if anything, has been extremely humbling.


  1. What advice would you give yourself a year ago, if you could?

Experiment more, risk letting yourself get tapped in rolls more. Casual rolls are exactly when you should be out of your A game, testing new things, and getting beat all the time before you master it.


  1. Tell me about your gym/teammates

I train at Kaizen Academy, Lancaster. It’s a great group of people and a great atmosphere. There’s some people I’ve been growing with since I begun, who I compete alongside and have risen with together, each of whom provide a unique aspect as a training partner. I can always count on having rolling partners on my level, and those who are both more and less experienced. On top of that Michael Wood, our head BJJ coach, is pretty much everything I could ask for in a trainer; his extremely logical, almost video game like approach to BJJ, is something I really feel like I thrive under. Also, I guess like everyone who does BJJ for long enough the gym becomes a social hub too!


  1. What have been you best/proudest achievements to date?

Being one of the first “Kaizen” blue belts after a year obviously! Every competition gold… Not vomiting and quitting after getting kneed in the balls in the no-gi for the BJJ 24/7 NW Open, and then going on to get gold in the Gi!

Oh, and cutting my hair.

Joe winning gold at the NW Open
  1. You just got promoted to blue belt, talk about what that feels like.

It’s just a refocusing basically. This is the path I’m on, no doubt anymore. Time to think ahead and plan accordingly, work on new areas.


  1. What aspect of your game is the best?

Top pressure, guard passing. Things I learnt in my wrestling days and use to my advantage.

  1. What aspect do you need to work on?

Guard, leg stuff. I even pull guard now, something I would never have dreamed of a few months ago!

  1. Where do you want to be in a year’s time re: BJJ?

I want to have a series of wins under my belt (pun firmly intended) at blue.

  1. What’s your favourite sub/guard/sweep?

Sub: Americana

Guard: Butterfly-Half

Sweep: X-Guard

  1. Have you been to any seminars/other gyms?

I dabbled around some MMA gyms in Manchester for a little bit, and went to a couple of different classes here and there. I even trained for a few weeks in London while working the bar at a festival, under a really chill Brazilian black belt doing a class at a nearby gym. I’ve trained in some nice, friendly places, and in some more egotistical, stereotypical, “MMA douchebag” type places. Nowhere really has had the sheer breadth of experience and knowledge that I’ve found at Kaizen though.

  1. Gi or no-gi?

Probably no-gi, coming from a wrestling background, but Gi has really been growing on me lately. Lasso guard is pretty decent and I like me some bow and arrow chokes.

Joe training in the Gi
  1. What are you hoping to accomplish in the next calendar year?

Grow my hair back!

I want to move down a weight category so get down to 73.5kg. It would also be sweet to dominate some blue belt comps like I have white.


Written by Joe Butler,

Edited by Bryony.

With thanks to Laura Jenney Photography, James Karlsen-Davies, and others for the photographs.

Until next time,