I had my first BJJ class about 18 months ago at The Forge Martial Arts Gracie Barra in Sheffield, under John Goldson, and I’ve never looked back. The gym recently changed ownership and our head coach is now Paul Cole, although the name has remained the same. I’ve been lucky enough over those eighteen months to train with all sorts of people, both at my own gym, at fight camps, and when visiting other gyms.
After being a white belt for just over a year, I was awarded my blue belt in March 2016 by John while we were in Tenerife at our club’s annual trip there to train with Ben Poppleton. It was a complete surprise and it took a while to get used to looking down when wearing the gi and seeing anything other than a white belt!
I had first started competing in October 2015. Since then I’ve competed in 12 more tournaments, taking 17 golds, 3 silvers and 1 bronze.
(Bryony’s note – I tried picking all her medals up at once when visiting Maia. Hint – I couldn’t).
I remember my first competition was a bit of a mess. I panicked, pulled guard and then sat there, didn’t even attempt a sub or sweep, because my brain just went blank! The adrenaline was crazy. Afterwards I remember thinking, ‘maybe competing isn’t for me…’, but I kept at it and eventually it all started coming together. I still get nervous, and competition day is always stressful as hell, but I’m starting to enjoy it a little more. This is mainly due to the fact that I have such an amazing team at The Forge who are unbelievably supportive, and who fight their hearts out on the mats alongside me at competitions. I think it’s also helped massively that the John Goldson style of jiu-jitsu is to cause as much discomfort and pain as possible, which has probably toughened me up! This coupled with the fact that the guys in our gym don’t discriminate against women in any way whatsoever and happily smash me up and down the mats on a regular basis!!! Paul hasn’t been my coach for very long but he’s already played a huge role in my competition prep and in the actual coaching during tournaments when he can sit mat side. I feel very lucky to train at such an amazing club.
I’ve met so many awesome people through the competition circuit, some of whom nominated me to join The Whisky Wolf #Matpack, which has been so much fun so far. Rich Harris has built a great brand and it really is an honour to represent it. The BJJ community is like one big, slightly odd, family, who show affection by trying to kill each other. Then after we’ve finished trying to do that for six or so minutes we hug it out and then go eat food! It’s always a really friendly atmosphere at the competitions I’ve been too, despite the fact we’re there to compete.
I probably wouldn’t compete half as much if it wasn’t for Lawrence Dutton and the BJJ 24/7 team putting on so many well run tournaments up and down the country. The first of their Submission Grappling Series, which took place in February in Liverpool, was my favourite competition so far. I’m really looking forward to the next one on the 25th September where I will be competing in both the gi and no-gi divisions. Then there’s the North-West Open in Manchester, which is the last on their circuit this year.
As for the future; I just can’t see my life without jiu-jitsu in it. I love the fact that it’s a sport that has no age restrictions; people of all ages take part and there are highly respected BJJ players who are well into their seventh decade! You can do BJJ until the day you drop dead, which is what I intend to do. And if I can pick up a few more golds on the way then that would be awesome as well.
Written by Maia Holmes,
Until next time,