- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- What aspect of your game is the best?
Top pressure, guard passing. Things I learnt in my wrestling days and use to my advantage.
- 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!
- 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.
- What’s your favourite sub/guard/sweep?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,