Kaizen · Training

Mind. Blown.


There was something that my coaches and fellow practitioners spoke about when I first started doing jiu-jitsu – they spoke about the fact that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu would blow my mind.

At first I had no idea what they meant. How could a sport do that? You don’t really hear about hockey players having their mind blown by some new tackling move.

Then it happened to me. I think it’s the moment where all the principal based teaching at Kaizen started to come together and began to open up a myriad of possibilities as to what I could do with my jiu-jitsu. I started to see moves and opportunities everywhere, and now at least 4 out of 5 times I step onto the mats at Kaizen something new is revealed to me; some new technique or possibility that hadn’t thought of before.


I was discussing this with Ze the other day, and also about the difficulty of conveying what this phenomenon is, and just how it happens. People who don’t do BJJ sometimes struggle to comprehend what I’m talking about. I think it comes from the fact that the instructors are just so involved with what they’re teaching. Not a day goes by when I don’t see Michael sitting in the lounge watching some jiu-jitsu video, or on the mats testing out some new theory or other. Each of the instructors is devoted to understanding the academic and scholastic approaches to their art, not just to being able to execute a move in a monkey see, monkey do kind of way. Not only this, but it also comes from the way that the principals are explained to the students, so that once the principal is understood, lots of different opportunities are available.

Ze described it well once, but I’d like to expand on his analogy. Imagine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a corridor with a million and more doors. What Kaizen Academy does is hand you the master key, and show you how to adapt it, so you can open up hundreds of thousands of doors in one fell swoop as long as you understand how it works. This is in comparison to some other teaching techniques which would see you crafting the key to each door individually. This is what I mean when I say my mind is blown. It’ll be because the move I’ve just witnessed and understood has allowed me to open another hundred thousand doors.

Hope that made sense…

Until next time,



 With thanks to Laura Jenney Photography for the image.


Playing The Blues



Members of Kaizen Academy gathered together at the weekend to celebrate the first anniversary of the gym. There was live music, dancing, light-up poi, and some speeches to celebrate how awesome this place is and how far we’ve all come in a year. I even got to make one!

What was slightly unexpected, however, although very deserved was what happened during BJJ Coach Michael Wood’s speech…


The belt in his hand is probs a giveaway.


First up to be awarded his very well deserved blue belt was Joe Butler. Joe recently smashed through his gi division of fifteen(!) at North West Open to take gold, and only missed out on gold in the no-gi division because he managed to take a knee to the goolies and had to spend the rest of the match trying not to die. In the end he took away bronze. He’s now hoping that he’ll have less people to fight, but that the matches will make him work that extra bit harder.


Joe getting his blue belt!

Joe wasn’t the only one to be awarded his blue belt on Saturday night, with the second one of the evening going to Thomas Ngai. As Michael said when giving it to him, he probably should have had it a long time ago! Tom won the Hong Kong Open in the gi in 2015, and his technique and game has been making leaps and bounds ever since.


Tom with his new (recycled actually) blue belt.

I reckon this is just the start of a blue belt flood. So many people have made such ridiculous gains this year, taking their technique to new levels, bringing new things to the game. Many of the members are so invested in this sport and are getting so so good as a result. Here’s to many more promotions and well deserved recognition. I’m not going to say who I think the next ones are going to be, but I’ve got my betting money on our resident foot locker, and our flying armbar machine…


Until next time,






With thanks to Laura Jenney photography for capturing these.


Competition · Kaizen

BJJ 24/7 North West Open



One glimmer of hope for me, an amazing windfall for Team Awesome.

I put a lot of pressure on myself before North West Open. I was sick of coming last in a race that I knew I could do better in, so I made a seriously conscious effort to prepare before Sunday. I upped my time in the weights room, I did some intensive cardio and really honed in on aspects of my game that I wanted to improve. I worked hard on and off the mats to ensure that I did myself proud, regardless of what happened.

I had five in my no-gi division (someone had dropped out) and six in my gi (again I think someone had dropped out), so I knew I’d have a fight on my hands to even get onto the medal podium. That’s enough about me, however, for a while because I have to firstly talk about Team Awesome. Yesterday we took the largest team we’ve ever taken to a comp – including thirteen competitors. It was supposed to be fourteen, but one of our members unfortunately couldn’t make it. Our team included a lot of competition “virgins” and they didn’t pick an easy one to begin with! I’m so proud of everyone who came down to compete. The photo below shows our team, minus two competitors (Lucas + Kasia) who’d already had to shoot off by the time this was taken.

North West 1.jpg
Team Awesome

With a team with that many competitors in it there was naturally going to be people competing at the same time, so it was difficult for me to keep tabs on what was happening all the time.

First up, however, was our coach, Michael Wood in his no-gi division. He won both his fights without having any points scored against him. His first match was a lesson in technical half guard for all us spectators. His second match had one hairy moment for his spectators where we thought there could be a potential triangle, but Michael being a total pro, was already out of danger by the time we’d even noticed.

Medal Tally: 1 gold.

At this point I had to stop watching my team mates because it was my turn to hit the mats in the no-gi <56.5 ladies division. I had a mini mental breakthrough on Saturday and so I was focused and ready to hit the mats. I still got a little bit nervous and had to listen to some pump up songs to get myself ready to go, but I knew what I had to do.

My first match went well, with a final score of 9-7 to me. I got a sweep from half guard within the first minute or so and then proceeded to pass, so the score was 5-0. At that point the match was very near the edge of the mats so we were stopped to move back towards the middle. At that moment, horribly, I suddenly felt extremely sick and had to take a few deep breaths whilst we were resetting to make sure I didn’t throw up (pretty sure vomiting on the mats counts as a tap!). Anyway, the match re-started and I got swept, so the score became 5-2. There must have been a reversal in there at some point because I ended up on top again but received no points before taking the back and scoring my next 4 points, taking the score to 9-2. In order for my opponent to get the next five points she must have swept and passed me at one point, or perhaps it was knee on belly after a pass. I honestly don’t remember. I was just trying to survive because I knew I was ahead on points. At one point she attempted an armbar that I escaped. The thing I took away from that match was that I need to work even more on my intensive cardio so that I can keep attacking for the full five minutes. I did well when I was actively on the attack. The second I was on the defensive and feeling sick, I started to get points scored against me. Anyway, in the end it didn’t matter and the final score was 9-7, with the ref saying that was one of the most exciting matches he’d seen in a while.

Jits Art always manages to catch me at the bad time in my match!

My second match didn’t go as well! I did a great sweep from half guard, but then got caught in a guillotine after successfully defending a triangle attempt from over/under. I was extremely annoyed with myself because after the extremely promising beginning I fell swiftly to a tight submission that I ultimately could’ve avoided if I’d been a bit more careful. What I take away from that is now that my sweeping is (relatively) okay, I need to work on what happens once I come up and staying “defensively responsible” whilst I secure my position.

My teammate Kasia was also in my division, having been bumped up from her weight category (<51.5) due to a lack of competitors in that division. She was paired against Becky in her first match and did extremely well considering that Becky has a least eighteen months training on Kasia. Kasia was aggressive and didn’t give up until Becky secured a very deep armbar. We both knew that that would be a tough match and I thought Kasia held her own well against a tough and seasoned opponent.

Kasia and I hanging out matside.

So I took bronze in that division. I was happy though because I’d acquitted myself a lot better than in my previous two competitions and my approach to it had changed. This was the first glimmer of hope, I can do it, I just need to keep building on the foundations I laid during this competition prep.

On the podium.

Medal Tally: 1 gold, 1 bronze.

Whilst I’d been competing a lot had been happening for Team Awesome around the venue and I spent the next couple of minutes catching up with what had been going on. Ze was well into his weight division in the blue belt category, Kam had won a gold medal in his category, Joe was currently steaming through his weight division at white belt. Lucas and James had unfortunately lost out to tough competitors in their respective divisions. James had been up on points after some great sweeps and got caught in a chance submission; Lucas’ story was much the same. Laurence had lost his matches in his divisions but had walked away with bronze anyway and decided to try white belt absolutes. Simon, who has admitted he was nervous and acquitted himself amazingly well, had also fought in his no-gi category and walked away with a silver medal.

Medal Tally: 2 golds, 1 silver, 2 bronzes.

Then it was the girls again. Kaizen had taken five girls yesterday which I imagine was one of the biggest female contingent from any singular gym at the competition yesterday. Laura was competing in the <61.5; Andreana and Aimee in the <66.5. It was Aimee and Laura’s first competition and they both stepped up to the challenge extremely well. Laura fell to a deep armbar in her match which would see her injure her elbow, but she still did the gi division later in the day. She took home a bronze. Andreana and Aimee ending up fighting each other in their division for the bronze medal. I had no idea who to cheer for from the sidelines so I made up a new name: Aimdreana. It’s gonna be a thing guys. One thing to say for them both was that they absolutely went tooth and nail for it, despite the fact they’re team mates. There was no backing away and they had an awesome match. The ref said it was one of the most brutal matches he’d seen that day! In the end it was Andreana who came out on top with a final score of 9-4, and she took home the bronze.


Hanging out with Aimdreana.

Andreana and I both signed up for white belt absolutes, but I fell to an armbar in my first match to the same girl who’d taken Laura’s right arm home with her. Clearly that was her thing! Mine wasn’t as bad as Laura’s but it still needed a bit of bandage support for the rest of the day and has been giving me a bit of gip today, but nothing a few painkillers can’t sort. Andreana took bronze in the absolutes!

Andreana on the podium for absolutes

Whilst I’d been watching/competing with the girls Ze had stormed to gold in his weight division with an amazing display of Jiu-Jitsu. Joe had also taken a bronze medal in his division after injuring himself in the semi-final match, denying himself a place in the final.

Ze on the podium.

Medal Tally: 3 golds, 1 silver, 5 bronzes.

I then had a bit of break until my gi division in the afternoon in which I watched Laurence smash his way to gold in the white belt absolute division and Ze to the same outcome in the blue belt absolutes. Ze was disappointed that someone had managed to score 2 points against him in the whole competition. You just won 2 golds Ze, chill out, ye’ did good. That was it for the no-gi excitement of the morning/early afternoon, and suddenly a lot more people were walking around in pyjamas than there had been in the morning. It was time for the gi divisions.

Laurence winning his absolutes final!

Medal Tally: 5 golds, 1 silver, 5 bronzes.

I was up almost immediately in the gi. Competing in the gi is still something I’m relatively new to, but I thought I’d have a crack. I was up against a girl called Rihanna, who I found out was only 14. Don’t be fooled, however, it was like trying to fight Sonic on speed. She was so quick and her movement was insane. Apparently she’s been training since she was seven, and it showed. At one point she was doing stuff with her gi jacket that I had never seen before. She was trying to tie me up in it and I didn’t really know what to do (having only been training in the gi for a little while), so I ended up just hand fighting her to get out! She won 12-0 in the end. I don’t begrudge her her win at all – she was amazing and she’s going to go far. I couldn’t even get hold of her! In the last thirty seconds I knew I wasn’t going to get any points back so I dived for a footlock in an attempt to get the sub, but I didn’t get it locked in quite deeply enough so lost out. She took the well deserved gold overall.

Also in that division was a match up between Emily Smyth and Becky Bursnoll. Emily isn’t normally in my weight category, she’s normally up one, but she’d managed to come down for North West and she was matched up against Becky. I was really looking forward to watching the match because I think they’re two of the best female white belts in the UK. Emily came out on top with an aggressive and dominating performance. It took her quite a long time to finish the submission, but she had a locked down for a long time before finally getting the tap. Laura also competed in the gi in her category, but narrowly lost out on taking home a medal.

Joe was also competing in the gi and his division was absolutely stacked! There were fifteen in his category (white, adult, <79.5), and he had to have five fights to reach the final. Joe’s passing game is en pointe and his pressure is insane, so he managed to dominate through to the final with a variety of americanas and RNCs. He also won the final by Americana after passing into a dominant position. It was very well deserved and he’s now, hopefully, onto… bluer… pastures. Simon also fought extremely well to take home bronze in his gi category.

Joe winning gold

Then there was only one category left for Team Awesome and that was Michael’s gi category. For some reason they’d put his no gi at the very beginning of the day and his gi at the very end, which is a little bit annoying. He took gold in his division after another dominating performance.

Michael on the podium

It was a fantastic day for Team Awesome and we did so so well. We came fourth in the overall team rankings with the three teams above us all being franchises (meaning that there were multiple gyms representing the team). I think that is absolutely fantastic. Our final Medal Tally was 6 golds, 1 silver and 6 bronzes. We had amazing supporting members there was well yesterday with both Luke, Cosima, and Adam providing great cornering advice and support. Nilla was also there, cheering everyone on, along with Aimee’s boyfriend Ian (I am so sorry if this isn’t his name, I’m crap remembering names!), and Georgia appeared to wish us all luck in the middle of the day.

It was a fantastic day and a great way to end my competition season for 2016. I’m taking some time off until next year to just train for training’s sake, let my body and mind rest a bit and come back fresh and raring to go in the new year. I have new goals and targets for 2017 when it comes to competition.

Well done Team Awesome.

Until next time,



Kaizen · Training

Training Tuesday: Fasten Your Seatbelts


So, it’s been a little while since I did one of these, so I thought I better get back into the habit. This week we’re looking at back control and specifically the seatbelt grip.

In BJJ the back is clearly the one of the most dominant positions. It’s worth four points under IBJJF rules. That it is a dominant position is especially true for smaller practitioners like me. If I manage to attain side control on someone, if they’re much bigger than me, whether they’re skilled or not, they can probably just sit up or bench press me off. I only weigh 52kg. For an 80kg+ guy, lifting me off them is not a particularly difficult issue. Yet, if I’m on their back, clearly the bench press is useless. Muscles are no use when somebody is clinging to your back like a monkey.

I’ve been told by all my instructors that I should seek the back at every opportunity, rather than anything where strength and weight could be a factor. So (just for the purpose of this blog), say that you’ve got to the back – what do you do once you’re there? And how do you stay there?

The key principal is to keep your hips in line with the other persons hips. All their escapes come from them manoeuvring out to the side, down or up, so that their hips are no longer in line with the person attacking the back. In doing this it makes it a lot easier to escape the position and to negate any submission attempts. So for the attacker to be able to progress to a submission, it’s important that their position is maintained long enough to be able to see it through.

One of the key ways of doing this is by maintaining the seatbelt grip.

So called the seatbelt because you’re effectively strapping yourself to your opponent like a seatbelt, one arm under theirs and one arm round their neck to meet in the middle. An over-under hug from the back if you like. Key point to the seatbelt is that your choking hand should be on the bottom of the grip to hide it from the defenders attempts to pull it down. Another key point is that your grip should be high with your elbows squeezing together. Clearly you can’t actually make your elbows meet ’cause your opponents body is in the way, but the tighter they are, the tougher it is to break the grip.

A lot of people say that the key to back control is the hooks on the legs, and yeah sure this is very important to complete control, but it is not impossible to stay on someone’s back without hooks, as long as the seatbelt is maintained. We have a drill that we do at Kaizen sometimes where upon getting the seatbelt grip the attacker tries to stay on the opponents back without the hooks. It’s surprising just how effective this is if the grip is tight and correct, and you follow your opponents hips with your own (manoeuvring your opponent to make the most of a back take is a whole ‘nother post).

The seatbelt grip isn’t everything, clearly, but it was amazing how much easier it became for me to stay on someone’s back once I’d figured out how to use it alongside the principal of hip alignment. Sometimes I still fall off if I lose my grip, or am too hasty attempting a submission, but my back control taking has certainly become a lot stronger since making minuscule adjustments to the way I fastened my seatbelt.

Until next time…



Competition · Kaizen

A Hard Day’s Night: Liverpool Open


All YouTube videos were filmed by Laura Jenney Photography.

So I headed off down to Liverpool this Sunday to compete in the latest event put on by BJJ 24/7 Events – I was expecting big things because the Manchester Open had been so good. More on that to follow.

Kaizen Academy was fielding its largest team to a competition yet, so I thought that that was really exciting. For many of the competitors it was their first “big” competition, so it was exciting for them as well. I predicted in the last post that we would come away with nine medals – we didn’t reach that total. Instead coming home with five – one gold, one silver, three bronzes. I think we would’ve got more if we’d have stuck around for absolutes (open weight categories), but due to the event overrunning by quite a lot, the absolutes were pushed right back to the end of the day (6pm) and most of the team couldn’t stick around that long in order to take part.

We arrived in time for the beginning of the event because one of my teammates was up in the first division at 10am. One of the things that was a little bit strange, and different from Manchester, was the fact that there was no warm up area. The sports hall we were in could just fit the four matted areas, with space around the edge to walk, and then the viewing gallery/medal podium, but there was nowhere to warm up or down.

The mat area – photograph courtesy of Jits Art

Unfortunately Mat, who was up first, lost both of his matches in his division. The first one was to an accomplished Judo player who had a set game and a mean Americana. The second bout was lost to an RNC I think. Mat’s second match is available to watch here. It was Mat’s first big competition, however, and it takes a lot just to step up onto the mats and find out what it’s like when somebody is actually trying to beat you aggressively. It’s a totally different atmosphere to the rolls you get used to in the gym, even if you’re going hard with your partner.

Mat in the -67.5 white belt – photo courtesy of Jits Art.

At around the same time the no-gi masters -91.5 was taking place, in which Kaizen Academy had two competitors. Robyn was up first and lost a hard fought match. It was unlucky for Robyn because at one point he had a deep footlock attack on his opponent but that guy must have had feet of steel! He was able to escape and take Robyn’s back before sinking in an RNC – watch Robyn’s match here. Kam was also taking part in that division and he won his match in style with a flying armbar, sunk in once it reached the floor. Watch Kam’s match here. As a result that division yielded one gold and one bronze for Team Kaizen.

Kam on the podium.

Up next in terms of Team Kaizen was Luke’s division. The organisers were extremely liberal with mat side time for competitors, which meant Luke was called about forty-five minutes before he actually stepped onto the mat! I think this was because matches were running to overtime a lot and the divisions weren’t moving as fast as anticipated.

Luke standing mat side waiting to fight – photo courtesy of Jits Art.

I was also called to mat side in this time and had my first match whilst Luke was still waiting for his! I was up against a girl called Lucy Harrison, who was very smiley and lovely.

After an initial failed attempt to pull guard, I managed to get my butt to the mat but she escaped, causing me to roll and have to play half guard on the side that I’m not used to! This was a bit of a nightmare and it took me a while to secure my underhook. I eventually managed to get my hips out and secure a sweep into an over-under position. Initially I was okay at securing the leg, but then I got caught in a triangle. I struggled to escape for a while, almost managing it at one point, but with 16 seconds left on the clock before overtime, I could feel the world going grey at the edges so I tapped. Watch the full match here.

Photo taken by Papa Seager. 

I also got thwacked in the nose at some point during this roll because as I stepped off the mat I noticed that there was blood on my face and hands. I ended up having to use some of the first aiders stuff to clean up. It wasn’t bad, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t break it. It must have just had a bit of a knock which caused it to bleed. I didn’t have another match in this division, which I thought was a little odd ’cause there were three of us and I was anticipating a round robin, so I got the bronze medal.

By this point Luke had fought two matches and was waiting for his final. He’d won both his first two matches in style with his characteristic footlocks. Both his opponents were good at defending them, but they succumbed in the end. Watch his first and second match. His final was going much the same way, but the guy had clearly been watching his previous matches so was doing his utmost to keep his feet and legs away from Luke. He managed to push the match to overtime and after a gruelling three rounds of overtime managed to clinch the gold. Watch the final here.

Luke… being Luke, on the podium. 

Then it was Neil’s turn in the -91.5 adult no gi. Neil took both of his matches to overtime and if it had been the standard points method of BJJ he would have dominated both his opponents. Unfortunately both his opponents were savvy in their overtime rounds and just managed to pip Neil to the post. It was unfortunate because Neil’s jiu-jitsu had been more technical during his rounds. Watch his first and second fight here. He was disappointed, but he needn’t of been, his jiu-jitsu was very good. Competition just sometimes gets the better of you.

Then it was time for my gi match, where I was once again up against Lucy. This match went better than my no gi match, and I found myself in a dominate position a few times. She had several good submission attempts early on but I defended those. Unfortunately I was unable to capitalise on this defence and ended up getting caught in a flying armbar at about 3.30 time wise. I attempted to wiggle free, and nearly had my elbow out, but she put it on deeper and I decided it wasn’t worth a broken elbow so tapped! I was actually quite pleased with my performance, despite getting caught, because I feel I was a lot more in control of my technique and that it was just a good match. Watch the match here. So once again I picked up bronze in that division.

The team’s final competitors the day was Jack Morgan. It was his first major competition as well, but unfortunately he lost his first match and due to the fact he was in a stacked bracket meant that he didn’t get another one.

I am so so proud of my team though. As I mentioned earlier, for many of them this was their first “big” competition, and they all rose to the challenge really really well. It made each of them aware of the atmosphere of competing, the potential adrenaline dump that can occur, the aggressiveness of opponents, the noise of spectators etc. etc. It’s very very different to rolling in the gym. All of them are aware of the bits of their games that they want to work on now, and we’ll come back stronger than ever at the next one.

As for myself, I’m going to be working on my submission defences, and securing dominant positions. I was able to get into good positions, but then struggled to maintain them long enough to progress. It’s the North West Open in about four weeks, so we’ll see what happens there. The brackets already look bigger than normal for that and not everyone’s signed up yet!

Until next time,