In November, 1994, I attained my 2nd Dan in Chinese Boxing as well as my 2nd Degree Black Belt with the British Combat Association. It was around this time that I took a more serious interest in the grappling arts.
Through my involvement with the BCA I was introduced to the grappling arts. Having been a ‘stand up’ practitioner up until that date the introduction to ‘groundfightling’ was a real revelation to me. From a reality perspective I realised that I needed to develop my grappling skills in order to ensure a better chance of success in a real confrontation. In 1995 I contacted a friend of mine who was a British international level Judoka – Jamie Johnson. He was, at that time, one of the most consistent British Judo competitors of the decade, winning, or placing in nearly every major tournament. In 2001, Jamie retired from competitive Judo, becoming a coach for the BritishJudoAcademy, he is now a top British coach, responsible for the development of our International and Olympic prospects. I had the honour of training with Jamie privately for some sixteen months (when he wasn’t out of the country competing). Jamie is a top Judoka and once of the most down to earth people I have ever met. Without Jamie’s enthusiasm and input I honestly believe I would never have achieved much of what I have, particularly with regards to my grappling. In 2000, Jamie introduced me to an amazing Ne-Waza fighter, Steve Gawthorpe. He is a legendary figure in the Judo world and it was easy to understand why. His skills and ability to teach them set him apart from many. I used to have Jamie and Steve conduct classes for my club every month for a couple of years.
In 1996, after several discussions with Geoff Thompson, I began writing articles relating to my personal viewpoint on self protection and reality martial arts. As a result I had many articles feature in a number of martial arts magazines, in particular, Martial Arts Illustrated and Fighters. I have also had my work published in Black Belt Magazine (USA). Copies of these can be found in the articles section of this website. In 1997 I was invited by Geoff Thompson to undertake a Black Belt grading in his fighting system. Based around his famed ‘animal day’ training, it was easily the hardest grading that I have ever taken, but a real achievement for me, one that I feel very proud to have been asked to do and to have achieved.
In 1998 I produced my first instructional videos, the ‘Get Real’ series. Done in two parts, these videos detailed my opinion on self protection and its associated topics. I have since broken these down into smaller sections and they can be found on You Tube – http://www.youtube.com/user/tattoofighter68?feature=watch These were later followed up with the ‘Control & Destroy Concept’ series in 2000.
In 1999, I began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, under the awesome Mauricio Motta Gomes, who was a 6th Degree Black Belt at that time (he is now a 7th Degree Red and Black belt). Mauricio’s teaching style and great personality made it a pleasure to learn from him and I eagerly looked forward to travelling to Birmingham every Wednesday evening. Regrettably, things didn’t work out in Birmingham for Mauricio and he left for Brazil after eighteen months. I was very saddened by this. Mauricio’s teaching style suited me and he left a lasting impression on—even to this day. I consider him one of the greatest instructors I have ever had the pleasure of training with. I had the distinct honour of becoming one of the first people in the UK to receive their Blue Belt grade from Mauricio, I was eager to continue my training in BJJ. For the next few years I continued my BJJ training by visiting seminars when ever possible, drilling the techniques I had already learnt, also, by training with Jamie and Steve whenever I got chance.
In November of 2000, I was extremely honoured to be awarded my 3rd Degree Black Belt by Geoff and Peter at one of the British Combat Association’s Instructors seminars at Coventry. The presentation was a total surprise, but an event that I was immensely proud of, especially having the award given by two people who I so greatly admire.
During much of 2000, I began to develop and construct a grading syllabus to take into account the main issues addressed during the study of the Real Approach Concept, both cognitive and physical. At the beginning of 2001 I introduced the grading system. The awards are done through an on-going assessment of the individual students progress. I am constantly researching reality-based topics and analysing. I firmly believe that to teach you should constantly learn, that way you are always in a position to teach. The moment you close your mind to your own self development, you stop growing.
In 2002 I began to teach ‘Kickboxing’ classes again, firstly at the Academy, then later in the year on behalf of my local branch of Fitness First (international gym chain). This almost marked a full circle of my instructing topics. I use the term Kickboxing as an easy way terming the culmination of several ‘standing’ based martial arts. Having had many enquiries for this type of class, I saw it as an ideal way to introduce people to martial arts, relaying the skills and theories in a positive medium. My intention with these classes was to give people an understanding of applying technical skills, with a realistic perspective, by utilising their natural energy and ability, rather than through physical strength and aggression. The teaching is carried out in a progressive way, affording both regular and frequent students the opportunity to continually develop their skills and level of understanding. This formula worked very well indeed. Unfortunately, due to management changes at the gym I had to regrettably stop the classes after a few years.
In 2005 I began training with Ben Poppleton, then a Brown Belt under Carlos Gracie Jnr. Ben used to teach many classes privately as a means of attaining funds to allow him to spend three or four months at a time in Brazil, training. I found Ben’s attention to detail second to none. My time training under his guidance proved very beneficial and his direct teaching style was well suited, achieving the results I was hoping for. The principles and techniques I learnt from Ben I use frequently and consistently teach my students today. His teaching style influenced me greatly and I strive to emulate this when I teach others. In my opinion, Ben is one of the pioneers of BJJ in the UK and is largely responsible for many of the Brazilian’s, who have spent any length of time here, getting established by organising seminar’s etc on their behalf. It was later that year that Ben introduced me to Lucio ‘Lagarto’ Rodrigues, who had come to the UK from Brazil. In March of 2006, I received my Purple Belt from Lagarto. In 2007, Lagarto moved back to Brazil. Shortly after I met Victor Estima, a Ze Radiola Black Belt and younger brother of Braulio Estima. I received my Brown Belt from him in December, 2009 and continued to train under Victor until I moved away from the Mansfield area in 2010. One of my students, Rick Cooke, whilst training with me, achieved huge competitive success – winning Silver at the European BJJ Championships in Portugal, Gold at the World BJJ Championships in Rio De Janeiro and Gold in the World No-Gi BJJ Championships in California. Prior to training with me he had no martial arts experience at all.
After spending the next three years training in various locations I re-connected with Ben, who was now a 2nd degree black belt, and was invited up to a seminar he was teaching in Sheffield, where he surprised me by awarding me my black belt. It felt almost surreal to finally achieve the infamous black belt. After years of training dealing with factors that presented various difficulties, my journey to achieving my black belt has been a long one, but at the same time a rich and rewarding one. As with much of my martial arts training and teaching throughout the years, I have been blessed to have met some truly inspirational people – both instructors and student alike. People whose ability, knowledge, effort, determination and enthusiasm have been totally inspirational. In fact, to such a level that I feel compelled to inspire others through my own teaching.
Over the past few years I have witnessed a fast transition within the BJJ world. The progression of knowledge is accelerating, largely due to the amount of good information readily available. There are numerous different martial arts clubs in close proximity – a sign of martial arts being far more accepted and regarded in today’s society. I have seen with my own eyes how my own students have developed and evolved at a much faster rate than I did at their stage of training. I continually feel humbled by the people I have around me training, not just for the respect they pay towards me, but for their respect and efforts towards each other and their part in creating an ideal training environment. I watch some of my higher grades train and teach and marvel at their ability. I continue to learn from everyone I train with, because everyone has something to offer each other. As I regularly say, “If we help each other get better, then we all get better”.
I have been extremely fortunate over the years to have spent time with some of the greatest martial artists around. The likes of Rick Young (JKD; Filipino; BJJ; Judo), Dan Inosanto (JKD; Jun Fan; Filipino), Erik Paulson (Shootwrestling; Submission Grappling), Mauricio Gomes (BJJ), Renzo Gracie (BJJ), Jamie Johnson (Judo), Geoff Thompson (Reality martial arts), Peter Consterdine (Close Quarter Combat; Impact striking), Steve Gawthorpe (Judo), Jamie Johnson (Judo), Roger Gracie (BJJ)—to name a few. Many of these people have influenced me in different ways regards to my physical training, but they have all inspired me immensely. Within their areas of expertise these people are held in the highest regard, some reaching, in my humble opinion, deserved legendary status. This impressive regard is not something that is just freely given, it is hard earned through dedication, hard work and above all—humility. They are not merely skilled martial artists, they are great human beings. Qualities worthy of aspiring to.
So, to the present. My main teaching and training at the moment is mostly around BJJ and submission grappling, although I still teach the reality martial arts and self protection, privately and via seminars and workshops.