In my early teens I was keen to learn self-defence, which led me to develop a passion for martial arts.
Initially, I took up kickboxing but often wondered what would happen if the fight ended up on the floor thereby negating my ability to ‘kick and punch’.
I therefore decided to look at other forms of martial arts and came across Geoff Thompson, a martial arts expert and prolific author, who proved to be a big influence on the direction I took.
Through him, I discovered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), which is predominately a ground fighting martial art. It promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper techniques – most notably by applying joint locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person.
Being a lesser known martial art there were not many practising it in the area but I eventually found a small club in Bradford where there were only four people training at the time. It was there that I met Mark Spencer whom I teamed up with and trained at a number of other clubs in the local area including Huddersfield, Halifax and Pontefract.
We both travelled to California in early 2001 and lived in a gym for a week, where we trained three times a day with some highly skilled professionals.
I continued training for a further three years but then took six years off in order to study law and start work, I also ruptured my achilles tendon playing football which delayed my return further. Mark did not have a break from training and has since established Team Fulinkazan, which is the most active and successful mixed martial arts team in Bradford.
I have now been back in training for three years and have achieved a blue belt, which is a decent level in BJJ, as it can take up to 15 years to achieve a black belt. One of the main attractions of BJJ is the technical aspect. It has been likened to a game of ‘human chess’ as each move has a counter and so on.
To win you have to apply a choke or lock on your opponent. The opponent must then ‘tap’ to confirm they ‘submit’. This makes it safe and relatively injury free, as the person taps before they pass out or suffer any broken limbs.
It keeps me relatively fit, as I try and train three or four times a week, and most of the guys in the gym are half my age, so it is great taking them on and mixing it with them. We have a great camaraderie in the gym, and it is always amusing when the ‘tough guys’ try it for the first time. Many don’t last too long as they cannot handle being beaten by someone smaller or younger than them!
I have entered competitions in the past and my aim is to enter even more next year. Although at the ripe old age of 36 I now have to enter as a ‘senior’!