Friday, 3 May 2013
I know I'm a couple of weeks behind with this, but congratulations to Aldo De Georgi on receiving his purple belt.
Aldo is a fairly new to Combat Base North East but was easily worth his grading as we all know! Aldo's stand-up and ground games are excellent, particularly his Guard passing which is going to improve all of our Guards. And he's a nice guy who has immediately become a well-liked member of the team.
Friday, 12 April 2013
I'd like to congratulate Reece Potts who was awarded a well deserved blue belt tonight from Graeme Allsopp, Ed Drysdale and myself.
As I've said many times, I won't give anyone a belt who doesn't have takedowns. Reece ticks all the boxes for blue belt, with very good standing and ground games. It was a real pleasure to give him the news and see how much it meant to him.
I know he's a popular member of the team and everyone will be happy for him, but be careful...he was a nightmare to roll with afterwards.
Sunday, 3 March 2013
When I returned from the Europeans in Portugal, Graeme Allsopp asked me if I'd be writing a post for the blogsite. At the time I hadn't really thought about it, but I do think its a good idea for a few reasons. You'll probably see what I mean.
It's been a while since I competed. My competition days really preceded the sort of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions we see in the UK, Europe or the World now. I competed mainly in Sambo and Judo, with a little Submission Wrestling thrown in. I had my moments and beat some good fighters, but my confidence was always my achilles heel. That's the reason why I never really enjoyed competing.
I think I last competed in a Sambo competition in Batley, West Yorkshire in 2002. I almost lived for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at that time. I travelled a 270 mile round trip every Saturday to train with my coach Darren Currie, rolling another few times each week on nine jigsaw mats in a freezing cold church hall in Sandyford, Newcastle upon Tyne, with a few friends. All of us on nine jigsaw mats.
I also attended every seminar, and I mean every seminar, in the UK. I was lucky to train with some greats. I also bought competition video tapes (it was 10 years ago!) from the USA and watched them constantly. This was the era of Fernando "Terere" Augusto, Marcio "Pe De Pano" Cruz and Fernando " Pontes...and of course, Saulo Ribeiro.
Within a few months of that competition, I would receive my blue belt from Straight Blast Gym's Matt Thornton and would spend a week in New York, training at Renzo's Gracie's academy under Renzo, Shawn Williams and John Danaher. Then my Priorities changed.
My mother became very seriously ill, resulting her being in hospital for eight months, at the end if which she was left disabled. The stress killed my father with a heart attack. Like I say, priorities change and I never competed again.
A couple of years ago, before Chris McIntyre suffered his shoulder dislocation, he was talking about competing in the Europeans. The more I though about it, the more I decided I wanted to compete there as well. For the last two Januarys prior to this one, I've suffered injuries which have ruled me out of the competition.
In 2010 I was recovering from a neck injury which had left me in more pain than I ever though I could be in. A year later, I was wrongly diagnosed with a medial meniscus tear.
But the idea has stayed in my mind for a few reasons:-
- The sport has grown so much since I last competed. As I said, I'd only ever competed in Sambo, Judo and Submission Wrestling. Competitions like the Scotia Cup, the Scottish Open, the Glasgow and Edinburgh Opens, where we've had such success, even the London Open, didn't exist. I'd never competed in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I just wanted to be able to compete in my own sport and to stand on a mat next to some of the top guys.
- Some of you guys have done so well in national-level competition. I wanted to open your minds that you may be able to take a further step onto the international stage. Age sneaks up in you quickly, you have to live your dreams while you can.
- I work you guys pretty hard in pre-competition training, like iron mans. It's important to me that I always have your respect. I will never be one of those coaches who never rolls, or who only rolls with white belts. I wanted you to see me doing the sort of training I was asking you to do. And I wanted to show I could perform in competition.
So I'd promised myself one last competition, the Europeans.
Having been injured for 2011 and 2012, I stayed largely injury free for most of 2012, except of course needing to pad my knee with car sponges to lessen the pain from my acute patella injury after a bad fall. But towards the end of 2012, my knee was feeling better.
Then, in November I got what seemed at first like a cold. It quickly became a chest infection that no amount of antibiotics seemed to shift. There were a few of us suffering chest infections in my office. The lady who sits beside me has since been diagnosed with whooping cough, which is highly contagious, so it's likely that I had it too.
So I watched as my planned training camp became more and more compressed. In the end, I was able to start training 7 weeks from the competition, but at first only straight cardio, 30 minutes on the cross-trainer or rowing machine to build my aerobic again. I started iron mans, but I remember my chest was so bad for the first couple of weeks I felt I'll after one round.
One of the first things I had to do was join the International Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). You can join online and it costs only $35 for a year. However, you have to allow time for your membership card to arrive from Brazil. Chris Haueter signed mine in about three days, then it arrived after about a fortnight.
There was another problem. I wanted to register early...no going back as they say. However, by mid-December there was nobody else in my weight division.
Of course, my weight division was another issue. I was around 89 kg in my gi, even at the start of my training camp, so I knew I could reach Medium Heavyweight (under 88.3 kg). There was a chance I could reach Middleweight (under 82.3 kg), but a combination of my slow start to training and Christmas and New Year, would make Middleweight a challenge.
Then someone called Arvin Widder, a former Yugoslavian national Judo champion from Bosnia and Herzegovina entered Senior 3 Medium Heavyweight. I immediately registered.
Having someone else in my weight division focused my game. I started drilling Low Single and Turtle / Sprawl escapes. I wasn't going to get into a throwing battle with this guy. Watching the Pan Jiu-Jitsu 2011 DVDs, I saw a guy called Jack (Jackson) McVicker. He was a Senior 1 Lightweight who found exactly as I wanted to. I found him a real inspiration. I'll use him as a blog post soon.
By Christmas, I was facing another problem. I don't know what it is still, but I keep feeling, almost a tearing sensation in the left side of my stomach. I have felt it every now and then for a couple of years since it happened while drilling Clinch with Brett Smart before one of his fights.
It started to really affect my iron mans, particularly as I was working from underneath Turtle a lot. I think the worse time was on Christmas Eve when Dave Vincent tried to transition to Back Mount and I was in pain for hours afterwards. But not wanting to appear as if I was quitting, once the pain subsided a little, I restarted the my iron mans from the start.
On the plus side, by then my chest was starting to feel better. I was training twice a day, six days each week, and was staring to feel good after the iron mans. I held my weight over Christmas and New Year, mainly by watching what I ate and drank, while being mindful that I didn't want to spoil my partner, Teresa's festive season by watching every calorie.
One Saturday night, over New Year, I did what had almost become an obsession to me, and checked the competitors list on the IBJJF website. I did it hourly. Arvin Widder had moved to senior 4 Medium Heavyweight.
Strangely, he'd also sent me a friend request on Facebook in December. When he changed divisions, he unfriended me. Still, it was weeks to the competition and I was sure there old be other Medium Heavyweights enter in the interim.
For the last three weeks of my training camp, I was able to train as I'd wanted. I still coughed, but I felt good. I trained circuit-training twice every week. I'd designed it around my game plan. Four 5:20 rounds of Burpee, Square Drill, Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift (with dumbbells), Russian Twist (with a plate), Mountain Climbers, 4-Direction Push-Ups, Walking Lunge and the Plank.
I also did five, six-minute interval sessions on the cross-trainer, twice a week and two thirty minute rowing machine workouts. Combined with abstinence from drinking (except two glasses of wine on a Saturday night) and eating salads, I saw my weight fall and my fitness increase as I neared the competition.
I have to also thank Ed Drysdale, who took a week's leave from work to help me train through the day.
Then things derailed! Teresa's mother was taken into hospital and I think we knew she'd die. I made an early decision that I wouldn't be going to Portugal if she died or was expected to die around that time.
Adam Lowes, who was travelling with me, was great as I knew he would be. He said I could decide on the last day before we were due to leave if necessary. While my priority was to support Teresa, I didn't want to let Adam down. Adam's wife, Louise, booked our flight and hotel.
I'd wondered what I would do if there was no-one else at Medium Heavyweight by the closing date (about a week before the competition). There seemed to be three options:-
- move up to Heavyweight, which was my favoured option;
- move down to Senior 2 Medium Heavyweight; or
- stay where I was, and focus on the absolute.
In the end, events determined my choice.
On the Monday in the week of the competition, Teresa's mother died. We spent the weekend before that watching her slowly die in hospital. It was an experience I can't even describe in words.
At that time, I decided I wasn't going to Portugal, some things were more important. On the Tuesday, two days before I was due to fly, Teresa and her son Dan tried to convince me to go anyway. The next day, Teresa teamed up with my mother to convince me to go. In complete turmoil, I agreed and I texted Adam to say I was still going.
We went to Manchester the next day. I felt really unwell. I didn't want to go, I didn't want to leave Teresa and I though the way I felt, it wouldn't do myself justice.
The flight to Lisbon took off an hour late, but arrived on time. We took, or should that be survived, a taxi the five or ten minutes to our hotel, Hotel Almirante, near the Anjos metro station on Avenue Almirante Reis. In retrospect, I think the red metro line goes all the way to the airport. If you get a taxi, one thing you’ll need to know if that Lisbon taxi drivers add something onto what’s on the meter for putting cases in the boot. The fair was only 15 Euro, but it would have probably cost 1.40 Euro or so on the metro.
The hotel wasn’t fantastic, but it’s in a great place for reaching everywere in Lisbon by metro, plus it was clean and tidy. I’d read the Rough Guide to Portugal before going to Lisbon, as I always do when I go away. Theyre excellent travel guides, but I have to say my first impression of Lisbon was not that it was "startling and eccentric" as the guide said.
We decided to check out the venue, so we knew where it was ahead of the next day when Adam would be competing, then to go and find somewhere to eat. The Rough Guide indicated that, as a vegan, I may struggle to find anything to eat in Portugal. The UK is the best country in the whole World in which to be a vegan, seriously. When I go abroad, I often have to relax my principles and eat eggs and milk, but what I’d read indicated I would likely starve to death.
And I also drink green team constantly. I love coffee, but it dehydrates me so much I wanted to be careful with it. The lack of a kettle in the room meant I couldn’t enjoy my green tea that I bought at the airport for more money than you would believe. I’d forgotten so much in my mental state, green tea, razors, shaving foam, aftershave, etc. I'd also left behind the gi Teresa bought me, specifically for the Europeans. Then I discovered wheverer you ask for tea in Lisbon, they’ll ask you if you want green or black.
A word of caution is that it's more difficult with Portugal's wonderful coffee. The Portuguese drink it like the Italians, small and black. When Adam wanted a coffee with milk, they made his Americano with espresso in hot milk rather than water!
We took the metro, three stops on the green line to Areeiro. The Lisbon metro is simple to understand and is very reliable and cheap. It's a great system. In fact Lisbon is cheap. I’ve been to Paris and Rome recently and Lisbon is a fraction of the expense.
It's worth saying as well, the people are pretty nice. I think Adam's courtesy surprised the hotel and shop staff, but everyone was very nice to us. One thing that will shock you on the metro is the number of old, blind people begging. I've not see anything like it before.
I’d tried to learn a little Portuguese before I went to Lisbon, and in fairness did. But everyone’s English was far better than my pathetic attempt at their language. Arriving at Areeiro, we saw a steady stream of cauliflower eared guys with competitors t-shirts on heading towards us. We stopped a German who, as Germans do, shamed us by speaking our language more elegantly than we did, and he directed us to the Complexo Municipal Esportivo do Casal Vistoso on Rua João Silva, which is only a few minutes from the metro station.
If you choose to go to the Europeans, you exit the metro station at the big square and head left. You cross the road with the BP garage on and take the next left. Then you head towards the palm tree and turn left towards an ugly sixties concrete monstrosity. That's the sports centre.
It's in an area of Lisbon which is particularly unstartling and uneccentric with tower blocks, although I have to say Lisbon feels incredibly safe.
If you compete in the Europeans, I would suggest you spend as little time in the sports centre as possible, until after you've completed. IBJJF competitions are maxing out in terms of competitors, so you should register early in case they close. There were too many people in the sports centre. It felt like a football crowd. It was packed and the atmosphere was oppressive. Within 2 minutes I’d seen Roger Gracie and Andre Galvao.
Be aware, the announcements are only for weigh-ins and matches. You have already registered beforehand so don't expect to do so when you arrive. The long queue is for the competitors t-shits and free copy of Gracie Mag, where you need to show either your IBJJF card or passport.
After a while we left and had a look around Lisbon. We took the metro to Rossio and walked down to the sea front. It was cold enough that you had to wear a light coat or hoodie, but probably not both, but remember the UK had ground to a halt under snow. The dull weather probably didn’t help the appearance of the city, but Lisbon isn’t attractive in the way Paris or, especially, Rome are. It’s very ordinary.
I think the Rough Guide was right. If you’re a vegan, you will starve in a Portuguese restaurant. Fortunately, western Europe is well populated Italian ones, where I ate well. We also picked which pubs we’d have our blow out in after we'd both competed.
I’m 45 and I’ve never been offered drugs in my life...until Lisbon. We were constantly offered marijuana around the sea front. When I firmly said “no” to one guy, he looked at me indignantly and said “cocaine then?”
We had an early night that night and met for breakfast the next day. You're allowed to weight yourselves at the competition, provided you're wearing a gi. We both did it the next day and found we were both comfortable.
Despite the fact that this was Europe’s premier BJJ competition, and was very well run, there were no warm-up mats. We found a balcony and warmed-up there.
The schedule is published on the IBJJF website and on notice bnoards in the sports centre next to where they sell Keiko Raca, Atama and Koral gis and equipment.
Adam was on around 13:15. At 13:15 they called him into one of three screened-off areas. Here he could weigh himself on the unoffical scales (again, assuming he was wearing a gi).
Next they move you into a second area where they measure your gi and weigh you. Adam weighed in alright but his belt was too long. If you’re competing in an IBJJF competition, please read the rules, even around gis. Your gi length, thickness, patch placement and belt length are all important. And remember, you can’t wear a groin guard.
I didn't see it personally, but Adam says they were making competitors pick the patches off Tatami Estillo gis.
After you’ve weighed in, you’re called into the "bull pit" where you wait until a mat official, wearing a numbered bib that corresponds to a numbered mat area, leads you to the mat for your matches. Adam stood in an absolutely packed bullpit for around 01:45. I mean packed. He was shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone else and there was not enough room to keep loose.
There is a sectioned off area for IBJJF registered black belt coaches to stand. It's got a great view of the mats but it's too noisy to corner from there. I was able to look straight across to the bull pit and see how much the pressure of waiting was getting to Adam, as it would've done to anyone.
He lost his first match. Most of you will have seen it by now as an extra on the Darren Currie seminar DVD. There are some great learning points and Adam knows what they are. But he will always be the first person from our team to stand on the mats in the Europeans and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
I first met Adam when we both did traditional Ju-Jitsu. He was a kid then but he’s grown into someone I’m honoured to know. I’m pleased it was him who I went to Portugal with because I enjoyed his company, and because he has a record for our small team, that will stand forever.
At the end of the day, we ate another Italians and watched Benfica play on the tv in the restaurant. We then had another early night.
We’d already decided to see the Sporting Lisbon match on the Sunday evening. On the Saturday morning we went over to the Estadio Jose Alvalade and bought our tickets.
By this time, I'd had a couple of great sleeps and was feeling much better. I hadn't realised how stressed I was until I's started feeling more relaxed. I thanks Adam for being such a good friend during those few days.
I’m a real working class boy and was disappointed we couldn’t see Benfica rather than their upper class rivals, but I have to say, there’s a really nice atmospere around Sporting. We travelled three metro stopes beyond Areeiro and got off at Campo Grande.
The stadium is very nice (complete with a Lidls supermarket) and the staff were very friendly. We bought our tickets, which were pretty much the most expensive, for 22 Euros and headed the three stops back to Areeiro and the sports centre.
The atmosphere inside was very oppresive on the Saturday. It was great though. I shared changing rooms with Claudio Calasans and Bernardo Faria. I passed Romulo Barral. Terere said hello, as did Gabriel Rainho of Grappling Fight Team, London, who I met at a Julio Cesar Pereira and Theodoro Canal seminar last October, and who is a really nice guy. It was all pretty incredible.
I think doing something fun, seeing Sporting's stadium, on the morning of my matches really helped me stay loose. I'd recommend you find something to do on the day of your competition that is fun and keeps you out of the sports centre. I'd never met Combat Base UK's Phil Ounsley until Lisbon. He has a fantastic record in the World's biggest competitions and he said more or less the same.
I first realised that I was well under the weight. You can weigh yourself in in the first cordoned off area if you have a gi on. I weighed-in at 84.5 kg. I had to wait until I was called to weight-in and have my gi checked before I could be given a default gold medal for the Medium Heavyweight category.
Obviously, a medal I hadn't won a match for didn't mean anything, but it allowed me to register for the absolute. I knew there were twelve Senior 3s, so I assumed I would be in a division of eight or so. As it happened it would only be four.
While weighing in I stood next to an American who asked where I was from. There is a lot of guys eye-balling each other at the Europeans, trying to unnerve each other. It’s typical that the friendliest guy there was an American. His name was Kelly Rundle of Alliance, a Texan and really nice guy (he's pictured above with Adam and me).
He was a Senior 4 and was due to fight Arvin Widder in the absolute (there were only 2 Senior 4s). I’d heard of Kelly and he’s a really cool guy, look him up.
Once we'd weighed in, we had to wait for our names to appear on a tv screen, so we could collect our medals and then register for the absolute. I refused to stand alone on the podium for my gold medal. It's a really nice medal, but I didn't earn it.
After that I got changed, had a green tea and some food and returned for the absolute.
I warmed up in the corridor for a 18:10 call and got it about 30 minutes early, meaning I wasn’t finished warming-up. I had my gi checked and moved into the bull pit. My warm-up was what we call the Dynamic Warm-Up, which seemed to work for me, even if I got strange looks from some people while skipping.
It was then I realised that there were only four of us in the division. I’d said to Ed Drysdale before I went that my dream was to fight Wellington “Megaton” Dias of Gracie Humaita in the final. The guy is an absolute legend. If you don’t know who he is, shame on you. Megaton still competes at Adult in the Pans and Mundials (Worlds).
I seemed to stand in the bullpit forever. I knew I was matched with Pericles da silva Pereira Netto of Alliance in the semi-final, who finished with a bronze at Heavyweight. Megaton was fighting Jefferson Emmanuel Barros of Checkmat, the silver medallist at Middleweight.
While I stood there, this guy stood next to me. He looked really tough, but I saw his Checkmat patch and realised he was Barros. Great, I though, Megaton can fight him.
A while later the mat 2 official came to me and explained that Pericles hadn’t shown yet. He didn’t want to disqualify him, so he asked if would I fight Jefferson. I said yes. It took me about two weeks to wonder why if both Megaton and Jefferson were ready, they didn't just fight.
While he checked with Jefferson, I remember looking down at the eight mats, with various competitors or various grades and status on them. Was I nervous, no. I was happy. Really, really happy. I felt relaxed and win, lose or draw, this was what I'd wanted. I walked behind Jefferson to mat 2.
For some reason, I became all traditional at that moment and I found myself bowing before I stepped onto the mat. No-one else did, just me. I didn’t realise it at the time but Jefferson was South American champion in 2012 and Brazilian Nationals silver medalist.
But I had a game plan. Low Single, then Guard pass like Terere. So we shook hands and I shot. And he stepped back and stuffed it. As we reingaged, I realised someting. Jack McVicker’s grip breaks were excellent and mine weren't. Somehow he manages to stay within shooting range but keep the grips off his kimono.
The fighting area is really small and I found it almost impossible not to be backing up, trying to stop my opponent from gripping onto my kimono. Jefferson backed me up against the edge of the mat, then pulled Guard and swept me.
I have to say, I went into my zone. I had no idea what was happening with the points, although in retrospect I was clearly two down. I worked from Closed Guard for a choke, and I had him worried, until he stood up, with his legs too close together. I wrapped my legs around his and swept him to the side.
Unfortunately, I lay on my back marvelled at sweeping the guy instead of climbing a top position. He got up first and I had to pull Half Guard to save the pass. I was suprised I didn’t get an advantage but as he was winning on points it hardly mattered. I then trapped his leg, climbed to my knees and went to put him on his back.
In fairness to Jefferson, I think he wanted to go to his Guard, so at the time I assumed I’d scored with a sweep. When I realised afterwards that I hadn’t, I was a bit surpised, but it was probably fair. I think he pulled Guard as I swept him.
However I got his back and sunk in the Single Wing Strangle. I was about to switch to the Bow and Arrow when I saw his hand ready to tap. I tightened it and he tapped-out.
Afterwards, there were two nice bits. I spoke to Jefferson, who didn’t speak English. Let’s say I don’t speak Portuguese beyond hello, goodbye and a few other things, but it was great. We understood each other, to an extent anyway.
He was a black belt from Ricardo Vieira’s in Rio, a really nice guy. Kelly had also watched my match, which was very nice of him. He said that was a really big win for me. That he’d seen Jefferson on the circuit a lot and he was a good fighter.
Then I made a stupid mistake. I should’ve watched Megaton and Pericles instead of talking, but I didn’t. Megaton won easily. In fairness, I'd downloaded movies from You Tube of everyone I might possibly meet with the intention of watching them during my rest week before the competition. But as things turned out, I hadn't managed to do so.
Then was my final against Megaton, exactly what I’d hoped for. Let’s be honest, I should’ve done better, but I was overawed by who he was. But I wouldn’t have beaten if I'd watched the You Tube movies I'd downloaded, or his match with Pericles or if I hadn't respected him so much.
The first things that surprised me, and shouldn’t have, because he’d done it to Neto, was his stance. He was in a low squat. In the time I took to formulate a plan B, he took me down with a Tomoe-Nage...as he apparently had to Pericles. From there it was an uphill battle.
In the end he got me with an Arm Bar. I had my hands locked together, but I went for the escape and he caught me. But I’m pleased with how I fought. I lost trying to win, rather trying to avoid tapping. In the end, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have lost to than Megaton. He is a legend.
I waited around for a while to see Kelly and Widder, but Arvin didn't answer his call and Kelly didn't get a match.
Adam and I celebrated that night...with one beer each! Party animals. I’d forgotten how it feels after you’ve competed. I was exhausted, but happy at my silver medal.
On the Sunday morning we took the green line two stops to Alameda, then the red line two stops to Sao Sebastiao, then the blue line five stops to Colegio Militar / Luz to see the original Estádio da Luz / Stadium of Light. The legendary Benfica’s ground was pretty disappointing if I’m honest. It just wasn’t as nice as Sporting’s. However, it was great seeing it. Plus we got to see some of the children's squads practising. Who knows, we may have seen the next Cristiano Ronaldo or Luís Figo among them...but then, how would we know.
Next to the stadium is is a fantastic shopping centre. It's almost like an upperclass Metro Centre. It was also fantastic for vegan and vegetarian food. We ate lunch there and went to the sports centre to watch the Adult back belt finals.
Again, I could get into the black belt area and have a great view of the matches, which was fantastic as the centre was packed. We’d missed one of the best moments. One of Terere’s students, Alan "Finfou", had bought Terere’s black belt years earlier. He knew Terere would buy crack with the money and so he promised that he would hand the belt back one day when Terere was clean again. The two were drawn to meet each otherr in Lisbon, but Finfou conceded the match, handing the same black belt back to Terere.
My other significant memory was of Alexander Trans snatching victory from the jaws of defeat to win the Ultra Heavyweight semi final. The crowd went into ecstasy as he swept his opponent and passed his Guard to reverse his points deficit.There were also some fantastic performances from brown belts Keenan Cornelius and the Miyao brothers.
That night Adam and I watched Sporting Lisbon as they drew with Vitória Guimarães. They are so poor, but it was a great experience and the atmosphere was very friendly. I was impressed with the food at the ground. I had a falafel, kibbeh, houmous and rice. Quite a distance from balti pies.
On the Monday we returned home. I suppose all that’s left to say is did I get out of it what I wanted?
Well, I got to compete in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and loved every minute of it. I just want to do the Pans and the World Masters and Seniors now. I enjoyed it so much and got a lot of confidence in my grade my submitting a black belt from one of the most respected Brazilian academies.
And hopefully, you guys all see now, I won’t ask you to do anything I wouldn't do myself.
Finally, I hope some of you might think about the Europeans in the future, you are good enough. It cost Adam and me under £300 for flights and hotel, and we could’ve spent £100 or so on food and other expenses if we'd wanted. Plus we were there for four nights. You could do it in less.
Just to finish, I'll say another thanks to everyone who helped me prepare for the Europeans, particularly with the iron mans, but especially, Ed for taking a week off work to drill with me. And to Adam, who helped me get my mind together. To my coach Darren, whose faith in me made me want to do him proud. And to Teresa for being so supportive and understanding.
The Born Free Foundation have sent me this update on the lion we sponsor, Sinbad.
You may remember, Sinbad was rescued from some awful conditions in a Romanian zoo. He's doing well now on a reserve in South Africa, but is about half the size of other male lions due to the poor diet in the zoo.
Most of you will know already, Dan Boyle and Graeme Allsopp were representing our team at Inferno Fighting Championships in Ashington, Northumberland today.
Graeme won his 81kg match with Kris Rutherford or Team Parente in style, submitting his opponent at 1:50 of round one with a Guillotine after pretty much dominating. As he said himself afterwards, not he can enjoy his recent promotion to black belt.
Dan fought Michael Abbott of Gracie Barra in a British title match at 66kg. It couldn't have been closer but Dan lost the decision by a single point. It was close, but it was a fair result. But Abbott was a step up in class for Dan, it was a British title fight and it was very close, so once again, he did himself, me and our team proud.
I'll have some DVDs ready over the next couple of days, and we can think what we can all learn from Dan and Graeme's matches.
A big thanks to Ed Drysdale and Michael Serginson for all the work they've done with the two guys, including the hand-wrapping, warming-up and cornering today. Another big thanks to everyone who turned up to cheer the guys on and everyone who's helped them prepare over their training camps.
It was particularly nice to see Kris Brotherton there. Kris has been out injured for three years now, but at least we now have a diagnosis.
Also well done to our friends from Hammerheads Vale Tudo, Freddy Wykes and Steve Fairbairn who have trained with us lately. For obvious reasons I didn't see their matches, but I gather both guys won in style. Congratulations.
Friday, 1 March 2013
As most of you know, I started this incarnation of Combat Base North East on Saturday 11th September 2004. It was actually called Combat Base Northumberland at the time, the attempt to expand our catchment area beyond the county’s borders by adding a class at Whitley Bay didn’t quite work out as I had hoped.
That first class was at Ashington Leisure Centre. It was pretty full to be honest. Trevor Mitchell, Aaron Naisbett and Sam Howey from what is now Checkmat at Sunderland came along that day to give me some support. Otherwise the class was, that day and for the next few weeks, essentially the remnants of Gary Pollard’s Wrestling / Sambo team.
Aside from Trev and Aaron, I was the only blue belt on the mat on that first class. Among the white belts was Ed Drysdale, who was one of Gary’s Wrestlers, and who’d trained on the first class of my previous attempt to open a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club in the area. Also on the mat was Graeme Allsopp who was at the time practising traditional Ju-Jitsu.
The club has struggled at times, but Ed and Graeme have been there throughout. There are also a couple of things I love about our team. I like the whole team ethic. There are no egos in our team and everyone is very supportive of each other, a point I’ll return to in a moment. I also really like the philosophy everyone shares about developing stand-up games and working basic percentage techniques.
I was lucky to have Ed and Graeme there from that first day. I don’t in anyway underestimate how important they were, as others were too, in setting that ethic in the class. Everyone who’s followed them into the club has embraced that ethic...or they haven’t stayed with us.
With that in mind, it was an immense personal pleasure for me to see both Ed and Graeme rewarded with their black belts on Saturday 16th February 2013. The awards came from my coaches Darren and Helen Currie, and their coach Chris Haueter. Darren contacted me while I was in Portugal for the Europeans to confirm that Ed and Graeme would be awarded their black belts. It was a struggle not to say anything to the guys.
Again, I can’t possibly overstate how much much Darren and Helen have done, and how much they continue to do, for me personally and for this team, so it was great to see so many of you at Darren’s excellent Turtle / Back Mount defence seminar. It was equally great to see so many of you there because you wanted to see your team mates promoted to black belt, which is the comment I wanted to make about supporting team mates.
I haven't mentioned him on here yet, but in January, Adam Lowes made me very proud by becoming the first member of Combat Base North East to step on the mat in the European Open. I'll write a post on our experiences as quickly as I can, but it's been a pretty awesome start to the year.
Monday, 31 December 2012
At the end of every year, I like to reflect on what’s happened during the year and to set a few team goals for the new year.
2012 was quiet for us in terms of competition. For the first time since 2008, we didn’t have any MMA fights. However, there have been some good things to celebrate:-
We started 2012 with a new logo, designed by our own Chris McIntyre. The old one served its purpose but had become very dated. The new logo is a one to display on the back of a gi.
In February, we had 5 competitors at the Scottish Open in Edinburgh. Lee Carr and John Ferguson competed in the adult white belt middleweight, with Lee winning a gold and John missing out on a bronze by a single advantage. Adam Lowes won a masters blue belt super / ultra heavyweight silver medal. Adam finishes the year at medium heavyweight, which is an impressive change in his physique. Simon Ball and Laurie Major both competed in the adult purple belt, even though Laurie is actually a senior 3. Simon won silver in both the division and the absolute. Laurie injured his rib in the first few seconds of his first match but kept on trying to win.
Also in February, I rewarded Lee Carr with a well-deserved blue belt.
In March, we had another 5 competitors for the Scotia Cup in Glasgow. 4 of them would win silver medals. Michael “Serge”Serginson won a silver in the adult white belt lightweight, Lee Carr in the adult blue belt middleweight, Adam Lowes in the masters blue belt super heavyweight and Drew Christie in the adult purple belt middleweight. Dan Allsopp was disqualified from the adult white belt middleweight, although he was allowed to compete in the absolute, where he lost his first match to a coin toss.
In March / April, Andy Ferris became the second new blue belt of the year.
May saw Adam Lowes and Drew Christie compete at the British Open in Birmingham, Adam in the masters blue belt super heavyweight and Drew in the adult purple belt middleweight.
And in June, Adam was again competing, this time in the Edinburgh Open, where he was joined by Lee Carr and Andy Ferris. Adam again won silver in the masters blue belt heavyweight. Lee competed in the adult blue belt middleweight. Andy won gold in the adult blue belt light-featherweight, snatching victory with a great last minute comeback.
August saw our first and only purple belt promotion of the year. A long-overdue one to Brett Smart.
October saw Adam Lowes at 2 more competitions. He won bronzes in the masters blue belt middle heavyweight divisions at both the North East Open in Gateshead and the Glasgow Open.
I started 2012 with a few blog posts on Grappling Fight Team, including Theodoro Canal and Julio Cesar Pereira himself. In October, Adam and I were lucky enough to attend a seminar with them at GFT London, and to roll with them both plus London coach, Gabriel Rainho.
And a couple of weeks ago, I gave Norman Campbell his blue belt.
Aside from the above, Graeme Allsopp and his partner Stephanie gave birth to a son, Cael, and over the last few days Chris McIntyre announced that his wife Helen was pregnant with his third child. Apologies if I’ve neglected to mention anyone’s good news, I let my blog slip for a while, so we’re on memory here.
But 2012 wasn’t all good. We’ve suffered some injuries to key regulars. We all remember Simon Ball’s finger, which thankfully didn’t keep him out too long. Aside from his rib injury above, Laurie Major snapped his achilles practicing O-Soto-Gari and Ed Drysdale, who’s been a regular since the first class on 11th September 2004 cut clean through the tendon of his finger at work. One of my highlights of 2012 is seeing Ed back in his gi and back on the mats over the last few days.
Aside from that, we’ve pretty much struggled with number over the last few months.
So what do we want from 2013. Well we already have a few people signed up for competitions and fights. Adam Lowes and me are going across to the European Open in Lisbon, Portugal in January, and Graeme Allsopp, Dan Boyle and Brett Smart are all due to return to the cage in March.
Above all, I’d like us all to stay injury-free and healthy. Injuries are part of the game, but it’s tough seeing friends injured.
It would be nice if those competing and fighting got the rewards for their efforts, but ultimately all I ask is that we all work hard in training and compete with heart and pride.
Hopefully, we’ll also get a few more number on the mat this year. I’m going to ask you all to re-post our poster on your Facebook walls over the next few days.
Happy New Year everyone,