29 Dec 2009

2 0 0 9

First let me begin by hoping that you all had a great Xmas and hope enjoy your New Year celebrations. Sadly I have not had such a good one as since last Monday I was struck down with flu, not even 'man-flu' but real flu. I was bedridden for five whole days and even now I am weak, feeble and hacking like an old hack. It means my Euros training is down the drain.

But apart from this small end-of-year glitch I have to say, 2009 has been what I consider to be my breakthrough year...

End of Year Review

2 0 0 9 First let me begin by hoping that you all had a great Xmas and hope enjoy your New Year celebrations. Sadly I have not had such a ...

21 Dec 2009


I recently reviewed the free downloadable Braulio Estima lesson offered by Cagefilm. I really liked the video and I liked the way Braulio taught his techniques, so I ordered some more. This is my review of lesson 2:

Braulio Estima - Invisible Jiu Jitsu - Lesson Two

I recently reviewed the free downloadable Braulio Estima lesson offered by Cagefilm . I really liked the video and I liked the way Braulio...

14 Dec 2009



Dang! I had my very first row with my wife about how much time I spend training and how much time I spend on the computer writing about my training. After six years of pretty much the same level of output from me, I only get this now?

It was not a big row, in fact it wasn't a row at all. It was simply that my wife had booked four nights in a row of going out Xmas partying and I squeeked something about not wanting to miss a couple of BJJ sessions she snapped back at me with 'that look'. Oops.

The BJJ Frequency-Spousal Happiness Slide Scale

Dang! I had my very first row with my wife about how much time I spend training and how much time I spend on the computer writing about my...

11 Dec 2009


Woohoo, two magazine articles by my goodself in one month, why Mr Ambassador you are surely spoiling us???

Felipe Souza BJJ School Interview Out Now in MAI

Woohoo, two magazine articles by my goodself in one month, why Mr Ambassador you are surely spoiling us???

7 Dec 2009

A massive Big Up to my comrades who were in action this weekend at the Hereford BJJ Open.
This event was for white belts only and for most of the participants, this was their very first tournament.
Unfortunately I could not go and watch myself, but of course, I got the full lowdown from speaking to some of the guys afterwards...

Mill HIll at the Hereford Open

A massive Big Up to my comrades who were in action this weekend at the Hereford BJJ Open . This event was for white belts only and for most...

3 Dec 2009


Attempting a triangle at Kent BJJ Open

This time last year I decided it was high time I tried to step up my BJJ level. I saw two things I needed to do in order to do this: give up my Trad JJ training, and compete at BJJ tournaments.

It was a tough decision as I really enjoyed running my club, but if I was honest, my heart was always heading towards BJJ. Looking back now, I don't regret my choice. The competitions I have entered have been a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to the sport side of BJJ, and I think I have really benefited from the experience. So much so, that I have decided to enter one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world - the European Championships in Lisbon.

Some thoughts on BJJ competitions

Attempting a triangle at Kent BJJ Open This time last year I decided it was high time I tried to step up my BJJ level. I saw two things I...

30 Nov 2009



My interview and article with Penny Thomas is finally out in Fighters Magazine - December issue which is in shops now. Photos by James Olouch-Olunya of Combat BJJ Photography.



More of my martial art media output to come in the next few weeks so watch this space!!

My Penny Thomas Interview is finally published!!

My interview and article with Penny Thomas is finally out in  Fighters Magazine - December issue which is in shops now. Photos by James O...

22 Nov 2009




Braulio is the hottest name in town right now. The current European openweight, ADCC openweight and World heavyweight champion is not only an awesome competitor, he's a darn good instructor too. Just ask his very loyal and adoring students at the Birmingham Gracie Barra Academy. So I was very keen to have a butchers at his latest set of BJJ instructional videos courtesy of the CageFilm website...

Braulio Estima: Invisible Jiu-Jitsu Instructional Review

Braulio is the hottest name in town right now. The current European openweight, ADCC openweight and World heavyweight champion is not onl...

20 Nov 2009

Photo: Simon armbars Seymour, the ninjutsu way..ouch!

Last night I attended a ninjutsu seminar given by 12th dan Simon Yeo. Readers may recall that I interviewed Simon about his views on traditional martial arts and BJJ. You can read the interview at On The Mat here. So when the offer of training with Simon cropped up, I felt it was the honourable thing to at least see and learn a few tricks from the ninjutsu master.

Simon Yeo seminar

Photo: Simon armbars Seymour, the ninjutsu way..ouch! Last night I attended a ninjutsu seminar given by 12th dan Simon Yeo. Readers may re...

17 Nov 2009

The Fightworks Podcast - published my official review of the Kent BJJ Open Tournament, Enjoy!
.

Kent Open: Fightworks Podcast Review

The Fightworks Podcast - published my official review of the Kent BJJ Open Tournament, Enjoy! .

16 Nov 2009



So here's the thing: I know in advance at the Kent BJJ Open, that I have only one opponent in my bracket (seniors under 76kg blue), and so for the past week or so I've planned my strategy and how I'm going to fight my one fight. And, remarkably for me, cometh the day, I actually win the match. Woohoo! But the organisers offer us a 'best of three' scenario. And now suddenly, my hard fought win looks tentative. Will I man-up and fight my best of three, or will I chicken out, take the medal and run?

Kent BJJ Open 2009

So here's the thing: I know in advance at the Kent BJJ Open, that I have only one opponent in my bracket (seniors under 76kg blue), an...

13 Nov 2009

Thanks to the splendiferous Urban Dictionary, I now know the meaning of the phrase, to 'man up'.

This weekend I will 'man up' by competing at the Kent BJJ Open in the Under 70kg Senior Blue Belt category, a weight division that is two above what my natural one is. But I'm not at all worried or nervous, in fact I'm really looking forward to it. The Kent Open is one of the 'biggies' of the events calendar in the UK, so there will be lots of great action to see and people to meet.

As per usual, your budding jiu-jitsu reporter will be there to record the event and write up my experiences.

Oooooosssssssu!

Man up!

Thanks to the splendiferous Urban Dictionary , I now know the meaning of the phrase, to 'man up' . This weekend I will 'man up...

10 Nov 2009

Some gis are born great, others achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them...here are five awesome pimped up blingin' gis that I DARE you to wear!



Five Blingin' BJJ gis

Some gis are born great, others achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them...here are five awesome pimped up blingin' gi...

7 Nov 2009

East London's Brick Lane: ahhhh! the piquant aroma of curry restaurants, the hustle and bustle of shoppers at Spitalfields market, the slamming of bodies on the mats...eh?

Oh yes people, Brick Lane has a new landmark, a factory for fighters - London Fight Factory in fact. And this Meerkat sampled a couple of hours of hard training at the LFF this Saturday, and just about lived to tell the tale...

LFF is actually located on Hanbury Street, a side road off Brick Lane. The entrance is up a flight of metal stairs that lead up to a roof terrace and door. The main training room greets you immediately as you open the door. Walk through the graffiti decorated dojo and down the stairs and you get a second training room, toilets, showers and changing rooms. Then, almost hidden behind the glass screen and coat hangers, lies a third training room with weights and muay thai equipment. This place is huge!


LFF owner, and brown belt, Luiz Ribeiro was taking the mat today. As the Kent Open was only a week away, today's session was all about set position sparring and free sparring. We began with a series of invigorating and l must admit lung-busting warm-up drills, interspersed with lots of press-ups. One chap told me that today was an easy warm-up session. Really? Could have fooled me, but then I was too busy catching my breath to respond properly.

Set position sparring consisted of 6 guys in the middle and the rest of us queuing up to attack or escape the guard, half-guard and turtle positions. And there was a lot of queuing since I counted at least 27-29 bodies on the mat. That's a pretty good class size by anyone's standards!

I tried taking some photos in between training, but the fog of evaporated sweat clouded the room, so much so, that my camera failed to take any decent non-misted up photos. But the lads rolled hard and were very technical. I was pleased to be able to spar with some light feathers too - one chap I remember from years back when I attended my very first BJJ lesson at Carlson Gracie. On that occasion he was kind enough to school me in the ways of the mat and face-barred me into submission many times. Today, he was kinder (or rather, I did not fall into the same beginner traps as I did 6 years ago) and he only foot locked me into submission.

Throughout, Luiz would shout and yell at the combatants like a drill Sergeant, egging them on the do better, improve position or just generally work harder. One drill I liked was the two minute last gasp must submit drill. Just as it says on the tin, you spar with your opponent and you MUST attempt a submission within two minutes because you are several points behind. Failure to do so results in 40, yes 40 press ups for the loser.

Luiz is a very funny guy. He has a nick-name for practically everyone and really injects huge amounts of passion and enthusiasm into the session. The spirit and atmosphere of the team was very strong.


After class, I chatted to Luiz about how LFF came about and what he plans for the future. It's a neat little interview and I hope to post or publish it somewhere soon.

And, as seems to be the custom at LFF, I happily joined the lads for a post-session Nandos and chatted some more about BJJ. I had a great time there and I would like to wish them every success with the academy. Next week, star black belt 'FinFou' will be visiting, then next year, the head man himself, Ricardo Vieira will take the mat. With so much going on in their seminar calendar, I think I'll definitely be popping down again to LFF.


London Fight Factory, 82 Hanbury Street, London, E1 5JL
Website: http://www.londonfightfactory.com
Contact: Luiz Ribeiro - 07944 574046

Academy Tour: London Fight Factory

East London's Brick Lane: ahhhh! the piquant aroma of curry restaurants, the hustle and bustle of shoppers at Spitalfields market, the ...

6 Nov 2009

Photo: Nothing 'basic' about Royce armbarring your limb off!!!
I’ve been having some interesting conversations recently on the subject of the basics in BJJ. First of all, instructors these days tend not to talk about ‘basics’ per se, but ‘fundamentals’. The theory being that basics implies that you do them, then forget them as you move on to more advanced stuff. But the perceived wisdom in the BJJ world is that those ‘beginner’ techniques form the building blocks that stay with you for the entire duration of your BJJ development, thus a black belt will refer to his ‘fundamentals’ just as much as a white belt would.

I was talking in depth to one of my training partners who has been training for a few months now. She’s frustrated that whilst she is learning a whole ton of cool new techniques, she feels her knowledge of basics are letting her down and she still gets caught a lot as a result.

Oh boy, what to say? Well, here’s my tuppence on the subject of basics/fundamentals:


First off, anyone who has trained in a traditional martial art will know the routine – you learn your techniques, you drill them, you get graded and you move on to the next belt. This is a tried and tested way to learn, no problem with that. But for some reason, it doesn’t work with BJJ.

In BJJ, yes, you learn your core basic positions and drill the common escapes, positions, submissions, counters etc. But you don’t move on as you progress up the ranks in the same way as traditional system. You still drill those core fundamentals like there was no tomorrow. The difference between an experienced player and a newbie is that they’ve been doing the fundamentals for longer and thus are able to use them more effectively, and also to use them as a platform upon which to play with more advanced variations. In fact, you could argue, that a very good player will understand the fundamentals to such a deep level that they could use them to win World Championships, someone like, ooh Roger Gracie.

As a fairly mediocre hobbyist blue belt, I’m hardly the best person to be dishing out technical BJJ advice. There are lots of blogs who do that much better, see: Conceptual BJJ, Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood and Aesopian to name but a few.
But I’ve rolled for enough years to see the common mistakes that newbies and white belts get themselves in to, and I try to offer my thoughts at the time as to how they can improve. I keep it short and succinct in class, I’m not the instructor after all, but I believe we’re part of a team so if I can help, I will.

So when I roll, the fundamentals that I personally try to always remember can be summarised very roughly as these:
  • Is my opponent unbalanced in any way? If he isn’t then I try my damnest to make him or her unbalanced. Sounds simple, but of course, a huge proportion of my rolling time is spent making this happen. Good grips and effective hip movement are key, something I can often forget. Controlling the opponent's head is vital.
  • Am I moving around enough or am I being lazy and just waiting for things to happen? My common thing is I am lazy and I just lie there in guard (or just sit there in the rare mounts I obtain) and wait. But one look at, say purple belt Daniel, and I can see he does not stop moving. He does not let anyone get grips on him and by moving all the time, he opens up new options.
  • How many ponts of contact does my opponent have on me, and visa versa? My coach Nick often says that in order to make a good sweep happen, you need at least three points of contact on your opponent. At least three. So if I can involve both my hands in gripping and plant at least one foot in a good position to lever my opponent, then I know I am doing ok. If he is doing that to me, and I am just flapping around, then that is bad for me.
  • Am I making it easy for my opponent to open me up? I defend a lot. I have no choice as I am small and, yes lazy. But it helps if I can keep my elbows tucked in tight and stop him getting any space or leverage. But I must not stay still, as it just delays the inevitable. So I have to keep moving and looking to escape. Again, sounds easy, but practically all my BJJ development so far has been about me trying to escape. you just kind of get use to it and it becomes part of your game.

...and so on I guess. Blimey one could write a book on this...oh, they have, dozens of them.

Anyway, those be just a few thoughts off the top of my head. Not exactly comprehensive but they mean a lot to me - they are the absolutely boiled down to the bone constantly nagging thoughts that go through my head, every time I roll.

Thanks to David Onuma, who has begun an ace new blog, for giving me this article idea.

Anyway, just a week to go until I compete at the Kent Open, you can laugh at my 'fundamentals' then. Ah well, in for a penny in for a pound as they say...

What are the basics of BJJ?

Photo: Nothing 'basic' about Royce armbarring your limb off!!! I’ve been having some interesting conversations recently on the ...

4 Nov 2009



I came across this photo for the forthcoming edition of Ultimate MMA magazine and I thought it was really cool.

So I posted it on the forums and was unpleasantly surprised by some of the responses – some of which have since been removed. So this blog entry is about the BJJ and MMA fighter Cristiane Santos, more popularly known as (Mrs) Cyborg.


According to her website, she earned the nick-name ‘Cyborg’ when she started dating Evangelista Santos, himself a well-known MMA fighter with the nick-name Cyborg (the two are now married).

Her Wikipedia entry states she has an MMA record of 8 wins and 1 loss.
Her most high profile fight was against Gina Carano in August [click here for fight report]. The fight was the first time that a major MMA promotion (Strikeforce) has featured a women’s fight as their main event.
She is also a BJJ purple belt and recently fought Penny Thomas in the semi-final of the ADCC in Barcelona. In my interview with Penny (out in shops soon folks!), she talks of her in glowing terms. Mrs Cyborg is clearly a very competent and highly regarded competitor and fighter.

So why the controversy?
One quick google search of her name brings up a large amount of commentary from various people – stuff about her looks, her sexuality, her personality – basically lots of vile and misogynistic comment. Quite awful really.

Now this type of banter is common to sports in general. Look at the kind of remarks that athletes such as Fatima Whitbred and Martina Navratilova have had to endure over the years, and more recently, Caster Semenya.

Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on the negative, let’s look at the positives to this amazing character, woman and person:

Here’s a funny video where she puts to sleep a reporter:



Here is a highlight reel.

Her MySpace page:


Mrs Cyborg

I came across this photo for the forthcoming edition of Ultimate MMA magazine and I thought it was really cool. So I posted it on the fo...

31 Oct 2009


NEWS JUST IN...My instructor Nick Brooks was awarded his black belt in BJJ by Roger Gracie!!!
On behalf of me, everyone at Mill Hill and, heck, the entire UK BJJ community, let's all say a massive congratulations to Nick. Were all so proud!!!

Breaking news...Nick Brooks...black belt!!!!!!

NEWS JUST IN...My instructor Nick Brooks was awarded his black belt in BJJ by Roger Gracie!!! On behalf of me, everyone at Mill Hill and, h...

28 Oct 2009

Last night I was invited down to my old traditional ju-jitsu club for a spot of groundwork teaching. When I ran the club, I tried to get everyone involved in ground-fighting based on my knowledge of BJJ. So I thought it would be a good idea to keep in touch with the lads and offer them my slim but perhaps mildly useful amount of knowledge on the subject. But before that, there was one importantant thing on my mind. It was a matter that I've given far too much thought to and still not had a conclusive answer to...



Which gi and belt to wear?
I mean - do I wear my BJJ outfit and blue belt? Or do I don my old black belt and JJ uniform with association badges? You see I worry too much about these things so in the end I consulted that great font of wisdom - the eenie-meenie-miney-moe oracle. Old skool gi won.

Okay, onto matters at hand. How to show a handful of BJJ techniques that would work within the tradJJ rules of groundfighting?

I chose to focus on one thing - start from the knees, grab for the cross collar grip, then attack attack attack. I went through basic loop choke, then reverse bow and arrow, pulling guard and then cross choking, pushing into your uke to sweep him backwards (assuming he has bad balance) - basically a lot of really basic stuff with the common theme of starting from that one cross collar grip. Its something my instructor Nick showed me often and, going way back, my former intructor Eddie also showed me whenever I asked about our 'on-the-knees' style of competition. And it seems to work. The gripping arm is also a basic guard if you 'stiff arm' your opponent, or acts as a foil if your uke tries to pull guard. At the very least, its certainly a solid way to start a match I think. Remember this is from-the-knees competitions, BJJ with its standup, is a whole different kettle of sardines.

From my experience of past tradJJ comps, the two minute time-frame is simply not enough time to work a complex guard game and in any case, the judges will always score the top player (even if he is within the closed guard) the win because he is seen as, er, the top player. Hey I don't make the rules. Hence my reasoning for the wholly attack oriented theme last night.

No workshop is complete without a few flashier techniques to wake the audience up, so I offered them a suicide choke from on the knees (risky I know), evil knee on solar plexus and evil knee on sternum. Oh I also made up a kata where you move from side hold variations into knee on belly into full mount into modified mount into taking the back. I figured it was important to give the newbies to groundfighting a sense of position rather than just stuff like 'here is a choke' etc.

We finished off with a few rounds of sparring. It was good to have a scrap with my old pals. The Team Imperial lads compete in two weeks time so I wish them luck!
Hopefully, if I make it back again I would like to focus on defence defence defence, you know, just for the sake of a Yin Yang style balance to the proceedings.


BCK2THEOLDSKOOL

Last night I was invited down to my old traditional ju-jitsu club for a spot of groundwork teaching. When I ran the club, I tried to get ev...

27 Oct 2009

Oh boy, how to top the highs of last week?
Well, naturally, there's only one way to go and that was down.
I've been a bit slack since the seminar and with the Kent Open only three weeks away, I'm slightly starting to panic that my form will be awful come the big day of the competition.


My goal at each tournament is simply to learn from the experience and hopefully hold my own against my contemporaries. And I think this has generally been the case apart from Grapplers Showdown which forever will be known as 'the comp that dare not ever speak its name again!' But it I can only help myself by committing more time to training and sparring, which isn't quite happening at the moment.

However, I did manage a training session last night where my slackness caught me off guard and I got footlocked by a white belt juvenile! He got it on pretty tight and possibly, in my defence, I would say it would be ruled illegal as he crossed his legs over the leg he was attacking, but it was my sloppiness that led to me getting caught so I just said well done and moved on, a bit crestfallen. To add salt into my depressed ego my next spars were with (now purple belt) Daniel Strauss and Nick Brooks.

With Daniel, I realised one reason (apart from his general brilliance) that I struggle so incredibly badly against him is that he never lets me get one single grip on him. Not a single one! I mean, one lousy lapel grip or a sleeve -no, he slips away and dances around me and I'm flapping like a freshly landed fish. then he picks and chooses his submissions at will - usually involving attacks from the back. At least he complimented me on my defences from this position.

Anway, in other news, I've finished writing my Penny article and hopefully, once James has edited his pictures, we can see what the media interest is in publishing it. The select few I have shown it to for proofing think it is very interesting.

Tonight I'm off to visit my old traditional ju-jitsu club to work on various BJJ techniques that are of relevance to the syllabus and their system of sport groundwork. There are significant differences between the two styles, for example in the trad JJ comps, standing up is not allowed and many techniques are banned eg body triangles, and any technique that threatens the back of the neck eg possibly a head lock could be viewed dimly. [note techniques that threaten the neck vertebrae are also banned in BJJ.]
However there are tons of techniques from BJJ that do apply and most of all, the basic principles of fighting on the ground remain the same -mainly those to do with position, balance and leverage. It'll also be a good chance to catch up with my old tradJJ buddies.

Final bit of news, it looks like Nick has finally updated and revamped the new look Mill Hill Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu website. Thanks to Nick for keeping my blog link and many of the photos on there are by yours truly. The user name 'The Fighting Photographer' has been used for years by my blogging friend Carl Fisher, so I'm trying to think of another one. Possibly 'The Jiu-Jitsu Blogographer' might be catchy?

Panic stations!

Oh boy, how to top the highs of last week? Well, naturally, there's only one way to go and that was down. I've been a bit slack sinc...

21 Oct 2009

Seminar with BJJ black belt Penny Thomas, x4 Mundials champion, Warrior School of Combat,
Kensington, London, 20-10-09
So I'm talking to my wife and rather randomly, we have a conversation that goes something like this:


Wifey: Oh yeah I forgot to tell you, my mate Mel at work says she knows a BJJ world champion, oh darn what was her name?
Me: Was it a Portuguesey sounding name, maybe Kyra?
Wifey: No it was a english name, oh what was it? Erm anyway Mel just came back from Barcelona or somewhere where they fight world competitions.
Me: No way?
Wifey: Way!
Me: Oh my god, who is it? who is it? who? who? Call Mel NOW!
[Brrr brrr, brrr brrr]
Wifey: Hi Mel? who was that mate of yours? Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes [goes on for a bit]...Penny Thomas...yes that's her, what? she's coming over to the UK next week, ooh Seymour would like that.
Me: [I have just wet myself]

So here we are at the Warrior School of Combat in posh Kensington on a cold October evening and I'm interviewing Penny with probing questions offering a fascinating deep personal insight into the jiu-jitsu fighter's mind, oh and lots of silly questions like 'is her favourite colour pink?'
I first came across Penny after listening to her Fightworks Podcast interview with Caleb. I was struck by the interview because she tells a rich story about her life and comeback from severe injury and about her giving everything up to follow the jiu-jitsu lifestyle. You can listen to it here.


My interview fills hopefully will get published in a mainstream magazine, like wot they sell in WHSmiths. To help, top BJJ snapper James Oluoch-Olunya had spent the best part of 4 hours shooting cool photos of Penny and I've bagged what I think is a good interview.
And so onto the seminar...



Penny began the session with a warmup drill which included the usual running around and flapping arms, but then things got a bit more specific and weird. There was one partner drill where you turtle up and your partner stands over you, but you roll over your head whilst at the same time grasping your partner's ankles so you end up taking his back, then he does the same.
Penny then moved onto a series of partnered take-down drills which looked to me like they came from her wrestling training, but Penny added some nice twists. Such as her 'Michael Jackson dance skip before slipping on a wickedly fast half shoulder throw (please feel free to offer the correct Japanese name).


I should mention that in the room, there were probably about 12-13 women and about 10 guys. This is probably the one and only time you will get a BJJ session where there are more girls than boys in the room. And the flavour throughout the night was decidedly female oriented as Penny made cheeky remarks about how the more flexible girls would like so-and-so technique. Us guys just muttered and giggled nervously like little schoolboys, just grateful Penny didn't pick on one of us and crush us with her immense physique.


After the stand-up part of her session, Penny took us through a brief stretch. I say stretch, but when a former Olympic gymnastics prospect and yoga expert does a stretch, it is with the flexibility of someone with zero joints. I mean we were just laughing at the impossible contortions Penny put her body through. One simple stretch is where you sit wide legged and reach forward, easy right? but oh no, Penny bent forward and touched her nose on the mat.
In another episode, Penny was just mucking around and did some weird breakdance pose - basically holding her contorted upside-down body aloft on just one arm. Wow!

Assisting Penny throughout was BJJ blackbelt and main instructor at WSC Leopoldo. Leo was ever so courteous and happily let Penny rough him up with, in her words, 'my mean techniques'.

For the ground fighting portion of the seminar, I enjoyed this the most. Penny offered us tips on maintaining the mount and how to execute basic moves, such as kimura, ezekiel and head and arm triangle. I was happy to finally meet up with Camilla Hansen, who I have mentioned a few times in this blog. Camilla and I partnered up and she quite easily softened me into a pulp with her choke drills.

For the final part of the session, Penny asked if anyone had any requests and I immediately (and possibly quite rudely) jumped in with a request for tips on open guard - Penny's forte. And this I really enjoyed. She showed us her spider guard and how she moved from one position to another and how she could sweep her opponent with any one of these basic positions. Penny really emphasised the push-pull tension that one needs when gripping sleeves and placing feet on hips. She also showed us how she likes to place the outside edge of her foot directly on the person's biceps to inflict a little pain (one of her'mean' techniques). You could almost hear the whole room making mental notes to use that little nugget in training for next time (including me).

Finally, the session was over all too soon. I would have loved to explore more on Penny's open guard. The short period where she talked about this was really interesting. But hopefully there will be another session if Penny can make her way to the UK next year. I really enjoyed the session. Penny is articulate and coherent on every aspect on how a technique works, adding some personal insights and offering variations on themes you may not quite have come across before. She's also a very warm and engaging person.

After handshakes and thanks, it was group photo time! And you can see more pictures of the seminar on the Flickr slideshow below.

My thanks go first to Penny who was gracious with her time, not only for the seminar but also for the enthusiastic and brill interview. Thanks to my wife's mate Mel for bringing Penny over, also to Pippa Granger, who managed to organise the seminar with zero notice and after I pretty much gave up organising it myself. It was great to meet all the gang, especially the BJJ girls who I chat to a lot but not met personally and finally thanks to Pedro Bessa, who was not present, but pretty much helped make this seminar happen.

WOOT!





Penny Thomas Seminar

Seminar with BJJ black belt Penny Thomas, x4 Mundials champion, Warrior School of Combat, Kensington, London, 20-10-09 So I'm talking to...

15 Oct 2009



....BREAKING NEWS!

That female black belt I mentioned in my previous post has now confirmed that she WILL teach a seminar in London next Tuesday. She, is none other than World Champion Penny Thomas. I'm so excited.
Here are the details:

Date: Tuesday 20th October
Time: 8-9.30pm
Price: £20
Venue: Pedro Bessa BJJ London
Warrior School of Combat
Lower Ground Floor
Glen House
125 Old Brompton Road
South Kensington
London
SW7 3RP

And here is Penny's very impressive fight record:
- 2009 ADCC silver +60Kg
- 2009 Grapplers Quest Del Mar No-Gi Absolute Champion
- 2009 Grapplers Quest Las Vegas No-Gi Absolute Champion
- 2009 Brazilian Jiu-jitsu World Champion, Brown/Black


- 2008 Grapplers Quest Las Vegas No-Gi Absolute Champion
- 2008 Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Worlds, Brown/Black, 2nd
- 2008 Grapplers Quest New Jersey No-Gi Absolute Champion
- 2008 No-Gi World Championship, Brown/Black, 2nd


- 2007 NAGA Hawaii, Advanced Gi & No-Gi Champion
- 2007 Pan American Champion, Brown/Black
- 2007 ADCC Champion
- 2007 Brazilian Jiu-jitsu World Champion, Brown/Black
- 2007 No-Gi World Champion, Brown/Black
- 2007 Triple Crown, Men’s Brown Belt, 2nd


- 2006 Pan American Champion, Purple Belt
- 2006 Copa de Mundo (BJJ World Cup) Champion
- 2006 Gracie Worlds Champion, Purple/Brown/Black Belt


- 2005 Brazilian Jiu-jitsu World Champion, Purple Belt
- 2005 South African National Grappling Champion


- 2004 Brazilian Jiu-jitsu World Champion, Blue Belt
- 2003 Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Worlds, Blue Belt, 2nd

From her website: Pennyfighting.com

And here is a great interview she did for Caleb on the excellent Fightworks Podcast.

http://thefightworkspodcast.com/2008/08/31/penny-thomas-jiu-jitsu/

Photo above from Andy Foxx Photography - see his Penny gallery here.
Of course your Meerkatsu intrepid reporter will be present to capture in words and pictures his presence at the seminar - sometimes life is just too hard!!

Penny Thomas

....BREAKING NEWS! That female black belt I mentioned in my previous post has now confirmed that she WILL teach a seminar in London ne...

14 Oct 2009


Awful Analogies #2, BJJ is a bit like...music

BJJ is like music. Why? Well both are crafts that require the need to learn in a physical and technical manner. As in BJJ, the learning curve for playing an instrument to a moderately decent ability is pretty steep. In both, there are teachers, books, DVDs, youtube etc who can guide your progress, but ultimately, you only get better the more your practise. As in BJJ, some exponents are just outrageously talented and beyond the ability of most practitioners. Many, many people give up at an early stage. But I think the best analogy between music and BJJ is this - to really 'feel' the joy of music - to take the experience to another level - one needs to play live, onstage, in front of people who appreciate your art. It's the same with BJJ, practising and sparring is one thing, but competing in tournaments, live, in front of people who appreciate the sport, is an experience that cannot be replicated.
Finally, music is clearly a wonderful art-form. Some wouldsay that BJJ is an artform. And when you see the world's best grapplers in action, using techniques that you can also do, but executed in a way you can only dream of, that to me is surely an art.
Below, here is one of BJJ's best artists:




Media news
I should, crossed fingers, have a snippet published in this month's MAI magazine, and another, lengthier article, in the Jan2010 issue of MAI. I'm off to 'Smiths soon to see if they printed it.
Having my work published in print media is pretty nice kudos, but someone close to me remonstrated with me about not getting paid for this kind of work.
Naturally, I see things a little differently.
Writing gives me an outlet to let off steam and think about the sport on a more cerebral level. After all, it's good to exercise both mind and muscle.
Writing also opens doors for me. As my status increases as a spokesperson for this wonderful sport we call BJJ, so I find I get people telling me stuff, asking me about stuff, giving me stuff and best of all...inviting me to see and attend stuff that perhaps I would not normally be given access to.
Of course, things would be different if I relied on this as a means of income. But for now, I'm happy to play the hobbyist BJJer and the hobbyist writer.

Training news
Last week was a great training week. Got my x3 sessions in and sparred with a really good super feather blue belt from Carlsons who visited us. He showed me a ton of stuff and happily beat me into a twisted pretzel. And I was happy to be pretzeled! Thanks to Vince!

But this week I've had to hold back the training. My little lad is ill and wifey and I have to take it in turns to hold him upright at night to stop him choking and screaming in pain. It means we do not get any sleep.

Despite this, I've been trying to get a visiting female black belt to come give us a training session. This person is real special and I'm keeping my fingers crossed something comes out of it. Given her tough schedule, it's unlikely this time, but she knows the interest in the UK is high so maybe a 2010 seminar will happen.

Finally, I would like to give a shout out to Camilla Hansen, who just received her purple belt from my former instructor Eddie Kone. Camilla also took gold at the recent Ground Control no-gi tournament with x3 victories in a row. Awesome! (she's one of the outrageously talented people I talked about above!) . Speaking of Eddie, here's a seminar review written by fellow blogger and long time BJJer Carl Fisher.

Awful Analogies #2, BJJ is a bit like...music

Awful Analogies #2, BJJ is a bit like...music BJJ is like music. Why? Well both are crafts that require the need to learn in a physical a...

6 Oct 2009



I thought I would update the blog with some training news...

I've made a concerted effort these past few weeks to make it to class x3 times a week. Doesn't matter which nights, as long as I get x3 sessions minimum I feel this is what I need to make progress. So far I have been managing to do this, although if my wife works late or goes away on business, I have to cancel my plans to stay home with the kids. But most nights are ok.

Nick's been getting tougher recently. He has installed a policy whereby those who want to compete HAVE to turn up to training on certain comp-training sessions and arrive precisely on time. Failure to do so will result in him barring you from entering the comp. At the moment, the guys (no me though) are training for the British no-gi Championships. I think the stricter approach is a good idea. Sometimes it needs a bit of stick rather than carrot to motivate people and make them work towards a goal. It also instils a stronger team atmosphere. He also said that we, the team, represent Roger Gracie, and he does not want to send in anyone who is unprepared. Quite!

During sparring, I've really tried to make each spar into a training exercise and aim for specific techniques. I know this sounds like an obvious thing to do but up until recently, I've only ever sparred in reaction to my opponent. They make a move, I defend, I try to counter etc. It's a bit lazy I guess and also somethig that I think is inhibiting my progress. So right now I'm sparring with a purpose in mind. Last week I was trying out a loop choke from half guard - something I see Oli Geddes do a lot. I got some nice submissions from this, but more often I got stuck. But regardless, I felt I really learned something from each spar. Fellow blue Dominique is very good at this way of sparring. She'll learn something that week and work real hard to apply it in sparring each session. The number of times she has caught me with a throat-ripping choke that I missed from the previous class is another motivation to make me attend more often!

This week, Nick has been making me roll counting the points as I go along. This is really hard. Most spars are a to' and fro' affair and you don't really care if you lose a position, but rolling for points (as well as subs of course) without giving anything away takes concentration and a very tight game. It's a very different way of rolling and I think good training for competition. Daniel has also been making me spar with comps in mind. He is so good its no point trying to out-manouvre him. So he 's been making me defend but not letting my opponent get any dominant position for more than 2 seconds. He told me to count out every time I lost a position. It's great because it really focuses my mind on getting out quick and not giving away points. But again, its really tough because you can't pause and rest up.

Finally I'd like to give a shout out to Hana who I have been training with a lot recently. Hana is just 16 and started about 4-5 months ago. She's been picking up techniques at an phenomenal rate. I think it is very inspiring to see anyone, especially a female, take to BJJ with such incredible gusto. This kid is gonna be a monster on the mats if she isn't so already. But she's injured at the moment and has been ordered to rest up. So here's a Meerkatsu message to say get well soon :)



Getting tough

I thought I would update the blog with some training news... I've made a concerted effort these past few weeks to make it to class x3...

1 Oct 2009

This photo is amazing. I spotted it whilst trawling old forum posts about the history of BJJ in the UK. It shows the first ever BJJ tournament, which happened in 1999. The darkened vignetting on the photo adds to the feeling of a long forgotten past, but its only ten years ago - that's nothing really, is it? I'm using this tournament as an excuse to say that BJJ is ten years old in the UK this year.

Memories are kind of hazy as to when BJJ was first showcaseed here. But several online sources document when and where certain events happened, together with personal anecdotes and stories. You can read them here on SFUK and here on the EFN forum. There is also a good write up of BJJ in the UK by Slidey on his blog.

To summarise, here's a rough timeline of key events:

1993 Royce Gracie wins UFC 1
1997 Arlans Sequeira teaches a BJJ class in Tottenham

1998 Chen Moraes teaches BJJ at the Budokwai judo dojo
1998 Mauricio 'Motta' Gomes arrives in the UK and establishes Gracie Barra UK
1999 First British BJJ tournament run by Chen Moraes
1999 Royce gives his first seminar in the UK

2001 Roger Brooking opens his academy in Seymour Place, London
2002 Carlson Gracie London Team open under Wilson Junior and Luca Menegacci 2002 Braulio Estima begins teaching at GB Brum
2004 Roger Gracie Academy opens in Ladbroke Grove, London
2005 Mauricio promotes Jude Samuel, Marc Walder and Rick Young - first ever British black belts (although Roger Brooking is British by birth).

[Side note: The first Brit to train 'Gracie' style jiu-jitsu is most probably Rick Young, who went the the USA to learn from the Gracies in 1984.]

Fast forward to today, 2009, and according the Slidey's excellent UK BJJ List, there are now over 180 places to train BJJ in the UK (22 in London alone). And it continues to grow. Who knows how big BJJ will be in another ten years?

Just for the record, my first ever BJJ lesson was in 2003. What an exciting time it must have been to experience those early days just after the first UFC. Imagine training in California with all the older Gracie brothers (before they all split up and ran their own schools). Imagine talking about this new fangled thing called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and being laughed at by other martial artists who think groundfighting will never catch on. Oh imagine....

Ten Years of British BJJ

This photo is amazing. I spotted it whilst trawling old forum posts about the history of BJJ in the UK. It shows the first ever BJJ tournam...

28 Sep 2009

Just quick post to congratulate Braulio Estima for his double gold winning performance at this year's Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) submission wrestling tournament.
The ADCC is the very pinnacle of the grappling world. Only the very best and toughest fighters duke it out here. So to win this richly funded event (and by submissions too) proves that Braulio, along with his good friend Roger Gracie, are two of the greatest grapplers of the current era. And hey! they're both based in the UK. How lucky are we????

Braulio Estima - 2009 ADCC Champion

Just quick post to congratulate Braulio Estima for his double gold winning performance at this year's Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) subm...

23 Sep 2009


CBeebies is a children's TV station run by the BBC that my little kids are addicted to. CBeebies also sounds confusingly (to me anyway) like the various acronyms used by the governing bodies that control international BJJ competitions.

Cbeebie what?So let me see...there is the CBJJ (Confederacao Brazileira de Jiu-Jitsu) which must not be confused with the CBJJE (Confederação Brasileira de Jiu-Jitsu Esportivo) for they are deadly rivals. And they both should not be confused with the CBJJF (Canadian Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation), which let's face it, are just joining the CBeebies bandwagon for handy acronyms that boost their google rankings. Maybe that's why the CBJJ now prefer to call themselves the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation) which, despite diverging from the CBeebies theme, is far snappier sounding I think. Are you keeping up?

So why are are the IBJJF and the CBJJE deadly rivals? I don't know. But the latter is run by many ex members of the former and I can only assume money is what drove them apart. You see the big contention among the fighting elite is the IBJJF tournaments do not pay prize money and those that run the CBJJE say they do pay prize money. But the IBJJF is vastly more powerful and the kudos of winning their events is hugely more influential than the other. Even today some teams will only send competitors to one event and ignore the other. Politics is a tricky business.

So why do I mention these bodies?
Well, for a start, the CBJJE are growing fast. They have just held their first European Championships in Switzerland and quite a few of my pals won gold medals, including Oli Geddes, Pippa Granger and Isaac Perez. By all accounts it was a well run event. Isaac, who I met at my very first BJJ comp in Brighton, says it's the best run comp he's ever been to. Sadly, the much trumpeted cash prize was not available to him but he did get a t-shirt!

But the allure of winning a IBJJF event is what brings out the really big guns, the famous black belts you see in all the youtube videos. The next one is the IBJJF European Championships in January. Something I am seriously considering competing in.

Why not call a federation the World BJJ Association or something?Yes, why not? Well because it's been done already. The WBJJA, or World Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Association is a newish group who promote BJJ through print and video instructional material and through yearly visits by one of their black belts. It's a touchy subject for many who practice BJJ in the UK. Some feel they are offering easy belts to practitioners who prefer not or cannot train with standard BJJ groups. The bringing back of the 'midnight blue' belt rank rankles many. This colour belt was first devised in the 1960's by Helio Gracie, but he dropped it soon after in favour of the current system (white,blue,purple,brown,black,red). The WBJJA brought it back as a rank for novice BJJ instructors under their program. To qualify, the member has to have a number of years of experience in another martial art. Cynics suggest that a dark midnight blue could easily look like a black belt to unsuspecting newbies. Whatever the controversy, the WBJJA are growing and look set to become part of the UK's BJJ establishment, whether the rest like it or not.

Phew! The Meerkatsu is busily inventing his own federation. Only small people can join and only those that write blogs and draw and photograph a little. Oh, that's just me then. I win gold!
BTW. I shelled out a few bob to buy the url www.meerkatsu.com It was either that, or CBJJMRKTSU, which is a bit less snappy sounding, don't you think?

CeeBeebies

CBeebies is a children's TV station run by the BBC that my little kids are addicted to. CBeebies also sounds confusingly (to me anyway...

19 Sep 2009

After-session photo at BJJ School, Battersea, London. I'm on the bottom row far left, Felipe Souza, head instructor is fourth from the left on bottom.


I was invited down to visit the Battersea branch of BJJ School, the academy run by BJJ black belt Felipe Alves De Souza. BJJ School have classes all over London and Essex but the Saturday classes are held at the Battersea Youth Centre. Those with long memories and who have been doing BJJ for over 5 years will remember that this venue was the scene of the first London Open tournament in 2003.

I actually arrived early to see how the kids classes, something for which Felipe is renowned for, were run and I was very impressed by the way he taught them. All the kids, from 4 years old up to teenagers, seemed to display a huge passion for the sport and all left the dojo with beaming smiles and a hunger for more. Felipe himself is a natural with the kids. I chatted to parents who were watching their little ones during the class and all enthused at what wonders BJJ had done for their child's fitness, concentration and attitudes.

Felipe somehow makes the class look like a hell of a lot of fun but the kids are actually learning fundamental BJJ moves at the same time. He doesn't allow them to scrimp on good old fashioned dojo etiquette and behaviour either. All the kids had to line up in grade order and bow before leaving the class. The children were obviously proud of their training accomplishments, many were seasoned competitors and boasted many trophies and medals. The copious stripes on their belts showed they had been training for quite a while. It's no exaggeration to say that I was witnessing a good proportion of the future of BJJ right here in that dojo.

Soon it was the adults class and I lined up with the others. Some people recognised me, like brown belt instructor Jackson Fortunato, who I had the good pleasure of training with many years ago at Eddie's gym. I recognised a lot of others from various competitions, like demon brown belt (and fellow small guy) Eamonn Madden. And there were a lot of bodies on the mat. I was very impressed at the class turnout. 30-35 was the average session apparently - that's just adults. Felipe said his kids classes had more sometimes.

After a vigorous warmup, including rolling breakfalls, Felipe ran through a series of half shoulder throw variations from stand-up. I found these to be very useful and reasonably easy to execute. I asked one chap beside me if stand-up was taught each session and he said yes, judo throws generally began each session.

For the ground techniques portion of the session, Felipe taught quick counters to a person standing up in your closed guard. The easy one I liked was to grip their elbows and, as soon as the person placed his second foot on the ground, you tug on his elbows hard and throw your knees over your own shoulder, thereby wheeling your uke over your body with you ending up in full mount. This was great fun, but timing was critical.

After drilling this, we worked on variations where your uke did not go over your body easily, but defended. Felipe showed a few sweet variations where you ended up countering his counter and submitting with a triangle, or armbar - remember this is from when you had cocked up the overhead sweep. An excellent example in BJJ where losing out of your option A technique simply means you execute option B or C.
I'm still in the figuring out how to do option A category!!

After technical lessons, it was time for sparring.

One of the reasons I love visiting other academies, apart from meeting new people and learning new techniques, is to break the over-familiarity of always sparring with the same people in my home dojo. Don't get me wrong, I love my training and sparring at Mill Hill, but I think visiting new places is a good way to overcome any nerves you get in training for competition. In my view, the most nervous aspect of competition is having to tussle with an unfamiliar face. No-one at BJJ school knew my fave moves and I did not know theirs so i'ts interesting to see how well or badly I would do.

As to the actual rolling, I sparred with young Daniel Agard St John, who was slippery as an eel and easily countered my attempted delariva guards and X-guards. He then finished me by taking the back and, to add salt into the wound, whispered he was about to do a technique that my own instructor, Nick Brooks, had taught him. Lovely! But Daniel is a cool guy and a star for the future, I really enjoyed sparring with him.

Next up, Felipe beckoned me to the centre and I spent the rest of the session rolling with him. Like many brown and black belts, rolling with them is incredibly deceptive. They are skilled enough to give you just enough room to do your stuff, only for you to fall into some trap and you end up scrabbling for dear life!

Time and time again Felipe worked to take my back. But crucially, he told what I shouldbe doing to escape and he made me do it time and time again until I understood it. BJJ schooling right in the heat of battle, I loved it!

After my lesson, Felipe and I chatted for over an hour for an interview I writing - about him, his very interesting charity work for Future Champions, his time at RGA and his painful split, as well as his current success with BJJ School. I'm going to get the interview published in full at some point so watch this space.

In the meantime, I want to thanks Felipe and everyone at BJJ School for making me so welcome at their academy. Thanks also to Ed Brown too for inviting me in the first place.
There's something very special happening with this academy and there's no doubt their success will continue to grow and grow.

I hope to pop back when Felipe's instructor, Master Jose Henrique 'Leao' Teixeira, comes to the UK to teach a seminar on October 10th. Master Leao is one of the big chiefs of Gracie Barra and IBJJF. Felipe had only amazing things to say about his long time mentor and teacher.

Finally, one thing I asked Felipe about was his vegetarianism. I know this is quite random but it interested me because of his passion and forthright views on the subject of diet. He was so convincing that this evening, when I got home from my session, I made a beansprout and nut stir fry. Yes I know, my normally junk food eating, meat-loving Meerkatsu self decided to eat a vegetable only dish. Goodness, what has become of me!!!


Academy tour: BJJ School, Battersea

After-session photo at BJJ School, Battersea, London. I'm on the bottom row far left, Felipe Souza, head instructor is fourth from the ...

16 Sep 2009

Awful Analogies #1, BJJ is a bit like...science

Mention science to non-scientific types and they go all glaze-eyed and quickly find a way to make their exit. Science is not all lofty academia, but is just a way of looking at things devoid of emotion, hype or spin. By this token BJJ, perhaps more than many other martial arts, is very scientific. There is the simple formula: BJJ technique = observe+theorise+experiment+apply.


Science makes no judgement call on what is good or bad, right or wrong. It simply states, if an idea can be proven to work or can show overwhelming evidence that it can work, then it is most probably the right way.

BJJ is constantly evolving. From the countless trials and tribulations of hundreds of thousands of dedicated practitioners comes the techniques we know today. A new position is developed and within weeks, a defence to it is devised, and so on. Competitions enhance the idea of constant struggle, the survival of the best and the fittest.

But, like evolution, BJJ development is not linear. Man did not descend from chimpanzees, as so wrongly lampooned by Victorian cartoonists intent on mocking Darwin, but the idea of common descent is shared by all the various schools of BJJ.

However, like the natural world, the planet is full of niche groups, all happily co-existing in their little enclaves. One school might be full of half guard specialists. They can wreck havoc on the mats using just this. Or another school is the business at spider guard submissions. Every now again, they meet to snap heels at each other then go away, ruminating new ideas.

Scientific principles of the laws of motion and the physics of leverage fill every aspect of BJJ. Unscientific, or unprovable concepts such as invisible energy fields and mind tricks do not apply.

Yes my friends, BJJ is so scientific, it's practically an art form. Now there's a twist.

Awful Analogies #1: Science

Awful Analogies #1, BJJ is a bit like...science Mention science to non-scientific types and they go all glaze-eyed and quickly find a way t...

13 Sep 2009




I took my wife along to try out a kettlebell and conditioning class at the Mill Hill gym and afterwards got Andrew, the instructor to say a few words about himself:


ANDREW MARSHALL, STRENGTH & CONDITIONING COACH
Andrew Marshall is a full time professional fitness coach who, together with BJJ instructor Nick Brooks, recently opened up the Mill Hill Combat and Conditioning Academy in London. Seymour Yang spoke to Andrew about his background:


Q: Hi Andrew, tell me how you got into the fitness industry?

A: I started in the fitness industry in 1999 after years of underground strength training. I quickly outgrew commercial gyms and set up Renegade Fitness in 2004 as an outdoor fitness training company based in St Albans. I also started working with Optimal Life Fitness teaching fitness professionals how to use and teach the kettlebell.

Q: What types of training do you cover in classes?

A: At the Academy I am teaching my own style of functional strength and conditioning using many tools. My foundation are the kettlebells as they are so versatile, but we also use Olympic weight-lifting, plyometrics, gymnastics, tyres, ropes, kegs, sand bags, hammers, stones...you get the idea, if its big, awkward, heavy or hard we use it!!

Q:What is your martial arts background?

A: I have tried a few arts, including judo, traditional ju-jitsu and aikido. But BJJ is the only one I've stuck with for any length of time as I really enjoy the complexity of it. I'm hoping to start competing next year. And I think I have built up a few nice tricks that Daniel and Nick have taught me that I can use in competitions!!

Q: You've won like a few titles in the sport of kettlebell lifting, tell me about those?

A: Kettlebell sport is still a very small sport in the UK. I have done quite a few unofficial comps, but the first real event was held earlier this year, which i won [Ed: Andrew won the overall male division at the 2009 London Kettlebell Open Tournament.]

Like Olympic weightlifting, kettlebell sport consists of two disciplines: jerk and the snatch. But unlike the Olympics, kettlebell contestents have to perform both the two-bell jerk and the single bell snatch for 10 minutes continuously.

Q: Who have you trained?

A: I have trained all sorts of people of all abilities, from professional rugby players, athletes, celebrities, personal trainers, martial artists, fitness fanatics and people who are just interested in getting fit and losing some weight.


Q: Thanks Andrew, good luck with the set-up here at Mill Hill CCA.


A: Thanks Seymour.

Meerkatsu Interviews: Andrew Marshall, Strength & Conditioning Coach

I took my wife along to try out a kettlebell and conditioning class at the Mill Hill gym and afterwards got Andrew, the instructor to say...

9 Sep 2009


Gosh, what a whirlwind past few weeks my BJJ and MA life has been. First up, I wanted to say again what a great day we all had at the official opening of the Mill Hill club. For me, it was a great chance to meet up with BJJ friends I have not seen in a while, or indeed, met only online.
I also got to get quite a few rolls in - well in four hours of BJJ even I can't be that lazy and avoid rolling.

Training update
Sparring with Carmen Jahnke (female brown belt from Germany) was a great experience. Fluent, technical and pretty strong, Carmen made mince-meat of me. She is the perfect example of someone who uses jiu-jitsu smartly to get into great positions and submit without overpowering.
Carmen hopes to get back into competitive action early next year and I am really keen to follow her progress.

I had a great roll with Matt Benyon of Martial Farts fame. He documents our hilariously half-serious-trying-to-kill-each-other grappling session here. And photo above to prove I am a drama queen, as well as a poor BJJer.

But rolling with unknowns is my nemesis. One chap, Rich, came to the opening day without his kimono so I could only roll no-gi with him. Now I might be able to play ok using the gi, but nogi, I am a child stuck in quicksand. And he made mincemeat of me too.

Finally, I should mention my old training partner Ozy. He has recently come back from Brazil where he trained in a number of world class gyms and I was worried he would completely and utterly destroy me. But there lies the crazy paradox that is BJJ - one day you can suck and tap at the merest sight of a gust of wind, and the next, you are holding your own against top level competitors. Ozy's trademark moves are his De lariva and x-guard tricks, which I kinda knew, but perchance, during our roll, I slipped into high half guard (my knee across uke's torso) and he was rather stumped for a while. I managed to hold him and almost sweep him and, to his credit, he did not use his superior strength against me. It was a good technical roll and I must say, he's really improved a heck of a lot since we last rolled about 2 years ago. And yes, he did eventually make mince meat of me too.

But mincemeat or not. I always thank my partners for the experience of rolling with them. Every minute on the mat is a learning experience and I try not to forget that. By now, I am long over the 'God I had to tap out again' mindset that bedevilled me in the early years. For a start, I am improving enough to be able to ply a few tricks of my own. But most importantly I realise it is the journey, not the destination that is most important. To that end, I thank each and every one of my training partners for helping me improve.

Ninjutsu news
My interview with Simon Yeo for On The Mat drew a lot of positive comments so I decided to put my money where my mouth was and ask him to provide a ninjutsu seminar to me and my old trad JJ colleagues. My sensei, Grant, was kind enough to provide his premises so it's game on, here are the details:

Bujinkan Ninjutsu Seminar with Simon Yeo, 12th Dan under Masaaki Hatsumi
Thursday 19th November 2009
CSSC Sports Centre, Chadwick Street, London
19:00 - 21:00
Price: £22.50
Booking by prior appointment only,
please contact: grant.wakeman388@mod.uk
This seminar will introduce ninjutsu
concepts and techniques to students of other martial arts.


Writing news
I wrote a press release for newspapers and magazines about the opening of Mill Hill. The lay-person friendly version was published in a local Mill Hill news website here.
I'm hoping to get a more detailed BJJ-friendly version published in Martial Arts Illustrated soon, so fingers crossed.

Minced Meerkatsu for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Gosh, what a whirlwind past few weeks my BJJ and MA life has been. First up, I wanted to say again what a great day we all had at the offic...

7 Sep 2009

Just spent a hugely enjoyable session down at the BJJ club. Although the new place at Bunns Lane has been open a while now, today was our official opening event. Some more photos...





There must have been 50-60 bodies on the mat including Roger Gracie, Nic Gregoriades,
Luciano Cristovan and loads others from RGA and other BJJ clubs.
Roger awarded a long awaited purple belt to Daniel Strauss, blues to Toby, Dan, Gareth and David, and a host of stripes to others in our club.
It was great for me hooking up with a load of old friends and making new friends too.
Here's to the future success of MHCCA.
Finally, a big Meerkatsu props to Dan and Clint who, together with Nick, personally oversaw the entire refurbishment of the academy.An awesome achievenment guys!





Mill Hill Open Day

Just spent a hugely enjoyable session down at the BJJ club . Although the new place at Bunns Lane has been open a while now, today was our ...

2 Sep 2009

My instructor Nick Brooks is interviewed in a new online BJJ-Judo magazine here:

http://www.kombatclinic.com/interviews_Nick_Brooks.htm

Meerkatsu wishes the Kombat Clinic digi-mag the best of luck for the future.

Nick Brooks interview by Kombat Clinic

My instructor Nick Brooks is interviewed in a new online BJJ-Judo magazine here: http://www.kombatclinic.com/interviews_Nick_Brooks.htm M...

28 Aug 2009

BJJ tournament poster designs are usually a mixed bag. Typically you'll get a grungy photo or line drawing of some combatants and BIG TYPEFACE of the title of the comp, something like GRAPPLING FESTFIGHT or words to that effect. Oh and really loud colours appear to be the norm. Having said that, most BJJ posters in my opinion are nicer to look at than MMA posters.
Scouring the net I came across these which I reckon are pretty cool poster designs. In no particular order:











OK, the DREAM.10 poster is not BJJ but MMA but it was soooo cool I had to include it. And below, a little effort from me. I decided I quite liked to see if the Blue Note album cover style worked with a BJJ theme. Mmmmm, not sure so far, what do you think?



10 Cool BJJ Posters

BJJ tournament poster designs are usually a mixed bag. Typically you'll get a grungy photo or line drawing of some combatants and BIG TY...

27 Aug 2009


Recently I've been lucky to interview a few people who are experts in both a traditional martial art and also highly ranked in BJJ. Simon Yeo is a 12th dan in Bujinkan ninjutsu and a brown belt under Roger Gracie.

The full interview is here on the ON THE MAT website.

But here are some excerpts:

Q: Ninjutsu and BJJ are so different, what aspects do you see that they both share?

A: On the face of it Ninjutsu and BJJ are very
different. In both you have to start by learning the dos and do nots. Generally in both you start with poor natural instincts, as more often than not the necessary movements are counter intuitive. However once you have learnt these laws, things are pretty similar and by using biomechanics you can see how to manipulate the opponents body into weaker positions and capitalise on it.

I now always try to look for the similarities rather than the differences. For example the need to flow from one technique to the next, or Nagare, to catch the opponent, rather than just insist on one technique.

I also view training in ground fighting as reuniting the complete Ju-Jutsu skill sets, so I will know both ground and stand up ju-jutsu. It is possible people haven’t trained like this for more than 100 years.

Q: What do you say to people who think that the original UFC and Gracie style challenges proved that traditional martial arts are no longer viable.

A: I think what the early UFC’s showed to the traditionalists, is that they needed to adapt what they are doing. Some people have done this, others as I have said have not heeded the message and are deluding themselves. It is kind of like a blind faith. The amount of people I have told to go to a BJJ academy around the world and see what I am talking about, who don’t need to because “they know they will survive” is unbelievable. These people do have to give their heads a shake. It is really naïve.

I have black belts from other schools who come to my class and they get really disturbed about being tapped by my students who have only been training a few months. Often what happens is, that instead of realising there is a massive hole in their game they never come back and pretend it was bad luck and by not putting themselves in that environment again, can validate their delusion.
...full interview here on OTM.


Simon Yeo runs the Yeo Dojo in Fulham, London, and is available for seminars and private lessons in both Bujinkan ninjutsu and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
His book: Ninjutsu: The Secret Art Of The Ninja, is available from Amazon and most good book stores.

My thanks to Simon and to OTM. More Meerkatsu interviews coming soon!

Meerkatsu Interviews: Simon Yeo, the Ninjutsu Grappler

Recently I've been lucky to interview a few people who are experts in both a traditional martial art and also highly ranked in BJJ. Sim...

19 Aug 2009

An 'incident' occured during training the other night that I did not really want to mention, and, now that I've had a few days to calm down and reflect on matters, it's better not to give the details, but suffice to say it led to me having a major hissy fit in class with one of my training partners.
I want to repair any damage between him and I and move on. I should add that in my many years of doing martial arts, I have very rarely seen flare-ups between two people in a class. It has happened but it's all usually handbags at dawn and after short while, the two usually kiss and make up...and then proceed to the usual routine of legally killing each other during sparring. I don't want to the be the jerk who moans and has a tantrum each time so I'll be on my best behaviour. All's fair in love and war after all.
Mind you, it did remind of one incident about 5 years ago when a fellow white belt found it funny to continually land his knee into my ribs during sparring. I got so mad I went a bit mental and nearly choked him into hell and back. But I didn't because (a) my technique sucked and (b) my technique sucked. Oh well some things don't ever change.

Roy Dean
Other than that, I was going to say my training has been going really well. I'm really trying to engage techniques in combinations of 2's and (admittedly rarely) 3's just like Roy Dean said a purple belt should be doing in his new DVD (Roy Dean, purple belt requirements).

You can read a very thorough review of this video on Slidey's blog here.

Without wishing to make any crass presumptions, but at 4-stripe blue belt, I guess I should be thinking ahead at what it is I should be doing when I am a purple belt. Roy Dean's DVD explains his take on the subject - and very enlightening it is to. I love watching Dean's elegant style. He's very up front and honest. He'll happily talk about his losses as well as his wins - all in the name of helping YOU, ie me the punter learn something valuable. On the disc, he shows lots of examples of him rolling with his students. You can clearly see the difference between how white and blue belts roll and how purple, brown and black belts do it. It's not about how many techniques they know, but in the timing and tactical chess that goes on at the higher level. It's marvellous to watch. If Roy makes it to the UK again, I would really love to attend one of his seminars.

And finally...
I had a little spare time so I redesigned my Meerkatsu banner picture. Bye bye mock-Kill Bill, hello mock-Streetfighter pastiche! Hope Capcom don't sue my ass.

Red mist, purple dawns

An 'incident' occured during training the other night that I did not really want to mention, and, now that I've had a few days t...

15 Aug 2009


A little poster I concocted in honour of our new dojo (click for full size version). Yep, the new place is up and running, just a few bits to finish off but in effect, it is in full operation for BJJ and it's all ours! Permanent matting, more classes, more hours, better facilities, more space...this place rocks!

New Mill Hill BJJ Academy

A little poster I concocted in honour of our new dojo (click for full size version). Yep, the new place is up and running, just a few bits ...

14 Aug 2009

How do you explain your hobby to someone with no knowledge of the sport. Harder still, how do you convince them that what you do is fun, fairly safe and useful too? This was the task set before me as my boss wanted me to write a short article for the staff newsletter explaining what I did out of the office. So here is my piece, apologies for over-simplifying stuff...

MY HOBBY: Once a month, we ask a member of the company to tell us about their interests. This month, Seymour tries to convince us that wearing baggy pyjamas and grappling sweaty men us a pursuit worth doing...

To the outsider, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) looks like nothing more than sweaty grown men wearing pyjamas hugging and rolling around a lot. And I suppose that's precisely what a lot of it is. Obviously there is a lot of skill and technique needed too. I've been doing this martial art for over 6 years now and I train 3 or 4 times a week.

BJJ is a bit of a cross between wrestling and judo. 99 percent of the action happens on the floor, after the contestants have chucked each other around a bit. You are allowed to pin a person down, strangle him, choke him and apply painful force on various joints, but there is no punching or kicking allowed (thankfully!).

It was made famous in the early 1990's when a Brazilian chap called Rorion Gracie thought it would be a good publicity stunt to challenge anyone in any martial art style to a no-rules fight within a cage...winner takes all. He called it the Ultimate Fight Challenge (UFC) and, to the astronishment of everyone except the Brazilians, the BJJ guy (Rorion sent in his younger brother Royce to do the fighting) easily beat up experts from karate, wrestling, judo and many other styles. Fast forward to today and the UFC is a major pay-per-view sport event and BJJ is fast growing around the world.

We're lucky in the UK. Some plucky Brazilians seem to ignore the fact that in Britain, we have rubbish weather compared to Rio de Janiero. In London, we're especially lucky as the 7 times, and still current World BJJ Champion - Roger Gracie - bases his school here. Roger is incredibly famous in the BJJ world. It's the equivalent of taking lessons from Tiger Woods, or Roger Federer, right on your doorstep.

I compete in tournaments roughly once every couple of months, with moderate success. I have won a few and lost many. But the great thing I love about BJJ is the genuine cameraderie between practitioners young or old, big or small - I've even roped the wife into taking part every now and then too. It is an addictive passion that keeps you incredibly fit, could serve as useful self-defence and is very exciting to take part in. Just don't call it hugging in pyjamas!

Roger Gracie Academy: http://www.rogergracie.com/
More about BJJ: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bjj

Explaining BJJ

How do you explain your hobby to someone with no knowledge of the sport. Harder still, how do you convince them that what you do is fun, fa...

11 Aug 2009

Here's a photo slideshow:



All photos by me, but feel free to copy and paste ones you like. Just credit "Meerkatsu" if you print any.

...and here's my full tournament report on the very excellent Fightworks Podcast website.

Excerpt:
"The very first ‘London Open’ held in 2003 was a landmark event – at the time it was one of the very first major BJJ tournaments to be located in London, England. Fast forward to today and the 2009 ‘London Open’, run by Grapplers Showdown, evoked strong memories of that tournament 6 years ago."

More Grapplers Showdown

Here's a photo slideshow: All photos by me, but feel free to copy and paste ones you like. Just credit "Meerkatsu" if yo...

 

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