I’ve always been someone who thrives on physical and mental challenges. I’m also someone who can’t bear to look back on the “what ifs”. If there’s one regret, I have in life it would be to have never of given up on Karate as a kid. Back then it was something my mum thought would be good for me and like most youngsters the consoles and football kickabouts took priority in my head.
Growing up however and understanding the importance of looking after ourselves, the idea of becoming proficient in a martial art has consistently fluttered at the back of my mind.
In the spring of 2022 and hitting 35 years old, I felt I was coming to a crossroads with my own goals and style of training. I had already pushed my mind and body to extreme limits in the Parachute Regiment and stepped up once again qualifying for the British championships in natural bodybuilding. Those big goals in life I had set out for myself were already ticked off and that’s where the nudge to challenge myself in a slightly different way ticked in. When a thought enters my head and I get that positive gut feeling I almost always pull the trigger. Commencing the world of martial arts was now on!
I looked, researched, and asked questions from those in the know on which direction to take it. Do I go back to karate like I did as a kid, or do I do something I’ve never even considered before. After a week or so I decided on Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It came across as one if not the most effective martial art in real life situations. It had a great following and the one thing that really ticked the box for me? …. It has a strenuous progression process. To work up the ranks and reach eventually one day a black belt can take somewhere around 10 – 15 years. Just like the covered maroon beret I earned in the Parachute Regiment, it’s something that you can’t buy and is certainly not just given to you. I love that and I live to earn rather than be given my reputation and respect in any field.
I joined Gracie Barra in the spring and like pretty much everyone that starts Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I felt truly out of my depth with the skill. To me though, that is perfect! To look at how I was one day and to know one day I’ll potentially be as good as some of the others in that room just spurs me on.
Fast forward a year after a lot of sweat, frustration, blood, and tonnes of bruises, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition announces it’s coming to York. I never initially set out to compete seriously in a sport again, but the thought certainly sparks an intriguing feeling. As a coach I believe when we put ourselves out there, we at the same time fire up our clients. To be someone who walks the walk is a fantastic position to be in and one which brings a wave of respect from those who seek your advice and following.
I signed myself for the comp in February 2023 with a competing date of mid-April. When the fight finally came nerves really start to kick in. I had advice from loads of the guys who I spar with about what it’s like, so I knew the feeling was normal. The atmosphere in the venue was electric both on the mats and in the crowd. The vibes from those minutes away from competing was so like those backstage of the bodybuilding competitions…a lot of apprehension with a dose of excitement. Thoughts naturally spring up in the mind too like “am I actually ready”, “he looks lethal” and “there’s no going back now”.
As my name is called and I step up alongside the mat waiting to fight, the thoughts start to heighten and before I know it, I’m on the mat tapping hands with my opponent. The ref initiates the fight, all the fears disappear, and the fight feels like an intense sparring session. No more worrying about the crowd watching me and more a fear of potentially submitting at some point. Within a blink of an eye the fight finishes. The result, I’m beaten on points but didn’t submit and what a feeling! and that for me is the entire point. To be someone who does what they say IS something I’m extremely proud of and I hold anyone with the upmost respect who lives by this too.
In a world filled by BS, talk is cheap, and action speaks volumes. It’s not the winning or losing like how being in the paras was never about having the very best stamina scores or coming first in bodybuilding. It’s about doing what you love and throwing yourself fully in that world. My thing these days is trying to become my personal best at BJJ, but to someone else it could simply be showing up to the gym and losing that 2 stone that they said they’ll do. I’m a huge believer in breaking down the barriers we put up on ourselves. I waited until I was 35 to start my journey in this sport and could easily have been put off by the 20-year-olds who can physically recover in a heartbeat in comparison to me, but the fact I started full stop means I’m 1 year into BJJ and that’s 1 year of experience that I never had before.
There’s a phrase we’ve heard a thousand times in the paras from those outside our unit and that was “I was going to join the parachute regiment……but”
If you say “but” less often and start walking the walk.