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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Its Importance To Me

n 2009, I discovered something that I had never really seen before. Mixed Martial Arts, of course, I had seen the movie Karate Kid but this was something different, it was that time I had first watched an Ultimate Fighting Championship event. UFC 104, Lyoto Machida vs Mauricio Rua. I remember this day especially as it was on the day of my birthday, October 24th 2009 (now you know my birthday you have no excuse to not buy me a present).

Two guys locked in a cage fighting, pretty brutal right? What I witnessed was quite amazing, and really got me interested in what was going on. These guys were standing up, punching and kicking each other, then they would clinch and hold each other against the cage, they would then rotate, stamp on each others feet and then attempt tripping each other. At that point something went off in my head, “what on earth are the guys doing”.

And this is where it all began, two grown men jockeying for position on the ground, rolling around locking legs, grabbing arms and laying on top of each other. It was really strange to see. Immediately I jumped onto the computer and searched information on both guys. Google returned two profiles which both stated on there “Black Belt in Jiu Jitsu”.

Jiu Jitsu, what is it?

Jiu Jitsu is a self defense system that focuses on ground fighting and grappling. To my surprise this martial art had been around since 1909. The first school was opened by Geo Omori where he taught Judo and Jiu Jitsu.

The martial art was then adapted through experimentation. The masters of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Hélio Gracie and brother Carlos Gracie took Jiu Jitsu a step further using many different techniques and styles. Their knowledge has now been passed down to their extended family, which has now made their family name (Gracie) the biggest name in Jiu Jitsu.

Jiu Jitsu promotes a concept where a smaller, weaker man can successfully defeat a stronger bigger opponent using specific, proper techniques using leverage and notably taking the fight to the ground. Once on the ground chokeholds and joint-locks are used to defeat the opponent.

Jiu Jitsu can be practised in a Gi and in No Gi. I train in a Gi which is what I prefer, due to how technical it can be using the Gi to actually choke, lock and beat opponents.

So, why practice Jiu Jitsu?

Spending 10 hours a day at work, at a desk, really plays havoc on the body. Sinking several cups of tea or coffee a day and focusing constantly on my job really puts a strain on my brain. I’m the type of person who looks forward to a challenge, I will try anything and everything once within reason.

Growing up I was always interested in sport. Playing football every single day was something I could not get away from, it was my life, my passion and still is to this day. However finding time to play it is really difficult. Running a young business is very difficult and takes up a lot of my time so getting out for 4 our 5 hours a day a few days a week just was not working for me.

I’ve always been the type of person who likes to stay fit and healthy. Just over two years ago I started putting on weight which was really making me unhappy, both in work and in my personal life.

After being interested in Jiu Jitsu for going on six years, I felt it was about time I started practising it and I was in the perfect position to do so. Just over four years ago now I expressed my interest in MMA to two of the best human being’s I know. Steven France and Dale Percival run one of the UK’s finest MMA events. Made4TheCage Fighting Championship are a recognised brand in the UK, bringing fighters from all over the world to their event. The event has seen professional fighters in all martial art classes come together to be on the fight card to create off the chart events.

Dale and Steven recently opened their own Fight Academy, which teaches students in Thai Boxing, MMA and Jiu Jitsu. All classes run Monday to Saturday with fighters such as Reece McAllister of Glory World Series (Thai Boxing), Ryan Scope (BAMMA) taking the MMA classes and Black Belt Peter Irving doing seminars in Jiu Jitsu on regular occasions. Throughout the week Monday to Saturday Dale (Brown Belt), Steven (Purple Belt), Beefy (Purple Belt) and Colin (Purple Belt) take the Jiu Jitsu sessions.

The question I ask myself is, why didn’t I do this sooner? For five years I missed out on a major interest. Something that looks so simple on the TV is impressively difficult. In fact, Jiu Jitsu is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever taken part in. Over the last 4 months as a white belt I would say I’ve been choked and locked around 150 times, a lot of those coming in the first 8 weeks of training. Since then I have slightly improved my game and it continues to be a challenge to grade up on my white belt.

Glen Wheeler Made4TheCage-fight-academy
Dale Percival teaching me in one of my earlier classes at the Made4TheCage Fight Academy

Doing Jiu Jitsu three times a week has become this tool that helps me relax and take my mind away from work. It gets tough, stressful and is an attention seeking environment. As well as that, it helps to stay in shape, stay sharp, gain strength and at the same time, makes and helps you think technically and creatively in a whole different way.

The challenges Jiu Jitsu brings in phenomenal and really brings something extra to weekly life. I constantly watch documentaries (Make Sure you catch the Choke Documentary) and videos on Jiu Jitsu and look at ways on how I can improve my life style and my Jiu Jitsu game. Being able to focus on something different other than computer code and design has made life very refreshing and has really stopped “Burnout”.

Before Jiu Jitsu I used to find myself in times of stress and the need to escape what I do as a job. I used to feel burnout every few weeks which led me to feeling really angry and annoyed. With Jiu Jitsu I now feel a lot more focused, I take my time and allow myself to make decision’s properly. Believe it or not, Jiu Jitsu has been a huge turn around to my business and my life.

There is one quote from Jiu Jitsu I think about when times get pretty tough. That quote was by a member of the Gracie family, 8th Degree Red and White Belt Rickson Gracie.

"Sometimes, you don’t have to win. You cannot win. But that has nothing to do with losing." Rickson GracieJiu Jitsu Legend

A lot of the last three years has been about work, burnout, work, burnout and this has done me no favours. Making a change in my lifestyle by practising Jiu Jitsu has brought a whole new freshness to my work and the way I think. Having both challenges of Jiu Jitsu and business has a beautiful balance which allows me to build on my career and business growth.

So, where from here? At the moment I feel in a really good place. I am really looking forward to how I progress both in business and in Jiu Jitsu and will definitely be keeping my blog up to date on progress in both areas. I’d just like to say a massive thanks to all of the guys at the Academy especially the lads who take the classes, Dale, Steven, Beefy, Colin and Michael. Top bunch of fella’s. See you on the mats!

Steven France walking me through an arm bar technique at the Fight Academy.

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