When people think of Martial Arts, they think of people like Bruce Lee, Jean Claude Van Damme etc…these people have been very successful in their chosen arts and have made it to the big screen through acting. But what about the average person, the one who does a 9-5 job and trains a few times a week in their free time to let off some steam and get some exercise in. I used to be one of these people!
I started off in Judo, training twice a week at a small hut. The dojo was pretty popular, having been around since the 80’s. Twice a week I would warm up doing break falls, stretching and going over basic movement to set up sweeps and throws. At first I loved it, sometimes I would get a good throw or a sweep in during regular sparring. Being about 6ft 3 and 24 stone at the time I was slow, sluggish and although my hips were powerful it was difficult for me to get into the right position to use leverage to throw people over. But I still loved it, the feeling I got when the rare few times I did get a throw! I found the fat literally dripping off of me, my weight was going down from the intense exercise and small changes made to my diet, but most of all, I felt my confidence rise. I would walk down the street with my head held high and I had that ‘I don’t give a shit what people think about me’ attitude.
I found that my confidence hit a low point after about 8 months of regular training, it became obvious that I was the guy everyone wanted to spar with, including a few black belts. They would throw me around like a rag doll and I did not feel like I was learning anything new. Now you are probably reading this and thinking ‘God you are a bitch, that is how you learn and develop a new skill!’. Perhaps you are right, I was being a little bitch! But my mindset had completely changed and it was not long until I stopped training and went back to my eating habits, everything went back to what it was very quickly. My weight went back up to what it was when I first started and my confidence went back down.
Lets fast forward about 1 year later. I left college and started my first job, during my last year of college I hit the gym hard and managed to drop about 5 stone! I felt like a new man and I wanted to try my hand at the Martial Arts again, I found a Muay Thai gym not far from the office so I signed up. I was a big MMA fan at this point and my hero was Mirko Cro Cop. A Croatian kickboxer that went into MMA. Being a south paw myself, I wanted to kick like the legend and my hero. A couple of months went by with regular training and I felt some more weight come off, the gym was (and still is) an amazing place to train. The coaches are helpful and friendly and everyone in there wants to train and develop. I noticed the gym was also teaching BJJ classes, with a very good black belt instructor, a European gold medallist. Why the hell not I thought. Lets do a class and see how it goes, I have my old Judo GI so I can just use that! I thought it would be pretty much the same as Judo but I was wrong…this art specialises on the ground work, from being on your back to being on top. Throws and sweeps are also taught but it is mainly a ground Martial Art.
I instantly fell in love with it, the coach is very friendly and so helpful. I found I would be slowly walked through movements and technique and not thrown around like a rag doll like my previous experience in grappling. I got the bug and trained as much as I could, even stopping my Muay Thai training to do more BJJ! After about 2-3 months of training, an inter-club competition came up, I messaged my instructor on Facebook to ask if I could do it, he was more than happy to put me forward! I registered and began training a little bit more to prepare for the competition. Now at this point, I was around 17 stone. Still a big guy, I knew I would be against the larger man like myself. Until I was faced with my opponent, in his spare time he trained BJJ as a bit of extra fitness, as a job he is a personal trainer but he is also a fucking MONSTER of a man. He is a bodybuilder, and a big one at that. Needless to say, I was shitting myself, but hey, its my first competition. The fight went ahead and I found myself wrapping in an armbar, I tried to roll out of it but ended up going more deeper into the lock, I was forced to tap out. I felt a bit silly, thinking to myself how I could have done better. But my instructor and team mates patted me on the back and told me it was my first fight, I will get better!
A few months later I signed up for another competition, I went in with my head held high. I had two fights that day, I managed to win both of them! I can still remember my team cheering for me and my coaches Scottish accent yelling instructions, I struck gold and it was the greatest feeling I had ever had. With the help from my fellow team mates and my coach I went on to doing more and more competitions, not always winning the gold but I was coming home with medals! After a couple of years I gained my blue belt, an amazing moment for me. Unfortunately I did the thing I was scared of doing, I stopped training. I let life get me down and stopped doing the one thing I loved. I trained on occasion, even doing a couple of competitions. But I did not train properly for them, on my last competition, I managed to get injured. This was through no fault of the gym, or even the guy I was fighting at the time. This was my own fault, I slacked in training and lost my drive. After recovering from the injury I went to training once in a blue moon, still couldn’t get that bug back, I decided about a year ago to stop altogether, get my life back on track before jumping into the arts again. After writing this post, it has definitely driven me to start again!
That is my story on my experience with Martial Arts, I felt like a part of a family. I did things I did not know I could ever do and now I miss it more than ever! If you are thinking about doing it yourself, contact your local gym/dojo, it doesn’t matter what style of Martial Arts it is, if you find a great training facility like I did then you are in for an amazing journey. I have also found it is never too late to start, if you are 18 or 80. Give it a try, I do not think you will regret it!
Now that I have got this out of my head and in front of me through a blog post, I feel so motivated to go and start this journey again, it has to be done! Training with my mates was the happiest feeling I had ever had, now I think its time to go back and do it again…