The idea behind this piece is to focus on one person I look up to each week. I’ll try to write something each Friday. Naturally they’ll be martial artists. I’ll try my best to summarise why they’re important, and what their role is or has been in my training.
First up is Dave ‘Speedy’ Elliot. Dave was the first black belt in the North East (of England). He received his black belt in 2009 from Mauricio Motta Gomes at a seminar which he was attending with some friends. He’s a longtime friend of Marc Walder, who was one of the first black belts in the UK and also an instrumental person in Dave’s involvement in BJJ, having trained with him for several years.
I met Dave over three years ago at a seminar my club hosted. I forget how it came about exactly, but I believe some of my coaches were up in Inverness, possibly for a show. There was a ‘Speedy’ Elliot seminar on. They attended, and were blown away by his knowledge. My coaches then set up a seminar for Dave at our club.
The seminar was BJJ/grappling for MMA. We were shown lots in a relatively short period of time, and my eyes were opened by this mythical creature standing watching over us. He explained things well, and was able to break down everything asked of him.
At first glance, you’d probably be quite intimidated by him. He speaks in an almost foreign tongue (Geordie), he’s covered head to toe in tattoos, and he sports a skinhead. And to the fact that this guy was a black belt. A real black belt, in a very deadly martial art. This wasn’t weekend karate he had a black belt in, this was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I was impressed, and took in what he said very eagerly. Whilst still wary of the fact that if this man wanted to, he could kill me. To death.
After the seminar, one of my coaches approached me, and said that Dave had mentioned that my movement would be well suited to BJJ, or something to that effect. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. The coach in question could see the light shimmer off the dirtiest of turds. He’s wonderful like that, so may have reworded Dave saying, “He doesn’t look like an idiot whilst moving.” Which of course, is wrong. I have the agility of a salmon. Albeit out of water, gasping for breath.
I sat on these kind words for a while. Pondering whether to take up BJJ properly. My luck was in as Tatami Fightwear had a sale on, so I thought fuck it and ordered the coolest cheap gi I could. It was red (Yes, my first gi wasn’t even IBJJF approved).
I started pissing about with it and then headed down to Newcastle for my first class. Newcastle is around 170 miles from Dundee (Scotland), give or take. It was November. Neither Dundee or Newcastle are particularly warm at this time of year. However, what was warm was the welcome we received.
We’d been invited down to one of Dave’s Saturday classes. They start at 10am, so we had to hit the road at stupid o’clock to find the place, enough said about that the better. Let’s just say, I drove with the direction sense of a drunk woman. Missing a very important city bypass, that happens to go through Scotland’s busiest city.
Arriving just in time, he welcomed us in, and before we knew it we were throwing one another about to warm up, then practising leg-locks.
Speedy’s a firm believer in teaching leg-locks from the very beginning. Destruction of your lower limbs is his speciality. Many can attest to that, having had his deathly grip on their feet. Some even say it’s like trying to kick an alligator’s head out of a bear trap. Either way, you’re going to get fucked up.
Eager to see how compitent we were, he threw us to the dogs. The rolls were playful, no-one took the piss, although they could have and we left Newcastle that day with our eyes opened to this dazzling new sport.
From that moment on, I was hooked, and have trained BJJ since.
Speedy is a very involved coach. Often taking time out to speak to his students, and guide them where he can. His black belt hasn’t made him arrogant, and he’s a genuinely humble person. He regularly assures the class that he’s no different to the rest of us, although he has put in more time. That gives me that glimmer of hope that one day I may well be a black belt too. Everything will click, green letters and numbers will start to fall and I’ll see through the code. It’s only a matter of time.