This is a fantastic piece, giving a slight insight into the Danaher Death Squad. Give it a read. and I’ll continue back to my waffling ways soon.
Tag Archives: Jiu-Jitsu
Too often we pass up on the opportunity to stare greatness in the face. As crushing as it is, people aren’t immortal and we tend to have a highly variable expiry date. You only have to look at the 2016 death curse, and the more recent passing of Chris Cornell to know that our time on this floating watery space rock is a tiny insignificant little blip in the grand scheme of things. With that in mind, I’m taking a more active approach to seeing the people I want to see, whilst I still can. Morose eh? More notably, I’m going to be focusing on BJJ and training with the baddest motherfuckers alive. That’s the plan anyway.
Rickson Gracie is a polarising figure; not without his critics. The Gracie’s warhorse has gone to battle four hundred million times and never given up a single point, but conveniently those records are hard to come by. His own father discredited the records for their alleged hyperbole (stating that Rickson counted rolls as victories, alongside actual fights), and the truth of it is, we’ll never really know for sure. This crafty old bastard predated the internet and all things social media, so if there’s bullshit there, anyone that has called him out on it hasn’t had the reach of today’s crowd. So let’s not dwell on it? Let’s focus on the positive, and what we do know.
What we’ll focus on is those that have experienced this man’s grappling, and the brave wee souls that faced him in MMA fights. The talk ringside was that no-one wanted to fight this guy. They saw how Royce dismantled people, and it was well known that Rickson was capable of dismantling Royce. He was never meant to be that guy, but things in the family shifted and it was decided it was Rickson’s time to take the stage and show what BJJ could be when combined with a raw animalistic athlete.
Whether his record was embellished or not, this man is the best the Gracie family had to offer. Rolls shaped him into a killer on the mats, and from that close family death he honed his skills and carved out a path for himself in martial arts history.
His philosophy, understanding of technique, motion and physiology gave him an edge that others didn’t have. Apparently he’s the strongest fucker ever to walk this earth too, but all great grapplers are. Once you crack how to take a hold of someone, it’s REALLY fucking hard for people to shake that off (Taylor Swift might be able to). Rickson fought like a bear though. Ferocious.
A whose who of BJJ and MMA royalty cite Rickson as the best there ever was.
If you’ve got Fabio Gurgel singing your praises (Marcelo Garcia’s coach), then the chances are you’re pretty fucking brilliant at what you do. The Machados, Faddas and every other Gracie all speak about him like he’s at the very top of a very dangerous pyramid. All the BJJ elders speak incredibly highly of this man’s grappling abilities, and his reputation proceeds him as a result. So when the opportunity presented itself, I threw a gold brick at it (that’s a wee joke about the cost of his seminars – this dude ain’t cheap).
As we sat by the sidelines in the Glasgow Emirates Arena, the roof parted and a bright light shone down on this Jiu-Jitsu deity. He put his gi jacket on, tied his coral belt and started to warm up. He runs through a very similar warmup routine to myself. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, because he has about 4 bulging discs, and is pretty fucked physically. I’m hoping that’s from his countless hours squeezing people to death, otherwise my future is pretty bleak.
As I looked out onto the mats I was nervous in a good way. It was a pretty special moment when it hit me that I was about to train at a Rickson seminar. The mat space was fucking huge, filled with 188 people. There was a pretty even mix of white, blue, purple, brown and black belts. I’ve probably never seen so many black belts together, all seeking the very same thing we all were, understanding of technique from someone that’s been around the mats a fair few times.
It’s refreshing to see black belts as students. Incredible life long martial artists like Rick Young are still looking to learn wherever they can, and that’s a good insight into what’s to come. Learning doesn’t stop when you get your black belt, you’re continually evolving your own understanding of this horribly complicated art. For one day, regardless of rank we’re all on the same page. Or at least, in the same section of a library.
Rickson’s far shorter than anyone expects, but still looks absolutely fucking solid at 59 years old. He manages to be wholly intimidating and personally welcoming at the same time. He shook everyone’s hand as they walked onto the mat, but fuck that noise, I stole a quick hug. I drew the line at a kiss on the cheek because I didn’t want to tempt fate with my own expiry date. He has a back like a bag of rocks.
He started his seminar by taking about breathing and using your full lung capacity. This is something that has always been at the forefront of his training, and you don’t really give it a second thought (even if you have watched Choke far too many times).
I don’t consider myself fit, but I know when I roll with less experienced grapplers, they’re going to tire far quicker than I do. Panting away like a puppy in the park, whilst I casually place their arm where I need it to be so that I can viciously explode through with a spiral armbar, ending their dreams of being an oil painter. Fucking oil painters man.
Rickson’s breathes properly. It may look like he’s a marble short of a game of kerplunk when he’s doing it, but he’s using his lungs the way they should be used. Full diaphragmatic breathing, combined with meditation to give himself the edge on his opponents. He explained that before competing; even with a full sweat on he’d get his heart rate back down to 60 beats per minute, so that he always had further to go in his gas tank than his opponents. It’s something I want to better understand, because I haven’t really bothered in the past when Billy the Yoda mentioned it. Billy the Yoda is a clever cookie it would seem, he’s been going on about this shit for years.
After the introduction was done, we worked flying berimbolos, floating inverted guard and trans-dimensional-worm-hole guard. No wait, we didn’t. We actually worked on some self-defense principles. Being honest, I’m really not interested in self-defense but what he said resonated and made more sense as the seminar went on. The seminar focused entirely on base. Understanding when you’re in base, and when you’re not. We refined standing and grounded techniques to make sure we were an absolute shit of a bastard to fight against. That’s what he’s going for right? As I continue to refine his approach to these techniques, I’ll hopefully one day be able to hold fuckers down like they’re shackled to the earth.
What I really appreciated in his instruction is how he got a technique into your head. He instructs by feel. So if you’re struggling, he’ll have you do the technique on him, and he’ll correct it appropriately. This is something a lot of instructors do, but it felt like something more with him. I don’t know why. I was probably just gushing like a school girl because it’s Rickson fucking Gracie.
I don’t think I can think as well in reverse like that yet. Maybe with some techniques, but it’s cool to witness the process. The man’s also a gentleman. He didn’t at one point say, “Woah man, your technique is fucking dogshit. Go get changed right now.” I’ll never have that decorum, fuckers be getting telt yo.
It was a great seminar. His philosophy & approach to technique etc surprised me (I’m aware that sounds stupid, he’s a coral belt for fuck sake, and has been harping on about effectiveness being missing from Jiu-Jitsu for a years now).
However, we’re so often you’re caught up in the mythos of these characters, that you just assume Rickson was super successful because he could bend girders with his bare hands. Whilst it played a part, it doesn’t seem to be the full story. His techniques are simple, efficient and highly effective. There’s white belts at that seminar, that will hopefully start using his techniques from here forward. They’re going to have an understanding of fundamentals that has been drilled into them at a very early stage in their game. Whereas us wiley veterans are now going to have to work hard, to correct our dirty bad stanky habits.
His Invisible Jiu-Jitsu seemed like more clever Gracie marketing, but there was none of the Rener or Ryron flair or bullshit with it. He explained clearly, and made sure a room of nearly 200 people were on the same wavelength. I feel I’ve got a better understanding of it than I did before; making simple adjustments to techniques that I’ve been doing for years, and my partner was literally fucked as a result. Those lightbulb moments. This is what a good seminar should be. Taking away vital details that have an overall impact on the effectiveness of your game.
If you get the opportunity to attend one of these seminars, jump at it. Starve your kid for a week, sell your dog, default on your mortgage, drive without an MOT, maybe skip a night out or two. It’s worth it. Cheerio cunts. x
Last night for the first time ever, I watched a video of myself rolling. Considering how long I’ve been grappling, that probably seems a little weird. At no point did I have the inclination to review how much of a woefully shite catastrophe I am at all of this. I’ve seen a video of me getting drubbed in a competition, so it’s probably why I’ve never thought to review my actual ‘rolling’ game. The worst critic I’ll ever have is going to be me. Everyone else is either complimentary or nice enough to not tell me I’m shite to my face. I appreciate both.
Morbid curiosity got the better of me though, and I needed to see how I looked/moved. I remembered the class well, and felt that I rolled alright on the night, considering how knackered I was. I’d been there from seven, rolling for an hour before class, so the rolls afterwards probably weren’t necessary but I don’t like passing up the opportunity to spar. Sparring keeps me mentally fresh, smashing away any of the week’s REAL stresses, and keeps me semi-balanced as a person. I can’t tell you how many kittens I’d have to kill otherwise.
The whole Lazy Grappler shtick started off because of how lazy my approach to training was. I’m a hobbyist, so sometimes I was all too happy to just show up once a week, or skip weeks altogether. This was at a point when my understanding of grappling just wasn’t there, and motivating myself to go get my arse kicked was difficult. I’d eat Chinese food, and play Xbox instead.
Now, it’s more of a ‘style’ thing. I’m very relaxed to say the least and this video confirms that. Even in difficult positions, I’m probably a little too relaxed.
I don’t think I even know what my 100% looks like as a result. I imagine it’s an injury riddled mess of flailing screams. So I roll calmly, breathe freely and try to flow.
What I can see when I roll is that I’ll give shit away, in a little submission gift basket. Hey, you guy. Here’s an arm. Why don’t you grab it and try to unhinge it? Thanks dude.
I was tapped three times in the video. Two heel hooks from the instructor Fenrir (this wasn’t because I was too relaxed, he’s just very good), and a kimura from a guy I’m lead to believe is called Dave (I D’arced him in return, even though it was my fault I got subbed). I was pretty comfortable everywhere else, even in big bad Ali’s armbar. It looks far worse than it actually was. I shrugged that shit off, and called him atrocious things that should never be spoken of.
Save for Fen, I was hunting subs even in my relaxed state. I used to be pretty lazy to the point where I’d happily roll without hunting for subs. Grinding on people, or floating on them just to work positions; but my understanding of positioning has improved to the point where I should be looking for subs every roll. I’m currently doing that heel hook hunting stuff from different positions, and I’m also partial to a choke or two. NoGi isn’t my strong suit though, so I’m playing with it.
I messaged Fenrir after seeing this video to thank him for filming it, because it’s a highly beneficial learning tool that I’ve completely neglected. I’ve picked out holes in my game, and I’m going to start filling them one by one until I’m a grappling super-machine. Or at least a less shite version of my current self.
I’d appreciate it if you watched the following video (I’m wearing green shorts), and gave my instructor Fenrir a follow on YouTube. His instructionals are straight fucking fire, as the kids say.
Hello again y’all.
If you’ve read this blog before, or have been following my ramblings for a while you’ll know that I have the occasional bout of competition anxiety. I consider myself lucky that my anxiety is entirely rational, as I know people that have bouts of anxiety that they just can’t control. A feeling of unrest over a seemingly random event. I don’t get that, thank Jebus. I can at least relate my bout to something in front of me at that very moment. I step onto the competitive mats and immediately fill my pampers with shit. Thinking the absolute the worst.
It takes me out of the moment, and can often affect my performance poorly. It’s not nerves or that, it’s a properly derailing experience when it happens. I just don’t deal well with the unknown in that moment. More competition experience is obviously required.
This comes from my lack of confidence as a grappler, and my knowledge of what a good grappler is. My brain will always compare me at my worst, to them at their best. It’s a losing battle, and one my mind regularly trips me up upon. I know you’re only meant to compare yourself to yourself, but when you know the people you’re up against; it’s very hard to do so. So I go all wobbly in the brain.
On Saturday the 22nd of April, I found myself down in Newcastle again for another of Speedy’s patented inter-club competitions. The Origin Team from the North East and beyond comes together in one spot to have a good laugh with one another, support one another and see how we fare in the throws of pyjama battle. It’s a great day out amongst family and friends, depending on how you view all of this Martial Arts stuff. I consider these people a family. That’s what Jiu-Jitsu or grappling is; I know that these people at least understand that part of me, and I understand that part of them. A shared passion for the art of breaking limbs, and choking one another. It’s rare people get on this well with their own family, so it’s a special feeling. Politics, music, tastes etc all go out of the window. We share a common ground, which happens to be covered by mats.
This time around, I made a considered effort to try and coach from the sidelines. It turns out I didn’t really need to, because Origin Tayside excelled themselves. The matches put on were competitive, fun and brilliant to watch with our team doing incredibly well. I’ve already told them how well they did, so I’m not going to give them the shout out they probably deserve. Fuck ’em. Fuck ’em all.
I will however mention how important these days are as a team. When you’re training day to day, you do not see the shift in a person’s game. Assuming the world is fair, and attributes are even, you’ll all move at the same pace, progressing at the very same speed. I’ve created a false positive there, to dumb down reality. We’re dealing with a game of variables here, but that aside you just don’t know whether Tom has improved over Dick, or whether Harry has improved at all because you see these cunts every single day. You catch them, they catch you, etc. On these rare inter-club days, you see how far they’ve come and get to appreciate the side of their game that you miss in class because you don’t have to focus on your own shit. You can simply focus on them doing what they do, against someone else trying to do what they do. It’s fucking crack-a-lack-ing, as Snoop D. O. double Gizzle would say.
Once the white and blue belts had done their thing, we took a breather from competition to focus on Andy Bell. He’s a blue belt that had a motorcycle accident leaving him paralysed from the chest down. Speedy, Scuba and Tyrone all had a roll with him, with their legs tied up and the agreement that they wouldn’t use their hips. This was incredible to watch. You got to see the grit and determination of Andy, who is still a super competitive grappler regardless of his paralysis; and you got to see how immediately ineffective brown and black belts are without their hips in play. Suddenly a blue belt who doesn’t view this form of grappling as foreign, is getting the upper hand. He knows how to move, because it’s an entirely natural movement for him. It was a constant back and forth battle and really interesting to watch, but it also served another very important purpose. The room was fed a healthy dose of perspective.
Speedy always starts these inter-clubs by reminding us that we’re all friends and family, so this isn’t a serious competition. Now, whilst that remains in the back of our minds, we’re still doing our best to put on a good show for those that are judging us. Matches rarely do, but they can get heated. It’s a difficult to balance on the day, I guess – but Andy put things into perspective for me at least, and many of the other purple belts who were there. We had the most relaxed and technical matches of the day (Billy and Ant’s match was an incredible watch, an absolute feast of Jiu-Jitsu technique). The purples should be better to watch because of their technical understanding of the game, but I think it was less to do with that and more to do with the weight we had lifted before we were matched.
I looked at my opponents and knew that the worst that could happen was that I’d lose. That’s it. I’m not fighting at the Mundials, I’m no longer in the position where I’m getting battered all over the mats. So what did I have to worry about? Nothing. It was freeing. Andy lifted my spirits that day, and I think I performed better as a result.
With that said, earlier that day we were told it was not only absolute for the purple belts, but James Bland would be joining us. Origin’s Big Daddy himself, and brown belt supremo.
I was first matched with Jimmy, who’s probably my size or a little lighter. So naturally he proceeded to batter me all over the mats. The aim is to get the submission, and Jimmy wasted no time in firing them at me. The match is a bit of a blur. What I can remember is he took me down and started working his passing game from standing. I’m rarely bothered by being passed, because I can usually recover. Jimmy worked an armbar and a reverse triangle at one point (probably picking up on how Mighele finished me last year), but I was able to free myself from his shackles. I know for a fact that the decision wasn’t going my way, so I had to do something. Speedy’s always telling me to be aggressive, but I play the defensive game against purple belts a lot, due to my previously mentioned confidence. I almost nailed him with a loop choke, but shifted my hips when I should have held my position, he started to gurgle but escaped like the crafty man that he is. As the match neared the end, Jimmy sat back into an achilles lock, rather than continue to pass my guard. This was Christmas for me. I moved my hips slightly, sat up and locked up an achilles of my own. I had the boot on so that his own achilles lock was nulled, and proceeded to squeeze my own before putting my foot into position on his hip. The reason I didn’t put my foot on is hip, is so that I could step over if he turned away from me. The squeeze was tight enough, and I got the tap. A surprising end to a mostly one sided fight.
My next match was against longtime training partner Paul. I haven’t sparred with him in yonks, because we have different goals and we train different days currently. He kept his legs out of play, because he knows I’ve been working leg locks for weeks now (stupid fucking Facebook). He passed and used pressure a lot (shoulder of justice), we grip fought from guard, and again my loop choke was thwarted. Eventually he worked a head and arm choke after a reset, and I didn’t have the space to escape without hurting myself. He’s a powerful dude, and it was a good fun match.
So one win, and one loss. Better than I’ve faired in recent inter-clubs, and whilst there’s room for improvement I’m not actually disappointed with my performances. Both of my matches were really fun, and that’s what I’m there to do. Have fun with people I respect, and then reflect on the results afterwards.
I had some good chats with the guys around the mats, positive vibes were exchanged throughout the day, and that’s what this day is all about.
There were plenty of gradings handed out on the day. I won’t list them all but point out the two that I think had the biggest impact to the people involved.
The most deserving/long overdue of our lot, Tony finally got his blue belt. He’s been smashing guys in the gym for a while now, and anyone that walks through the door and saw him as a white belt, had no idea what they were letting themselves in for when they rolled with him. That mystery is gone, as he proudly dons the colour blue. It suits him.
Danny was given another two stripes on his belt, which means at the next grading he’ll either get his blue belt, or a shotgun slug in the face. You never can tell. Part of me hopes for the latter, because y’know King Prick.
Myself, Paul and Grant found ourselves in a very stripy position. We all have four stripes now. With each additional stripe at purple belt, the responsibility gets heavier. It’s time to conceptualise and create where appropriate, evolve creativity and refine the basics. Use ebb and flow to create that tight invisible Jiu-Jitsu we all long for. The next grading is months off and just around the corner at the very same time, so I’m going to make each second I can count. Since Saturday I’ve been to two classes, fuck resting.
Right, that’s enough. I’ve went on for far too long, and it’s getting late.
Today was a cracking day at the inter-club grading. I had two tough matches, won one and lost the second. In my first match, I had trouble dealing with Jimmy's passing game and hip control. I came close to getting my patented loop choke but it wasn't to be. There were scrambles where I could create them. That's where I'm comfortable, scrambles and flow. In the closing minute he instigated the leg lock battle, which I've been working a lot of recently. He took an Achilles, so I paid him back in kind for the tap. He complimented me afterwards as I did him. It's been too long since we've sparred or fought against one another. My second match was against Paul P, the eventual finalist. I haven't rolled with Paul in ages, he's a big scary Judoka. He told me afterwards that I frustrated him in the grip battles, so that's ace. I again went for my patented loop choke but he was wise to it. Handsome bastard that he is. He bested me with a tight arm triangle in the closing seconds. It was a fun fight. I'm glad he didn't Uchi Mata me through the Earth's core. I feel great about today; regardless of the win or the loss I fought well, which for a while just hasn't been the case. I wasn't crushed by anxiety and I was able to just have fun. I think I was helped immensely by seeing Andy Bell sparring with Speedy, Scuba and Tyrone before the purple belts went to war. He's paralysed from the waist down from a motorbike accident, but it hasn't stopped him. He's an inspirational guy, with all the grit in the world to just keep pushing forwards regardless of how difficult it may be. It squashed whatever doubts I may have had about myself, and allowed me to just look at this for what it was, a chance to show off some good Jiu-Jitsu. I hope I did that today. Some of the BJJ on display was incredible. I'm incredibly impressed with the Tayside lot, who far exceeded my expectations against a tough group of guys. I train with these guys all the time, so I don't see the progression until these big days. There were promotions galore. I got my fourth stripe on my purple belt. Which means squeaky bum time. I need to shape up and sharp. #BJJ #BrazilianJiuJitsu #Grading #Interclub
Hello again bastards. I’ve been in hiding for a while, toying with writing bits and bobs, but the bug just hasn’t been there. Training has continued as it normally does, but to the point where I’m constantly thinking about training, and the idea of also writing about training makes my heart ache. Plus, writing with mangled BJJ hands just isn’t cricket.
I’ve just finished up my latest stint, and I’ll be taking a much needed break until Saturday, so I figured I’d use this as a prime opportunity to bring you up-to speed since my Birthday.
Since my last post, I’m still training more Gi than I am NoGi. It’s how my work/life balance fits and it’s suited me this way for years. If I could train every single day like a grappling mega-beast (alternating between Gi and NoGi) I would; but I can’t, so there’s no point on dwelling on it. What I need to do is make what training sessions I do count. All mat time is valuable, and should be treated as such. Sadly this means I act the cunt a lot less on the mats. BOO!
Being aware of the fact that I can’t just be good at one part of this fabled art, I’ve made a considered effort to train NoGi with the right people, so that my game elevates quickly. The results so far have been really positive. Or at least the feedback has been.
I’ve been working with our local NoGi coach/Norse God; Fenrir Thorvaldsen. Getting a gauge on his leg lock system, and working both defenses and attacks from various positions. We’ve crammed detail into these short sessions, and I’ve done my best to ask the right questions to extrapolate as much data from that big juicy head of his as possible.
The results whilst rolling have been tremendous. There are leglockers at my club that have gone from completely dominating me in the leglock game, to having a battle to a submission. I’m a still a realist, I’m not winning these exchanges currently but my understanding of The Dark Arts has come on far enough in a short period of time, that I’m making these exchanges difficult for my opponents. It’s no longer a whitewash, and I’m able to have fun with that aspect of grappling. Before they’d setup the heel-hook, I’d tap. Rinse. Repeat.
I’ve started to understand leg pummeling, auto-pummels, ankle control etc and how they fit into the big bastard leglock jigsaw. With more time on the mats, and a better understanding of tying these movements together I know that I’m going to be leg-locking the fuckers that are trying to leg-lock me. That’s pretty fucking brilliant, and exciting.
In addition to Fenrir’s guidance in the last month, I’ve also attended another Speedy seminar. Learning some ‘flying’ armbar attacks, and re-working some nasty lapel trap chokes. It was great to refine old techniques with new details.
After the seminar, I had two really good rolls with Speedy. One blindfolded, and one with my eyes piercing through his soul. He absolutely obliterated me with gentle ease. When I was blindfolded, it felt like I was rolling with two or three men. It was a truly horrible experience. All gaps were filled, there was little room to breathe, etc.
When I had my eyes open, it allowed me to shift my focus to his feet/legs. Speedy’s a leg-locker by trade, so I knew I wouldn’t really get anywhere with my attacks/attempts but it’s a fun new approach that I’m playing with, so I had to try and get a hold of him in a new way. All it did was open me up to armlocks that I never thought were possible.
After the rolls, he complimented me on how technically I’d rolled, but I didn’t feel like the strongest swimmer that day, because I was clearly drowning.
Last week I taught some classes at our little club in Billy’s absence.
I feel like my coaching has finally come onto where it should be. I’m actually confident in my own abilities, the techniques I’m teaching and leading a class. Normally I’d be a mess without the support of certain peers, but I finally feel comfortable in front of the class, leading them into battle. This has been helped by assisting Grant as he leads the classes at the Hut. Adding details, refining techniques for the class, and just giving him a breather when he’s getting battered from a kid or something.
I’m going to carry this mentality on at the weekend, when we have another bi-annual inter-club. I want to make a considered effort to coach from the sidelines, because I’ve neglected it before, and my training partners deserve better than that. These guys are family, and it’s only fair that I support them as best I can, like I’ve been supported in the past by others.
Before I go, I’d like to celebrate a cracking day off. I trained three times today. My first session was at 10am at Navarro’s Fitness & Fighting Gym with Danny and Grant. We rolled and dicussed/tried techniques.
My second session was acting ute for Danny’s private with Fenrir.
My third session was my regular Wednesday BJJ under the tutelage of Billy at DMMA.
I feel truly fucking knackered right now, but in the best possible way.
It was a great way to spend my day. I enjoyed each individual session for different reasons, and really wish some bastard would just pay me to do this 8 hours a day. I’ll need at least £35,000 a year please. Any takers? No?
Right, fuck off then.
For years, I’ve been telling myself that turning 30 wasn’t going to hurt. Turns out I was wrong, DAMN WRONG. Nothing’s changed mentally (helped by the fact I’ve been a cantankerous prick since I was about thirteen).
Physically however, it’s a different story altogether. I didn’t wake up and suddenly feel old, oh no – none of that capers. I just so happened to attend a leglock seminar with David ‘Speedy’ Elliot. Turning thirty has never been so fucking painful.
Speedy’s a 2nd degree black belt under Marc Walder/Mauricio Motta Gomes. He’s this incredible ball of pressure and tightness, that makes you feel like your limbs are going to literally explode from the strain he’s putting them under.
His speciality is focused on immobilising those big heavy hams that carry you around all day. He’s one of the most crushing, powerful grapplers I’ve ever experienced but more than anything else, he’s a family man and a man of humility. Any time I see him, he sings the praises of his students and how hard he’s having to work to keep them at bay. He’s responsible for some of the most savage grapplers in the North East. A team of killers, but his love is simply training, and watching people get better. Sharing whatever knowledge he can.
This seminar was arranged by a good friend of mine called Grant. Grant and Speedy are close. I think it’s probably because they’re both so goddamn old. They talk about the war a lot. The good old days, and how when they were brought up, their favourite toy was a stick or if they were lucky, a rock. They often reminiss about how the world was black and white, and then it became sepia and then finally colour. Wonderful, good times (hopefully Speedy forgets all this before I see him next).
The turnout was incredible for this seminar. Speedy hasn’t been up for a few years, because he’s got a big family and it’s a pretty hefty journey when you’ve got young kids at home. Today though, he brought the family with. It’s good to have mental bairns running about the place, whilst you’re attacking someone’s legs. It lifts the tension of all the snapping, popping and cracking that the knees, ankles and feet were doing on the regular.
Word of mouth, coupled with Grant’s contacts within the Scottish BJJ world lead to a fair crowd hitting the mats. It was actually a bit claustrophobic in our wee shed for a change. I looked out and thought to myself, this is a pretty grand thing to be doing for my thirtieth. I barely drink, don’t go to pubs, clubs, etc. so having a Birthday party would have been wasted on me. In a way, this was like my own personal Birthday party; albeit a horribly violent one. THIS IS THE BEST. Fuck conforming to the norm, there was nothing else I’d rather have been doing today.
Speedy worked a numbered of leg attacks, entanglements and variations on simplistic setups. I felt my achilles locks, kneebars and footlocks come on a great deal in the couple of hours that we trained. It was bloody smashing. I’ve taken notes, as I usually do and my focus from here is going to be putting it all into practice. Trying my best to hit these techniques more frequently, and abandoning my beloved loop choke sequence for a while. Fuck loop chokes, I’m hunting legs until I’m forty.
That’s exactly what Fenrir Thorvaldsen is. He’s a total fucking Wolfbastard of grappling. I’ve been fortunate enough to know this man for around 7 years now, and for the most part I’ve completely taken that for granted. I’ve dipped in and out of his classes for years, preferring a more Gi-centric approach to my training. Fenrir doesn’t do Gi. He has in the past, but I’ve never seen him wear one in the flesh. His strengths are NoGi, in what can be best described as a hybrid grappling style. He’s been training so long (36 years) that he can easily point out what’s shit and what isn’t. He uses elements of Catch As Catch Can, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Folkstyle wrestling, Sumo (when he was fat) and well you name it he’s probably used it, played with it, added it to his game or disregarded it altogether. The fact is there is no supreme grappling art because it’s all very much attribute based, as most Martial Arts are. X will beat Y if X is a massive monsterous cunt. Y will beat Z if Y has greater technical knowledge, etc.
It’s knowledge vs braun and very much the inbetween bits too, to put it simply.
I think I first met Fenrir back in January 2010. I’d briefly dabbled with training elsewhere at another local club that now specialises in K1/Kickboxing. They did MMA previously, but their strengths have always been kickboxing. From training there for a while, I had this notion that I could grapple. It was the bit of MMA that I wanted to understand, so that I can properly enjoy the sport as a spectator. I had no illusions of ever doing MMA myself, because the idea of getting my head caved in, properly seriously frightens me. I just wanted to get to a point where the boring bit of MMA made sense (the grappling).
So when the long rumoured DMMA opened, I went over with a curious eye, and as I’m sure you can imagine the rest is history. Needless to say, I don’t find grappling boring anymore. It’s my go to therapy.
I remember the first time I met Fenrir distinctly. Billy (one of the other coaches) was taking a packed NoGi class, and Fenrir was just there looking laid back and all dreadlocky. There were plenty of familiar faces, and I felt right at home quickly. That was probably a big part of my immediate downfall.
At the end of the class, the ritualistic rolling started. I’m not sure who asked who, but I ended up getting to roll with Fenrir. The clock started, and he immediately started working an X-Guard. I had no clue what an X-Guard was at this point, so in my usual serpeant laced tongue I may have thrown some shit his way about how it wasn’t doing anything. I think my words were along the lines of, “Is this meant to be a stretch or something? Because I’ve already done that before class.” His head shifted to look at someone else nearby, they locked eyes in a knowing way. They both knew I’d fucked up, but I didn’t. Fenrir then swept me through the centre of the earth. I could feel the Earth’s core burning my arse hair to a cinder. From there, he moved to side control and swiftly into North/South with such ferocity that my contact lens found its way onto the side of my eyeball (a horrible fucking feeling that I don’t recommend you try). That was the first time I felt the Monson choke. After the roll, I was told by someone else that he’s one of the other coaches there. So he probably thought I was a massive fucking cunt from day one, but hey that’s life – I wonder if I ever apologised to him for being a prick? If I didn’t he’s had plenty of time to learn that it’s just my way. SORRY FEN.
Apology or not, I was hooked. I hadn’t been so quickly dismantled whilst grappling before. It was a fresh feeling. I was still very much a novice, but it wasn’t a pressure I’d ever felt before. I knew that DMMA was going to be my new home away from home.
Fenrir over the years regrettably has had an injury or two (he was basically Mr. Glass from Unbreakable). He still took the NoGi or the affectionately dubbed Submission Wrestling classes as he called them, and showed a ton of techniques but we weren’t really getting to see what he was capable of. The back of your mind knows what he’s capable of, but you quickly forget/neglect those thoughts when you don’t see a coach sparring alongside you.
It’s what happens when your life revolves around grappling, fighting and extreme sports. He’s basically one of those adrenaline wankers that are all over YouTube now.
In the last year though, he completely changed his approach to his own rehabilition and started doing Hot Yoga; with that, he lost quite a bit of weight and has strengthened ligaments, tendons, muscles in areas where he was probably weakest/or most vulnerable. He’s able to roll again. Being honest, I think I preferred rolling with him when he was 90KG or thereabouts, because I could blame my size and his strength for his absolute domination. Now at 74KG, I know he’s just techniquing the fuck out of me. He’s a complete Wolfbastard to roll with. A relentless, technical, snarling beast of a shit, but they’re definitely the best rolls I’m currently getting. I’m getting pressured in ways I didn’t know were possible, and I’m learning on the fly through threat recognition. My leglock game is basic, but through Fenrir’s insistent attacks, I’m starting to learn how to defend subconsciously. That’s the sort of coach that he is. Complimentary, brilliant and he’ll help you along the way with your roll. Also helping you after the roll, etc. Why have I been taking this man for granted for so long? Injuries aside, I could have been taking a more concerned effort to learn from him over the years, in addition to my focus on the Gi with Billy, Speedy, etc.
My Gi game and my NoGi game are worlds apart as a result. I wouldn’t class myself as a great grappler by any means, but I have a far greater success in the Gi than I do NoGi. Recently, I’ve been trying to balance that out with extra NoGi rolling sessions. That’s where Fenrir’s top students come out to play, and fuck me up with stuff I should know but just don’t. Getting a tap off of one of them feels very much earned. It’s also allowed me to re-focus my training and make sure that Fenrir is very much aware of his part in making me the grappler I am today (he’ll probably want to abandon ship now).
This week I’ve had some time off work to chill. So I wanted to grab a couple of private lessons with Fenrir to make some adjustments in my game. I’ve worked a ton of stuff this week in addition to my usual training regime; and whilst it’s a lot to take in, for some miraculous reason it’s gelling with me. Good coaching I guess. I’m pretty sore as a result though, but it’s been a fucking blast being able to train during the day with a grappler of his calibre. Even the rolls before and after, whilst absolute drubbings are an incredible learning experience in which I’m able to try new shit, old shit and just see what works and what doesn’t with someone of his grappling acumen. I’ll play my game, whilst he plays away at his own game, colliding somewhere in the middle with a yelp or two along the way. On Monday after working some super top secret stuff, we rolled for about an hour, filmed it and it helped serve as a great stepping stone of things to work today. We’ve already put in place adjustments to strengthen my game where it was weakest, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work those aspects so that the next time we roll, I might be able to give him a little hell back for a change. That’s how this works isn’t it? We learn from the best, so that we can crush the best.
If you’re ever in Dundee, or the surrounding areas (Tayside, Fife etc) and you’re looking for a brilliant grappler with a ton of knowledge, it’s a disservice to yourself if you do not seek this man out. You can find him on Facebook and Youtube.
I’ve rambled enough now. I’ve got another class to go to. Toodles y’all.