EKBJJ and Me!
Bank Holiday Monday and as is usual of the British weather, it is wet and miserable. Whilst most of the country are out celebrating the Queens Jubilee, I am sat at home waiting to go and visit EKBJJ to do a review of the gym. In my usual fashion, my intentions are to go along and watch a class, have a chat and take some photographs. But I find myself agreeing to join in the BJJ class, thanks to up and coming fighter Calvin Petrie or Jus-Cage as he is known in the fighting world.
We head off to Walthamstow and surprisingly find it without any hitches, good start. I am excited about my latest venture but also aware that I will be training with some very fit, healthy people! Not to mention being taught by the famous Eddie Kone. Eddie Kone is a master in BJJ; in fact scrap that because he is actually a Professor, holding the rank of Black Belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Eddie is the head instructor of the EKBJJ Association which he founded in 2008 and now has over eleven academies throughout the world. He started in BJJ in 1997 when he first visited Rio de Janeiro to pursue a career in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, training under Royler Gracie. Eddie has trained many famous fighters including Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley and Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett, to name just a few. He competes in BJJ and MMA and as I can now confirm, Eddie is a warm man who is patient and a genius at what he does. Having researched a little before I left, my nerves were definitely jangling about.
But parked outside the EKBJJ Academy in Walthamstow, I was also ready to take it all in. First to arrive was Jason Radcliffe who looked a little surprised when I said I was there to train! You just have to look at me to know I am not fit and that I am overweight! But hey, I am dedicated to writing so feel it is far better to get involved and have a go than to watch! Eddie arrived soon after and we went into the gym which had everything you would expect: a ring; mats and punch bags. Eddie teaches everything at the academy but tonight it was BJJ Class. Being a lover of BJJ when I watch fights, I was pleased to be taking part in this, rather than strength and conditioning or MMA!
Eddie and I had a chat about his life in the industry and for those that don’t know, he has competed in many BJJ tournaments but also in MMA fights. He has an MMA record of 2-0-0 so I wondered if we would see Eddie in the cage again in the future. He tells me that he doesn’t know, he possibly could step in again and I feel it is a case of ‘never say never’. From talking to Eddie I felt the warmth and serenity that he exudes and it definitely made me feel more relaxed. He has a calming influence that makes you feel at ease, even for someone like me who is totally useless when it comes to anything to do with fitness.
Next to arrive was Lisa ‘Lights Out’ who is a seventeen year old fighter with an MMA record of 3-0-0. I had heard lots about Lisa already from others within the industry so I was looking forward to watching her train. Calvin Petrie was due to arrive to, in his words ‘ground and pound me’! But there was no sign of him so we figured that Jus-Cage was Jus-Running-Scared!
It was time to warm up so after just about managing to squeeze into the matted area, I took my place and started the gentle run, even managing to do the side steps as well. I had a go at knees and elbows but was conscious of the fact I had people behind me, who probably had to go extremely slow so as not to fall over me. When it came to running backwards, I was out of there; I really didn’t want to cause a major pile up! After the warm up it was time for some boxing sparring and would you believe it, my first partner was Lisa! Eddie showed everyone what techniques he wanted us to practice and off we went. Thankfully, I do not think I am better than I am because that would be just deluded but I gave it a shot with some jabs and crosses and even some kicks. I was proud of my kicks more so than my punches as I remembered how to kick properly! I don’t think I did any damage but the technique was pretty good (in my opinion)!
Lisa had a reprieve from me and she went off to spar with the others, including Jason Radcliffe. Well I couldn’t believe it; she was going at it hammer and tongs with Jason, landing hard shots and taking them back! And Jason is not a small guy! I have respect for anyone, let alone a lady, who can take shots like that. Me? I would have run the other way! And quite comically when I was sparring with Lisa and accidently hit her in the face, she found it amusing that I felt the need to apologise!
I was partnered with another guy and he was extremely patient with me. We did some more boxing and as usual it was a case of me having to remember to keep the hands up and not resemble a funky chicken with the elbows! We moved on to some take down work which involved a few one-twos and then going in for the knee, arms under and lifting to take your man down. I may not be very good but I do listen and try hard. We did a few other stand up exercises and then it was time to warm up for actual BJJ
At this point I noticed Calvin still hadn’t arrived………..
The warm up saw everyone doing rolls from one end of the mat to the next. Again, I didn’t feel confident enough to wriggle and roll with all these professional people and sticking my butt in the air was definitely a no-no! I hasten to add that no one is interested in anyone else and they are all there to learn and concentrate on themselves. The BJJ technique is something I really love. It is so much more involved than people realise. Anyone watching a fight for the first time may be inclined to believe that when you are bucking and wriggling on the floor with your opponent on top that you are literally having a free for all but it is so very technical and that is what I enjoy.
I started with Lisa and we were learning how to trap the arm from full mount. There were many different ways to do this and as already pointed out, they are all very technical. Eddie demonstrated to the class what was expected and to be honest, the fluidity of his movement made it look so simple. But when it came to actually executing the moves myself, I had to be talked through quite a few times before actually doing it on my own. I did manage it and Lisa did tap. BUT I had to ask ‘was it really good, or were you just being nice’? To which she replied ‘I tapped didn’t I’? I don’t think I am strong enough to have caused pain but I have to say the feeling of a tap does make you feel on top of the world.
Eddie was showing me another move, of how to get away from an opponent who is standing over you. It was a case of shifting the bum way back but turning at the same time so you have swivelled round to avoid side control being taken. It is very nerve wracking when you have a Professor who has been involved in the sport for so many years, teaching you. But what I found was there was no laughing at me and my hundreds of apologies for being useless/not understanding etc. were not needed. I cannot say enough just how much goes into a simple move. It is all about placing thumbs correctly, something I have major issues with. And of course where you place your head, how you use your weight and indeed move your body goes a long way towards perfecting a move. In the pictures it looks as though I have my head in my hand in a ‘help me, I am useless’ kind of way but in the move we were learning, placing the hand on the head is all part of it!
Well would you believe it? Calvin turned up and although he wasn’t training, Eddie insisted he did a few drills with me. Poor Calvin, I am sure I weigh quite a lot more than him but all the same; there I was in full mount drilling the same moves I had been practising. There was just one major problem! Calvin is very tall and when it came to getting my leg hooks in, I just couldn’t reach his knees! But I did have a go at the moves and I think Jus-Cage may be Jus-Squashed at the moment!
The lesson was coming to a close and I honestly didn’t want it to end. Was I any good at it? No of course I wasn’t but then I wasn’t expected to be. But did I give it a good shot? Yes I sure did and it felt brilliant. As I said earlier being taught by someone of Eddie’s calibre and training alongside the likes of Jason Radcliffe, Calvin Petrie, Kieran Moore and Lisa Lights Out was utterly amazing. Before I left for EKBJJ I was feeling low, yucky and tired. Yet when I got back I was feeling happy and better in myself. If one session can make me feel like that, imagine what all the guys and girls who attend regularly must feel.
I was told by a few that being at EKBJJ is like being in a family with Eddie as the Daddy! I for one felt relaxed and although a little embarrassed about myself, in a way, that is good because it motivates me to change myself. Everyone made me feel welcome and helped me with the patience of saints! Without sounding gushing, Eddie Kone is someone who has worked hard over the last fifteen years to become a Professor. Yet being as good as he is, he is very humble and does not have once ounce of arrogance. In fact, being around him, makes you feel calm and focussed and in my opinion a good teacher does not just know his stuff but knows how to make people feel at ease, how to help them and how to also make learning a fun environment.
I would like to close with my own thank yous. Firstly to Calvin for turning up when he wasn’t due to, to meet me and let me practise on him, I am sure he is Jus-Pleased it is all over! Also to Lisa Lights Out for helping me with all the moves and teaching me the importance of thumbs! And to everyone else who helped me whilst at my session. And finally to Eddie for allowing me the chance to come down, take part and for making me feel calm and relaxed. There are champions in the making at EKBJJ and I will be honoured to be able to say ‘I trained with them’! For anyone interested in taking part at any level, I strongly recommend you head down to an academy. For more information on Eddie Kone and his academies please visit
http://ekbjj.com/home/ where you can find all the information you need including class times. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.