On the road with the Fighting Photographer

With the pressures of exams and assignments alleviated for another year, it was time to dust off the trusty old camera, pack up my kitbag and get back on the highways and byways of this Fair Isle in the search of all things grapplingWith the pressures of exams and assignments alleviated for another year, it was time to dust off the trusty old camera, pack up my kitbag and get back on the highways and byways of this Fair Isle in the search of all things grappling.

First on the agenda was to compete in the UK Storm Submission League competition, which has been resurrected by Ande Roberts and the guys at Gracie Barra Birmingham; the event was organised in the main by Braulio Estima to run in tandem with a number of strongman events dotted around the Aston Villa Leisure Centre on June 18th and prior to a very successful night of MMA action the same day.

After a journey down somewhat reminiscent of a Laurel and Hardy sketch, involving shearing break pipes, hammered brake cylinders and thick black smoke at 90mph on the motorway, we made the rest of the journey by way of the back of an AA van and a nippy little rental car, arriving after the weigh in and rules meeting and with no idea whatsoever what was going on – a fine start to the day.

Within ten minutes of arrival, we`d managed to squeeze into a changed weight bracket that had me at the bottom of a division stacked with guys that looked as though they`d fallen asleep in a greenhouse, with muscles on muscles, that kind of thing; this was going to be a long day.

With barely a warm up it was straight into the line of fire with an impressive score of four fights, four losses, nothing unusual there; the overall winner Justin Mitchell cut through all his opponents like the proverbial hot knife through butter, displaying superhuman strength and sound technique in all matches.

As ever in the lighter division, Glen Brodrick made quick work of all his opponents both in his weight class and the Absolute, giving the crowd a master class in no gi grappling; hot on his heels were Andy Roberts and Hassan Hipkiss also displaying flair and creativity on the mats.

After a welcomed uneventful journey back to Manchester, it was back home to prepare for the next day, another ride back down the M6 motorway, to Dave Carnell`s Impact Academy in Stoke for a BJJ seminar with GB black belt Joao ‘Sal` Rangel.

Travelling down with Paul Hartley and others from GB Preston, we met up with a large contingent of Dave`s students and students from his satellite clubs in the UK and were treated to a three hour master class in BJJ; starting with the obligatory takedown, Sal went through the finer points of the takedowns, giving counters and defences to all techniques. Moving on, Sal went through some nifty guard attacks and submissions and continued with a number of sweeps from the open guard and open guard control, before sparring ended off another quality seminar.

Fast forward two weeks and yet another trip down the M6 motorway, heading past Stoke and Aston Villa, many miles further South, before hitting the Big Smoke and calling at Kensal Rd, W10, home of Gracie Barra London and more specifically the Roger Gracie Academy; this was a chance to meet Roger after his epic win at the ADCC 2005 in LA, as well as a chance for my students to meet a grappling legend for the first time – oh yeah, almost forgot to mention, the man whose face has launched a thousand ships was also present, grappling squid at the ready, the infamous Chris ‘The Squid` Brown.

Prior to the start of the class, a few belts were handed out, some of them looooong overdue; blue belts were awarded to John Law and Greg Thwaites and purples were awarded to Hassan Mohammed, a bemused Steve Finan and last but not least Andy ‘Chokeproof` Roberts and at the end of the class, some serious belt whippings were dished out by Braulio Estima and other belt hooligans to the lucky lads.

Other mentionables on the day included Felipe Jerry and Braulio Estima, Jude Samuels, Ebe from GB Milton Keynes, forum layabout J Sho, Dickie Martins and Simon Hayes from Carlson Gracie. After a thorough warm up from the man himself, the class went through a number of ground moves that ended up taking the partners back and after a few positional drills it was time for sparring and plenty of tapping.

I had the pleasure of rolling with newly minted purple Hassan Mohammed and a very strong Oz purple belt who mauled me with finesse and style for over five minutes, before tangling with the mighty J Sho before ending the session with ‘murder on the dance floor` courtesy of sweet feet Jude Samuels.

All that remained was another hassle free drive back home, avoiding all the Live 8 traffic both on the way down and on the way back, which brings this report to its conclusion. Nearly all of the black belts will be back in Brazil preparing for the Mundials later this month, upon which they will be once again back on UK soil, which will give me another excuse to get back on the road. Enjoy the pix and………….

See you on the mat!

(Big thanks for my co pilot on the Sub League and London driving details, Matt Hardaker, cool under pressure when the brakes blow out in the middle lane of the motorway)

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Carl Fisher