Jiu Jitzu is a prominent part of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), originating in Brazil, it has taken off with the rise of MMA promotions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the United States. Here in Lincolnshire, the sport also has a presence. In the outskirts of Lincoln, Sam Tweed teaches his students the Jiu Jitzu at ‘Lincoln Fight Factory.’
The martial art focuses on defending yourself on the ground and standing up, controlling people in a real-world situation where it could be used for self-defence, a Jiu-Jitzu tournament or an MMA fight.
Sam, who is a Purple belt in Jiu-Jitzu has been training the martial arts since he was twelve years old. Originally from a boxing background, he became interested and fascinated with the as soon as he tried it – he has never looked back since.
“It almost becomes a religion, people want to get better, I have to kick my students off the mat sometimes they want to keep going and keep rolling. It’s a constant process of wanting to improve,” explained Sam, who has been doing Jiu-Jitzu specifically for 8 years.
There are two variations of Jiu-Jitzu, one wearing Gi attire, the other without. A gi is a loose outerwear that can be grabbed during combat. It can be worn with a belt, which represents the skill level of the practitioner. Non-gi practitioners typically wear a shirt and shorts.
I asked Sam if someone who has never practised the sport before, which variation would be easier.
“[It] depends on your athleticism, you could be a footballer or a rugby player – you could get by with that without wearing a Gi,” he explained. “Smaller people who may not be as athletic or as built would be able to hold on [to the gi], lock in holds and you might get frustrated because this guy is half my size tying me up – even if you go to the gym and workout.”
“Those who start who are smaller – they like it, they are able to learn how to take on bigger and taller people – Jiu-Jitzu really works for them,” he continued. “If he or she can control someone with technique and take them on that gives them confidence.”
“At the end of the day it all depends on the person if they like gi or not, it varies from person to person.”
At Lincoln Fight Factory, it was not just men who train, there were women as well – who were keeping up with their male counterparts, rolling with them. Lea Haggerty, who is a middle-aged mum, took up Jiu-Jitzu after being inspired from her husband.
“My husband was doing Jiu-Jitzu with his brothers and he would come home saying can I try this on you, and I was hacked off that I was being tapped out in my own living room.”
She was worried at first about the ratio of men and women before her first class, “I was worried I was going to be the only girl here but Christie (also another female practitioner) was here.”
“I didn’t know anything about Jiu-Jitzu and it was a bit daunting but it just hooks you and it goes to show age isn’t a factor either, as well as being a middle-aged mum. Anyone can do it.”
“I didn’t know what to expect, when I got here everyone was respectful and pushed me in a good way to test what you have learnt, makes you think and work hard.”
In comparison to other combat sports, Sam argued that the sport is not just gender natural – it is safer than other combat sports. “Head trauma was a big issue for me with boxing – it is a massive issue in sport – luckily MMA doesn’t have that much of an impact as there are so many other fundamentals than just striking – you don’t have to strike.”
“I was getting concerned about head trauma and I was getting older, it’s the smaller shots that do the worst. BJJ you can put all your effort into learning and practising without worrying about head trauma, and issues in twenty or thirty years’ time.”
He also argued that it is the only martial art where “you can practise at a competition level and not injure yourself majorly or anyone else and be able to learn from your mistakes.”
Whilst observing his students, there was a sense of community and family. Shaking hands and asking about family and friends, it was far from what I had envisioned seeing “meatheads” aimlessly beating each other up. “It is rare in this sport to have superegos” Sam said.
“There’s always someone else just that but better than you, but people learn from them and are respectful of their abilities.” He added that “But it is a tough sport, it’s not for everyone but those who want do it can’t get enough.”
At the club, there were regional champions in Jiu-Jitzu and MMA fighters looking to continue their success and continue to improve and the club welcome newcomers to give it a go themselves.