I’ve been a member of the Glasgow Gracie Barra gym for around eight months now and I only regret not joined sooner.
My brother and I, both being MMA fans for a while, had often spoken about getting involved in jiu-jitsu, or kickboxing. I’d always found it fascinating how jiu-jitsu players fared so well in early UFC and the art form held great interest for me. So after making plans to try out the GB experience together, plans which fell apart for one reason or another, I decided just go to alone to one of the Wednesday introductory classes. Any apprehension I had about walking into a new martial arts environment was quickly swept away by the welcoming atmosphere and the friendly people who quickly made me feel at ease. Professor Ricky warmly welcomed me, introduced me to coaches Mike and Graeme who showed me around the place. When class started, Chris worked with me and displayed great patience as my awkward legs and arms refused to do what I wanted them to. I distinctly remember thinking Brazilian jiu-jitsu was far more difficult than it looked from the outside, I remember my appreciation for the art form increasing very quickly throughout the difficult first few weeks and months.
While I’d consider myself an enthusiastic & fit person who will give things my all, I did find it quite hard going in the beginning. I never considered stopping though, not even after the most frustrating sessions. Not when I was struggling with the most basic maneuvers, not when I was being swept with ease from other new players, not when I experienced self inflicted injuries through flailing in panic. The reason I never considered stopping is the people who worked with me day in day out and their seemingly unlimited patience and encouragement. No one ever showed the slightest flicker of annoyance or frustration at my errant limbs. A beautiful thing about Gracie Barra is you quickly work with everyone in the group after a few weeks. Not one partner was anything less than helpful & understanding. I wouldn’t be training & experiencing this wonderful art form if it wasn’t for them.
People often espouse the value and kinship of groups they belong to. Having been in football teams & rock bands in my younger days, I’ve never felt more a part of something than I do when I wear the red shield of Gracie Barra. When I brought some friends along to try out, Graeme said something to them which remains with me, as it’s something that is reinforced every time I walk through the door. He had said that everyone working together creates an environment where everyone improves at the same time, “the rising tide raises us all up together”. Having been part of the GB family for a while now, I completely understand that. I completely understand peoples’ attitudes towards me when I first began my journey. People went to great lengths to help me & welcome me because that’s what they experienced when they were gangly white-belts who couldn’t tell an americana from a margarita. There seems to be an unspoken mentality here, teach as you were taught, with empathy and patience. Through this, everyone improves & the tides rises for everyone.
As someone who has lead an active life, I was anticipating the cardio work out aspect of practicing jiu-jitsu but two things have struck me since my time here began. Firstly, I’ve never been pushed as hard as when Professor Ricky pushes us. He expects, and gets the best out of everyone who steps on to the mat. He pushes us not as a stereotypical drill sargeant might, but as someone who cares that you leave nothing behind, as someone who knows you can do those last fifty arm bar drills, even if you think you can’t. It’s a philosophy Mike and Graeme have adopted too as they often expect nothing but your best from you, even if you doubt yourself, in fact, especially when you doubt yourself. Again, it’s a credit to the red shield. The second thing that struck is very closely tied to the above training method; the gains & weight loss I’ve experienced in the last eight months or so is something I’ve never experienced through any other form of exercise. The beauty of jiu-jitsu training is that, while it is extremely taxing, it is always fun, so it never feels like a chore. While I didn’t necessarly get into BJJ for body improvement or weight loss, the results have been striking. I’ve not kept track of how much I weigh, again because it wasn’t a motivating factor for starting here, but I know that I’m in much better shape now than this time last year and improving every day.
Aside from the physical benefits of the academy, I’d like to emphasize again the atmosphere of the group. Through facebook conversations, open mat rolling sessions, general locker-room back and forth, it’s become clear to me how strong the bond between everyone is. It’s a bond that I feel part of and feel the benefit of every time I spar with someone. I’ve been lucky enough to roll with some very special partners who take the time to emphasize what I should be focusing on & where I’m going wrong. Their patience and (sometimes not so) gentle nudges in the right direction has benefited me greatly.
I’m forcing myself to call time on this sprawling article. I could go on about jiu-jitsu & Gracie Barra for hours, just ask my friends, such is my enthusiasm for it, but I’ll end it here.
It’s with great enthusiasm that I heartily recommend trying the gentle art, but specifically trying out Gracie Barra Glasgow. I’ve yet to experience a more welcoming & friendly group of people, I’ve yet experience a more benefitial training method & I’ve yet to experience a more beautiful & logical art form than Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Jiu-jitsu for everyone!