So last night – December 13 2012 – I along with fellow mat rat Stuey Morton, was awarded my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt. There was a lot I wanted to say and didn’t get the chance as I was quite overcome with emotion – yes I cried. It’s been an incredibly long journey. So here is a
small part of that journey.
I first started with Anthony Lange back in 1994.. During that time on my way to black belt I have had the pleasure of seeing and doing lots within the bjj and mma scene in Australia from its inception. My first lesson was with Anthony and Peter King in Anthonys back shed which measured about 5m X 5m. They were both blue belts at the time.
I remember in the mid 90’s going to North Sydney PCYC on a few occasions for John Will seminars and I even remember attending a Carlos Gracie Junior seminar at NSPCYC where he had BJJ champion ‘Gordo’ (that’s fat in portugese) there. I’ve still got the poster/flyer somewhere. John Will is still one of the best coaches you will ever find. His approach and attitude influenced me greatly from the few seminars of his I have attended.
I travelled to Brazil in 2005 where I lived for nearly 2 months on my own and trained and competed in Rio at the Mundials and Americas Cup where I medalled (silver). I won 2, lost the final.. I’ll never forget getting robbed 3 times in Rio – once at gun point, the others at knife point. I had never been mugged before or have since. Yes it is a dangerous city but a beautiful one at the same time.
On my honeymoon in Japan I dragged my legendary wife, Jaycee, half way across Tokyo on our last day to Rickson Gracies instructor Taka Watanabe academy to attend a class. ‘I may never get this opportunity again’ I told her.
I travelled to Hong Kong with Rob Hill to corner him for a LegendsFC fight just 1 week after starting my new business. Not the best time considering but I thought ‘gotta help Rob’ and ‘ I may never get this opportunity again’
I had 5 mma fights as an amateur and 2 pros. I only won 2 ams but I only ever did it because I loved it and I just wanted to learn. I think by far my biggest challenge was when I hopped into the ring to have my first pro mma fight against world kickboxing champ Chris ’the White Sniper’ Johnson. This guy had over 30 pro fights and dozens of full contact karate matches to his credit at the time and to say I was shitting myself was an understatement. I remember talking to Anthony Lange about the fight and when I said ‘I think this guy has got some serious skills’, he stated ‘yeah but you’re a Lange purple belt’. Gold. The fight was going my way til Chris caught me in a neck crank and forced me to submit. I was happy to have a fight with a world class fighter and come away with my skull intact.
I have competed heaps in grappling/bjj (about 40 – 50 matches over the years) and have came away much richer for the experiences. My silver in Brazil was reward for 2 months hard work.
Highlights included watching Elvis Sinosic fight at what is the unofficial first UFC in Australia at the Darling Harbour convention centre. Elvis the ‘King of Rock n’ Rumble’ was born. It is worth noting that Elvis, who was Anthony’s student at the time was the first Aussie to officially compete at the UFC. Winning his first fight was against grappling wiz Jeremy Horn at UFC 30. Elvis went on to fight a who’s who of UFC legends.
I remember flying to Queensland to stay at my mate Rob Kimberlys place so I could go and watch guys like Anthony Perosh fight in 8 man eliminators and also attending events where wildlife legend Steve Irwin was there with his family to support awesome mma fighter Dan Higgins. Also meeting Queensland martial arts legend Vince Perry was another highlight for me. Great coach. One of the biggest highlights for me was going over to Bruno Pannos academy at Coogee to train with Royce Gracie. I was even more stoked when he called me out to wrestle him. As a purple belt at the time I gave it my best but he just toyed with me for about 7-8 minutes. ‘don’t go to the light Dave’ he would say into my ear while he had me in and out of consciousness as he kept turning a particular choke on and off for about 2-3 minutes. Awesome.
Going with Lange BJJ black belt Darko Zaric to attend a Minotauro Nogueira (hard man of Brazil MMA – PrideFC and UFC heavyweight legend) seminar. He rocked up about 2 hrs late by which time more than half of the seminar attendees had bailed. ‘lets just wait’ I kept saying to Darko as more and more people kept leaving. I thought ‘shit we might end up getting a private lesson here’. What made it even better was that he turned up with mma/bjj legend Alan Goes. After about 90 minutes of drills we all ended up wrestling these guys for more than ½ an hr. I got my ass kicked while Darko nearly knee barred Big Nog.
Training with MMA legend Randy Couture at Larry Papadopoulos gym with mma fighter Nick Goodwin was freakin awesome as well. When a guy like Randy Couture walks into the room all anyone does is applaude. Guys an absolute legend.
Another highlight was training with Mr Richard Bustillo in 1995. Richard was one of Bruce Lees original students. For 2 days we did BJJ/Kickboxing/Kali and Jeet Kune Do. I still have the t shirt.
Also training with Bob Jones at Nick Stones Bulldog Muay Thai gym was great as Bob is a real character and one of the pioneers of kickboxing in Australia. He founded Zen Do Kai.
I’ve also loved muay thai and boxing and have been fortunate enough to learn from many experts in that field. Nick Stone, Adam Watt, Steve McKinnon, Adam Kayoom and Benny Serrano to name a few. One of my only regrets is that I didn’t get into kickboxing more when I was younger.
The branch of BJJ I train under is the Machado brothers. The Machados are the nephews of the Gracie family and grew up together with them. They have all been Brazilian champions and are very, very highly respected the world over. Anyone who says otherwise does not know their BJJ history. Earlier this year a lot of us got the opportunity to train with Carlos Machado who is just a freakishly good exponent of BJJ and an incredible coach.
I’ve been fortunate enough to witness Anthony Lange, Elvis Sinosic, Sean Kirkwood, Pete King, Steve Kamphuis, Luke Pezzutti and amongst others get awarded their black belts.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an incredible martial art. It really teaches you a lot about the body, a lot about your own and others. It teaches you to relax, it teaches you to breathe. It teaches you about flexibility and posture. It offers so much but the best thing it teaches you is grace and humility. Trust me I’ve learnt it. Nothing humbles you more than having your ass handed to you while getting your head punched, kicked and kneed in a cage while your friends, family and training partners watch on.
Its tough on the body. I had ankle reconstructions, herniated discs in my neck and back, stuffed rotator cuffs, bruised ribs and countless strained ligaments. But its all been worth it. This is one of the best achievements I’ve earned in my entire life. As one of my training partners said to my wife and I ‘ It takes twice as long to earn a BJJ black belt than it does a PHD, a degree or a diploma”. And a hell of a lot tougher. Ed O’neill (Al Bundy of Married with Children fame) calls his BJJ black belt ‘his greatest life achievement, after his children’. Yes Al Bundy is a BJJ black belt (under Rorion Gracie) I loved BJJ from the moment I first saw and felt it. I also 100% ABSOLUTELY believed in the UFC and MMA from the moment I first saw it. I just knew it would be a success. How could it not be. Any of my mates who remember me coming around with VHS cassettes of the early UFC’s, WCC and Prides during the mid 90’s will testify to that.
What I have mentioned above is only a small portion of my experiences since my first BJJ lesson in 1994. I have trained in many different styles of martial arts from Judo to TaeKwonDo to Wing Chun Kung Fu, Arnis etc, but now all I want to learn is more BJJ, more Muay Thai, more boxing, more wrestling, more Judo, more MMA.
I want to thank all the people who have been gracious enough to teach me and to all the people at LangesMMA who have kicked my butt over the years – Thank you. I would also like to say that I think Anthony Lange is one of the finest coaches around. Without wanting to sound arrogant I have only ever surrounded myself with the best people when it comes to things I like. From growing up with some of the best surfers in the world, to working with some of the best craftsman in the film/spfx industry to the best in the field of strength and conditioning and personal training. When it comes to anything MMA related I have only ever sought out the best and the names mentioned above surely rank highly up there. I’m not a sensei, not a sifu, not a professor, not a master.I have and always will be just a student of the martial arts.
To me it feels like I’ve just finished my apprenticeship and now the real work begins.
But I can teach you a lot. ?