Having just returned from my week of teaching in New Zealand, I feel a great sense of satisfaction at how far the Kiwi’s have come over the last decade of training. Many of the mats I taught on were packed to the gills, with a mature spectrum of ranks ranging from blues through to our two Blacks – Geoff Aitken and Geoff Grant. I clearly remember, only five or six years ago, teaching for the likes of Geoff Grant, and there were only four or five students on the mat. Through sheer determination and a love for the art, Geoff persisted and now runs a thriving and successful school in Wellington. I taught there last wednesday to a packed room of forty hardcore students, including strong representation of blue and purple belts. This is a great example of what persistence and desire can achieve. Geoff Aitken down in Christchurch has done no less – his professional school, numbering four hundred odd students is another testament to Kiwi determination.
I think back even further, and am reminded of when I was the only BJJ Black Belt in the Australasian region – those were early days with less than 100 people training – total. Traveling back in my time machine even further, ten years earlier in fact, I was in fact, frowned upon by many in the martial arts community for being an ‘upstart’ in wanting to combine the grappling and stand-up aspects of the martial arts. No-one thought that submission grappling would ever hold any interest for the general public – the UFC hadn’t been thought of at that stage and I had a hard time convincing people that this was something that would one day be considered ‘the norm’.
Today, it’s a vastly different world. The UFC DVD’s are available in most video stores. Foxtel and cable television host a myriad of MMA-based events. There are even, reality-based TV fight shows in the making. Schools that don’t offer some sort of grappling/MMA/BJJ training are considered by the informed public to be sorely lacking. How times have changed!
My New Zealand friends have come a long way – the schools are strong and getting stronger – as the general public keep pouring through the doors to access our exciting style of training. The Australasian region has produced several dozen BJJ Black belts of it’s own. We now have over sixty schools in our organization – each of them is a unique special place – all growing and prospering as the shift toward MMA builds with each year. We have come of age.
Train hard – Train Smart.