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Get started with Brazilian ju-jitsu

Since when were sports reduced to a few letters – UFC, MMA, BJJ? Well, since 1993 when the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) took place in Denver, Colorado.
The initial competitions back in the early 90’s were to determine which was the most effective martial art between the likes of judo, karate and Brazilian ju-jitsu (BJJ) – it sounds almost school playground-esque, “My sport’s better than yours!”, but it was far from it: few rules were enforced and each competitor stuck to their own discipline: boxing vs karate, Thai boxing vs Brazilian ju-jitsu, etc.

Over time, competitors used mixed martial arts (MMA) in their cage fighting, rules were implemented and so, another sport evolved.

Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and around the area have plenty of these sports to offer: taekwondo & boxing to name just two but did you know that there is also a Brazilian ju-jitsu gym as well? Vale Road, Tonbridge is the home of the Carlson Gracie BJJ gym, named after a member of the sport’s founding family. Carlson Gracie’s family first learnt judo from a Japanese prize fighter, went on to learn ju-jitsu and then gave it their own ‘spin’.

The resultant BJJ sport predominantly consists of ground fighting and focuses on technique and stamina, the idea being that anyone of any weight, size or strength can participate.
I call it a sport but in fact it isn’t officially recognised as a sport yet by Sport England, the sporting governing body, something that the UK BJJ Association would like to change to allow the sport to be included in the Olympic Games in future years and also, to help fund the sport’s growth.

However, it’s been growing steadily on its own since 2006 when “things really started to come together,” Dougie Creed tells us. Dougie, a BJJ black belt who trains at Carlson Gracie said it started to increase its profile in 2006 and has been growing ever since with gyms opening up across England, Wales and Scotland.

In Tonbridge, Carlson Gracie welcomes an eclectic mix of people who are training in BJJ: plastic surgeons, plumbers, police men and even a chef!

Ben Sulston, who owns Sulston’s Kitchen, a health food takeaway outlet in Tonbridge, is also a BJJ chef, providing the sport’s top competitors with specific meal plans and competition day energy boosting snacks. Ben was originally a kick-boxer who wanted to move into mixed martial art (MMA) fighting; he was advised to learn BJJ in order to succeeed in MMA and has been hooked ever since.

Members of the Carlson Gracie Gym in Vale Road, Tonbridge

As with other martial arts, Carlson Gracie provides classes for children, starting at four years old and they can progress through belts too: BJJ black belt holders watch how BJJ athletes are progressing and award belts ‘as and when’ – no patterns to showcase on a particular day just consistent performance which might just help those children who suffer from grading day nerves.

Like most sports, adults’ egos are left at the door: the training provides stress relief & exercise and ignites an ambition to conquer. Keep an eye out for the European Championships in Lisbon, the biggest BJJ competition in the world where 6,000 competitors fight over five days.

Several Tonbridge BJJ gym fighters have achieved glory at these championships including the aforementioned Dougie Creed, a champion, Tracey Doyle, a blue belt and Carly Hall, a purple belt and European champion, as well as Callum Haughian who’s up and coming & planning to compete at the 2018 championships..

The Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather fight may have been a spectacle, UFC athlete vs an out-of-retirement boxer, but one thing it did do, was to make us all sit up and take notice of UFC. If you want a piece of the UFC and MMA action, then get involved with BJJ ASAP.

By Caroline Kings (



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