Why BJJ? (My Background)

……………“I need to try something new”

It’s August 2013 and I’m running multiple times around a 1 kilometer loop I have found in an old estate in Ancots Manchester.

It’s freezing and I’m bit bored…..the run seems boring today and I’m listening to some too familiar songs. “I never remember to update my song list on iTunes” I’m grumbling to myself and, considering it’s still technically summer, I’m annoyed I can see my breath slightly in the air.

I’ve always enjoyed different types of training, but since I’ve been on a work from home contract my routine has become a little stagnant. Kettlebells in the mornings (in the flat), bodyweight exercises at lunch and maybe a road run a few nights a week in the evening.

“I need to try something new”……..and I wanted something a little different than an updated weight or kettlebell routine. I wanted a sport or a game…..some way of doing exercise ‘for free’ (some sort of sport, which is fun, without noticing you’re exercising)……something you can enjoy and it’s good for you at the same time…….like spinach………no, like taking up some sort of martial arts again.

Well I say new, but that’s not 100% accurate. I had dropped into a BJJ gym a couple of years earlier (http://www.fightingfitmartialarts.co.uk) when we first moved into Manchester and it was brilliant! The venue, the training and the people were all top notch, my problem was sticking to a consistent training schedule….

For work, I was based in the sports/venue software industry, and my workload could vary a bit depending on what projects (and even sometimes, what results) came in. I was also on the out-of-hours support team which required me to be available on phone and close to a laptop for a few hours each night, and for 1 or 2 weeks in the month.

None of this had really changed between then and now while I was doing my repetitive loop, running around some abandoned but quite beautiful buildings, now in the rain, mulling it over again. And then I had the thought, “Private lessons!”…….Instead of sticking to a class routine I’d get myself some private lessons which would allow me to be flexible with my schedule and also keep a steady progression without the issue of missing class!


Liam Wandi

Liam 'The Part Time Grappler' Wandi

Liam ‘The Part Time Grappler’ Wandi

Back home, showered, laptop out……I kind of had an idea who I was searching for already but just didn’t have the name yet. When I had attended a couple of classes 2 years previous I met a purple belt who I knew did private lessons (as I’d overheard)……I knew he’d be a good fit for me as in the few rolls, and encounters we had in those few classes, he was always really helpful afterwards, giving me pointers and tips for improvement. I could tell he had a real passion for BJJ but also for teaching.

5 minutes in, found! (Thanks Google). The ‘Part Time Grappler’, Liam Wandi. I took a while reading through his brilliant blog (http://parttimegrappler.blogspot.co.uk) which added further weight to what I already suspected would be a good decision and then an email…..

Hi Liam,

Hope you’re well? I’d like to enquire about some BJJ tuition please.

I have been to the Fighting Fit gym a number of times for BJJ classes last year, but due to busy periods of work I’ve struggled to commit to regular sessions. I’m hoping that some scheduled 1-1 tuition would be the best thing to help me learn and improve.

I’ve checked out your website and the ‘Introduction to Grappling’ and the ‘Consolidation Package’ sound exactly what I’m looking for to start with. You we’re also very helpful and seemed like a great coach the few times I visited FF Gym

Could you please let me know if you’re free to help me with this and if so what the costs and your schedule look like to fit me in?



Liam was really responsive and suggested we meet up for coffee to discuss what I wanted to get out of the sessions. As well as finding out what a nice guy Liam seemed to be, the coffee shop he took me to was a little undiscovered gem (technically a bike repair shop but the coffee was so good it seemed to be their main source of business) – Popup Bikes (http://popupbikes.co.uk).

“So, why do you want to train BJJ?”

I had a flashback to my first job interview for a second, but then explained the main ideas why BJJ seemed to be the sport for me….which I’ll list briefly here now if anyone is wondering.

  • Exercise ……. BJJ, especially the rolling/sparring aspect is hard work.
  • ‘Exercise for free’…needs to be something different to lifting weights because they are heavy……..or running because……..because it’s boring.
  • As far as martial arts go, there seemed to be very little in the ‘magic / spiritual’ side of things and more ‘realism’. I was really drawn to this element of BJJ…It had all the same class respect but everything seemed more honest and straight forward. There was no mysterious ‘master’ figure who had techniques which were ‘too deadly’ to demonstrate….it all just seemed out in the open. Even the teacher would get involved and roll with the students towards the later part of the class.
  • This realism also has other benefits too……as it seems to take away people’s egos. If you had one when you came through the door for the first class, it’s either been washed out, or you have been washed out. You discover no matter how strong or talented you think you are, this skill is real…..my first class I thought I was in pretty good shape and fairly strong (for my weight) and the feeling of being manhandled by someone who looks so much smaller but is so much more technical then I am is an amazing (but humbling) one!

After rambling for about 5 minutes about all of this, I noticed Liam was just grinning at me from the other side of the table.

“Well……I started it because I wanted to be a super hero!”

Fair enough :-)

We arranged the first lesson and took it from there. Liam was a great coach and took me from the basics. We followed a ‘Gracie Combatives’ system in the main parts of the lessons but Liam was always willing and helpful to answer any other questions I had which were off topic or things I’d been struggling with or seen elsewhere.

His enthusiasm was so infectious that I eventually stopped my out-of-hours commitments in order to find the time and energy to commit to regular classes for more BJJ.

Liam is now a Brown Belt under Professor Eddie Kone…and anyone who is around the Manchester area looking to start or develop their BJJ, I couldn’t recommend his services highly enough.

Cheers Liam! for all your help and being able to hook me up to the BJJ morphene drip :-)


Martyn Cahill

Head instructor at Fighting Fit Martial Arts, Manchester. Martyn Cahill

Head instructor at Fighting Fit Martial Arts, Manchester. Martyn Cahill

After around 6 months of training, after class one day, I got in touch with the head instructor at the Fighting Fit Martial Arts gym (http://www.fightingfitmartialarts.co.uk), Martyn Cahill (black belt under David Onuma) who was also willing to help me out.

Martyn, is also a brilliant teacher.

Our lessons were structured in a way to help my practical rolling…..we would roll for 30-40 minutes and then Martyn would break down the holes which he spotted and come up with patches for me to try and fix them with.

Martyn has a really good way of not only being able to quickly spot the root causes of the BJJ issues I was having (as he would, being a black belt), but had a great ability of being able to relay it to back in a very clear and succinct way.

Also in these sessions Martyn came up with the suggestion of bringing a notepad to make notes on what we were going through……I asked him if I could take it a step further and bring a GoPro video camera down to record the lessons which he had no problem with.

…..just a note on this…….do you know when you hear the sound of your voice on a tape or answering machine and you don’t think that’s how you sound? It works exactly the same when watching yourself roll/spar on film…………“I look so clumsy and I thought I moved like a ninja!”

Thanks Marytn, not only for the brill tuition…….but the funny texts trying to arrange the lessons :-)

A, slightly blurry, Me and Martyn Cahill...apologies for the photo quality.  I didn't set the camera correctly before handing it over!

A, slightly blurry, Me and Martyn Cahill…apologies for the photo quality. I didn’t set the camera correctly before handing it over! The bottle in the foreground is beautifully in focus :-)

And a final thank you goes out to all the guys at Fighting Fit Martial Arts! Thanks for all the drills, rolls, the advice and all the times you have tapped me :-)

Fighting Fit Martial Arts - My first BJJ gym

Here’s a quick sample of one of the ‘rolls’/manhandles with Martyn from one of the early lessons:

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