Gym 4 – (Yellow Belt Abroad) GSW, Wellington, New Zealand

Week 4, Gym 4! And this time around I’m in Wellington walking over to the GSW gym in the city centre.

I had been in touch with Geoff Grant who owns and runs the GSW Wellington Gym, a black belt under John Will, who had had replied back to me immediately with another amazingly kind response…….If I can get half of the great responses from gyms on my travels that I’ve had up to now in New Zealand I’ll be made up!

Hey Craig..


To pretty much all of that..

Any classes you can make.. no cost…
Generally we use the Gi, there are a couple of spares floating around but if you’re happy to work in No Gi stuff that’s cool
Any footage, pics, whatever is super cool by me… take what you need…

If you need anything else just email me here…

Take care
see you soon




I arrive 10 minutes early and meet up with Geoff and we chat about the gym, the blog and BJJ in general.  Geoff cuts a towering figure but is smiling all throughout the conversation…… of the biggest, friendliest, badasses I’ve met! :-)

We also discussed one of the things about BJJ as a martial art in general that we both shared the same view on……One of the really appealing things to me when choosing a new martial art/hobby to take up was that BJJ has ‘no magic’ associated with it. It’s just sport..and fun…..and real.

Geoff had a similar view, and to take a quote from his Facebook page:

“Gone are the “traditions” of the Martial Arts, there is no bowing or learning Japanese, there are no gradings, all ranks are awarded based on ability on the mat. There are no extra fees, just your monthly AP.. thats it no hidden costs. We don’t spend 30 mins warming up or do 100s of push ups or sit ups. Everything that “normal” Martial Arts used to fill out their classes has no place at GSW. Just BJJ thats it.”

This quote is exactly what I’d been trying to convey when talking to friends and family about why I took it up……just better articulated! :-)

“I’m not one for tradition”, Geoff tells me. “You don’t need to bow to me or call me sensei when you’re in my class. You can just call me ‘Geoff’…..Hell! You can call me ‘Dad’ if that’s what you’d like” 

“Ok, I’ll call you Geoff” :-)

Geoff has the spare Gi ready for me. I was very grateful for it but I don’t think I’ll be getting any sponsorship deals or work as a Gi-model with this one. It fit around the shoulders but was around 2 times the length on me……I looked like a child in a blue dressing gown.

Me and Geoff Grant........Please stop emailing me Gi-Modelling agencies...I'm not interested!

Me and Geoff Grant……..Please stop emailing me Gi-Modelling agencies…I’m not interested!

“That’s one of the ugliest Gis I’ve ever seen”, Geoff says as I come out of the changing room.

“This isn’t a brand new Gi, it can’t be the first time you’ve seen it…… just looks awful on me!” :-)

“The spare belts are on the hanger over there, just pick one up for class”

I walk over…!……There are no white belts!

There is a range of colours on the hanger, but they almost all seem to be Judo belts. The gym has a Judo class as part of the timetable, and the reason I could tell the difference is that Judo belts have a different colour scheme:

White -> Yellow -> Orange -> Green -> Blue -> Brown -> Black

Whereas BJJ has the progression:

White -> Blue -> Purple -> Brown -> Black

The only colour on the hanger which was suitable to both martial arts was a brown belt. Now I had the choice… a colour which matches the BJJ syllabus, or take the belt available which was the closest to a white in either sport.

It wasn’t really a choice, as I wrapped the yellow belt around my waist…….If I had taken that brown I would have had to explain to everyone who I sparred with that I was really white and to ignore the belt….otherwise feel the wrath of their super-aggressive game! For reference, the average time to achieve a brown belt in BJJ is around 7-10 years (which greatly surpasses the time it takes to achieve a black belt in most martial arts).

“My blog title isn’t going to make much sense at this gym” I said to Geoff, as I stepped on the mat to wait the start of the class.

The class was really well attended, around 30-40 students waiting and stretching out on the mat. It was pretty quiet atmosphere for around 5 minutes, without much chatting between students. This feels pretty intense, I’m thinking.

Then Pat (Patrick Te Tau) steps on the mat. He smiles, “Who wants to warm up?” and the atmosphere is completely broken as the whole class snaps to life, into a smile or a chuckle, and we start running around the room.

Pat is another black belt who instructs at the GSW gym. I found out later that he, and his partner Amy (Purple belt instructor at GSW), had been travelling also and visiting gyms (including Marcelo Garcia’s in New York) recently.

The warm ups were almost an exact replica of my old gym in Manchester, I felt right back at home :-)

The lesson for the day was taught by Pat and Amy, something they had recently been going through from their travels in New York; 2 variations of a standing guard pass over a partner in sitting butterfly position, a light/speed pass and a pressure pass.

I paired up with a lovely woman called Sandy. Sandy and I had a chat in between drills and she had lived in London for 12 years before coming back to New Zealand for family life. From what I’ve seen of New Zealand so far, I can definitely see why!

Thanks Sandy for being a great drill partner :-)

Me and Sandy (note the yellow belt in the corner I took off so my blog wasn't compromised!)

Me and Sandy (note the yellow belt in the corner I took off so my blog wasn’t compromised!)

In the final hour of the class we practised some drills with a set of people out…..whenever someone became free a person from the queue would go out to pair up and, what hadn’t seen up to this point, choose which type of guard to start from……it seemed a really good way for people to focus on their own specific area they wanted to work on.

There was then a rolling session. One of the things that I had overlooked when speaking to Geoff earlier about the gym’s relaxed approach, was that there was going to be no formal end to the class!

It was so relaxed that people just finished up on their own, whenever they were done with rolling….it was so cool and relaxed but because I didn’t realise what was going on until the majority of class had emptied out I missed out on a class photo…booo to me!

Instead, here are some snaps I took of the session:

Pat in trouble?

Pat in trouble?

No, not so much :-)

No, not so much :-)

As the class wrapped up I said goodbye to Geoff and some of the remaining guys. As always, everyone was super friendly and recommended some places in the South Island. Geoff even invited me to a seminar the next day with John “The Rev” Jensen. I’d already had travel plans for the next day – but what a generous offer!…I need to get a bit better with my timing of the drop ins :-)

And the roll videos. As always, please follow or contact me with any suggestions, tips or comments for improvement :-)

3 thoughts on “Gym 4 – (Yellow Belt Abroad) GSW, Wellington, New Zealand

  1. Craig,
    What can I say.. Thats an amazing write up.
    Thank you so very much for your kind words..
    It was really great having you on the mat.
    That Gi has been burned tho.. It really was bad…
    Safe travels..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *