A jiu-jitsu club is an amazing support network

Published On: Feb 18, 2022

By Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Chris Paines

My journey into martial arts was unusual. I started off doing Japanese jiu-jitsu and got my black belt in my early twenties. Unfortunately, the amount of sparring I had done was limited, and my understanding of the ground game was rudimentary at this point. Needless to say, when I competed against people who had been training the right way, I got schooled.

Stripping away the ego is a very important part of learning anything in life, but particularly martial arts. Rather than let anything set me back I refocused my training and joined my current gym, Fighting Fit Combat Sports in Stone, and was able to get to my Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt under BJJ Globetrotters founder Christian Graugart in 2017.

There, at the same Globetrotters camp where I received my brown belt, I met 3rd degree black belt Priit Mihkelson. I had come a long way, but Priit still wiped the floor with me. Again, this wasn’t so much a setback as a chance to get to another level. But in some ways it felt like I was throwing everything out of the window and starting again.

Since getting my black belt under Priit in March 2019, I have been lucky enough to share some of what I have learnt with a wider audience. I gave a seminar at a BJJ Globetrotters camp called “How to defend everything”. In one hour I taught a simple set of concepts that can be used to stop every attack in jiu-jitsu.

Chris getting his black belt from Priit Mihkelson

It’s amazing where a quiet little chat in a room with a couple of dozen people can take you. A video of that seminar has been viewed tens of thousands of times and it has led to me being asked to teach around the world.

It is such a privilege to share my knowledge of jiu-jitsu, because it has given me so much. A few years ago I had a very public breakdown, losing pretty much everything I had, and very nearly losing my life. The entire club came to my rescue, and brought me back to a place where I could get my life back under control.

It turns out I was far from the only one who was having issues. People saw that the instructor was fallible, and could have problems just like anyone else.

After that, so many others opened up, sharing their worries and allowing others to help them. It brought us together as a club, and as human beings.

Having a group that looks out for you is incredibly important. Learning to fight is a specific skill – and in my opinion it is a very useful one to have. But the social side of jiu-jitsu, I would argue, is even more important.

That is why I fully support what Reorg is doing. We have loads of military up here in Staffordshire and the door is always open for anyone who wants to come and train.

For me there is nothing better than closing the doors, putting on loud music and rolling. And as you train, you build a deep trust with your friends on the mat, you learn respect for each other, and you learn to value life – your own as well as the lives of everyone around you.

Chris “The Villain” Paines is a black belt under Priit Mihkelson and is chief instructor at Fighting Fit BJJ & MMA in Stafford. Chris was talking to Richard Holt.

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