Tinie Tempah: Jiu-jitsu helps keep me sane

Published On: Mar 4, 2022

By rapper, television presenter and martial artist Tinie Tempah

I got into jiu-jitsu a couple of years ago and it is incredible, but really tough. I had done other martial arts before and a bit of boxing, but this really takes it to another level.

Nothing can quite describe what it feels like to have somebody spend five minutes trying really hard to choke you unconscious. But if you can get through that, you can get through anything.

I don’t want to make it sound like an ordeal, though. Jiu-jitsu is hard work, sure, but it is also just the most fun thing. Everyone in the class is at different levels, but the one thing they all have in common is that they want to train hard and get to the next level.

The vibe is great because everyone is focused on getting better and they are all helping each other out. It sounds strange – helping each other out, and beating each other up. It is all part of the fun!

Tinie getting his blue belt from jiu-jitsu instructor Carlos Santos

Every time I come and train, I learn new stuff. It pushes me physically and there are so many moves that it can be tough on the brain too, which helps keeps me mentally sharp as well. When I come off a training session I am buzzing and can get right back to work. You also meet some great people from all backgrounds, from military and professional athletes, through to teachers and office workers.

I first heard about Reorg through jiu-jitsu, and then recently just by chance I happened to record a TV show with Mark Ormrod, the former Royal Marine and Reorg Trustee. I couldn’t believe his story about how he became a triple-amputee, but instead of giving up, he has gone on to do physical challenges most able-bodied people wouldn’t dream about.

What Mark has overcome is incredible, and you couldn’t hope for a better person to inspire everyone. To still get after it like he does, and train the way Mark does, it’s properly amazing.

The show is called Extraordinary Portraits and each episode shows an everyday hero who we introduce to an artist, who then gets to know them a bit then has them sit for a portrait. We filmed another episode with Patrick Hutchinson, the personal trainer who was photographed carrying an injured rival to safety during the Black Lives Matter protests. Another is with Georgia and Melissa Laurie, who were involved in a crocodile attack in Mexico last year. So we have some pretty inspiring people, and it was amazing to see these stories of triumph turned into works of art.

I love making TV shows like this, because like in jiu-jitsu you meet such brilliant people. Music is still the focus of my career of course, but trying things outside my comfort zone is very important for me. Life is busy, but it’s all about balance.

I still enjoy a night out, but I have a little girl now, so I am enjoying things being a bit calmer. And being able to train jiu-jitsu, with a load of people fighting for the same thing, is a really great way to help keep me sane and grounded.

Extraordinary Portraits is on BBC1, Sunday nights at 630pm and afterwards on the BBC iPlayer. Tinie was speaking to Richard Holt.


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