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Battle at the Ballroom – Purple belts aim to shine

Battle at the Ballroom – Purple belts aim to shine

BJJ247 returns to the historic and grand setting of the Blackpool Tower Ballroom on Sunday to hosting the 4th Blackpool International Open, with an added incentive for purple belts, who will have the chance to win an all-expenses paid package to compete in the IBJJF Europeans 2016.

Spectators , staff and competitors alike will be gearing up to watch the purple belt absolute from the elegant stalls and balconies of the ballroom, which dates back as far as 1891, as some of the best purple belts in the country have registered their names to compete for the package. The Tower was previously the home of the Blackpool Open and welcomes BJJ247 back with open arms following a venue hiatus in 2014.

Listening to competitor feedback, BJJ247 will run the adult purple gi divisions in the morning and provide competitors with an hour break before the absolute starts. This will ensure all competitors who register for the absolute are in the best condition to win the package. Alongside the Europeans prize, provided and the Bad Boy Gi bundle worth over £180 by the BJJ Shop, the absolute winner will be featured on the BJJ247 website, giving a large amount of exposure for the athlete who emerges top of the pile.

Spectators and competitors alike will know the purple belt absolute will be a spectacle with the Birmingham International Open setting the bench mark. Carlson Gracie London’s Mateusz Flaga took gold in the blue belt absolute and secured entry, accommodation and travel to Lisbon in January and Gi bundle courtesy of the BJJ Shop, during an action packed day at the Doug Ellis Woodcock Sports Centre in Birmingham.

There has been a large amount of purple belts register ahead of the event, with some big names on the domestic circuit, including: Sean Coates, a Progress Jiu-Jitsu sponsored athlete and highly decorated purple belt under Victor Estima. Sebastian Szyszka, a powerful and explosive competitor, fresh off Abu Dhabi silver medal success under Lucio Sergio dos Santos. Both Lee Simpson and Steven Playfair who went to war at the TUFF Invitational this weekend in Essex – Lee is one of the most active competitors in UKBJJ and trains under Scott ‘Kojak’ Pickering and Charlie McDonald, two Mario Sukata black belts, and Steven is an experienced and dangerous competitor having competed and trained under Rick Young, one of the first black belts from the UK. Team Lagarto Teeside’s Grant Short has also registered, as has Oliver Falkingham of Gracie Barra Preston, who made waves at blue belt, looking for his first taste of success following his recent promotion.

Phil Clegg, an extremely experienced Ultra Heavyweight and BJJ247 referee will also compete, as will Nadip Khera, one of the most active competitors in the UK – from one of the country’s most respected gyms in Gracie Barra Birmingham, the home of Braulio Estima.

Ahead of the event, BJJ247 Director Lawrence Dutton said:

“July 12th 2015 will now always be an important weekend in my BJJ247 journey. BJJ247 are bringing BJJ back to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom – the battle in the ballroom!” Dutton explained.

“This iconic venue always gives goose bumps as a standard and we are really happy to have signed a 2 year exclusive deal with the Tower, meaning competitors can look forward to 2016 already.

The last event in Birmingham brought world class Blue Belts threw the doors resulting in some amazing matches and Im really pumped about watching the Purple Belt divisions never mind the Absolutes. I see guys like Steven Playfair, Sean Coates, Lee Simpson, Dez Parker and Grant Short competing at our events regularly, so to be able to offer them such an amazing prize to compete for is a dream come true.

I hope you all enjoy the Blackpool International BJJ Open and see you all in Brighton!”

Travelling Teams :Kevin Cunningham Checkmat South Shields

Proudly representing the North East, as well as his team, during his travels, blue belt Kevin

Cunningham has so far had a short, but extraordinary Jiu-Jitsu journey.

The thirty-six year old has been training for around eighteen months and within four weeks of taking

his first official class, he unknowingly entered one of the biggest competitions in the world and

found himself at the top of the podium at the end of his bracket.

Prior to Jiu-Jitsu, Kevin was told by doctors that an active lifestyle would be a struggle and something

they wouldn’t predict to happen, but his perseverance and attitude towards success defied what

medical professionals believed. Furthermore, he has overcome two serious road traffic collisions to

continue to training and competing as much as he can.

Kevin spoke with BJJ247 at the Birmingham Open and told us a little about himself and his story:

“My name is Kevin Cunningham from Checkmat South Shields, I train under Scott Ramsey, my black

belt coach. I’ve been training for about eighteen months and I’m currently a blue belt.” Kevin


“I’ve been competing as long as I’ve been training, my first ever competition was the PanAms. I

dived in at the deep end and I won it.

You read that correctly, Kevin found himself competing at the PanAms in California a month into his

training, winning every single fight and securing himself not only his first gold medal, but one of the

most prestigious gold medals in Jiu-Jitsu.

“As a white belt I’d only been training about a month, a month and a half. I think going over there

and doing that, not knowing exactly what it meant was quite naïve, but now I know more and more

about what I achieved it’s helped my strategy, my game, having the confidence to go in. It’s

becoming a bit more normal. Obviously, I started a little bit later on in life. I’m now 36.”

Few white belts had competed more than Kevin and he has since become a regular face at blue belt

too, commonly seen at BJJ247 events, the only events he will compete at outside of the IBJJF; but


“I’ve only been doing IBJJF competitions for the last eighteen months and the lads at the mentioned

it. The only one I ever used to do outside of the IBJJF was the British Open and the Scottish Open.

This year, when I saw how the BJJ247 Scottish Open was ran, it was excellent, well organised,

everything’s to a tee. You have the timers, the mats, the judges seem to get it right all the time …

and that’s difficult to do. It’s very well ran.

It’s easy to commit to competing a little bit more when you have consistency. Don’t get me wrong,

I’ve had bad decisions before and those types of decisions can knock you back big time, especially

when you’re fighting for a gold medal. The way the referee does his job makes a difference, but here

they bring that professionalism. Each time I’ve competed with BJJ247, they’ve got it spot on. The

judges have been well too.”

Kevin is a business man, both on and off the mats and that helps him compete around the world but

it was starting in the first place that has been his most valuable piece of business.

“In my personal life I run my own business or two and I enjoy travelling a lot around the world,

competing too and enjoying nice holidays with my partner.

A few of my friends were doing a bit of nogi training and trying to get fit. I’ve been through a lot of

surgeries in the last seven to ten years after retiring from the prison service and I took ill health, until

I found Jiu-Jitsu.

It has given me a new lease of life and a lot of motivation. When you have the hospital telling you

that you’ll be in a wheelchair by the age of forty and I’ve come along and I’ve achieved something I

never thought I’d achieve in my life time.”

Travelling Teams: Rachel Golden, Carlson Gracie Kent

A white belt who has ram raided pretty much every competition she can for gold medals, Carlson Gracie Kent’s Rachel Golden has become a formidable force on the domestic circuit and continued to reinforce her bid to become a future leading lady in Jiu-Jitsu at the BJJ247 Birmingham International.She left the Doug Ellis Woodcock Sports Centre with a total of three gold medals and a silver,competing in both gi and nogi divisions, taking her competition attendance average to 2.5 tournaments a month and marking her sixth consecutive weekend in Jiu-Jitsu.Before leaving back to Kent, Golden spoke to BJJ247.Proudly wearing her four medals, she explained her story and her attitude to Jiu-Jitsu

“I train at Carlson Gracie Academy in Tonbridge, Kent, under Dave Broughton – a black belt under Wilson Junior. I’ve been training about fourteen months and I started competing within about two months or so of training. This year I’ve been competing most weekends. I’ve now done six competitions in a row and Birmingham is my 15th of the year.

“I’ve managed to take gold at the British, gold at the Welsh, gold at the Irish, gold at the English nogi,gold at the welsh nogi, a double gold at NAGA and some other golds. All my medals are at the gym at the moment, sadly in an envelope, we’re going to do something with them soon!

Golden’s persistence clearly pays off, but how does she do it? It seems consistency and commitment

“Normally I will try to train most days, going training in the evening and the gym in the morning and then I’ll have one day off before competing. I tend to be more gi-focused with it being more heavily timetabled, but I enjoy both so I try practice in both as much as I can. We also have a wrestling coach come down once a month too, so I’m starting to do that and I visit other Carlson’s gyms when I can.

“It helps watching Jiu-Jitsu in competition too.” Golden explained. “I don’t do it all day but I like to watch people who have something similar to my own game and maybe they’re doing something a little different. You can look at them and see that they might get a submission you can’t from the same position so you can see what they’re doing differently. I’ve found competing helps the most, it allows you to really try and work things in that you’ve been training and I’ve improved so much.

Golden is convinced that competitors can compete on a shoestring budget and shared her tips on travelling within a budget. It seems to be more of a case of fighting to travel, as much as travelling to fight – the benefits of which can help both your bank balance and your togetherness as a team.

“I came up last night and stayed in Backpackers. I travel a lot, I’ve done Portugal, I went up to Scotland one week in February and then the week after I was in Newquay. I went to Dublin last month too. My bus here and back was, I think, £11, if you don’t mind sharing a dorm overnight,Backpackers hostels can be really cheap or you could even get the overnight bus.

“I travel with my team when they go, but I’m lucky enough to not have any other commitments outside of this and work, but people with families and work commitments can have other stuff going on. So I’ll travel with my team if they’re going but I can often be found going off and doing my own little things to compete.

We have some brilliant trips away when we travel as a team. You become so much closer to those who you train with when you’re on the road.”With women’s BJJ starting to get the encouragement it deserves, Golden shared some parting thoughts on what Jiu-Jitsu has done for her as a female who goes out and competes – and what it could do for you too.

“I think, especially as a woman, competing is extremely beneficial because at the gym there may only be one or two other women. We have a few but at some gyms, there are women out there with nobody to train with properly at the same size.” Golden expanded. “It’s great to try stuff on people the same size because, let’s face it, when some people are bicep curling out of your arm bar it’s really good to know that actually, it does work. So it’s a massive thing, you get to meet other women who train and make new friends which is always cool.

Bamma Golden Boy Thomas Denham Enters Blackpool International

  • Name: Thomas Denham
  • Age: 23
  • Last Fight: March 28, 2015 in BAMMA
  • Weight Class: Heavyweight | Last Weigh-In: 253.8 lbs
  • Affiliation: Hard Life MMA / Darlington
  • Height: 5’11” (180cm)
  • Born: England
  • Fighting out of: England

Hard Life Fightwear sponsored athlete Thomas Denham is only 23 years old and was unbeaten for 9 years in wrestling representing Great Britain,He has now moved into MMA and fights under the BAMMA Banner and recently against beat the pundits by beating former UFC  fighter Phil Defries by way of first  round stoppage. Thomas has entered the Elite Nogi Division of the Blackpool International BJJ Open and is looking to test himself against some of the top Grapplers in the country.


Kojak’s Sukata black belt Charlie McDonald: “The aim is to compete as much as possible”

Taking three medals in the advanced and black belt level in a competition is something most grapplers dream of, however Scott Pickering black belt, Charlie McDonald, was not happy with his performance despite leaving Birmingham with three medal haul..

McDonald, who has gone from white belt to black belt under his coach, fought Jack Magee in both nogi and gi competition, with the latter bringing the more success with a submission victory to secure gold.Known to be a familiar face on the circuit and one who has been found competing at every level throughout the years, The Tatami Fightwear sponsored athlete spoke at the BirminghamInternational Open.

McDonald explained his attitude towards training and competing:“The medal haul isn’t really what I wanted. I wanted triple gold to be honest. I really thought I could win the no-gi but it was a tough fight, Jack Magee is always a tough opponent. He competes a lot and when I saw him down on points I thought I could win it.“It did turn out to be a different story when we met in the gi. I prefer the gi, I like to fight in it and I knew I had more of a chance winning in that match.

Jack Magee is renowned for his tenacity on the mats and humour off it. He is a black belt under Lucio ‘Lagarto’ Rodrigues and a regular competitor at BJJ247 events, competing in Birmingham and Manchester, with further competitions planned in the calendar.

McDonald spends most evenings working on the wings of aeroplanes, but he believes his hard workin life helps him to fly when it comes to his Jiu-Jitsu.“I work through the nights” McDonald explained. “But Monday morning we train nogi, Tuesdays I’ll teach and train, Thursday is the same, Friday I can be found in Warrington at Scott’s for fight night.Saturday morning again is nogi, so between Shotton, Warrington with Scott and working, it’s pretty much a slog, with a six year old too!

“The aim is always to compete as much as possible, from white belt to black, it’s to compete as much as I can. I don’t see the point in training all week not to. Some people, that’s their thing, they don’t want to compete, for whatever reason, I don’t know. Sometimes it’s nerves and they don’t like the way it feels, which is fair enough, but if I’m slogging my guts out on the training mats, why not come and compete?

McDonald has been training around eight years and was handed his black belt last month, becoming the first of Scott ‘Kojak’ Pickering’s black belts. He dived straight in at the highest competitive level, competing in the British Open just weeks after being promoted.

“I’ve been a black belt for a couple of months now at Kojaks in Warrington and I now train at Sukata

in Shotton which I’ve been running since brown belt, around eighteen months, two years now. I’ll always be Sukata, always and I went from white belt to black belt under Scott Pickering and the Sukata banner.McDonald went on to proudly explain what he felt the day his professor tied the belt around his “I was nearly crying! I did not expect it. What happened is Scott was handing tape to me during promotions and I was putting it on the belts to make the promotions quicker. I had two stripes already on my brown belt and he gave me two more, but then he gave me a fifth stripe on my belt.I was like ‘Kojak! I’ve already got four!’ and then he pulled out a black belt and I was like ‘Jesus!’Everyone was screaming and shouting ‘Speech! Speech!’ and when I started talking I felt like I was atmy wedding. My voice was going!”

Who is Peter Parker

I have been training for about 2 years at Ground Control Hamilton in the central north island of New Zealand, I was promoted to blue belt just before we left to the UK for our 2 year working holiday. My coaches were Errol Watson and Travis Browne and the school is affiliated with John Will Machado.

We had just a week ago arrived in England when I saw the Birmingham tournament event pop up on facebook. Because we were about to start touring England checking out the Bjj academies and prospecting for cities to live in, I saw this tournament as a great opportunity to get some insight into the local Bjj scene.
I was very impressed with the professionalism of the tournament, the skill of the competitors (I’d never seen anything like the UK youth team before,  let alone the black belt decisions). The food at the tournament was great, and I got to chat with a bunch of the competitors from all over who were real friendly and gave me advice on where to visit.

Next we are checking out Liverpool, Manchester, and then back through London to checkout the checkmat hq in Bristol.

Carlson Gracie London’s Mateusz Flaga secures blue belt Europeans package

The BJJ247 Birmingham International open attracted high level blue belts from across the Jiu-Jitsu landscape on Saturday, with a special prize package awaiting the winner of the blue belt absolute

An all-expenses paid package accompanied the gold medal, supplied by sponsors and who ever emerged top of the pile would find themselves on an plane to Lisbon in January.

Twenty year old lightweight, Mateusz Flaga was handed the package to complete a triple gold swoop in Birmingham, taking gold in the gi, nogi and absolute divisions.

Speaking minutes after claiming his medal, Mateusz Spoke to with a beaming smile on

“I like to compete a lot.” Flaga said. “This year I have compete nine times already, I have won a couple of gold medals but there was never any kind of big prize. This is the first time I’ve won something significant.”

Flaga has already mixed with the best lightweights in Europe, competing in Lisbon last year, but declared himself as “very happy” with the fruits of his labour, securing a page in the BJJ247 history books to be the first to win the new belt colour Europeans packages that will take place in upcoming events throughout the country – including Blackpool, Brighton, Liverpool and the Northwest Open.

“I have been to the Europeans last year, but it was not a good competition for me. I cut a lot of weight and made a lot of mistakes during my fights and I lost my second match. But this year, I am coming back stronger and for a gold medal so I am very happy that I won this trip. I am even happier to be the first guy to win this.”

Flaga was happy to have experience ‘a good day’ in Birmingham and credits his coaches and team mates in Hammersmith.

“It depends on the day and today was a good day. I train with a lot of tough, young guys and we do a lot of sparring, a lot of positional sparring and I have a lot of good training partners with a lot of different styles so whoever I meet in a competition I am prepared.

“I train at Carlson Gracie London under Dickie Martin, Simon Hayes and Wilson Junior but I will be moving back to Poland soon where I will train at Copacabana in Warsaw

“We have no easy classes, there is no easy training and a lot of tough guys. Everyone is welcome to come and test yourself.

Mateusz also wanted to thank his friend and coach, Maciej Kozak, whom his history in grappling

starts with.

“When I started BJJ in Poland, in my town, we were just a group of people who liked Jiu-Jitsu and there was no regular coach. He started to come one, two times a month to our gym and pass his knowledge. Since the first time he asked who wants to compete I have only raised my hand.

He’s a very accomplished grappler in Poland, he has medals at WPJJC brown belt level and lots of grappling competitions. I still work with him, I send him my fights and we speak about competition. He is still my coach and I hope will be forever.”

BJJ247 are delighted to see Mateusz travel to Birmingham and are looking forward to seeing him compete in Portugal next year.

The purple, brown, white and mixed blue and white women’s packages are yet unclaimed and will be up for grabs in the next few months.

Valor Fightwear Now Sponors Of BJJ247

We have the pleasure of announcing we are now sponsored by Valor Fightwear  they will  be offering competitors discounted products and will be supporting the growth of are events. We caught up with Kevin Adshed from Valor and this is what he had to say  about the partnership.

“We are excited to announce our sponsorship with one of the best and most respected tournament organisers in Europe, BJJ 247. We will be sponsoring each of their events with Limited edition T Shirts that will be up for grabs when signing up for their events.  We will also be there on the days of the tournaments with a full range of our gear for sale at a special event price so you will get it cheaper on the day than from our store or elsewhere online. We look forward to seeing you at their upcoming events!”

My weekend @ the BJJ British Open

Saturday 16th May I woke to the sound of my alarm going off at 5am. This only means one thing BJJ competition weekend.
My first port of call was to pick up BJJ Style writer Tom Bell before heading over to pick up Robert aka Thor . Once the team was assembled we set of down to the Sky Dome in Coventry arriving at the venue around 9am.
When entering the venue I could tell this was going to be a very special weekend and I wasn’t wrong. The first day I refereed Mat 3 with my professor and British Open Champion Matthew Callaghan aka Stalone . We started with the white belt categories and my personal highlight was watching UK Elite Squad member 14 years old George Tolley taking Gold in the adult division .
In the afternoon was the purple belt Divisions and that finished with me reffing an epic battle between two massive men in an exciting absolute final . Day one was done , it was 14 hours after I left sunny Preston , my feet throbbing my brain frazzled there was only one cure a ‘cheeky’ Nandos with the team . My fine dining experience was made even better with Jack Magee black belt absolute silver medallist joining us . The Chicken and laughs flowed and we finished the evening watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Premier Inn’s Ultimate Wi-Fi in room 606 .
2am – Bed .
Day Two
I wake about 7.30 am and check Facebook and see all the BJJ statuses about traveling down to the British Open and the excitement starts again .
After attempting to eat the hotel breakfast ( best avoiding ) it was time to make the short walk over to the venue . Day Two started with the blue belt divisions and tbh the toughest fight I had to referee all weekend , two amazingly technical guys with very similar games , I’m not going to lie it was one of the most mentally draining things I’ve done . The blue belt fights didn’t fail to provide the excitement I expected with lots of familiar faces on my mat during the morning.
The afternoon brought in the big guns , all the top brown and black belts entering the fighting area . Unfortunately I didn’t get to see much of the Elite divisions as the Blue Belt Absolute ran at the same time but I’m not disappointed because I got to witness an amazing Final , the whole situation was special. There was lots of familiar faces over the weekend competing on my Mat and it was an Absolute pleasure to witness every single warrior that did BUT the moment that summed up my entire weekend was the second I raised Robert’s hand in the Semi final and realised he would be fighting Reece Doran in the final . That won’t meen a lot to most of you but Robert is a gym mate and Reece is someone I’ve seen grow and grow over the last 24 months , two great guys and friends . As a ref I have no problems staying neutral so the thought of refereeing the final between these two brought up different emotions , ones of pride and joy for both men . The final didn’t disappoint with Reece controlling the heavier Robert in the early stages of the fight before Robert stormed back in the last minute with Reece taking the Gold . Both athletes performed great .
Day Two finished with me watching the Absolute Black Belt Final between two great guys and friends Juniao and Jack with Juniao taking the Gold in an exciting final .
11pm I arrive back home a tired but happy man , feeling privileged to be part of such an amazing weekend with my friends .
I love BJJ