Category Archives: Travelling Teams

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.

Travelling Teams: Peter Thompson, GFTeam Glasgow


With a taste for BJJ24.7 competition following last month’s hugely popular Scottish

Open. Peter Thompson, hailing from Port Glasgow, Scotland, took it upon himself to

register for the next possible event, meaning he was heading south of the border to

compete in Manchester Open.

Just one of many travelling competitors at BJJ24.7 events, Peter tells us his story,

where he came from and where he’s going in his Jiu-Jitsu journey.

“I have been training since the beginning of 2013 out of Grappling Fight Team or GF

Team for short. My own coach is Purple belt Chris Carmichael who travelled,

coached and trained with Fabio Coringa Nunes at GF Australia in 2014. The head of

GF team is Julio Cesar Pereira. His students include multiple world champion

Rodolfo Viera.

Leaving Scotland on Friday, Peter slung his competition gear over his shoulder and

hit the road. He explored every possible angle to ensure he could get to the event for

as cheap as possible, highlighting that with proper planning, all BJJ24.7 are

accessible, even those with a small budget.

Furthermore, he travelled alone and fought with nobody in his corner on the day.

“Nothing glamorous about the trip down!” Peter chuckled. “The cheapest way

possible was a MegaBus from Glasgow to Manchester during the day on Friday. I

stayed over at the Britannia hotel nearby the venue as the Ibis hotel even closer was

sold out! Bus, hotel, comp fees all came to 120 pounds.

But why bother when there are closer competitions, well, you can come away with

much more than a medal for your efforts, as Peter explained:

“I enjoy competing and I have travelled to train previously. I thought I’d combine the

two and try and another type, location, different fighters and ultimately a different

weight category. Manchester was not too far so I thought why not, I am glad I did to

be fair. I will be returning I am sure of that.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the schedule and making sure I get to a few, maybe not on

my own this time!”

So how did he get on? Peter did well, very well in fact and proudly left the Sugden

Sports Centre with three medals around his neck on the day, representing his team

in the best way he could and his two golds and a silver show that.

“I went to a higher weight class than usual at under 94kg for Gi and over 94kg for No

Gi. I managed silver in No Gi. I won gold in Absolute No Gi and gold in under 94kg

Gi. All in all it was a good day and well worth the trip.

I am a white belt in the Gi. Manchester was only second no -gi competition. I do not

think any competitor gets anywhere without team mates, training partners and

coaches. We have a small, close knit team at GF Team West of Scotland and

wouldn’t be anywhere without them.”

Travelling Teams: Niall Wilson, Team Torres Derry

Each BJJ24.7 event attracts many competitors, from many backgrounds, from many teams and from

many countries. Each competitor has their own story and BJJ 24.7 spoke with Niall Wilson, who flew

into Liverpool before catching the bus to Manchester to compete.

Niall travelled alone and proudly represented his team, displaying his team’s colours on the day.

“I’m from Derry, Northern Ireland and I represent Team Torres, who represent our head coach

Sebastian Torres. Our lineage is from Alessandro Charuto, from Brasilia, Brazil and that’s what makes

I am came with no team, no coaches, I just decided to fly over and represent.”

Niall is regular face at our events and BJJ 24.7 happily rewarded Niall a gift, a free gi, for taking so

much time, money and effort to regular compete for top spot on the podium.

“For me, it started last year in November. I’d just come back from Brazil and I wanted to jump into a

competition real quick because I felt sharp. The promotion held the Liverpool Open so I flew over

and competed there. I quickly realised it was a particularly well ran competition. It’s cheap to get

transport over here and they give me something to come back for and here I am.

The reason I came over, even though there’s so many competitions in Ireland, is I knew you will see

a different kind of game over here. You tend to see and face the same competition, time after time,

staying local. Every time you compete, there’s a good chance you’ll fight somebody again. I’ve found

that by travelling you’re seeing a different style, you’re getting a different taste for it and you’re

seeing a different part of the world. I would encourage everybody.

BJJ247 is delighted to welcome increasing amounts of international competitors to its events and

Niall would encourage his team mates and fellow competitors to consider flying in

It’s not expensive, I got flights for £40 return and the bus was £12 so if you’re prepared to sacrifice

that bit of money, then travel and Jiu-Jitsu is for you. I’ve found that a lot of people just want to

compete in their own town but you’ll just learn how to fight against those same styles.”

Niall’s commitment rewarded him with a bronze medal that he’ll happily take home with him to

Derry and he believes his experience has served him well for future competitions.

“I competed in the gi at 82.5kgs and that’s the lightest I’ve ever got down in my life, so I feel happy. I

faced a really tough guy in the first round and unfortunately I left my arm hanging and got arm

barred – I’m disgusted at that! But you know, it was good experience and you can’t win them all.

I also competed in no-gi in the -86kg category and the absolute, where I got d’arced by a monster.

But I’ve been taught some things I wouldn’t have been by not coming, it’s lit a fire in my belly and

being here has motivated me to do better and look towards lots of competitions coming up.