Student: John Killen
How long have you been training in Gracie Jiu Jitsu?
I have been training in Gracie Jiu Jitsu since November, 2013.
Why did you start Gracie Jiu Jitsu?
I started training in Gracie Jiu Jitsu after being attacked by a much larger guy at work. I have been managing bars and restaurants for over 10 years, and in that time I have been involved in a few physical confrontations.
This one was different however.
I lost my temper, and stood too close to the patron I was upset with, shouting at him face to face when he suddenly grabbed me around the neck and we both fell to the floor. I didn’t have a clue on what to do at that point. We rolled around wrestling, and because he was much bigger he ended up on top. I grabbed his head and held it to my chest with every ounce of strength that I had. After holding him in this manner for about three minutes I was really tired, and so was he. I let him go and kicked him off me. We both stood up but we were both too exhausted to do anything else. After he left the premises I was really worried. I had never been so exhausted in my life.
Firstly, I realized I was nowhere near as fit as I thought I was. I lifted weights at the time and considered myself strong for my size, but in reality I wasn’t. My cardio was terrible and I was probably about 10 kilograms overweight for a guy my size.
Secondly, I realized I didn’t know how to defend myself. If my attacker was a fighter, which he wasn’t, he was just big, I would have been hurt very badly. I knew absolutely nothing about fighting on the ground. I’ve witnessed many fights over the years, and it always turns into a wrestling match once someone gets punched. It never stays standing unless both guys know how to punch or kick, and guys who know how to do that generally don’t involve themselves in bar fights.
Why did you choose Gracie Jiu Jitsu over say Tae Kwon Do, or Karate, or boxing?
I chose Gracie Jiu Jitsu because I thought it was the same as UFC fighting. I now know that this is not the case, Gracie Jiu Jitsu is so much more.
I’ve always loved the technicalities of boxing as I grew up watching Sugar Ray Leonard and Kostya Tszyu, but ultimately it’s too limited and I was too old to start taking punches to the head.
I had tried Wing Chun Gung Fu but I didn’t like the culture in the gym. No one spoke to each other and after 4 weeks of training the instructor never once spoke to me or corrected anything I did, so I quit.
I started training in BJJ thinking that I would learn the stuff I saw in the UFC, but I was surprised to see it was really nothing like that, it was more street oriented and practical than MMA. For instance, we learn how to escape bear hugs, head locks, being pushed to the ground, getting choked against a wall or being grabbed around the throat.
How have you enjoyed training since you started?
I can honestly say starting training in Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I’m not an athletic person, and if I’m honest I’m probably quite lazy when it
comes to fitness. When I lifted weights I’d do a set and have a few minutes break. Sometimes I wouldn’t even break a sweat.
Jiu Jitsu pushes me to limits I never thought I had, and since I started training, at 38 years of age, I no longer put limits in my mind on what I’m capable of. I’ve lost 10kgs and I’m ten times fitter now than I was when I was 20.
What impact has training BJJ had on your life since starting?
Jiu Jitsu has improved my life in every way possible. I used to suffer from anxiety, which made me a moody person. I would get mad if I was in my car stopped at the lights and the guy in the car next to me would look at me. I would get bad road rage. I would habitually bite my finger nails. I do none of this now.
I always tell people who don’t know about it that what really keeps me training isn’t the choking or the arm locks, it’s the amazing culture that exists between its practitioners. Jiu Jitsu breeds a healthy ego in people, because in order to get really good at it you have to get continually humbled by someone who is better than you. And there’s always someone better than you. Sometimes it feels like everyone is better than you. But everyone is always willing to help each other, and there’s a bond that exists when everyone is working towards a common goal.
What obstacles have you had to overcome since you started?
My main obstacle in the beginning was comparing myself to everyone else. Sometimes I would get tapped by someone who has only been training for a month. Sometimes that still happens.
I would get upset with myself and would wonder why I wasn’t progressing as fast as other people.
And how did you handle that?
Over time I’ve learned to let all that go, and not worry about what anyone else is doing. I’ve learned to concentrate on myself, and to be happy with my own progress. My ego was the cause of my dissatisfaction, and I’ve learned to let all that go. This has helped me immeasurably in all other areas in my life.
Has Jiu Jitsu changed your life in any ways you didn’t imagine it would?
Gracie Jiu Jitsu has made me a better person. I am more at peace with myself now than at any other time in my life. Small things don’t bother me like they did in the past, and the people that train at my gym are some of the best people I’ve ever met. Everyone looks after each other.
Gracie Jiu Jitsu in Alexandria is the only place I’ve ever been where there is no male ego, no one tries to stand over anyone else, and everyone is friendly.
And finally what are your goals in Jiu Jitsu?