Business as usual

The world has gone mad, hasn’t it?

2020 has definitely been a year to forget.

Coronavirus spun everything on its head when we went into lockdown in March.

Lockdown?  Not a term I’d heard before in the real world.  To anyone who trains BJJ, lockdown is a defensive technique that decent white belts and newer blue belts over-rely on haha.  (Dunno what I’m laughing at, I still always do it myself )

Anyway, about two months ago, we got the good news that gyms could finally reopen.

Pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen a good 6 weeks prior to this.  A bit of a strange one, that.  I guess gyms don’t make enough tax money for Boris and his chums the way pubs do.

(Although personally, I was ok with this, as I’d turned into a bad alky during lockdown.  So I don’t know why I’m acting all hard ‘cos I’m writing a gym blog!)

But yeah, gyms were back open.  But…and in our world it’s a BIG but…under very strict conditions.

Social distancing and deep cleansing is the way forward.  The new normal.

Ok, that’s easy enough for your general fitness gyms: simply make every other treadmill ‘Out of Use’.  Loads of disinfectant available.  Things like that.

But what if you’re a combat gym?  How do you continue when no one can come into contact with one another?

Well you make it work, that’s how.

To be honest, the MMA Academy is one of the cleanest gyms I’ve ever set foot in, so that aspect wouldn’t be a problem.  In between classes the mats were constantly being disinfected.  There’s a team of cleaners in the gym that work around the clock, day and night.

But the social distancing?  That’s a challenge.  But we love a challenge, don’t we?

Head coaches Jason Tan and Peter Davies set up some video drills that went out to all members when we were deep into lockdown. This scratched the Jiu Jitsu itch for anyone who was missing grappling badly.

Now we’re back open it’s a similar case of drilling-with-distance, but that’s a lot better than drilling on your own.

Think of it like yoga.  Anyone done yoga?  Well you’ll know that being in a yoga class is brilliant, isn’t it?  You come out of it feeling a million dollars.

Thing is, yoga classes aren’t cheap, and they’re not easy to get to.

If you’re like me, you’ll say to yourself “I’ll just do my own yoga when I can’t get into a class.  I know the stretches, and I’ve got YouTube.”

So you get home from work and move the coffee table out the way and try and start a few sun salutations…

Within 5 mins the dog is licking your face and you just can’t stick to it.

It’s well better in the yoga class, isn’t it?

And that’s the same with the BJJ.  Plus, you’re getting expert tuition in the class – a live body to correct your mistakes and give you pointers.

And you just can’t buy that atmosphere you get in a gym like the MMA Academy.

All smiles for the fight-team after a socially-distanced MMA class

If combat isn’t really your thing right now, then there’s a huge fitness area where you can just do weights or work on your S&C.  That’s mainly what I do if I can’t make the classes on time.  There’s even outdoor circuits going on that everyone has loved.  There’s literally something for everyone.

This gym we moved to in 2018 is big enough, and we’re creative enough, to work around social distancing (you should see it, its MASSIVE!) 

But it begs the question how we would have handled all this in the old gym?

I’m sure we would have sorted it.  To be fair Corona would have been scared to enter that old gym!

Anyway, forget how big and how clean and how boss the gym is.

The best development for the MMA Academy is surely the addition of the new BTEC program.

That’s right, there’s now a set up where you can further your education in MMA.

For anyone aged 16 -19 and considering a career as a professional coach or combat athlete, the MMA Academy now rolls out the MMA Industry Programme.

It’s delivered by English Mixed Martial Arts Association (EMMAA), and we already have two students enrolled.

Harvey and Oscar, our BTEC students, with Jason Tan

This is an unbelievable opportunity and I’m gutted it wasn’t around twenty years ago when I left school.

I did ok in school, was in top sets in all subjects, but just loved fighting.

I had my first amateur boxing contest just before my GCSEs and then I was hooked.

Career-wise, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do.

Funnily enough, I ended up doing a BTEC myself – a GNVQ in Business Studies.  Two years of my life wasted to be honest…as I’ve not needed that qualification once in my life since.

After that I was at a crossroads.

I would have went to University but I’d have been doing a course for the sake of being in Uni.

So I started work in the Civil Service – a place full of people that didn’t know what they wanted to do when they left school.  I was sick of being skint as a student and just wanted some regular income.

But the obsession with combat sports was still there.

Did I wanna fight?  Yes.

Did I wanna get paid? Also yes.

Was I good enough to get paid for fighting?  No.  (Well, not initially anyway.)

If this BTEC MMA course was about then I would have been all over it like Jason Tan all over a the recent ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ discount.

Listen I don’t say this lightly…MMA is the Fastest growing sport in the world.

It’ll be in the Olympics in a few years.  Get a head start now.

Learn self-defence, gain confidence, progress into a career that you’re genuinely interested in.

For anyone who just wants to know a bit more, enquire within the gym.

As I started typing this blog, it looks like we’re on the cusp of going into another full lockdown.

Massive restrictions have come back in for bars and restaurants, and more complicated rules on social gatherings.

But as it stands, gyms are thankfully still open.

I put on almost 2 stone during the first lockdown.

I wasn’t even furloughed.  Or even working from home.  No excuses, really.

I’ve just changed jobs, moving into the emergency services, so was still working full time and still had access to a work’s gym when everyone else was scrambling round buying weights on eBay.

But if my family and mates were relaxing their exercise, eating crap and getting bevied in the day…then so was I!

I deffo don’t wanna be slipping back into that again during lockdown 2, though.

That’s why I’ll be making sure I get down to the Academy.  Not only to keep the weight off but also to keep the mental health in check.

Lockdown was hard on everyone.  It’s good to keep some routine in your life, and have an outlet for if you’re ever having a bad day.

It might be strange times but it’s still ‘business as usual’ down at the academy.

The classes are adapted, but the timetable is unchanged – you can still train 7 days a week.

You can’t beat it if you want to train BJJ in Liverpool.  Or even MMA in Liverpool – the fight team have still been working hard behind the scenes.

Connor Hughes recently won on Celtic Gladiator’s behind-closed-doors show, and a good few of the lads were due to fight on UKFC next month before it got pulled.

Because of this little break in training camps, we all decided to go for a team meal.

Now if you’ve ever been near me during feeding time you’ll know it’s a disgusting sight. I was not put on this earth to f**k about.

I even scare myself sometimes with the size of my appetite.

So can you imagine the absolute CHEEK of young Charlie Balmer to challenge me to an eating contest?

Up until these ‘Rule of 6’ restrictions came into force, we were all planning on going to a Chinese buffet to see if Balmer could live up to his word.

It’s had to be postponed for a bit.

Charlie – Boris has saved you this time, lad.  But this isn’t over.

I’ll overlook the disrespect shown until we settle this plate -for-plate.

But be warned lad, you come at the king you best not miss!