My Mat Family

My Mat Family

My Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mat family and what its means not just for me but the people who also train at the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club in North Wales.. Primal BJJ Academy, (Previously - S.A.BJJ Academy.)

This club changed my life and perception of myself through training.

What is a "mat family"

In the above picture you have some very different people from very different backgrounds... Im in the white shorts in the middle... and I'm a 33 year old father of three who most people know as a geek or nerd. the guy in the green sells / rents hot tubs for a living but in his spare time competes and dominates in FCC (Full Contact Contender). The bloke on the far left is fairly high up in the police... And we all have something in common, anytime anyone is in need of anything we will help each other out... its like an unspoken rule similar to the Bad Boys slogan of "we ride together, we die together". We spend our free time learning how to dislocate and break each others joints without a second thought... and we do it with a smile on our faces and leave at the end with a fist bump and a "Same thing tomorrow?" Crazy Right?

A bit about my journey

or me this club in particular game me confidence and also improved me as a person, inside and outside of the gym. But before we get to what i am no let's go back to the start....

Before Primal BJJ i trained at another gym, i wont mention which as i don't think its relevant... but i trained there for about 2 years... in that time i made some friends who moved with me to Primal BJJ and who will be life long friends regardless of time spent apart.

At this gym i managed to get my Blue Belt and a first stripe on it from Tony Bebbington, an incredible BJJ Prof and someone whom i still look up to. You can check out Tony's Academy Here, and i highly recommend you train with him if you get the chance, the only reason i didn't train with him constantly was the distance to Liverpool from North Wales.

At the gym i was training at it was more of a social event, i went there to do a small light workout and chat with buddies whilst rolling... it wasn't the best but it was what i had at the time and all in all i enjoyed it... Then came disaster, i dislocated two thoracic discs in my lower spine and wouldn't train for nearly a year.

during this time i gained weight and just stopped looking after myself and fell into a mild depression... when i was able to train again my club i was with had closed due to lack of people training there... another blow.

i hunted for clubs in my area, few that were local to me had next to no members or no consistent schedule and didn't interest me as i have to plan my days in advance. i found one club near me that was promising... it was a 35 min drive and seemed to have lots of members... i went for my taster session.

so as i trained the bug started to hit again... i was looking forward to the end of session roll to see if i had gone completely rusty we completed the hour and a half of warmup and technique and it was time to roll again and the words "Grab a partner" echo'd throughout the room... as i went to grab a guy id been doing technique with i was told and this is a direct quote.

You're not allowed to roll yet as your not qualified to do so in our gym

This was when i started referring to this place as a McDojo... i made a show of looking around at the others in the gym and realised i was the highest rank in the room bar the instructor, il be honest i was pissed off. when i asked when id be allowed to roll i was told;

We generally like our new practitioners to have trained with us for a few months before we allow the full contact sparring. If you go over to the counter and sign up for the monthly package you can train the BJJ and kickboxing as many times a month as you like.

It was a no from me.... whats ironic is a few months later some of the people from said club moved to the Primal BJJ one.

about two months went passed and an old training buddy from my first gym messaged me to say that a new gym had opened in St.Asaph and i should check it out.

Primal BJJ

Now i remember walking into this room with a floor full of miss matched mats and miss match of Gi's and thinking... WTF is this place.... Gaz the head coach walked over and introduced himself and asked me questions about where id trained, who had given me my Blue Belt and asked how often id like to train.

Now at this point Gaz was the only instructor in memory who had come over for a quick chat before i started training. so i was happy.

At the beginning of the session Gaz introduced me to the club and made people aware that i've just come back from injury etc and we cracked on! The warmup was thirty mins and was the hardest warmup id completed in a long while. Next was takedowns and take down defence and then onto Rolling.... 45 mins of rolling.... i cant remember i time id been happier.

At the end of the session i KNEW id found my new club... yes it was a 40 min drive away but it was worth EVERY penny, i got to train up-to 4 times a week and when the club HQ moved up-to 6 times a week.

When i got home i realised the reason why this club felt right was Gaz done right by everyone... never ignored anyone or tried to force them to sign up... people wanted to.

the club has ;

  • A solid Skillset
  • Judo Fighters
  • MMA Fighters
  • BJJ Fighters
  • Wrestling Fighters
  • Respect

After my first session i realised i still had the knack of it and could handle myself more than ok but it didn't matter it was about training nothing else.


We refer to Gaz as the fat mess and its all in jest as he could still pull us apart in rolling everyone goes in has a laugh and learns.

Numerous occasions my wife needed the car so my training partners would drive 40 mins in the WRONG direction to pick me up just so we could train! Gaz found out about my geeky side and asked if id build the club website which i did without batting an eyelid, this is also where the Raspada Project comes from. more info can be found here.

Final Thought...

JiuJitsu has cleared my mind and gotten me to the point in life where i like me. Im a father of three and love my wife and kids with every fibre of my being but when i wasn't training i was miserable and wasn't my best self. It takes time! Don't fall for The Club is close to me so il train there, find a place that fits you and the rest will fall into place. im lucky enough that my club is a busy one, i get to train with some truly amazing people and learn so much whilst keeping fit and healthy.