Jiu Jitsu club gives kids outlet

by Will Davies A top martial arts centre is proving a hit for residents living in an area previously devoid of sports clubs. The Roger Gracie Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) Academy set up its new base in the heart of Kilburn High Road earlier

by Will Davies

A top martial arts centre is proving a hit for residents living in an area previously devoid of sports clubs.

The Roger Gracie Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) Academy set up its new base in the heart of Kilburn High Road earlier this year, to fill the void and get people active.

Jude Samuel, head instructor, said: "Kilburn is full of booze shops and alcohol and there is really nothing for people to do.

"There are loads of yoga places around, but they only really target middle and upper class women around Queen's Park and Notting Hill.

"There is nothing much for teenage boys to do around here apart from the basketball court opposite. I really want to get those guys involved.

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"So many parents are walking in here saying they want their kids to come and get fit. We want to be able to offer quite a few subsidised classes for the kids.

"We haven't looked to the council yet but we could really do with their help as it's a really important project."

With its main base in Ladbroke Grove, the academy was set up by six-time BJJ world champion Roger Gracie.

More akin to judo than any other martial art, unlike traditional jiu jitsu the Brazilian version is more a form of self defence, with arm locks, blocks, throws and ground work.

Jude, who trained under Roger's father, said: "In traditional jiu jitsu they dress very differently, and you can't question your instructor. The thing I like about BJJ is that its so relaxed and informal. It evolved really quickly and it is now the world's fastest growing martial art outside of mixed martial arts."

He believes the Kilburn academy has the potential to be a huge success story, engaging with hundreds of kids across north west London.

He added: "We are on the High Road, bang in the middle of an area which bloody needs kids stuff. The kids are coming from school and asking us when we are gonna start."

Free, half-hour introductory classes are already running for adults and Jude plans to launch a kids' programme in the coming weeks.

He said: "It is great for your health and vitality and also good for self defence. We've got a couple of guys who were really overweight when they joined in January. They couldn't even do a press-up. Now they are flying around the mat and having a really good time, doing press-ups, squats and star jumps, really enjoying it. They are here four or five times a week."

The academy is trying to change the 'amateurish' perception of martial arts in the UK, away from the traditional image of holding �3-a-session Tae Kwon Do in church halls.

Jude said: "We are adding more and more classes depending on what people want. We are even going to be offering first aid courses, and a course called 'mat rats' for young kids which is totally unrelated to martial arts.

"It's a little community here. Tonight one of the girls is leaving for America so we are all going out for dinner. It's much better than the gym, which is so impersonal. The gym doesn't call you up when you're not coming training. We charge a monthly fee, which might scare some people off. But most people would spend at least �80 on booze in a month. If you really want something, make a change in your life, you will make that investment."

w.davies@archant.co.uk

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