Black belt 🖤

As I rest my weary bones back home in Glasgow, I still can’t quite wrap my head around this week. Cristiana Theodoli and I managed travel to one of the few remaining countries where it’s still legal to train, getting to see and roll with so many of our Globetrotter pals. I had the privilege of taking two classes at the camp, a real milestone in my teaching journey thus far, and I am grateful to Christian for the opportunity.

Then on Saturday, out of the blue, I was awarded my Black Belt by Christian Graugart, along with the blessings of the other instructors at the camp. I cried – I’ve been training for 13 years. I’ve always tried to stay true to my own values – which comes with its own difficulties – so being considered worthy by my peers was such welcomed validation.

This is a milestone in a journey I will be on until I die, but I couldn’t have made it this far without the support and guidance of so many people:

Christian was the one who planted the thought in my head to take educated risks, and to be open to new ideas, which ultimately led to the founding of Ronin Grappling! If it wasn’t for Christian, I would have quit Jiu Jitsu years ago.

Steve Robinson took me under his wing about 13 years ago, instilled a pretty no-nonsense approach to learning and training, and has never been shy to reject bullshit and seek the truth – his guidance over the years has been invaluable and has been a major factor in my development as a practitioner and instructor. I simply would not be teaching if it wasn’t for Steve.

Richard Cotterill gave me a lot of the technical tools, logic and methods I now use to teach my own students – it would be an understatement to say that Richard has been a massive influence on how I learn and how I teach.

Richard Wood & Scott Dickie have both been incredible assets in terms of helping me train, learn and coach – they have helped me unpick gordian knots, are a key part of the team at Ronin and have helped cover teaching duties whilst I’m otherwise indisposed.

Brian Robertson and James William Murray were instrumental in getting the academy open, pouring their blood sweat and tears into the place – out of love and a beautiful desire to see martial arts thrive in Scotland. I would not have a wonderful place to teach without them, nor would I be in the privileged position I am today.

David Galbraith, a fellow maverick who has provided advice, support, hard rolls and a platform to teach at his own gym – I hope to be able to continue to repay his faith in my teaching abilities long into the future. David is off his rocker, and so am I – I think that’s why we work so well together!

My parents, who pushed me into martial arts at a young age, and who have always supported me throughout the decades – driving me to/from training & competitions, travelling to different countries with me, and forever guiding me – I would not have achieved anything were it not for the positive qualities they instilled in me and their unconditional love.

My students, who I am so proud of, who have supported the club and I throughout some tough times – 2020 included – and have not wavered. Their hard work, dedication and capacity for love is limitless.

Lastly, I wouldn’t be where I am today without Cristiana. In between working as an A&E nurse under immense pressure, she maintains the club website, social media, handles all the photography, deals with hunners of paperwork, and is brutally honest with me when it comes to things I could be even better at. It may be the ridiculous amount of energy drinks she consumes, but she has a near infinite amount of energy and will when it comes to making the club, and me, even better.

TL;DR: I got a black belt, what the fuck do I do now?!

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