The British Army team has returned from the largest European Championship in history with four medals including gold, silver and two bronze. Ten Army BJJ athletes, from across the ranks, pitched themselves among 3,500 competitors from around the world in the five-day championship.
Team development officer Major Shamus Kelly, of 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (1RRF), was one of those competing, narrowly missing out on bronze in his competition. He said: “First and foremost when you have the opportunity to represent not only your unit but the British Army, it’s a great honour on a personal level, so that was a really special thing for everyone on the team.”
This was the first time the Army has ever sent a team to fight like this internationally said Maj Kelly, “It’s almost like we are pioneering and setting a path for others to build on and supersede the achievements we made out there. Everyone was really chuffed to bits to be part of the army team,” he said.
Defence engagement on the mats
Maj Kelly, who is responsible for grass roots development of the team, which practices in Aldershot every Wednesday, praises the martial art’s effects on a soldier’s career. “Although you’re part of a team, once you step on the mat, it’s all about you as an individual, there are no excuses. And, the great thing about the sport is there’s so many different ways to win.
“It doesn’t matter if the guy is more athletic than you, stronger than you; clearly they’re very important, but they’re not the one thing that makes the big difference. If you can stay calm under extreme pressure, if you can keep a clear head, then you’ll find a way to get out of a bad position, advance your own position and get into a position where you can win either by points or by finishing your opponent.
“For soldiers, that’s a skill that we definitely need; in our daily lives to some extent, but most definitely when we’re on operations and under a lot of pressure. It’s that ability to take a deep breath know you’re in a really bad spot but think your way out of it. And I think that’s what’s unique about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.”
Major Don Macintyre, of the Intelligence Corps, won gold at purple belt in the medium heavy weight category and silver in the open weight, where he competed against 77 other competitors. He said: “To compete internationally is a big thing for the Army team to go out to the biggest Jiu Jitsu competition in the world now. It feels great to win.
“I did a lot of training for this and I do sacrifice family time to be able to do this, so it’s nice to be successful.”
The Army BJJ team are going to compete in the World Masters Championships in Las Vegas in August. “It is a fantastic opportunity to build on the success that we’ve achieved at the European Championships,” said Maj Kelly, “And, more importantly, the US Marine Corps enter a formed team into that event, the US Army enter a formed team into that event, so it will give us an opportunity to have a little bit of defence engagement on the mats, which we’re looking forward to.”
The World Master Jiu Jitsu IBJJF Championship is being held on 25, 26 and 27 August 2016 in Las Vegas.
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