March 15th marked a momentous occasion for UK jiu jitsu, with Braulio Estima black belt Neil Simkin successfully running the biggest ever kids event Europe has seen – the British Junior National Championships.
Simkin has long been involved with the UK jiu jitsu scene, and is perhaps best known as the man behind the mic at the extremely popular British Open competition. Using his years of expertise running top events, Simkin and his team invested their time, effort and money into creating a junior championship to rival the IBJJF’s Pans Kids event.
Their first event was a complete success, with youngsters from all across the UK and European turning up to compete. We caught up with Neil to discuss his future plans for the Junior National Championships and involvement with the UK Youth Team.
Hi Neil, you’ve successfully completed the first ever British Junior National Championships – and it was a fantastic day. This must have been a huge undertaking for yourself, so how do you feel now it’s come to a conclusion?
It’s been a great day. I’m not surprised it’s been so big, because I felt the UK needed it. We really have to try and look after the kids and make sure they have good experiences at competitions. The kids are the future, so it was important to create an event that was just for them, where they are in the spotlight. Hopefully everyone that competed today will go home and think, ‘wow, I want to do that again’. It’s been pretty amazing.
We believe this could be the biggest kids jiu jitsu event Europe has ever seen?
Yes someone said that to me just now as well actually. Well, I’m never happy (laughs). We want things to get better and there are things we can improve on from this first event. All in all I think it’s been a great start.
I think there are plenty of kids here today who hadn’t ever competed, and now they have a taste of what it’s like. As I say, this will help the growth of BJJ and I hope we will see these kids competing at my instructor Braulio Estima’s British Open when they’re old enough.
What were your goals with setting up the competition?
I’ve been to the Pans Kids in the US for the last four years, and my goal was to look at what they’ve done out there and try to bring some of that back home. The Pans Kids is a great event, so we will look at that as the bench mark and try to keep things developing in the UK.
You’ve been involved in UK jiu jitsu for a long time, and many people will know you as man behind the mic at the British Open. But, you’re also heavily involved with the UK Youth Team?
Yeah, so both me and Jimmy Johnston have been working hard with the youth team. Jimmy is an amazing guy, and we both share the same passion for developing BJJ. I must also mention Kev Capel and Dave Coles for all their hard work.
The level within the UK Youth Team is amazing. We are up there with the best in the world – this is a fact. We took 22 kids to the Pans and came back with 16 medals. The Mendes Bros took 96 kids and came back with 60 medals, so it goes to show.
We are already there with the level of the kids and we all have to work together to give them opportunities to develop. That was my thinking behind the Junior National Championships.
Great stuff, Neil. Is there anything else you’d like to say in closing?
I’d love to thank all the staff from the Junior Nationals. I’d also like to thank Jimmy Johnston a lot because he’s a driving force behind the growth of UK jiu jitsu and the kids.
Also thanks to Professor Braulio Estima for his support and coming down today with both his kids who competed. It felt very weird doing a competition with my Professor sat there on the other side of the fence! Both Braulio and Victor have always been so supportive.
Visit www.bjjjuniornationalchampionships.co.uk for more info on the Junior Championships.
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