By Tom Bell
UK Youth BJJ team coach and Braulio Estima brown belt, Bradley Hill, has spoken in excitement of future plans including the twenty-two competitor strong team that returned from the Kids Pan Ams in California, bringing a haul of medals back with them.
Organised by Neil Simkin, Braulio Estima black belt of Simkin Martial Arts in Wallsall and Southampton-based Phoenix BJJ black belt Jimmy Johnstone; the team, made up of some of UK jiu jitsu’s brightest prospects, came together to train as one juvenile team prior to the competition.
The Kids Pan Ams took place two weeks ago in Longbeach, California and attracts a gathering of some of the best juvenile talent on the planet. The Youth team represented the UK with great success, taking sixteen medals at the event.
Bradley Hill helped coach the UK Youth team and has now spoken exclusively to Jiu Jitsu Style following his brown belt gold at the IBJJF London Winter Open last weekend.
“Some of the kids have become completely different fighters from when they first trained together,” says Hill. “Take, for example, one of my students; Cameran. He started competition training from the very beginning. The difference I saw in him from the first session to the week before the Pan Ams, the way he was training was just super slick. That’s what happens when you have a bunch of the best people training together constantly.”
Hill admitted that he saw vast improvements both on and off the mat across the team, from the very first training session through to the time spent as a group in California when competing at the event.
“Some of the kids already had strong friendship groups when they got to California, some of these kids train together at their usual academies, but some of the other kids didn’t know anybody,” explains Hill. “They’d come to train and it was just them from their academy.”
Simkin and Johnstone organised training sessions, which took place every three weeks, and saw the kids travel cross-country in order to train together.
“In the very first training session it was just kind of different groups all over the mats, they’d be sat in separate groups of people who knew each other and there must have been ten or twelve kids,” says Hill. “But, what the competition experience, doing the Pan Ams, playing the games together did was make them a team.
“There was this one day I noticed every single kid was playing together in the pool. We had a coaches vs kids volleyball match in the pool and I saw the kids together as a team – this helped at the competition and with the atmosphere. The actually Pan Ams itself was awesome. Every single kid was cheering for each other when they competed, it was amazing to see.”
Hill admitted that there has been foundations laid for a bright future, as the kids have formed friendships and bonds that could potentially benefit UK jiu jitsu for years to come. The group have learned that training with other teams can be hugely beneficial to relationships within jiu jitsu.
“It’s doing it from a young age as well,” states Hill. “None of them will be brought up in training to think ‘Oh, I can’t train with him, I can’t train at this school or this one’, they’ll instead be thinking – ‘Well, I’ve been friends with him since I was ten years old, so why can’t I?’
“It’s going to work well when they compete as adults. It’s a positive reaction that started because of Neil Simkin and Jimmy Johnstone, their kids kept competing against each other. So they decided that their kids should come together and train, so they can get better. They then decided they should open it up to the whole of the UK and get the best kids together and it went from there.”
The UK Youth BJJ team now look forward to further training and future challenges, with new targets, as well as countries, on the horizon.
“The next competition they are training towards is NAGA in Germany, so it’s all geared up towards that,” says Hill. “We’re having frequent training sessions, coming together every three weeks to train so we’re looking at that. After NAGA, we’re actually looking at taking the kids to Brazil to train and compete in a junior’s competition.”
More information on the team can be found on the UK BJJ Underground, with organisers Neil Simkin and Jimmy Johnstone posting regular updates from training and competitions.
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