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Tuesday 15 April 2014

Student spotlight: Jon Wellstead

Here we have Jon Wellstead, Graphic and Web Designer from Southampton Solent University talking about his sport of choice, Brazilian Jui-Jitsu!

Can you tell us what Brazilian Jui-Jitsu is all about?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art, combat sport, and a self-defence system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. It teaches that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique – most notably by applying joint-locks and choke-holds to defeat the other person.

What do you like about this sport?

It’s mentally and physically challenging. No matter what level you’re at, there are always lessons to be learnt. The amazing camaraderie at my club, Phoenix MMA ( is a bonus too. Everyone helps everyone learn, improve and progress.

When did you start training?

I had been training Muay Thai and boxing for a few years, and also took up MMA a couple of years ago. I really enjoyed the grappling and submission side of MMA, which utilizes lots of BJJ skills and techniques, so when my gym temporarily teamed up with Phoenix last year it was the perfect opportunity to give it a go.

What is a typical training session?

Every session is different, which is great as it keeps you on your toes. The classes are 90 minutes, but sometimes run over a bit. We always start with a decent warm up, and drill a few techniques. Then we’ll learn and practice various moves, involving both attacks and defences. Some weeks we may concentrate on working from certain positions, or using set submissions, other weeks will involve other aspects like takedowns or sweeps.

The last 30-45 minutes we roll (spar), which consists of 5-minute rounds against different partners. This is a great chance to practice your techniques and tactics, plus learn whether what you’re doing actually works. It also shows you holes in your game, gets you used to different styles and allows you to pick the brains of your opponent.

How does the sport help you to keep an excellent level of fitness?

It’s a full body workout, from the warm up involving lots of different exercises and stretches to the rolling and grappling, which is basically high intensity interval training. It’s also great for self-confidence, which makes it even more motivating not to miss a class.

What advice would you give to anyone who would like to start training?

Do it, do it now! Find a decent gym (anyone in Southampton, Bournemouth or Salisbury should check out Phoenix MMA) and give it a go. Most places will not charge for the first lesson so you’ve got nothing to lose and no excuse. Also, when you do start rolling forget about using your strength, just relax, concentrate on technique, enjoy the roll and remember that every time you get submitted you’ve learnt a lesson so don’t get disheartened.

Pheonix MMA.

Do you need to have good martial arts basis or can you start training as a beginner?

You don’t need any background experience. Everyone starts as a beginner at some point. You just need to be willing to listen and learn.

What other sport(s)/training session(s) are you doing in complement of BJJ?

I regularly go to the gym to improve my strength and conditioning, plus I go running to boost my cardio. I’ve also recently started swimming lessons as a race I’m doing later this year involves a few water obstacles and whilst I can doggy paddle like a boss, swimming isn’t a strong point for me.

This should help improve my hip mobility, which is pretty important in BJJ, plus will be a good low impact form of exercise when I no doubt pick up an injury down the line.

Who is your sporting role model?

My coach Jimmy Johnstone – he’s great to learn from and has a cracking beard coming on. I also find a lot of MMA fighters pretty inspiring. The combination of having the dedication to learn so many different aspects and styles of fighting, along with some endless gas tanks is amazing.

What are your hobbies and interests?

I regularly run in horrible obstacle races. So far I’ve done The Rat Race Dirty Weekender (20 miles, 200 obstacles), Spartan Beast, Tough Mudder, Grim Challenge amongst others. I also like growing beards and eating all of the beef.