After a competitive day at the ‘Revolution Cup’ in-house competition in Belfast, we managed to get a quick chat with Team Ryano Purple Belt and host of the ‘Breaking Grips’ podcast, Paul Browne.
LL: How long have you been doing Jiu Jitsu and what got you started?
PB: It was about 6 and a half years ago. I took up kick boxing and the club I was training in was a small club in Co. Meath. Karl Roach (a team Ryano Black belt) used to come down once a week and teach a Jiu Jitsu class. I’d picked up a couple of rib injuries doing kick boxing and training for fights, and when I was getting back into training I didn’t want to be getting sparked with a lot of hits so I took a couple of Jiu Jitsu classes and I was hooked right away.
We were kind of affiliated with Team Ryano. I started going up to the odd session there and I fell in love with the place. I was mesmerised by the level of the guys training there; at the time there were loads of pro fighters and there were only 2 black belts in the country at that time- our head coach Andy Ryan and SBG coach John Kavanagh. Andy had just won the ‘Pan Ams’ at brown belt, and I was looking around thinking ‘holy shit, these guys are legit’.
That was it. I just started and wanted to get into that, I was fascinated by how guys could make an absolute arse of you on the mat, and you just wouldn’t have a clue what was going on.
So the scene as it was at the time wasn’t as big as it is now, so I used to go up there and there was only one or two of us at white belt. We’d have to drive 40 minutes to get there and another 40 after to get home, and you’d be going up there and getting absolutely murdered. We didn’t have the numbers that there are now; it was just a lot of guys who’d been fighting for years- all hard as nails, but that’s what you have to do to advance in the game. You’ve gotta go and throw yourself in at the deep end. I was hooked and I’ve been going there ever since. That was late 2011.
LL: We’ve had a big turn out at today’s Revolution Cup, lots of kids and juveniles competing. How do you think the sport has changed in these last 6 years?
PB: It’s brilliant to see the amount of kids at this tournament today. The guys I’m fighting there today, we all got our purple belt on the same day a couple of years back. Myself and Paul Mac who just had a fight in the finals of our division, we used to go up and we were the only 2 feather weights in a lot of the classes, and we were the only 2 white belts. We’ve been training together since day one; travelling off to tournaments together and fighting each other left right and centre. We’re just looking here today at some of the white belts and some of the juveniles. When we were at that belt, there was no way we were able to move like those guys can move now because they’re surrounded by higher belts. We were lucky if we had some higher belts around us. whereas now when you join a club, you’ve got so many more. There are 10 black belts in our club alone and that’s only at head quarters in Finglas.
LL: That’s ridiculous!
PB: Yeah, so we’re very lucky in that you can pick things up left, right and centre, very quickly, compared to where it was 5 years ago. Even one of our black belts (Chris Nolan) was telling me that we are lucky that we have so many higher belts around you, because when we were at blue belt level that was it, there was very little above us so you develop a bit slower that way. Now you’ve got black belts to choose from. If you want to learn to pass a lasso guard or pass a spider guard or pass a half guard, you can ask anybody in the club and they’ll show you. It’s really cool, and I always try to make a point of helping all the guys who are at that white belt and blue belt level, just helping them find those little holes in their game and improve on them. It’s just great to see the guys developing at such a fast rate.
LL: So you’re also the host of the Breaking Grips podcast. What motivated you to start that, and how did you start it?
PB: I like listening to a lot of podcasts. I spend a lot of time driving back and forth to work and training or out walking my dogs, so I’ve always got my headphones on. I love listening to interviews with guys that have been around and done that. I listened to a couple of the Raspberry Ape podcasts; there are some fascinating interviews with guys likes of Simon Hayes and all these guys talking about old school Judo. With the amount of guys on the Irish scene and everyone getting their black belts over the last couple of years, I was thinking “Jesus, there’s probably guys out there that have fantastic stories to tell”.
In the first few episodes I got the likes of Barney from Rillion Gracie and had a chat with him, then Tim Murphy and a couple of black belts from our gym. Robbie Brennan was also on when he got his third European title. It’s just great to see how they got started. One of my favourite episodes is that chat I had with Tom King, a SBG Swords head coach. Toms a lovely guy and it was fascinating to hear how he got started in the sport, and dabbled in Japanese Jiu Jitsu before he crossed over. I just find those stories fascinating. It’s real cool and I compete all the time, I just love the competition scene. You just make so many friends and connections on the scene as you compete. I kind of figured that I know a lot of people anyway, it’d be an easy job, and I’m as good a person as anyone to do the podcast, so I said “Fuck it, lets do it and have a bitta fun”.
I haven’t done one in a while because work has taken over lately, and I haven’t had much spare time, but I’ve enjoyed the crap out of it so far and it’ll be back soon.
LL: Nice, I look forward to it. It’s sort of parallel to what we’re trying to do, just bring more exposure to the sport and bring it out there.
PB: Brilliant, it gives guys on the domestic scene a bit of cover, so people can read about them and with guys winning medals all over the world, it’s good to give them a bit of publicity in the domestic scene.
LL: So with the podcast, training and your job, how do you manage a Jiu Jitsu/ Life balance, or is there such a thing?
PB: I run my own business, so lately it’s been very difficult because I’m kind of catching parts of training sessions as opposed to the amount of training I want. I competed recently in the UK Masters and in the Irish NoGi open, on consecutive weekends but I felt the difference not being able to train as much as I want coming up to those, compared to how I usually feel when I compete. I’ve never been as gassed there as I was in the UK Masters the other week. I felt awful. I was seeing stars in the middle of my second match and that’s not a nice feeling, but I’ve gotta get the fitness back. I’ve moved the premises of my business this year and I’m working 60 hour weeks so that’s taking up a lot of my time, but you’ve got priorities. Yeah, fuck it, you’ve got to balance it out, people have much worse problems than that in the world so onward and upwards.
LL: You can see on your Instagram page that you do a lot of Strength and Conditioning, do you think that makes such a difference, especially moving into the Masters side of Jiu Jitsu?
PB: Yeah, you’ve just got to take care of your body and bulletproof your body. You’ve got to be sensible. I also do a lot of the Yoga for BJJ workouts and I think if I hadn’t started that a year and a half ago, I probably wouldn’t be able to do jits any more, I was struggling that badly with my back and my neck, they were giving me awful trouble, but now I just feel so much more relaxed and comfortable on the mats.
LL: Locally, we’re seeing an increase in the amount of grappling matches on MMA or K1 fight cards. Do you think Jiu Jitsu is going to start creeping into the mainstream a bit?
PB: Yeah it’s fun. Down south you’ve got all the brain scans and MRIs that you have to have, and a lot of fights are falling through, so a lot of promotions are filling their cards with grappling matches. It’s good, I mean you’ve got people who are going to these shows just to see the fights, and they’re not maybe hardcore fans so they might be a bit bored by what they’re watching in the grappling matches, but then you’ve got all the fighters and the people who train and they’re gonna enjoy it, you know? I’ve done two or three of them in the cage over the years and they’re good fun. It’s good to compete on a different stage- just a bit of variety and a bit of experience.
LL: So who motivates you to continue in your Jiu Jitsu journey and what keeps you coming back to the mats?
PB: It’s gotta be the guys I train with usually. I don’t follow a lot of International Jiu Jitsu with all the big names. I watch bits and bobs now and again but I do love watching the guys I train with and guys I compete with. As I’ve said, I’m surrounded by black belts and brown belts and pro MMA fighters so when you see the effort they put in and they’re always helping us out so it’s pretty encouraging. We see the likes of Redser and Patrick Wixted, guys who are training all the time and having fights falling through or fights get pulled, but they just keep motoring and keep moving forward. The work ethic out of those guys is crazy, and we’ve got the black belts all over our club who just help us make improvements all the time. The people who have gone before us like Andy Ryan, Andy is fantastic, he’ll always pick our fights apart for us an give us a bit of advice on where we’re going. He’s a big intimidating guy but he doesn’t tear you apart when you lose a match, he’s calm and he tells you where you went right and where you went wrong and give you a pat on the shoulder and help you move forward.
LL: So I know your short on time and your lifts about to leave so I’ll combine these questions. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice for people who have started Jiu Jitsu or are thinking of starting?
PB: Best advice would be to just keep turning up; it’s consistency and time on the mat. In all the times I’ve been training, there’s times when I’ve been training shit loads in one week and times when I’ve only got one of two sessions in, but as long as you’re consistently turning up, you’re progressing. Any times I’ve been out with proper injuries, I’ve still just popped into the club and kept an eye on things, maybe learning one or two things as I’m going along, rather than just being like the guy who’s fading in and out and never really move forward.
Just get out there and compete, follow in the footsteps of the guys who’ve won medals all over our club, and just aspire to move on, you know?
LL:Perfect, I know you’ve a long enough drive back to Dublin now, so thanks very much for taking the time to sit down with us.