Mark Stephenson

ABOUT MARK

What first got you into Jiu-Jitsu?

I started Judo when I was 7 years old and when I was 15 a BJJ class started up just before my usual class. My Judo instructor said I should start doing it to improve my groundwork. Eventually I got hooked and started training a lot more seriously and getting into the competition scene.

Who are your biggest influences in the sport?

I always liked a lot of butterfly guard and then started getting into x guard from there, so I watch a lot of Marcello Garcia as I was learning those moves. It was great to see him beat far larger opponents with the move set I was trying to learn.

What does Jiu-Jitsu do for you? And how do you think it could help others?

Jiu-Jitsu has been an amazing journey. I started training with Ricardo da Silva at Nova Forca 20 years ago and have made so many life long friends, improved my health and gained discipline and perseverence through hard training. I have travelled all over to train and compete for more than 10 years, with gold medals at each belt, and I try to visit nearby clubs when I’m on holiday or travelling for work. People are always friendly and welcoming wherever I go and it’s great to learn tips and tricks from around the world. I think everyone can gain a lot from Jiu-Jitsu, whether it’s physical training, a hobby, competitions, knowledge, building confidence, a place to blow off some steam after a hard day, or making new friends. Hopefully all of the above!

What's your standout Jiu-Jitsu moment?

Being promoted to black belt by Ricardo was a huge moment for me. I was a white belt for a long time as I was a slow learner and not training as often as I should have, so there were years where I never thought I would make it to blue belt. It was a big celebration and felt like a lot of hard work paid off.

What is your style? favourite guard/system/submission?

My style is quite relaxed, I play a lot of butterfly, half guard and x-guard and I love armbars from pretty much everywhere.

What do you enjoy about teaching and did you ever see yourself teaching?

I have been teaching on some level for a long time, starting with children’s Judo classes when I was 18 and covering classes in the gym since I was a blue belt. I’ve always enjoyed helping people progress their game and it’s a great feeling when I see the students using the techniques I have taught them. Jiu-Jitsu is a tough journey and it’s an honour to help people along theirs.

What are your goals for the club?

Long term I would love to see the club grow so we can have a permanent home with a large matted area, cafe and play area so that we can get more people in the community involved inJiu-Jitsu. I would like to increase the number of classes, as kids classes and school programs so that young people can enjoy the benefits of the sport. Competitions are at the heart of Jiu-Jitsu and we want to support our members with competition training and subsidised entry fees where possible, so that we can have a strong competition team.

What do you think is different about our club?

Our club has a great atmosphere, everyone is there to help each other out and train hard together. We always have a lot of fun in class and there is a great energy with lots of big smiles on the mats.