Greetings From Blackpool and Wigan England UK
After a nice bus trip up from London, and totally skipping Manchester (sorry!) I made it to Blackpool, where I realized on the flight over to London is where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children takes place, which had me wondering if I was going to run into some strange monster at night there. I did not. Probably because the Circus isn’t open at this time of the year.
Meeting Fellow Globetrotters in Blackpool!
Blackpool was always on the list of places to go to when I was planning out traveling around the UK, simply because of how active Scot is on the BJJ Globetrotters Facebook group in helping people out for the UK and inviting everyone out to his place. Scot Tudhope runs UTC Blackpool and is always happy to have any globetrotter stay at his gym, so I took him up on the offer. As it happens, not only would I be meeting Scot and his club but another globetrotter who I had recently starting talking to online, Joon Wai from Malaysia was also going to be visiting at the same time, we were going to have our own mini BJJ Globetrotter camp!
I got into town a bit late but it worked out to be just after class so Scot picked me up from the bus station and dropped me off at the club. After a quick tour of the place Scot was on his way home and Joon and I were left alone in the club. Joon and I spent the night sharing our travel stories and plans around a heater and drinking tea, it was still early spring so the gym was a bit cold at night. We talked about why we chose to go on our adventures and what we plan to do afterwards. It was cool meeting someone who on the surface we might not seem too similar but deeper down we have a lot of common interests. Having gotten to Blackpool before me Joon also left for Scotland a day or two before I left for Dublin, but we had some good times together before that and we have kept in contact since, in case we run into each other again. It was good meeting you Joon, I hope you travels are going as well as mine!
The Blackpool Tower and The Pier
One day it was actually sunny out and Joon and walked around the pier and the Blackpool Tower. I didn’t realise how of a strip the pier is, it reminded me of Niagara Falls, just as it the ‘Las Vegas of Canada’ Blackpool felt like the pier was the ‘Las Vegas of the UK’ it would be a sight to it during the summer when everything is running and all the tourists and vacationists are in town. Maybe I’ll come back to see.
Finally Meeting Scot and his club was great, we had all sorts of conversations on Jiu-Jitsu philosophy and traveling and etiquette. Scot himself has been training martial arts for years in different styles and was a solid coach, bringing all this experience from past training into his BJJ classes. We had a good roll and his style was pretty unique, and I could see past martial arts playing into his movements. The rest of the club were great to meet, they were all so happy to have a visitor to pick my mind on anything jiu-jitsu related.
One day Scot couldn’t make it in for the noon time class so we were left to run our own class. I was the senior belt and the others all looked at me to run class, so in my wisdom I looked at them and say “Ok, what do you guys want to work on?” we decided to work some entries and takedowns since a tournament was coming up and I personally don’t think most club work their standing game enough. During the evening I got to meet more of the club and hear about their own stories. Joon, Scot, myself and Bev, who is a blue belt of Scot’s, went for food after class one night and Joon and I got to hear of Scot and Bev’s experiences being at the BJJ Globetrotter’s camp, which we haven’t been to yet. I will get my first experience in the fall at the Germany camp, and from their stories I can’t wait!
It was cool to meet everyone at the club, that I wouldn’t have made my way out to not for the Globetrotters community that Christian has set up. There’s all sorts of cool people out there willing to help out and share knowledge and stories and eager to meet you, and with the BJJ Globetrotters I’m able to find them and make my way to meet them. I have a feeling I’m going to end up in a few places I wouldn’t have thought of because of this community. I look forward to it!
There was a night, i think the day Joon left actually, where there was no class at UTC Blackpool so I decided to check out another gym in the area, Enigma BJJ. The gym was on the other side of town but easy enough to get to and inside a gym on the second floor. The club is run by Prof. Paul Rice who is laid back these days. I had heard before he runs a strict class, and during warming up waiting for the rest of the class to show up he told me he used to really be strict with rules but now he just focuses on teaching his techniques instead worrying about students not being top athletes. everyone trains for a different reason.
Once enough people had made it in we began class, which ran about 2 hours. After warm up we drilled techniques, there was lots of drilling, I was with a bigger guy and some of the techniques weren’t great for our body types, but we made the best of it. The students were all friendly and happy to have a visitor on the mats, it was a fun time training with them. I wish I could have rolled with the class but I started to get a leg cramp near the end of class and had to sit out. I’ve found traveling so much as really put a lot of strain on my hips and legs, sitting on buses, planes, or trains for so long. I’ll have to remember to keep up with stretching my legs out and getting up and walking around on long trips, to keep from missing out on classes or rolling with the club.
Mr. Roy Wood and The Snake Pit in Wigan
Originally when I was planning out my trip around the UK and Ireland I had the idea of taking the ferry over to Dublin from Liverpool. I thought that would be a cool idea and really just wanted to visit Liverpool. I couldn’t find any gyms and didn’t get any responses through friend on leads for places to stay or train at in my early planning. I was about to change my plans to stay in Manchester and look for gyms there, as I decided flying out of Manchester to Dublin would be easier and cheaper, when I got word from Nathan Hatton about Catch Wrestling in the area I should look up. After setting up some group chats I Facebook I had two contacts, one in Stockton-On-Tees that I will meet up with later, and one in Wigan, which is just outside of Manchester. I don’t know much about Catch Wrestling other than it’s submission wrestling style has been an influence on no gi grappling and Pro Wrestling has it’s roots in Catch Wrestling. Nathan, the literal professor on the history of grappling filled me in on the roots of Catch Wrestling and the significance of The Snake Pit and Mr. Roy Wood. So when I had the chance to meet up with and talk to a direct lineage to such an influential grappling sport, and the see place itself where so many greats have trained, I changed my plans again. I was only in town for two days and it happens that there are no classes on the weekend so I missed out on being able to attend a class, and Roy is a busy man with full jobs and a business to run, so we weren’t able to set up my camera to film an interview but I followed him around for an afternoon talking to him about Catch-As-Catch-Can and wrote down a bunch of notes to write up this segment.
I met Mr. Wood at a coffee shop in the center of Wigan, he was happy to meet up and talk about Catch Wrestling and all his achievements, but always stressed that it was just hobby to him. I found that was so crazy that the leading man running the Snake Pit, who is one of the last statesman of the art and has trained so many great talents only does it 3 nights a week as a hobby. Some of the achievements of the Snake Pit, either run by Roy Wood himself in the more recent years or by the original coach Billy Riley, include coaching a number of Pro-Wrestlers that have made it big on the WWE/F and WCW (such as Davey Boy Smith and ‘Dynamite Kid’ Tom Billington (other wise known as the tagteam the British Bulldogs) Davey Boy’s son Davey Boy Jr. and Oliver Claffey AKA Jack Gallagher) a well as a bunch before the WWE and WCW were created (such as Karl Gotch, Billie Robinson, and Thomas Moore AKA Jack Dempsey) training Olympic wrestler Maria Dunn for her 2012 Olympics run and training ‘The Gracie Hunter’ Kazushi Sakuraba. With that impressive list you can understand how I was shocked to learn the wasn’t a running camp everyday full of students.
I spent the day following Mr. Wood around as he conducted one of his day jobs, fixing pub machines. Roy Wood has a business that supplies pubs, restaurants and hotels with all equipment and maintains the machines they rent out, such as slot machines and pool tables. As we toured around town and talked Roy told me about starting off as a molder in a foundry, just like Billy Riley did himself. Wigan was a big mining town and according to Mr. Wood when he started out wrestling most the other students were miners, which added to the style getting a name for being rough the techniques being stiff, ‘We were known for being a rough crowd, no one would want to try anything with the Wigan lads’ he told me. During our talks he told me about the monthly seminars he puts on at the Snake Pit, where clubs from all over come to learn the old style and sharpen their techniques. Once Mr. Wood did a huge seminar over in Tokyo for the Japan wrestling league and was offered to stay and train them more, but decided to come back to Wigan. ‘Too many lights and cameras’ as he said.
‘Catch beats all!’ He would say, ‘Wrestlers don’t go to their back because they’re trained not to, BJJ players are trained to give up their back’ Words of a true die hard of their art. The debate of which is better, wrestling or BJJ will constantly be waged by either side but one cannot deny that Catch-As-Catch-Can has made an impression on the world of submission grappling. Thank you Mr. Wood for giving me a history lesson on the art of Catch Wrestling and The Snake Pit.
After meeting Mr Wood I had the day to pack my things and be off that night. I had a plane to catch in the morning but there was no transit in time before my flight, so it was an over night trip to the airport before taking over to Dublin Ireland, but that’s a story for next time!
Until next time,
see you on the mats!
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