Today is National Fitness Day in the UK!

And I am 100% behind this initiative.

In one concerted day, the profile of fitness and activity is raised and – crucially – there are fantastic opportunities, the length and breadth of the country, for people to try things out and get involved with new activities – much of it free!


BJJ with Sonia Pirez

And nothing beats doing such things with friends and family, sharing the experience and spreading the fun. Such was the case, when I was given the chance to try out a new type of conditioning programme based around the mat work of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or BJJ as it is widely known.

By carving out a series of dynamic, yet graceful, continuous movements on the mat, the most wonderful mobility and strengthening evolves. It is also tremendous for general balance and coordination. My trainer for the day at Gracie Garcia Academy in Camden, London, was the wonderful Sonia Pirez.


My son and I get to grips with BJJ

After being given an intense and thoroughly enjoyable introduction to this workout, I was given my first BJJ lesson. This in itself was great, but the fact I have a son who has already announced that he intends to get a job as a Ninja was just a too good opportunity to miss.

So, my 7-year-old Oscar, who already studies martial arts techniques on You Tube, bounced along with me.


Let’s get it started!

Now he might already fancy himself as a Ninja-in-training, but for all the challenges I have undertaken and physical pursuits I have immersed myself in, I have not done anything combat or grappling related. And as we started and Sonia got to grips with me I must confess it felt a bit odd initially.


The first approach

Sonia was wonderfully instructive and careful, but being held down, wriggling and squirming uselessly, while she just casually stared out of a window and smiled, was a bit strange experience. And even when she allowed me into a more dominant on top position (briefly!), that was also an unusual feeling.7


Oscar, what a surprise!

Oscar had no such issues. He threw himself into it wholeheartedly and it was perfectly evident he surprised and impressed Sonia. But it wasn’t all just energy, action and excitement from my little boy, he paid tremendous attention and really absorbed what he was being taught. Something I found out to my cost…!


Me vs my favourite Ninja – the battle of the students!

Sonia declared that we would conclude proceedings with a ‘battle of the students’! Me and my darling 7-year-old would have the chance to apply what we had learned. I’m not sure I took this proposition too seriously and was rather caught off guard.

Thinking about it now, what little boy – dressed in a full gi and given the chance to scrap in a big padded room, having just been taught some new skills – wouldn’t try and have the time of his life? Even if it was against his ol’ Mum!


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Oscar tries it all!

He swarmed all over me me and I very quickly realised which one of us had been the better student.

I rather ponderously tried to remember what Sonia had taught me, which rapidly became harder and harder, as Oscar had soaked up everything like a sponge and now was keen to try it all out! I didn’t know whether to be proud or stunned!

After about five frantic minutes he got me with what was apparently a textbook rear choke and it was all over.

Pleasantly surprised

It had been a fascinating experience and a wonderful peak into the skills and conditioning requirements of BJJ. I may not have discovered the inner grappler in me, or revealed myself to be ‘Contender’, but the real thrill was seeing (and feeling!) my young son absolutely thrive on this wonderful opportunity: he was buzzing for days afterwards!

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You never know…!

I’m not saying you should subject yourself to quite the same thing on National Fitness Day, but hopefully you can get out there, try something new, perhaps something out of your comfort zone and maybe with friends and family. It might even unleash a whole new talent. I now know my son’s ambition to be a Ninja might not be quite as outlandish as I had thought!

To read more about Joey Bull, visit her Expert Profile.

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