By Mark Badham, co-founder of the British Army jiu-jitsu team
Most people expect soldiers to be trained in all aspects of fighting. I have been in the military for more than 20 years and while we were trained to use weapons, unarmed combat training was conspicuous by its absence. Thankfully things are changing.
I started doing jiu-jitsu ten years ago and decided to go all in. If you’re going to learn it properly, I figured, you have to go right go to the source. So armed with an open mind but not much in the way of jiu-jitsu skills, I headed off to Brazil to learn from the masters.
I could not have been luckier. In Rio I got to train with Ricardo De La Riva, one of the true pioneers of jiu-jitsu, a man who got his black belt from Carlson Gracie and whose own students include the Pride and UFC legends Rodrigo and Rogério Nogueira.
It was a great privilege to train under such a jiu-jitsu master and I made the most of the opportunity, taking two classes a day at the gym in Copacabana and absorbing as much as I could. I even competed in the Rio Open as a white belt, getting through to the last eight, which I was delighted with.
Back in the UK I was determined that my Army colleagues would be able to benefit from jiu-jitsu training too. With my colleague Don MacIntyre I started an Army jiu-jitsu team, and we have competed all over the world. But while there was nothing to stop us training on our own time, jiu-jitsu was not recognised as an official Army sport, so there was no funding or insurance.