By Kev Capel, RAF chief jiu-jitsu instructor
I joined the Army at the age of 16 and when I left ten years later I didn’t really know anything else. I missed the feeling of belonging to a tight-knit group and having that shared sense of purpose. To be honest I felt completely lost.
When I first walked into a jiu-jitsu gym my expectations were not that high. At that point I wasn’t a great believer in the effectiveness of martial arts and I figured that as a squaddie who had done a bit of boxing that I didn’t have too much to learn. But of course I got my arse handed to me that first day, because toughness alone just doesn’t cut it on the mats.
Starting jiu-jitsu was a harsh lesson, but it also turned out to be just what I needed. It kept me out of the pub and out of trouble and gave me a constant, positive focus in my life. After the Army I started working as a firefighter, but when I was off-shift I trained as much as I could. As I worked through the ranks in jiu-jitsu, I started wondering if I could make a job out of it.
I used to pass this derelict building on the way home from work and I fantasised about doing it up and turning it into a gym. Then one day I got chatting to the owner. He was a wealthy property developer who was kind enough to believe in me and he gave me a chance. His trust and a loan from my family got the ball rolling on my dream.
I left the Fire Service after ten years and went all in on my jiu-jitsu gym in Aylesbury, Bucks. I am a black belt under Roger Gracie and my gym is the Buckinghamshire branch of the Roger Gracie Academy. We started back in 2004 and are still going strong.