By Marko Stott, historian and martial artist
We used to joke that my brother got the brawn, while I got the brains. It was certainly impossible to compete physically – James is six years older than me and went onto join the Royal Marines. I was happy to leave the macho stuff to other people, adopting a more bookish persona, graduating in history, working as a teacher, guide and lecturer.
I always stayed pretty active, it’s just that I never had a particularly competitive streak andI was certainly never drawn to martial arts. I just didn’t think that side of life was for me. I had heard of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but it wasn’t until I saw it up close that I started to get what it was all about.
Everyone understands what it is like to be overpowered by another human being, but seeing jiu-jitsu done properly is something else. I watched Sam Sheriff rolling with some big tough Marines and it was amazing to see what you can achieve with good technique. No matter how hard they went at him he was able to calmly tie them up in knots without even breaking sweat.
The first time I trained it felt like everything was in a foreign language. I expect it can be overwhelming at this stage but I was lucky to begin my journey with Sam, who is endlessly patient, clear and certainly went easier on me than he did on my bro! As I started to get the hang of a few basic moves, the next great thing about jiu-jitsu hit me.
Yes, everyone knows it is a very effective martial art. But what most people don’t realise is that it’s also brilliant fun. Whatever your level, there is nothing quite like the buzz of fighting for your life on the mats. And the feeling you get after a good training session is like nothing else.
I started training just before the lockdown, and with all that disruption I am still only taking my early steps, but I now know that I am in for the long run. Jiu-jitsu can be tough on your body, but the little knocks you take along the way are all part of it. Because although it is very cerebral, jiu-jitsu is still a martial art. And everyone has a fighter in them somewhere. Brains v brawn? Jiu-jitsu needs a bit of both – just like all of us.
Despite Covid setbacks, Marko and James Stott are currently pursuing a life of adventure, magic and storytelling for documentaries, sparring and drilling BJJ along the way.
Marko was talking to Richard Holt.