Mixed martial arts is among the world’s fastest growing sports.
The US-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has led to its global acceptance as a mainstream sport.
It combines striking and grappling techniques, with Brazilian ju-jitsu one of its most successful disciplines.
But you don’t need to travel to the gyms of South America to find top level coaches.
A black belt expert is leading a growing club from an unlikely north Derbyshire base.
As the Derbyshire Times finds out, the club is opening its doors to new members for the first time – and you don’t have to be a competition fighter to feel the benefits.
From a garage in Carr Vale to the gyms of Rio De Janeiro, it’s been an interesting journey to a place among Brazilian ju-jitsu’s black belt elite for Paul Chapman.
It was one of the proudest days of Paul’s life when his mentor Neil Owen travelled from Australia to present him with his coveted black belt just a day after his 40th birthday in January this year.
Paul, who works in schools as part of Derbyshire County Council’s Derbyshire Nurture Team, has been involved in martial arts since his early 20s – trying his hand at various disciplines, including kung fu and traditional ju-jitsu.
But it was seeing the success of Brazilian ju-jitsu in the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship which really grabbed his attention.
And it led to a life-changing experience, not just for Paul, but for the dozens of athletes who have since benefitted from his knowledge.
Paul said: “When I saw the skills of Brazilian ju-jitsu experts and the success they were having, I just knew I had to take it up.
“At the time I was living at Carr Vale. I bought four mats and began training in my garage – joined by a couple of friends.
“As I progressed I joined a club in Doncaster and stepped up my training. I won gold at my first ju-jitsu competition – the Roger Brooking European Open in London – and from then on I was gripped.”
Paul’s teaching ability spread and aspiring fighters began travelling from across the county to train with him and his growing team at a Methodist hall in Carr Vale.
A trip to Brazil nine years ago to train at the Gracie Barra Academy only added to Paul’s passion for the sport, and another switch to a bigger base saw further growth to the team he trained.
“Visiting Rio to train with the best coaches in the world was a real eye-opening experience,” said Paul.
“It made you realise that Brazilian ju-jitsu is more than just a sport, it’s a way of life – and that’s something we always instil in the people who train with us.”
Three years ago, the club called Clinch and Control had the opportunity to move to its current base inside the Barrow Hill Memorial Club.
Members have worked tirelessly to transform two large halls into the perfect training environment, without the aid of any external funding.
The gym floor is fully matted, punch bags hang from its ceilings, there’s a UFC style fight cage, a sauna and weights room.
“We’re like a family,” said Paul, who is backed in his lead role by fellow instructors James Boyle, 26, and Terry Bowman, 27.
“It’s a long way from four tatty mats in a Carr Vale garage.”
One of the members is Donna Scott, a 30-year-old mum of two who works as a barmaid at Barrow Hill Memorial Club.
“At the time Clinch and Control was an invite only group and it took me a year of pestering to finally get the nod to train with them,” said Donna who has gone on to win no fewer than seven medals at national level.
Donna trains four days a week and her children Erin, 10, and Tyler, 9, enjoy taking part in Clinch and Control’s junior section.
“I’m always getting male customers joking that they’ll pay their bill because they wouldn’t fancy taking me on!”
She added: “I enjoy every minute of training here and can really recommend it to others.”
To find out more about Clinch and Control visit www.clinchandcontrol.com or call instructor James Boyle on 07515 382824