Wednesday, 5 December 2012
My intention for this blog was to write a simple review of my first BJJ lesson, but I've found myself reflecting on some deeper issues since taking the class.
I got into MMA a couple of years ago and wasn't too keen on the ground fighting aspect; it seemed like a way of stalling to me. It wasn't until I watched UFC 1 that, like many, I really appreciated how powerful ground fighting and more specifically BJJ could be.
About a year ago I finally started training in martial arts, a lifelong ambition, joining The Martial Arts School SW, a local MMA school. I was excited about this school as I noticed they did grappling (no-gi), something I was keen to try, but a little apprehensive due to it looking very physically demanding.
I did kickboxing only for about 6 months and it became apparent to the instructor that I was a huge MMA fan and he started encouraging me to grapple. I was so excited to do it, but kept putting it off. Finally when I felt my fitness had reached an acceptable level I hit the mats, learnt a couple of submissions and rolling for the first time. I was instantly hooked.
I said to myself I'd never train gi BJJ but found myself watching an increasing amount of instructional videos and getting sucked into the culture more and more. Finally, after shopping around for a gi which there was no real reason for me to buy, I admitted to myself that BJJ was actually something I really wanted to do.
However, finding a school wasn't easy. Being just down the road from London and having a football team in the Premiership, you'd assume that there would be at least one BJJ class here. But no! The closest I could find were Carlson Gracie Academy, Ze Marcello and Andy Roberts, all about 25 miles away.
After chatting to each one about their pricing (each were super helpful) and juggling their timetable with my current kickboxing and no-gi classes, I decided on the Carlson Gracie Academy.
My gi arrived (a Tatami Nova Basic, highly recommended across the internets) and after a couple of weeks off with a bad knee from a failed standing sweep during kickboxing sparring, I set my first date, this past Monday.
Before I go into the class, a little bit more info about myself; I'm a big guy. 6"6 tall, 18st. Being 'big' has many advantages, but it can be frustrating at times, as people can fail to see beyond it.
The last sport I put a lot of effort into was golf; I played seriously for about 12 years, but quit with very little to show. I never made it to a single figure handicap and only once broke 80. Basically, I was shit, yet was well respected for the fact I could melt a ball onto the green of a 400+ yard par 4, or hit driver-wedge to a par 5 like it was easy. No one cared it would often take me 3 or 4 puts to finish the hole, I was still an urban legend on the course.
Fast forward to joining an MMA school, straight away my size is the topic of discussion. After a few months training I developed decent kicking and punching power, which I put manly down to working hard on technique, but everyone credits it to my attributes. When grappling, as the average size of my partners is fairly small, I'm often able to use my power to gain an advantage. It's frustrating and I feel like I'm cheating, but it's hard not to do it when technically outclassed.
However, when stepping onto the mats at the Carlson Gracie Academy, the first thing I notice is several guys my size or bigger. Finally, my size means nothing!
Onto the lesson. We started with a decent warmup that really got my heart going, which quickly blended into the techniques for the day, Omaplata and variations. Straight away the gi confused me, using grips seemed really weird. I struggled with the harder variation, but felt I got most of the basics down.
We then lined up in grade order and the coach selected pairs to roll. He asked if it was my first lesson, I could have said no as I've got quite a few hours experience rolling, but seeing as I was already tired and wanted to make it through the whole session, I answered yes and he let me sit out the first roll.
On the second roll he paired me with a white belt with 2 or 3 stripes. We started and the first thing he did was grab my gi! Wtf! It still felt so bizzarre. He pulled guard and did an excellent job of just neutralising me. I asked for some advice on how to break the sleeve grips, and armed with this I made a few attempts at passing his guard, almost getting there a couple of times but he always grabbed me and pulled me back.
For the third roll I was then approached by a Blue Belt with 2 or 3 stripes (I should take more notice) and knew I was in trouble. Instant grips and butterfly guard, which resulted in him lifting me in the air a few times. If you noted my size earlier, then you'd realise I wasn't used to this treatment; this guy was very strong. Breaking his grips was nigh-on impossible, but he did give me a few openings to pass, each time though he would crush me with some sort of choke or lock.
The final roll I was all but spent, so quickly ran to another non-striped white belt who looked as tired as me. I went back to what I know, aggressive no-gi style, and was able to tap him a few times, but really I should have been more open to giving him opportunities and experimenting with the gi, but my ego was hurt.
A really fun experience, but also MASSIVELY humbling. I'm no longer the big guy, only decent technique can carry me from here. I can't wait for my next lesson.
Sunday, 28 October 2012
So, the big news first. I got married!
Yes, it was only the last blog I was talkin about our engagement, but it made sense and we didn't want to wait. We had a lovely small ceremony with just family, with the reception at the same hotel we spent our first night in, and got engaged, so it meant a lot. Honestly I couldn't be happier (drama king alert), I never thought I'd meet someone like Anna and I'm excited to spend my life with her.
Work wise, I talked about a project manager type role but that didn't materialise. I was pretty angry at the time as this company seems to have no problem hiring copious amounts of sexy birds to work in marketing positions, but when someone rocks up with actual experience and virtually guarantees to double the size of their new area of business, he's shot down. Idiots.
The work offers were pretty constant though, with a few small companies wanting me on board, but to be honest knowing I was getting married and being sick of the lack of job security a small company offers, I wanted something big.
I was offered a contract role at one of the UK's largest gaming companies and decided to take the risk, hoping that if I worked my buns off they'd not want to let me go. Well I'm on my third temp contract with them and I feel really confident I've made a huge impact and they'd be crazy to let me go. Hopefully early next year the role will be made permanent and I can actually talk about who it is!
Martial arts wise, I received my next rank in kickboxing and started grappling. I didn't think I'd like grappling that much, but after the first lesson and sparring straight away, I was hooked. It is much, much, much harder than it looks, but the satisfaction of pulling off a well executed technique is immense.
In fact, it's brought out my competitive side again, I can actually see myself competing in grappling tournaments and have decided to take that side of things more serious. In the next couple of weeks, I'm going to start Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; there are a couple of awesome schools/coaches near me and I'm excited to start this prestigious martial art. I will continue to train with my old school in Reading, but will probably just to kickboxing and move my grappling to one of the BJJ schools.
I'm also starting to focus on strength in a big way, investing in weights and spending a lot of time on S+C forums working on a program. I'm mostly following the 'Starting Strength' system, but have modified it slightly until I get more equipment at home. Next stage is working on flexibility.
So, expect this blog in the future to have a lot more martial arts content, as I love talking about things I compete in and with the lack of poker playing these days martial arts will fill that void. Am going to start doing some networking in the BJJ/MMA blogger community, so hi to any guys reading this post.
TV wise I was a little let down with the first half of Breaking Bad S5, I felt it was really slow and it was only the last episode that really got my interest. The same can't be said for Homeland S2, wow, the first few episodes were intense to the point where I can't see how the series can carry on for another season? Excited for tonights episode.
Not seen too many movies, but Expendables 2 was great fun. Everything you'd want from the movie, having Arnie, Willis and Stallone stood in a line firing guns doesn't get much better,
Musically I've not been really inspired by too much recently - listening to a lot of ambient, dubstep and black metal as usual. Nachmystium's newest album has a couple of killer tracks, and I've just received a copy of Wintersun's newest opus Time. Their last album was one of my favourites, but honestly, I can't see how this can be so much better seeing how long it's taken to come out.
Stars of the Lid are coming to the UK again after 5 years and I am PUMPED to see them. I've talked about how good the last show was before, so I'm expecting more of the same this time. If you're looking for some amazing music for playing poker or simply relaxing to, you won't find much better:
So that's a quick recap of the last few months. I am going to start doing at least bi-weekly blogs now I've got more to focus on.
Cheers for reading!
Wednesday, 4 July 2012
Back in 2009 I was getting my break in to the industry by working a commission only role for PokerIcons, a media and PR agency mainly for professional poker players. I didn't make much money, but it gave me a great introduction to the gaming industry and helped me meet lots of decent contacts. More importantly though, it was bloody fun.
At the time our biggest client was Jamie Gold and we spent lots of time trying (unsuccessfully) to get him a sponsorship deal. Poker sites were weary of sponsoring players in 2009 and Jamie was asking for a shed full. We did some interesting things with him though - trying to gate crash Paris Hilton's boat party in Cannes being one of them - but I'll save that for another blog.
Another player on our list was 'one of the UK's brightest up and coming stars', a young lad by the name of Sam Trickett. We did our homework and knew Sam was going to made it big, so we spent a decent amount of time pushing him to potential sponsors. Unfortunately he just hadn't had a big enough score to give him mass market appeal. (check his hendon mob pre 2010, and then post 2010 and shed a tear for me)
In September 2009 was the biggest event on our calendar, the WSOPE. For a couple of weeks, all the big names would be in town, and it was a huge money making opportunity for us. Me and my two colleagues squeezed into a room at the Metropole and we hadn't been there long before I got a call from Sam saying 'someone just gave me a patch deal'.
We raced over to the Empire as any patch deals had to be done through us, Sam was our client, so we negotiated the terms. When we got there I was quickly pounced upon by an agent from another company introducing himself and saying he'd scored Sam a patch deal with Full Tilt. After a few choice words, we agreed that we'd split the commission for that day, but we'd handle all his deals from that day on. (we spent 2 days negotiating with Ray Bitar, remember the days when we all thought FTP was prestigious and legit?)
It's hard to think that just 3 years ago I was on Skype with him ghost writing his profile. So here it is, Sam Trickett's media profile, Circa 2009:
Tuesday, 1 May 2012
I do feel a bit stupid, but as most have realised by now, I lasted just a couple of weeks at Genting. Firstly, thanks to everyone who wished me well when I announced I'd gotten the job, I was really overwhelmed by it. So why did I quit?
The job title was 'Sales Manager'. Sales is a tricky one with me as I can do it well, but the idea of a pure sales job has never really interested me. However, things had gotten slow on the job front and the thought of working close to home was appealing, so when a recruitment agent called about the role I thought an application couldn't hurt.
Straight away they wanted to see me, great I thought, so I dusted off the suit and made my way to Richfield Avenue. It's funny as the Genting Casino in Reading (formally Maxims, Stanley, Tower etc...) was my first experience of proper gambling venue and I instantly fell in love. The place will always hold a soft spot for me.
I first met with the Casino Manager Jimmy Howard and their national recruitment manager. This preliminary interview was just to find out about me and see what I was like as a person. Talk about myself enthusiastically for 30 mins? No problem. I got a call back later the day for a second interview.
The second interview was trickier. Not only did I have Jimmy again scrutinising me but the regional marketing manager asking some very tricky questions. However, remember I said earlier I can do sales well? I smashed this interview into pieces, couldn't of done any better. It did leave me with some doubts thought if I was suitable for the role as I wasn't sure just how much sales was needed, as they hammed up my marketing experience and how useful it would be.
My mind was soon put to rest as I got the call that they wanted me for the role! I was overjoyed as this was my first traditionally secured job - what I mean by that is recruitment agent, interview, second interview, offer etc...
I went in for the first week and Jimmy told me he still wasn't quite convinced about me, but it was by far the best applicant they had and after next week I just had to prove myself.
So for the first week it was excellent. Swaggering around the Casino being introduced to all the staff and high rollers as a new manager, chatting to people with a sense of authority I've never had before, free meals and promises of other luxury, and all round fun experience.
Then the second week came, and the pressure started. Why wasn't I on the phone every day calling businesses to get them in? Why hasn't I made loads of sales already? Such and such who was in the office noticed you weren't on the phone etc... etc...
This was pressure like I'd never felt it. I mean I've been under a serious work load before, but this was corporate pressure, and I hated it.
Just before starting the job I'd received a call from another company (that will remain anonymous for now) offering me a project manager style role in poker, something I'd be much more suited too. They said if the job at Genting went wrong, to give them a call.
So with the pressure mounting, plus knowing a job I'd be much better at was out there but wouldn't be around for ever, I quit.
It was a surreal experience all around, but believe it or not, I did take several things away from the two weeks I was there.
1. A smart appearance goes a long way. So whatever job I land from now on, always expect a shirt and tie.
2. Straight talking gets the job done. I've always been one for babbling, but spending time with Jimmy the manager taught me just how a proper businessman works.
3. Good things can come from working with recruitment agencies.
So yes, expect another 'I got the job!' tweet coming soon, but expect this one to stick. Exciting times ahead!
Although this is the news most of you will find interesting, it certainly isn't the biggest news in my life recently. Last Saturday me and Anna got engaged! It seems like only yesterday we first met, but it was over 2 years ago now, and the time is definitely right for us to get married. I'm starting to feel 'wise' (old) and the need to build a home is really setting in.
So how did I propose?
Me and Anna have gotten into a bit of birdwatching recently due to seeing lots of different species in my families large garden. We took my Nan to a local bird sanctuary which was fun, so I announced I wanted to go to one in Canterbury, where Anna's family are. She said OK and we went stayed a night with her Aunt before setting off the next day for the bird sanctuary, but this just a ruse.
I'd actually booked the biggest suite of the first hotel we ever stayed in almost 2 years ago and she was so shocked as to why we were even there! I left her in the car while I picked up the keys and we drove the room. We walked in and she was gobsmacked by the size of the place, and when she turned around there I was on one knee.
We had a lovely night there and now have a wedding to plan. Gosh!
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Now I'm back to being an independent entity for the time being I feel it's only right I crack my knuckles and give my honest opinion of mine and the UK Poker scenes current situation. I'm going to cover two main points in this blog.
1. My departure from BBP.
2. The UK Poker Scene - radical ideas.
It wasn't long after my last blog that I was given the unfortunate news that my time at Black Belt Poker had come to an end. It came as a bit of a shock although working for a small company you accept that it's always a possibility.
I really enjoyed my time at BBP. Having worked for a Scandinavian brand before, I was eager to join a UK focused company as that's where my passion, contacts and marketing network had always lied.
I was part of some great promotions and two popular live events and met lots of excellent poker players. We parted ways on good terms, I certainly wasn't fired, nor was I replaced.
I have to congratulate Neil and all the BBP staff for what they have achieved. Neil especially is one of the hardest working guys I've ever met. BBP was basically an idea of his that he worked relentlessly to make a reality.
I really do think BBP could became a large success IF some major changes are made. I won't go into detail, but members of the site will know what parts of the site do and don't work both technically and theoretically. They've always had large ideas, but you have to get the basics right first, otherwise expansion is impossible.
I wish them all the success in the world and will always have my eye on them.
The UK Poker Scene - Some Radical, but Scaleable Ideas
As my recent departure from BBP proves, times are tough in the poker world. Everyone is playing catch up to Stars, but will one new site or current network ever get close? I think not as there are too many ideas floating around and too many people thinking they can become a success.
Year upon year we see sites come and go, thinking they can take the same old ideas and make them a success. Some try something new, usually with little success. BBP is hanging on in there, but like I said before I don't think they have a chance for large expansion until changes are made. Real Deal Poker had a real shot at being big. They had a product that could attract the fish to online poker, which in turn would attract online players to take them on. Had they of been smart, i.e. not greedy, with their idea, they could of been a big success. Yet they tried taking on the big dogs themselves and failed.
Can anyone do it?
I believe so, and without the need for fancy ideas and crazy business plans. What's needed is co-operation, utilisation of local knowledge, conquering separate markets and then forming a large entity. Let's take the UK for example.
We have several independent online brands in this country all taking 90%+ of their business from UK players. The best examples:
Black Belt Poker
Dusk Till Dawn
Rags 2 Riches (The Western Club)
One Way Poker
Gutshot (The International Club)
Sure there are the Genting’s and Grosvenor’s, but I'm not worried about them, they pull enough revenue through their casinos to make online nothing more than a fashion requirement as opposed to a real necessity (I'd be interested to see their revenue figures).
Then there are the big brands like 888 and Party with a strong marketing presence in the UK, but they are hardly 'local brands'.
So, let's take the list above. Online the biggest is Sky by far, in fact they've been so successful they are on their own independent network. Add up the rest and you're probably close to doubling the player base Sky has to offer, but not only that, you bring into the mix some serious assets.
DTD is obviously Europe's best poker venue and the Western and International are both solid clubs in the London Area. BBP and One Way both have strong live poker ties with various smaller clubs and groups.
What if each of these companies merged to form one UK super network?