In October 1995 4 of us went to Melbourne for a Zen Do Kai celebration. While there, we went down to Geelong to train with a guy who was doing grappling and Shoot Fighting. That guy was John Will.
He taught us BJJ 101. Holding and keeping the mount and back choke. We'd been doing a bit of ground fighting in Zen Do Kai, but we were shit at it. So getting smashed by John was a bit of an eye opener.
In 1998 John came to NZ for his first round of seminars.
At the time there was a BJJ Black Belt in Wellington (a real one, a Brazilian) and we had trained with him a few times at seminars and privates.
We had also trained at the Wellington Judo and Jujitsu Academy. But neither of them offered what John did.
So John came to NZ, we hosted a seminar at the Police College in Porirua and we aligned ourselves with John Will and it was the very best decision we ever made.
2000. Mum passed away from Cancer and two months later Dad died of a heart attack. I decided to start making some changes to my life. Rented a small space near my home so the boys could have somewhere to put our mats down and roll.
After a few months in the little room I approached the landlord about the space next door. After a lot of tidy up work, we opened a far more professional space.
I learned a couple of very valuable lessons with this place.
1) Don't expect your ego driven friends to understand your vision of helping others.
2) "If you build it, they will come" is an utter myth!
The lease was up in Newlands, the new landlord was a knob so we shut down as we looked for somewhere to call home. Then I saw an ad in the Trade & Exchange for "Yoga, Martial Arts or similar, to share space" and everything changed.
The Mt Vic dojo was a beautiful purpose built facility run by Chris and Jill Gower. It was awesome! We started classes there in May 2003 and BJJ in Wellington exploded!
Within 12 months the rent at in Hania st was increased three fold and the MVD had to move down the road. The new place wasn't nearly as cool as the old, but there was a lot more space. Which we needed because classes were getting packed!
Feb 2009. Wellington was humming along and we were getting a lot of inquiries from the Hutt Valley. So it made sense to me that we open a second location to run classes in Lower Hutt. 223 High street was vital but also kind of a fail. Classes were big, but it was mostly city people making the trek out to the Hutt to train.
Not sure it was a great idea.
2010 a new era.
This is what 272 Taranaki Street looked like after day one of the working bee. It was a lot of work done by a lot of people! It was our first stand alone Wellington city venture. And while it was a good space the location sucked and the landlord was a muppet.
The day our new mats turned up from China was the same day that Robert Drysdale arrived for seminars. It was a hectic last minute scramble to get them all in place and ready for the kickoff.
At 6.30pm on December the 8th 2010 the new GSW was ready.. we had some good years there and some great seminars and classes. But the issues outweighed the viability of the building.
After a few years on Taranaki Street we moved into our current location in College Street where GSW has flourished.. Producing national BJJ Champions, over a dozen BJJ Black Belts and hosting some of BJJs greats.
As at 2023 GSW has been a force in the BJJ community for over 20 years with no sign of slowing..
I first met John Will in 1995 in Geelong and since that day I have been a student of his under the Will/Machado BJJ Australasia banner.
I received my BJJ Black Belt in 2007 in Wellington.
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