Kieran Upton

Name: Kieran
Age: 39
When you started: 2009/2010 Somewhere in there.

How did you first get interested in BJJ, and what led you to start training at GSW?
I was coming to the end of my club rugby shelf life and wanted to stay active. A friend at work was a big UFC fan and back then the Jiu Jitsu guys were dominant. I was looking at joining the Police and thought grappling would be a useful skill. I found GSW in Home St and just kept turning up.

Can you share a memorable experience or achievement from your time training at the school?
The biggest Jiu Jitsu achievement is having a practical skill and mindset I can pass onto my sons. They both train now and I’m able to impart something that they can use their entire lives. It rewards effort, it rewards inquisitiveness, it rewards resilience. Knowing my kids have access to these lessons from a young age gives me more confidence in their future.

How has BJJ impacted your life outside of the gym?
I need a physical outlet or I get crabby. My job for my first 10 years of training was intense and it was great to offload that mental load and just worry about not getting choked for a couple of hours.

Those lessons that I mentioned for my kids apply to me as well, the ability to break down a problem and analyse it, leverage – a Jiu Jitsu fundamental – where else can I apply it?

At what point does my return on investment for a given action mean it’s not worth carrying on and I should look for another path to success? Those apply to many aspects of life just as much as Jiu Jitsu. 100% it’s helped me stay calm and resolve issues in my job (operational police officer) as you learn to think under pressure (literally and figuratively).

In my current role which is in the educational side of policing I am able to talk to new cops about the limitations of physical combat and when they should use other techniques to resolve an issue.

What advice would you give to someone new to BJJ or to our school?
Don’t quit because you’re not winning.
Success isn’t always ‘winning’, success can be getting 10% further into a technique than you did last time, it could be holding a top position for 2 seconds, it could be holding someone in your guard for a bit longer than you did last time.

Look around the room and all the people in their started where you are knowing absolutely nothing. Enjoy the process of learning – I definitely miss the dopamine hit you get as a white belt when you are discovering something new every training.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to improve their BJJ?
“Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things” Miyamoto Musashi.
Look for patterns and concepts in the techniques as there is lots of overlap. Technique A might be 50% of technique Z. The ability to see this means you only need to learn 50% of the new move and then throw in the 50% you already know.

For me I look at all head-arm type chokes as the same thing (my opponent is being strangled by their own shoulder and some part of me) this applies to arm triangles, leg triangles, anaconda, brabo etc. There are small differences in each choke but I can apply a significant amount of the learnings of one to the others. I’m not burdening myself with trying to learn a brand new choke each time.

GSW has a lot of experienced black and brown belts and all of them love teaching so ask lots of questions! One of them will definitely have a style that speaks to your Jiu Jitsu journey.

How do you balance your training and your daily life?
The most I’ve every trained consistently is 3 times a week. Currently it’s twice plus helping out with my coaching my kids.

I maximise the time I’m on the mat when I train, if I go in it’s not for 30 minutes it’s for 2-3 hours. When I was on shift work I just trained when I could. The great thing now is there is the opportunity to train almost every day. If you are a shift worker you can make it work much easier than I could ten years ago.

I make it a priority in my life because it benefits my whole family – my attitude is better, I’m happier, I feel better physically and my life runs better when I’m training. If an emergency happens or I’m not able to get up, that’s not the end of the world, I’m up at the next opportunity.

BJJ is a long journey so expect to have periods of time when you can’t come up – marriages, kids, new jobs etc but if you commit to returning as much or as little as you can you will be rewarded for it.

Kieran has started Kids Classes at GSW on Sundays:
View the GSW Kids Facebook page and reach out to Kieran about your kids training

Kerian and Geoff Grant

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