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Gracie Barra

Deciding to learn BJJ can be a life-altering choice. It would be good to hear a little bit about why you have decide on this journey with us. 
Every few months we will be adding a member of the clubs story to this Blog. This month it is Neil McTaggart.

Neil is a personal trainer and has been a stalwart member at the club for over 10 years. He currently coaches the childrens class.

How old were you when you started BJJ and did you have any previous training in martial arts?

I started over 20 years ago and had an on off relationship with martial arts. Work often took priority as I tried a few different styles and clubs and I never settled in one place for any serious length of time.

Why did you choose BJJ and why this club?

The two main reasons. The lunchtime timetable was a lot more workable for me than a club with much more limited times. The timetable has a structure that repeats and I love how you develop solid basics over random classes. The other reason was head coach Graham. I knew of his experience through friends and I was very conscious that if I was to join a club I wanted to learn under someone I could trust to pass on their expertise.

What is the biggest lesson that BJJ has taught you?

Consistency. I always felt I was pretty consistent but after training at GB for the guts of a decade I consider myself part of the furniture now. I’ve applied this white belt to black belt process to other hobbies and having done jiu jitsu you realise you just have to attack everything as a newbie white belt trying to improve on basic fundamentals. I apply the same thought process to my photography, handstands, chess, videography and guitar!

How often do you train and what factors affect your time at the club?
I’m at the club usually 3/4 days per week training myself then on Saturday I help with the kids class. My kids didn’t even exist when I first started so it’s crazy now seeing my two daughters working positional drills and sparring all while building strength and confidence. I’ve adjusted my work life balance to allow Jiu Jitsu to happen almost daily and even though it’s a longer drive up and down for me I wouldn’t change it.

What is your motivation to continue training?
Motivation is just the trigger to get you started. It’s now a habit for me. You could say it’s discipline but when you enjoy it and it breaks up your day I find I actually don’t need a strong reason to go. You always learn something new, have a bit of banter and come away feeling better than when you arrived.

What has been your best moments at Gracie Barra i.e competitions?

I took silver in my first competition which really surprised me. It gave me a lot of faith in the coaching staff at the club and the standard of my training partners. I went on to win silver at the British Championships and golds at the Dublin open, Irish Winter Open, Irish Nationals and Grappling industries competitions. 3/4 of these golds won via submissions in the finals.
While winning at comp is class, I’ve loved coaching others to gold and really enjoyed helping the newbie guys fall in love with the art and the sport seeing them win at comp or achieve a new belt is hard to beat. Also being part of the kids coaching staff has really helped my own understanding of Jiu Jitsu!

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting BJJ or any advice to new practitioners?
The hardest part is getting through the doors. You’re a newbie and totally clueless to what it’s all about but within 3-6 months Jiu Jitsu will leave you feeling fitter, stronger and more confident. We all need a healthy outlet and Jiu Jitsu will not only provide you with that but give you practical skills useful to yourself and those around you. Gracie Barra has a cracking fundamentals programme suitable for beginners to advanced. If you’re like me and enjoy the structure of layering simple skills and concepts on others you will love it.

Is there anything else you would like to say?
It’s the hardest sport in the world but the juice is worth the squeeze. Do the two week free trial, ask for help from the higher belts and coaches and immerse yourself in the world of Jiu Jitsu. In just a year or two you could be a coloured belt, winning medals, helping others and an upgraded version of the person you are now. It’s a no brainer.a stalwart member

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Welcome to Gracie Barra Northern Ireland, the only official Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club in Northern Ireland and the largest and most successful BJJ club in Belfast.

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12:00 – 14:00
18:00 – 21:00

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