In 1998, I'd been training in Wing Chun Kung Fu for close to a decade, with Rick Spain as my Sifu (instructor). Under his tutelage and expectations, I sought and found competence, and a way to transcend some former physical limitations resulting from youthful injury. I was literally, indeed physically, transformed - not into a specimen or prodigy, but into a capable martial artist and instructor. Rick Spain would not allow me to remain limited and average as a student, and fortunately I did not.
The sense of freedom and confidence I achieved as a result cannot be overstated.
My gold sash instructor level grading, 1995
Now Sifu brought in a friend from his early training days in Melbourne, John Will, to teach an introductory BJJ seminar at the Surry Hills kwoon. This, we were told, was the necessary next step in the evolution of the Academy.
John Will (L) and Rick Spain
John is a living legend, one of the Dirty Dozen, the first twelve non-Brazilian BJJ black belts. His autobiography (see the bottom of this blog post) reads like a martial arts action/adventure novel.
Some of the purple belt assistants that accompanied John, like Anthony Lange, John Simon, and Sean Kirkwood, moved like ninja Jedi on the mats, as did John.
We wanted some of that.
I took the Jiu Jitsu red pill, and couldn't get enough, enthusiastically sticking my face into the BJJ firehouse, trying to gulp down as much knowledge as I could without drowning in the deluge.
Running a full time Wing Chun school like the Red Boat Academy six or seven days a week is a huge commitment, which doesn't leave a lot of time left over for Sifu to train deeply in a second martial art, especially one as demanding as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Everyone reading this should understand at a deep level that this is a huge challenge.
I had a different career, and thus the luxury of being able to immerse myself in Jiu Jitsu exclusively for quite a few years. As a result, I was fortunate enough to be awarded a black belt in Jiu Jitsu by Anthony Lange in late 2013.
I still made it to the Red Boat Wing Chun Academy every now and then, with some significant breaks. Life is what happens when we have made other plans, as John Lennon said.
Last Thursday, and not for the first time, I taught a lunchtime BJJ class in which Rick Spain was an avid student. A privilege and an honour, every time.
Then, on Sunday, John Will was at the Kwoon in Redfern to present one of our regular seminars, and presented Rick Spain with his BJJ black belt.
Presentation and speeches by John And Sifu
This is a great thing for Rick Spain and the Red Boat organisation. While we were always super legit, this takes it to yet another level.
8th Degree Karate Black Belt and BJJ Black Belt Hanshi George Adams, Rick Spain, and myself
(L to R)
I have been proud to have been on this Jiu Jitsu journey with you right from the start, Sifu, and I owe that start to you. I am confident that Jiu Jitsu at the Red Boat Academy will go on and on to greater and greater things.
Rick Spain speaks
Another milestone on an endless highway, but a pretty damn significant milestone.
Peace, Love, Jiu Jitsu.
John Will's autobiography - in three parts:
John Will's seminar schedule. Get on board with one of the best Jiu Jitsu coaches on the planet.