This month's profile is that of 36 year old Leon Corbett of Ngati Whakaue and Te Roro o te Rangi. A BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) practitioner and trainer for the past five years, Leon been helping to improve the lives of many within our community. He was the first to bring the sport to Rotorua in 2010 with his gym Spartans BJJ. As an increasingly popular sport there are now 5 gyms across town teaching it. Marisa Balle caught up with him to find out just what it is that makes this sport so appealing.
What sparked your interest in this sport?
I got into BJJ after watching an old vhs tape of the early vale tudo fights (nhb no holds barred) matches that were gaining popularity in the States and this fighter was taking people down and beating these monsters that outweighed him by as much as 30 kgs, he was making it look easy. I was hooked. I'd seen boxing, kick boxing etc but what he was doing I'd never seen before. After that I had to find out what it was he was doing.
How does BJJ help to improve lives?
Martial arts, sports in general, improves the lives of not only the individual training, but
everyone else involved in their lives as well. Dedication, perseverance, loyalty, honesty,
integrity and many other words describe what it is to train jiu jitsu. It's not just an art
it becomes a way of life. Talk to anyone that's done it and fallen in love with it, they can't
imagine not having it in their lives.
There are many many stories to share about howBJJ has changed many of the boys lives I train with, small successes, like weight loss, learning new skills gaining more confidence happen on a regular occasion. One story in particular stands out. I sent a group on a punishment run to sprint to the top of a hill, three went up four came back, they found a mate walking at the top wondering what they were up to who decided to follow and ever looked back. He was my first ever blue belt promoted under me, and one of my proudest successes. From being a daily drinker, in trouble with the cops, a sadly typical story we hear too often, he turned it all around because he found something in jiu jitsu that spoke to him.
One of our fiercest competitors and biggest supporters, he moved out of Rotorua found a job in Australia and is living a happy life raising his kids and being an awesome dad. Joel Rameka you are an inspiration "All day brother".
What have been the highlights of running your gym?
Too numerous to count, I think the little successes mean the most but receive the least recognition just seeing the dedication displayed by the team week after week, BJJ is a long journey and not everyone makes it. Seeing our members from the original opening still around and training is inspiring, being around since the opening through various hardships and trials, as well as the teams many competition victories around the country. Specific ones are Riini Apo getting bronze in the World Amateur Competition in Las Vegas, and SamBosech becoming the NZ no gi champ for his division.
What advice do you have for those considering BJJ?
Just getting out there, have an open mind, a positive attitude and a determination to succeed. We can provide the skills you've got to bring the rest. Training is about consistency, small hard fought gains, little successes to grow on, and remain positive. We're all human, forgive the lapses and get right back on the grind. Find a gym that suits you, you've got to gel with the people you train with, youmay be seeing them for some time, and ask questions, ask, you'll never know if you don't ask and we can't help unless you do.
What is your vison for Spartans BJJ?
Our clubs' vision is the promotion of BJJ amongst the community, for its great health benefits to the self defence applications, to educate and share our skills with everyone wanting to learn, and just have fun, you've gotta love it if you're going to pursue it. Train hard people. Ossssssss