Thursday, 20 March 2014

Twelve Gruelling Hours To Do Some Good

I don't know anyone who has not in some way been personally effected by the cruel hand that cancer indiscriminately deals. Directly or indirectly the "Big C" has touched everyone of our lives causing emotions and feelings ranging from pity for a victim and their family you may have known vaguely, to the unbelievable grief and devastation that losing a loved one can hammer you down with.

Advances in medical science are increasing the chances of prolonged life and increasingly, total recovery, for many victims is absolutely achievable. Without doubt though the ultimate aim is to totally eradicate all forms of Cancer. The constant battle for the scientists slowly but surely doing the incredible research towards this dream goal is, as always, COLD....HARD....CASH!

On May 25th 2014 The MAT Academy is holding a Twelve Hour Marathon Grapple and our ladies class are going to hold a Twelve Hour Marathon Pad Bash to help The Farmers Arms 2014 Appeal to raise money for research into one of the biggest killer diseases in Britain, Bowel Cancer.

Make no bones about it this is a massive and gruelling undertaking with the aim to have people rolling or punching for the whole twelve hours working in relay or rounds. I know there are are a couple of the guys who want to roll for the entire twelve hours. GO FOR IT!!

Participation will cost of £20 or more which you can just pay up front or raise in sponsorship. Those of you who don't want to do the twelve hours can come along any time of the day to roll or hit pads as long as you donate the £10 to the fund.

As well as participants, we will need a whole bunch of volunteers to make teas, coffees, run down the shop for food and boost morale to keep us going when we'll want to give up.

If any businesses, shop owners or individuals want to help out with Food, Water or cash donations we would be hugely grateful.

If there is a sports masseuse or chiropractor that would like to offer their services for the day you would be more than welcome... AHEM! Sari Botros, Richard Hughes and Andrew Thomas are you listening!!

Any first aiders or medics that would like to volunteer their time  would also be welcome as I envisage an injury or two.

A small marquee is required for participants to store their bags and for our volunteer medic and body rubbers to set up in. Does anybody know of anyone that can provide this?

More details of this marathon fundraising event will be posted over the next few weeks. Sponsorship forms are available at The MAT Academy.

So come on guys, on Sunday May 25th from 7am to 7pm lets spend twelve gruelling hours doin something we all love to do good and raise a big lump of cash for Cancer Research.

Right then, the following is a BLOG I wrote around three years ago following the devastating loss of my beautiful  big sister Lee to bowel cancer. Thousands of individuals and their families suffer the fallout of a Cancer diagnosis every day. Let's do our bit to try and end this kind of heartache.

The Hopeful Hypocrite

God: Someone I was made to sing about in school - Kills indiscriminately.

Allah: Similar to God. Terrorists seem to really like him.

Jesus Christ: Relative of God. I was made to sing about him in school as well. In December his songs heralded the coming of Santa Claus.

Buddha: Happy little fat dude. His followers are kick-ass martial artists.

If I've offended any of you with the above.....Get over it! Look...I understand that belief in religion brings great comfort and gives true meaning to life and death for millions of people throughout the world. Let's face it; they burn incense and chant, ring bells and hold extravagant festivals, mutilate the genitals of children and sacrifice countless lives waging wars and committing horrific acts of terrorism with a huge human cost.... So yeah, I absolutely understand and should bloody well hope that for them, religion is of huge importance and significance!

As retarded as I feel religion is, I am not, as you may have concluded, some Muslimophobic, Christian bashing, Richard Dawkins wannabe.Far from it and if I may say so, taking the further liberty of blasphemy, "God forbid!" I just really need to vent some timely frustration and anger at any omnipresent all powerful One/Many that may be eaves dropping on my thoughts, should He...She...It...They... exist. I also want to make it crystal it clear that I've always considered myself an atheist.

Truth be told, I've always had a fascination with the world's religions and have wasted many an hour scouring the documentary channels absorbed in tales of miracles and messiahs and prophets and apostles. The unequivocal truth of the Bible is that its the greatest story book ever written and lets face it, it must be. Look at all the movie spin-offs! With stories of unbelievable violence and sex, torture and sex, insanity and incest (isn't that sex?), it's a scriptwriters wet dream.

Being a Karateka I've developed a passing interest in the Asian and Japanese religions of Buddhism, Shinto and Taoism, as many of their peaceful, pagan beliefs are entwined throughout the philosophies of many Karate Masters. Buddhism holds most appeal to me with its "Five Promises" to

  1. Not harm a living thing
  2. Never steal
  3. Not be greedy
  4. Not to use drugs
  5. Not to drink alcohol
These are are at least achievable compared to the demands of other, more "mainstream" beliefs, though one of these promises is just too much to ask. I do do enjoy an ice cold Bohemian style beer.

So there we have it. I have clearly made the point that I have no faith in any religion or belief system and am therefore Atheist.

Peculiar then that when tragedy came barging its way through my family's door I'd very often catch myself saying a prayer or hoping for a miracle. I'd hold whole conversations with, I don't know who, perhaps one or all of the guys holding the top position in one of the beliefs mentioned above.  It mattered not to me which deity gave response, be it Muslim, Hebrew, Christian or Voodoo. I decided to keep all options open and realising that desperate times often require desperate measures, I exercised my right to a little hopeful hypocrisy.

Alas and as expected all my wishes, prayers and blood sacrifices were in vain.

By the time a correct diagnosis was made it was already too late for Lee. She knew it and tried to keep it hidden behind a mask of unbelievable bravery and courage. I could see it in her eyes from the start though; she knew it was just a matter of time.

Whilst those of us closest to her frantically rallied about treading on egg shells, avoiding any talk of the inevitable and doing our very best to maintain a positive outlook, I swear that quite incredibly, she was doing exactly the same for us. Determined to be with her children for as long as possible and with an often strained but always stunning smile, she fought to keep the family pecker up.Suffering months of chemotherapy and painful trial treatments she stalled the growing blackness within her for as long as she possibly could.

I am convinced that Lee eked out as many precious moments as she could from what remained of her cruelly shortened existence so that we, her family and her children, could properly prepare for the fact that she would soon be gone. Christmas 2009 at my little sister's house was to be Lee's last and the greatest family Christmas I can remember.Her last birthday spent at Velindre Cancer hospital was a bitter-sweet affair, bringing together a family gathering rarely seen and creating an eternally precious memory for those of us there.

"Only the good die young". Is that phrase from a book or a film? I don't know but in Lee's case it's spot on.Today June 27th 2010 is my sisters forty-ninth birthday and in a around a month's time it will be the first anniversary of her death at the hands of cancer. Cancer....Cancer!.....CANCER!! This cruel, undiscerning, indiscriminate, evil fucking bastard of a disease has nothing short of ravaged our and countless other families of their loved ones for far too long!!!

Now I won't spew the usual post-mortem rhetoric of what a fine, upstanding, wonderful and beautiful person my older sister was because unless you knew her it's meaningless. And hey! Let's be honest here, we've all been to funerals of people of shall we say, "colourful character", where the eulogies have been so gushing and shining that you have to check you're at the right one.

So instead, think of it this way. Lee was no more ordinary or extraordinary, nor more happy or sad, no more good or bad, and no more special and precious than your sister, brother, father or mother is to you. Lee was a human being and like all of our species she had a multitude of faults, had made many mistakes in her life and wasn't perfect by a long chalk.

To the wider world then, there was nothing special about Lee at all but; to her children she was a mother and therefore irreplaceable; to my parents she was their daughter and first-born, therefore precious beyond belief; to me and Samantha she was our big sister who we thought would always be there and to the rest of the family she was simply "Our Lee"....... Now she's gone forever.

Or has she? You see in the year since her death, Lee has become a grandmother to Ruby-Lee and an Aunt to Samantha's second baby, Mathilde. If I were a religious person, I would perhaps believe that a part of Lee is reincarnated within our two new additions and that divinity has granted her soul the right of transmigration into them. If I just had some kind of faith I would have the comfort of knowing for sure that she's up there somewhere in Heaven, Nirvana or even Valhalla watching their backs, standing proudly behind them with a guardian angel's protective hand on their tiny vulnerable shoulders. Hmm... I like that idea so I'll exercise a little more of that hopeful hypocrisy, if you don't mind.

But of course a part of Lee is in them and I don't need faith to believe or prove it. They of are of the same fine stock, same blood, they're family. Inevitably there have been times when a certain look or mannerism, smile or sound of laughter, frown or gesture brings Lee right back into the room with us and we will knowingly share a glad/sad smile or glance.

Now Lee wasn't a religious person either but she was however, spiritual, well read and I think she would have liked this:

Lee had made plans for her own funeral and the music she chose for her final farewell was Starlight by Muse, which combined with my contemplation and questioning of her death, religion and everything, went and triggered a line of thought concerning the possibility of re-incarnation and a possible after-life.

Bear with me, I haven't lost the plot!

A scientific fact is that all the matter in the universe including us is born of stars. When large stars come to the end of their lives and go super-nova, the shear scale, beauty and violence of the biggest explosions in the universe create all matter needed for the creation of everything and on extremely rare occasions, of which only one is known....LIFE.

Sometime in the distant future our local star, the sun, is going to expand, engulf the planets, then explode, obliterating the solar system including our little planet and blasting the remnants out into the cosmos. Amongst that debris will be the remains of the entire human race. Millennia after millennia of human matter that the planet has absorbed through wars, disease and nature's cycle will be cast out into the endless depths of space to be collected into massive clouds of cosmic dust or nebulae which are the birth places and nurseries of young stars and star systems.

Through this process we could all one day be reincarnated in some form or another...though recycled is perhaps a more accurate description.Billions of years into the future, you could be: a particle of gas, a molecule of water, a bug, a leaf, a little green man or even the briefest moment of intense energy as a new star bursts into life. If this is possible, who's to say we can't be human again, or even ourselves again. Life caught in an infinite cycle of creation, destruction and recreation.

So don't don't sweat the small stuff because if you can't get everything done today, you can do it in a billion years or so.

Apologies for veering off on a tangent but it was just a thought for those of us without the delusion....sorry....comfort, of faith. However, I would suggest that in desperate times when all other options appear to have failed and just in case there is an omnipresent, all benevolent One controlling our destinies, you should do as I did and; make a little wish, drone out a Buddhist chant, say a little prayer and exercise your right to a little hopeful hypocrisy.

"Far away, this ship has taken me far away, far away from the memories of the people who care if I live or die" Muse Starlight

Great song but inappropriate lyric really because you're always in our thoughts sis xxx

A final and very, very, very important point for all of you. Lee suffered with stomach pain and other symptoms for three years and was fobbed off by G.P.'s and hospitals for all that time with treatment for stomach ulcers. The correct diagnosis was only finally made when my mother refused to leave a hospital with Lee until they did more extensive tests but by then it was too late. THREE YEARS!!!

No one knows your body like you do. If you have the slightest doubt about your health, insist on blood-works and make your G.P. listen. It could save your life and your family untold grief and heart-break.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Fancy A Quickie?

Just a quickie guys...Sometimes it's nice to have a quickie don't you think?

You know how fond I am of blowing the trumpet of The MAT Academy and its awesome coaching staff all the time.Well from time to time it's a welcome change for one of our members to do it for us. Especially a relatively new member coming from a solid martial arts background with a true perspective of how The MAT Academy compares to other MMA schools out there in the big wide world.

This Facebook post from Oli Cole on 22nd January 2014 truly warmed the cockles of my heart and put a smile on my face. Cheers Oli fella. Keep Blowing.....HARD!

I first started training with The MAT Academy Wales post injury, As a result my conditioning was poor, my form was sloppy and my confidence was low. Despite coming from a rival BJJ affiliation i was welcomed into the club almost immediately. The 1st thing i noticed was a great atmosphere and slightly warped sense of humour, 2nd was the top class instruction and 3rd was the ferocity that gets brought into every training session. As a result I'm feeling fitter, sharper and more confident than ever before. Big shout out to all my coaches Lew LongAndy O'BrienRob TaylorArash Shojaei and Joey Brincat. Osss

Look out for my next main BLOG in a week or so..... Bit of a Rant!!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013


I'm in no way different to many of you out there in that' since the beginning of December, I've gradually been eating more and more of the most deliciously sugary, silky rich, fabulously fattening, heart-attack-in-a-pack foods. I've been drinking more and more wonderfully rich, "hoppy" ales, downing famously wife-beating, argument inducing lagers and ciders, whilst experimenting with unimaginably vile tasting, liver enlarging alcoholic concoctions I would never, EVER dream of drinking at any other time. I've been socialising more and more and more thereby spending a stupefying amount of cash on this orgy of self-abuse!

And you know what? I've enjoyed every cake munching, chocolate gorging, booze slurping stupidly slurring minute of it.

After all, this annual spike in gastronomic activity can absolutely be justified by simply spouting that guilt-freeing and immortal phrase -
              "Ahh go on!....It's Christmas!!!" And why not? Don't we all train hard five or six days a week and eat a healthy and nutritious diet for the other eleven months in the year? Shouldn't we be allowed to abstain from the healthy and wholesome and indulge in the depraved and decadent for just a little while?

Oh! What was that? You don't ALL train hard and eat properly for the rest of year!! I'm shocked! (Just a slight hint of sarcasm). Well maybe that's where we may differ just a little then.

With New Year's Eve 2013 just three days away at the time of writing, there are millions of people, including some of you reading this, already resolving to make 2014 the year that they lose "X" amount of weight, get super fit, earn more money, stop listening to bloody awful dance music and drop the crack habit. Money, music and drug preferences aside, let's look at getting into shape and the inevitable search for the appropriate gym, miracle diets and supplements.

By now you've done extensive research - #GOOGLED - and found the perfect diet for you. Yep! (these are all real by the way), the Acai, Cabbage Soup, Liquid Only, Purple, Tapeworm Diet is your guaranteed quick and easy way to the perfect body. Others amongst you will be duped by knowledgeable sounding "Nutritional Experts" / RODENTS from "GerbilLife" and the like into wasting inordinate amounts of your hard earned cash buying their cleverly branded and by and large completely useless miracle supplements.

As soon as the new year arrives you're going make the annual pilgrimage along with thousands of other "best-intentioners", to join an awesomely equipped, sexily lit, air-conditioned gym, incessantly blasting mind-numbing, perfect-for-the-excitement-of-the-treadmill...... DANCE MUSIC!!!. Then when you've actually made the commitment and signed on the dotted line, the only thing that gets lighter is your bank account as the monthly fee with a six month tie-in period drains from your account, whilst you continue to tell yourself..... 'I'll start tomorrow'.

Those that actually ever make the effort and get to the gym will be inducted by orange skinned, Glo-White toothed, super-toned and amazingly qualified staff. Usually fresh out of college, with hardly any real coaching knowledge or experience this Dale Winton/Katie Price double will also try to convince you that the vast array of: protein powders, amino-acids, fat-burners, pre-workout, post-workout, pre-bedtime, as-soon-as-you-get-up-in-the-morning potions, are the secret to their shape-success........ Ooh hang on....I can feel a sneeze coming...ah ah AH AHH AHHhhhhBULLSHIT!!!

And what of the ten percent of you that actually stick to your specially personalised, nay, "bespoke" training program and reach your set goals? What then? New goals of course! Your new personalised....SORRY.... "bespoke" training program will tell you to: run a little bit further and do it a little bit faster, lift a little bit more, get a little bit bigger or smaller, spend another small fortune on supplements whilst you grow more and more orange by the day. Or will you simply be content that you've achieved that which you set out to do and then little by little slip back into your old habits until, eventually and inevitably, you're back to square one.

Okay, I may have been a little bit harsh on gyms there (but not on GerbilLife). There are some fantastic gyms out there with incredible equipment and wonderful staff.

But let's face it here, the majority of you heading for that gym on the 2nd January 2014 are just going to waste a heap of money and just after blowing ridiculous amounts of cash on Christmas. So please allow me to suggest an alternative way to stay fit, healthy and active long into your grey years. If you're already in your grey years and getting a little hard of hearing - THIS STILL APPLIES TO YOU SO KEEP READING!

First of all, don't go wasting hundreds of pounds of your hard earned cash on absolutely pointless supplements. Use that money to go out regularly and buy good, clean, wholesome, fresh foods..... LOADS OF IT!! Vegetables, lean meats, nuts, delicious fruits and berries are available all year round and at very reasonable prices if you take the time to look around. The added bonus of eating clean is that you can eat MORE and still lose weight provided you're willing to take the twenty or so minutes it takes to prepare a decent meal. Anyone that says buying fresh wholesome food is expensive or gives you the 'Who has time to cook these days' line, is talking complete and utter rubbish, is plain lazy or may have the ulterior motive of being a GerbilLife salesman or gym proprietor.

There is one caveat to my views on supplements:
             They can be a great source of vital nutrients for the poorly and when you simply cannot fit a decent meal in to a part of your day.

When it comes to exercise, if you are one of those people who enjoy running, lifting, pedalling, pulling etc. and your aim is to constantly improve on times, lifts and repetitions, well, all power to you. I do all those things as well and to a certain extent enjoy it. However, my main reason for doing all those things has always been to supplement my main pass-time of Karate and Martial Arts which, in 2014 I will have been practising for a total of forty three years. Forty Three Years! If I stay fit and continue to train to at least my Dad's age, who by the way, at seventy five years old is still training hard in Karate, I will have been practising Martial Arts for seventy one years!! I could potentially be training into my eighties giving me a Martial Arts career spanning over eight decades!!!

And here is my point - I'm still learning every day. My father, considered by many a master of his art, after over half a century doing it, is still learning every day. Be it Karate, Muay Thai, BJJ or Wrestling; every day each Martial Art I practice, brings to light something about the other that I didn't see before, constantly stimulating and exercising my mind as well as my body. I just cannot think of another sport or physical activity that continually evolves as much as, or allows anybody, no matter their body type or age, to remain fit, healthy and active literally for life as the Martial Arts does.

I know many of you reading this have passed by a dojo door or window, peered in and thought about having a go but have then made all the usual excuses  about being too old, feeling stupid or just being too afraid to enquire. You have to remember that everyone you can see through that dojo window was exactly the same as you when they first started. In a good club, everyone through that dojo window wants you to come in, enjoy and improve yourself and everyone through that dojo window will help you to achieve that improvement and bring that enjoyment.

So on the 31st. December, when you make your New Years resolution to lose weight, to get fitter and to get healthier. Resolve to make a change that will last a lifetime and not just a few months. Make your New Years Resolution to make a start in Martial Arts.

Oh by the way! If you're not sure where to go to get started, I just happen to know a cracking little place in Pontypridd, South Wales with the best coaching team EVER assembled called The MAT Academy Wales.... GIVE US A CALL! 07805 791260 / 07794 644415

Monday, 23 December 2013

2013 MAT Review: A Little Bit of Trumpet Blowing at Christmas

Strange that, even though each passing year seems to fly by at lightning speed, when you sit down and try to recall events that were important to you, it's almost impossible to recollect them all correctly. Either you cannot remember them in the order they happened; or they seem to have occurred much longer ago than during the preceding 12 month period; or events from previous years encroach, invade and only serve to confuse recent memory further; or you just draw a complete and utter blank. However, I was quietly confident that I had a pretty good handle on things, so this morning, armed with trusty notepad and pencil I scribbled down the heading, "MAT 2013", confident that the year just about to expire would come flooding back to me with crystal clarity and flow onto paper like the waters of the proverbial fountain of knowledge........................

WRONGOHhh!!! Forty-five painfully long minutes later, all I had managed to put to paper was said heading - at least twenty more times - a few keywords and names intended to trigger memory and some childishly doodled boobs, random scribbles and perfectly spelled profanities. WHAT GIVES?!!! Realisation dawned. So much has happened in 2013, both at The MAT and in my personal life, that remembering all the highs and lows, turmoil and calm with chronological accuracy was going to be a far more difficult task than I first thought.

Time for coffee! For in Andy's world, with coffee, comes a really terrific buzz! Yeah man, coffee clears the fog and makes all things GOOooood with the world. So another forty-five minutes and three coffees later, not that instant rubbish mind you but, as Tarantino penned, 'some real gourmet shit!', it dawned on me that we keep a diary at the gym recording everything that happens there on a day to day basis. With me and Lew being such sticklers for accurate record keeping...................... Stopped laughing yet? As I was saying..... With me and Lew being such sticklers for accurate record keeping, everything I needed to complete this review would already be written down, so off to The MAT I went to collect our trusty diary.

With a fresh cup of "real gourmet shit" in hand, I settled down and starting to browse the year that was. Turning through the pages for January 2013 I found.....Nothing. Okay the weather must have been bad. Let's have a look at February 2013 then, bound to be something there....Oops! Must have been a worse winter than I could recall......

Then I turned to March and POW!!! What would seem to be a normal everyday Personal Training booking to anyone else was, I realised, the most significant moment of my year, probably my life! And I smiled.....

Anyway, after what was evidently, according to my and Lew's impeccable diary entries, a very quiet start to the year, things certainly began to pick up. Both myself and Lewis found ourselves up the wall with personal training clients all eager to fulfil their New Year's resolutions of: quitting smoking and drinking, getting fitter and losing all the excess "sluggage" gained throughout the Christmas festivities. Most, unfortunately but inevitably, fell by the way side, whilst the dedicated few stuck to their guns and made fantastic fitness gains or weight losses,with a few finding a new passion in the fighting arts. One notable client in particular, whom I'll come back to later, went on to achieve something he would never have dreamed when he started training with us.

Now then, we've always been been very proud and very vocal about the fact that despite being a very small club the quality of coaching at The MAT is absolutely second to none. Now for the first year that was pretty much me and Lew blowing the living hell out of our own trumpets and giving our BJJ coach, Rob Taylor's a hefty old blast as well. And why not?! We are as a matter of fact bloody good coaches. In 2013 though a couple of additions to our coaching staff absolutely confirmed that The MAT Academy was going places and would have a profound effect on our coaching, Lew's skill levels and absolutely confirmed our little dojo as THE place to train for MMA and individual arts throughout Cardiff and the valleys at least. Wow! Just call me Louis Armstrong eh!

In January, top Boxing coach and former WBU World Middleweight Champion, Gary "The Rocket" Locket, temporarily moved his team, including Gavin Rees and Enzo Maccarinelli down to The MAT while he waited for his new premises in Cardiff to be completed. Taking full of advantage of this opportunity we asked Gary if he could take the odd class for us and Lewis started having private sessions with the master. Recognising the talent that Lewis possesses, Gary very soon invited "The Foot" to put his hands to good use as a sparring partner for some of his contenders. This had a double effect on our club, giving Lew some top class sparring experience  whilst giving some of our guys a most welcome break from Lew's attentions and just a little satisfaction in seeing him on the receiving end of a punch or two for a change.

Lew's Thai coach, Joey Brincat, a former British Number 2 and Lupini Stadium fighter started delivering regular Muay Thai sessions taking the skill levels of not only Lewis but all of our Thai Class attendees to another level. Joey has got to be the most laid back and unassuming martial artist I've ever seen and is pretty much the same when sparring, but when it comes to the "Three T's" of Technique, Tactics and Timing, Joey is "The Man" and you just find yourself hitting thin air and your face and body feeling the sting of shin and leather!!!

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has really taken off at the MAT with many of our guys now rolling and competing at a very decent level. So much so that we are now attracting good level practitioners from many other clubs that enjoy the aggressive rolling style and great atmosphere at The MAT. Of course this is largely due to our main BJJ coach Rob Taylor but the introduction of our Open MAT session and the popularity of its coach, our very Wayne "Silverback" Samways has also had an extremely positive impact on BJJ at the club.
Both myself and Lewis cannot thank the big guy enough for his efforts and input throughout not only 2013 but since we opened our doors.

The final piece in our club coaching puzzle was to bring in Welsh National Wrestling Coach, Arash Shojaei. Now don't be mislead when you meet this extremely likeable, constantly smiling little Iranian dude with the the endearing lisp. He is an absolute animal! Built like a gymnast with explosive speed, power and incredible skills, he delivers fierce Wrestling sessions that have vastly improved the grappling game and stamina of everyone in the club and whether you like it or not you're going to receive some heavy impact conditioning in with the bargain.

To further boost the prowess of this incredible coaching team....I know what you're thinking.... How could the awesomeness of our coaches get any more awesome!...Yeah? Well listen to this. In August our very own "Obi Wan" of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Rob Taylor received his, in my humble opinion, long overdue Kuro Obi (black belt) from Braulio Estima, giving him the distinction of being only the second Welsh Gracie Barra black belt, along with his instructor Chris Rees. See! Even more awesomeness!! 

So with this AWESOME coaching team in place, who better to display the complete skill set delivered by them than our very own Lewis "The Foot" Long. Lewis was scheduled to have three fights on the excellent Cage Warriors promotion in 2013, the first being CWFC 54 in Cardiff on (to Rob Taylor's shear delight), Star Wars Day, May 4th. against the highly regarded Mark Glover. The second on CWFC 57 on 20th. July in Liverpool and the third on September 14th back in Cardiff against the extremely tough and experienced Tommy Maguire.

The first match couldn't have gone any better with Lewis overwhelming Glover with a Thai master-class, winning by unanimous decision and giving the fight scene a wake up call.

After what had been a pretty perfect fight camp, tragedy struck when, just two weeks out from the second fight in Liverpool, Lew cut his eye wide open during a Wrestling session with Arash and had to withdraw. Not letting this get him down we just cracked on with fight camp number three and began preparation for the Ginger Gypsy.

A small dedicated band of us still made the long arduous journey up to Liverpool for CWFC 57. All I can say is.... It was emotional! Is drunk an emotion?

As expected, the match against Maguire was a much, much tougher affair. This perfectly matched fight could have gone either way with both guys landing big shots but unfortunately for Lewis he got caught in a Gypsy Jiu Jitsu style guillotine choke mid way through the third round to lose by submission.

With no more MMA fights lined up for 2013, Lewis immediately set his sights on a new goal. That of getting as fat as possible, becoming a budding alcoholic and prolific gamer. Unfortunately, his ambitions were quickly halted when he once again pulled on the "Angry White Pyjamas" and black pyjamas and blue pyjamas and threw himself headlong into BJJ for the remainder of the year. By December he had won Gold in The British NoGi Championship fighting in the Purple Belt division whilst still a Blue Belt; Bronze in the extremely tough English Open at Blue Belt and finally a Gold at the Hereford Open in November where Rob Taylor immediately awarded him his well deserved Purple Belt. Blue Belts around the country were heard to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Time for the purple belt division to feel the horrific shoulder pressure that the evil little b**t**d relishes in delivering to the rest of us.

With his skill levels on a continuing upward trend, his coaching skills in increasing demand and at least three more fights on Cage Warriors and a whole bunch of BJJ competitions lined up, 2014 looks like its going to be another busy but brilliant year for Lew.

The middle of 2013 was a pretty tough time for The MAT. With many people taking advantage of the fantastic summer this year, numbers dwindled and just for a while there, I really thought we'd have to shut up shop as overheads weren't able to be met. The weather may have been glorious but unless something was done fast, the outlook for The MAT was looking decidedly gloomy indeed. A good old brainstorming session was needed. Ideas for new classes, events or functions had to be found ..PRONTO!

Perhaps we could diversify and utilise the building as: A brothel?A Crack House? Or for Naked Mud Wrestling? What about Lap Dancing, underground unlicensed fights or even Death Matches? All were put on the table, discussed, but alas, eventually dismissed. After all none of them had worked for us previously so something even more drastic was going to have to be implemented. What on earth could be more drastic than opening a crack house? I hear you say. Well, and I still can't believe I did it and still do it to this day....... From July, I started to creep out of the house at five o'clock every morning to deliver early-bird Warrior Bootcamp sessions to the ever so slightly insane social outcasts that actually enjoy training at this godforsaken hour!!

Oh! Before I continue with Warrior Bootcamp, I'd like to say a massive THANK YOU to AXA Insurance who, on the request of my then PT client, Dione Smith, sent their Bristol office team along  in July to paint our building as part of their Hearts in Action initiative. For a few bacon sandwiches, tea, coffee and a lot of Stella Artois they, begged, borrowed and, being an insurance company, more than likely stole, everything needed to brighten up the building.

Alrighty then, where was I? Ah yes! As it turned out, Warrior Bootcamps have been one of the major successes of 2013. Every Bootcamper makes a  financial and sleep-depraving commitment at the beginning of each camp to turn up at 6am daily and go through as horrific a session as I can dream up. I'm proud to say that every single one of them, mental though they may be, has made huge strength and conditioning gains and those who have wanted to lose weight have all done so. On the same weekend in November, two of our Bootcampers proved to themselves and to everyone else how much can be achieved when positive mental thinking and an unflinching training ethic is instilled and implemented. Oh! And the importance of high quality, incredibly motivational coaching of course! (toot-toot).

On November 15th, Jon Roberts, the PT client alluded to at the beginning of this article, participated in a charity White Collar Boxing event at the Vale Hotel winning his fight within two minutes of the first round with the first knock-out ever seen at this event! Jon's first visit to The MAT was on a bitterly cold February night to share a Personal Training session with his partner. Now this is a guy who had never dreamt of pulling on a pair of gloves other than to keep his hands warm but, after a few rounds on the focus pads, it was evident that he had some natural talent and Jon became hooked on boxing training. Within just a few weeks Jon had started having a crack at sparring and once the initial shock and fear of being punched in the face and body by both Lewis and myself had been overcome there was no holding him back. Only one question remains.......Will Jon fight again? Watch this space.

Jon became one of the first to sign up for Bootcamp along with a talented young girl that he became quite fond of.. .......punching......hard!

Now that may at first imply that Jon was some kind of female thumping bully. Far from it, as I can tell you from experience and having sported a beautiful black eye or two as proof that if you take it even a little bit easy on one Anya Baker, she will quickly take full and brutal advantage of it. This attractive, extremely talented girl with the Lara Croft pony tail, possesses the cheek of the devil, punches with incredible power and can kick like a cranky kangaroo.
What Anya did lack massively however, was self-belief and confidence in her own ability and it took a long time to instil it. In fact it was only two weeks before her fight on November 16th against the very tough Zoe Card that I actually saw that self-belief shine through. On the night, her performance exuded confidence and she completely dominated in an absolute gem of a scrap to win by split decision, granting me one of the most satisfying moments of my coaching career so far.With some technical fine tuning, this girl could really go places.

To cap off this extremely busy weekend, a small team of us took part in the Movember 10k race on Sunday 17th November. Sporting finely groomed moustaches, and that's just the girls: Myself, Lewis, Martyn Meyers, Dione and Jenny spent a wonderful hour or so belting around Bute Park..... Nah! Let's be honest here....It sucked ass! However, it was for an extremely worthy cause and hopefully a bigger team will enter next time.

For December we laid on a two week, late evening, Ladies Only Pre-Christmas Bootcamp, which also turned out to be a huge success. The girls attending all saw a huge difference in there body shapes in just the ten days training and all of them have signed up for a post-Christmas, Detox Bootcamp and have vowed to continue their training at as many of our morning and evening regular ladies classes as possible.

As well as the Bootcamps, Wayne and in particular Lewis, have been laying on both regular and ad hoc wrestling, BJJ and sparring sessions during weekdays which have turned out to be far more popular than anyone expected. Don't any of you guys work or what?!!

If there is an aspect of our timetable that I would say has slightly disappointed me, it would have to be our Junior Class section. Karate as always seems to be very popular, particularly with parents looking for a means for their children to gain discipline and learn respect. For some reason though BJJ and Thai seem to hold some sort of mysterious fear for them. Didn't we all wrestle as kids, that's pretty much what BJJ for kids is but in a controlled and safe environment with one of the very best instructors in the country. I teach junior Thai with the same rules of discipline I use in my karate classes and the kids that attend absolutely love all the pad work.

So come on parents!! In 2014 get your kids out from in front of the TV, haul them up to The MAT and let them try every class we offer.

Not all of the arts may be for your little Jonny or Jenny but more often than not they will find one they enjoy and get a lifetime of learning, enjoyment and good health from.

So, there it is. With an amazing team effort from all of our incredible coaches and fantastic membership we have managed to struggle through some pretty hard times this year and things are now looking amazingly healthy for 2014.

More and more of our guys are out there competing on the inter club scene and particularly on the BJJ circuit. Lewis, Jason Gardener, Brad Short and young Luke Thomas have all medalled at tournaments with many others knocking on the door of the "shiny-shiny". Even I, at 47 years of age, answering a challenge thrown down by Rob Taylor, have started competing and am loving it. To feel the adrenalin rush and nerves of taking to the competition mat was something I thought was long behind me.

As a result of this exposure more and more people are hearing word of the The MAT Academy. From kids and adults just looking for a different way to keep fit; to professional fighters looking to expand their skills to a level they previously thought unattainable. Rumour of the top quality coaching team and friendly atmosphere of the little Martial Arts Dojo in Pontypridd has spread far and wide in 2013 and believe me when I say that 2014 and beyond is going to get better and better.

Alright! I'm putting down the trumpet now......

If for some reason I've missed anything out of this review that you feel should have been mentioned, I apologise. Just blame it on the diary or our impeccable record keeping, then pop a little note in the comment box. Take a leaf out of my book and do a little "trumpet blowing" for yourself and for The MAT.

On a personal note. It has been a pretty tumultuous year for me also, having to end a failing relationship and loosing a good friend in the process was extremely tough. Now us Martial Artists are a funny bunch in that the only way we can show gratitude and affection for each other is with a firm handshake, the obligatory back-slapping man-hug or by kicking the be-Jesus out of each other. Words are rarely exchanged other than the occasional 'Cheers mate' or friendly exchange of profanities and matriarchal insults. So this is my opportunity to say thank you to my family and friends for all their understanding, help and support throughout the year.

In particular though, I have to blow a big sloppy kiss to Lewis Long who gave me a place to crash, someone to talk to and it has to be said, fed me well, and without him things could have been a whole lot worse for me. So Lew, from the bottom of my heart, 'Cheers ya twat!' No matriarchal insults though....Bette would kill me!

There is a happy ending to this story though. A very good friend became a best friend then a whole lot more and this time next year Lewis and I will be having a Civil Partnership........ JOKING!! 

On 20th December 2014 I will however be getting married to the very good friend who became a best friend and will become my wife. Dione Smith has made what could have been the crappiest year ever into the best of my life so far. Even knowing the ribbing I'm going to suffer for it I'm still going say publicly....

I Love You

 Okay, before Lewis turns up and slaps me, enough of the soppy stuff!! All that it remains for me to say, as this festive time of the year requires is: Have an Incredibly Merry Christmas and a Bloody Brilliant New Year ....Now.......LET'S DRINK!!!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Patience Pays Off

Its been almost two years since the MAT Academy Wales opened its doors for the first time. In those two years we've seen people come, people go, but best of all we've seen a strong core of dedicated members stick to their guns and knuckle down to whatever aspect of training they are interested in; be it BJJ, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Karate or just tough conditioning.

In those two years we've been approached on many, many occasions by fight promoters and competition organisers and other clubs to throw our members into the Cage, on to the competition mat or into inter-clubs and by and large we've declined.

Too many times, in our experience, we've seen promising talent dropped into the lion's den of competitive martial arts too early, only to lose and be completely knocked back, disillusioned and leave the game for good. So, we've bided our time until we were sure certain people were of the right mental attitude, physical and technical ability and were one hundred percent certain it was what they wanted to do before we launched them into the tournament arena.

Today, the 27th October, at the Welsh NoGi BJJ Championships our conviction to ensure our members were ready came to fruition.

Each of our guys performed supremely in their categories and have done The MAT Academy and Chris Rees Academy very proud indeed:

  • Lewis Long - Gold
  • Wayne Samways - Silver in category, Gold in Absolute
  • Carl Hawkes - Silver
  • Jason Gardner - Gold
  • Kristian Marshall -  Medal but fought like a demon.
Thanks are more than due to our awesome coach Rob Taylor who has been the driving force behind the MAT Academy BJJ team for the past two years plus a huge thank you to everyone of our members that turn up and run, jump, punch, kick and roll week in week out ensuring the continuing improvement of all of us. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Wise Words Indeed

In "days of yore" before The MAT Academy opened its doors and phrases that are now common-place throughout the hills and dales of Rhondda Cynon Taf, such as "Snakes" and "Don't touch that Squirrel's nuts!", had not been coined and the now infamous (but very amusing), "Mother" jokes, were safely tucked away in some sick and rancid recess of Wayne Samways mind ;  Andy and Lewis, two fine, dedicated, but extremely naive-in-business martial artists dreamed and schemed towards the day when the doors would open on their very own Mixed Martial Arts studio.

It was going to be the most incredible Mixed Martial Arts Dojo in the kingdom; a full sized boxing ring would be its crowning glory, a cage would allow for gladiatorial battles, a matted area would stretch as far as the eye could see and a wondrous array of punch bags, speed balls, focus pads, kick shields and gloves would would adorn walls fully bedecked with guild-framed mirrors and fill beautifully crafted storage cabinets to capacity. The changing rooms would be the very finest around, turning all other gym owners in the land emerald with envy, crimson with fury... or BOTH!!!

The dream finally seemed to be becoming reality when, in early November 2011, a most fortunate opportunity arose to purchase a goodly sum of mats - although not enough to stretch as far as the eye could see; a boxing ring - though of mere training dimensions; a cage - or sections of one that could be bolted to a wall; and a hotchpotch mixture of foul smelling, mismatching gloves, shin pads and striking equipment; all from a trusty fellow martial artist whose dream of MMA greatness had sadly failed to come to fruition.

So with glad hearts and large loan from the exchequers coffers, our heroes found themselves with a cart-load of equipment in desperate need of storage until premises could be found. After much deliberation Andy remembered an old acquaintance, Mark. A scoundrel by nature but good...ish at heart, Mark owned some land and upon that land did dwell a rather weather-beaten, ramshackle building, no longer in use, that could possibly suffice as a place to store the newly purchased equipment while they searched for the ideal place, in the ideal location where they could finally present to the world the ideal MMA studio.

Surprisingly, asking for nothing in return, Mark agreed that Andy and Lewis could use the building to store the equipment for as long as it took for them to find their permanent MMA palace . With a hand-shake and a somewhat knowing and disconcerting grin, Mark left our two heroes to off-load.

The Winter of 2011 was a harsh one indeed and in more ways than one for Andy and Lewis. All through the Winter-time they had trudged the length and breadth of Rhondda Cynon Taf, scouring the kingdom in search of their ideal location - but to no avail. The combined greed of every landlord they approached and the County Sheriff's unreasonable tax demands meant that it soon became very clear to them that their dreams of a beautiful, palatial MMA studio were soon to be shattered and laid to dust before them. What were our heroes to do? They were at a complete and utter loss, they had hit a brick wall, they had crashed and burned, they had ploughed over their corn but had no means to build it so "people will come", their proverbial pythonesque parrot had ceased to be.

Then, one miserably cold and wet January morning in the year of our lord 2012, our two heroes, sat atop their neatly stacked mats, drinking very good coffee (for on some things they just did not compromise), mournfully surveying their purchase, which seemed to be good for nothing other than catching the rain water that was pouring in from the numerous leaks in the weather-beaten, ramshackle storage unit, were rudely awaken from their mournful situation by the dulcet tones of Mark bursting in through the ill-fitting door of the unit. It's not that Mark meant to burst in but the door had swollen so badly with the rain that the only way to open was to give it a good solid shoulder barge or kick.

(For the sake of decency, I've had to paraphrase Marks actual dialogue)

"Oh You pair of front-bottoms! Get the fornicating coffee on 'en! 'Make love' to me, you two look like some 'mother-lover' has died for fornicatesake!"

(see what I mean?)

With a fresh and extremely good coffee (for there is no compromise on coffee) made, Andy and Lewis proceeded to tell the raucous rapscallion Mark their perilous predicament. (just think of Pilot in Life of Brian and that line is quite funny). Having listened to them surprisingly quietly, Mark came up with the obvious solution. "Why don't you use this building?"

Andy and Lewis looked at each other, looked around at the draughty, dirty, leaking unit, looked back at each other, both shaking their heads then turned to Mark and simultaneously barked,


The price, as it turned out, was a good one, so with some relief and a whole lot of trepidation a deal was struck and with the help of the local village idiot, Simple Tom, they set to work making the old shed at least look presentable which, it has to be said, they managed with some measure of success.After two months of hard work The MAT Academy Wales was ready to open its doors on April 1st 2011.

OK! I've had a laugh here about our journey to finally opening The MAT Academy, but in all seriousness it was a big worry. A relatively large amount of money had to be borrowed and then some. Whilst the inside of the building did look really good, the outside of the building still looked like a neglected hut and the leaks and draughts and electrical problems were all there just waiting to reveal themselves at the most inappropriate times (which they have on many occasions). We had serious doubts about our location and still thought that people would take one look at the outside of the building and make a sharp U-turn.

It was at this time that I spoke to the wise man of Welsh MMA, Richard "Shaky" Shore of Tillery Combat. Having listened to me voice our numerous doubts and worries he simply said,

"Listen Andy, It's not the building that makes a good Dojo. It's the people in it".

Not a wiser word has ever been spoken to me. In two years we have assembled what I believe to be the best coaching team anywhere (see The MAT Academy Coaches ). We have built a core membership of fantastic people, men, women, boys and girls that train regularly and support everything we do, even through the floods and the blackouts. Greenhorn martial artists that walked through our doors in those first few weeks are now competing successfully and bringing back medals and in Lewis we have one of the best professional MMA fighters in Europe. Others not interested in competing, have found a new passion in Martial Arts and together we've all built new friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime and that alone makes everything worthwhile.

Every bit of financial, mental and physical worry that myself and Lewis have endured and are still enduring, pales into significance when you consider the effect this small club has had on the lives of those that have become part of it.

So to all our loyal, members/friends we say thank you and keep training hard so The MAT Academy can continue to go from strength to strength.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

An Impossible Challenge?

I've been training for a long time..... a very, very long time! At almost forty-seven years old I've been training in Shotokan Karate since the age of four, competing in countless tournaments quite successfully and attaining the very senior grade of 6th Dan for my efforts; I played rugby from the age of nine years old to thirty-six years old and proudly represented Wales at Under 19 level, played senior rugby to a decent level and ended my career coaching at Glyncoch RFC.

I've dabbled in or done: Muay Thai, Boxing, Jujutsu, BJJ, Wrestling, Fun runs, Mountain Runs,10k's, Half Marathons, Full Marathons, Circuit Challenges, Cycle races, Outdoor Pursuits, Conkers, Snakes and Ladders and Scrabble...but now...

I'M BORED.....

I lack drive, motivation and inspiration.... I'm never going to compete at any kind of level at anything ever again or reach any kind of decent standard at anything new at this point in my life ...


The above tirade is how I've been feeling of late. For most of 2013 I've had a goal, not my own mind you... No... My goal for the past year has been to help keep my good buddy Lew Long in the best physical shape possible, maintain his weight and keep him from sugary temptation with varying degrees of success. To do this we've done thousands of bag and skipping rounds, run 21 miles per week,hammered out gruesome sprint sessions and travelled the M4 both sides of the bridge looking for decent sparring for him. The result of this was that at forty-six years old I got into the best shape of my life...There was even a slight hint of abs reported!!

Now though, Lew has no fights until 2014 and has reverted to being a fat ninja for a while and whilst I still have plenty of other coaching to do, which I thoroughly love, the level of physical involvement is nowhere near the same....

Now as anyone who is used to doing regular rigorous physical activity will know full well....when you stop, you descend into a spiral of being annoyed with yourself for not training, which in turns darkens your mood even more and you become even more determined to do no training, which makes you loathe yourself even more which in turn darkens your mood even more, which in turn makes you impossible to be around, then the loneliness darkens your mood even more, which culminates in you beating a loved one or sends you looking for a length of rope or an edged weapon....... Ooh.....Ahem! Or is that just me?

Anyway, you get the picture. So with my training mojo well and truly gone and me spiralling toward possible domestic violence (that is just a bit of MAT humour by the way), I turned to the last bastion of common sense left to the human race, the only place I could possibly find someone to drag from my training depression, that place where the finest human minds congregate and cooperatively answer the great riddles of our time like:

Name a Fish Without the Letter R in it ... and to warn us all that:
If you don't share this Post with at least 30 friends SOMETHING BAD WILL HAPPEN TO YOU!

Yes.On the 10th October 2013... I posted my feelings to Facebook!!! the post simply stated:


In return I received some of the most heart felt words of advice from friends... some I didn't even know I had!

Tanya Merrett Move your fat arse that motivational enough? 
- Beautiful

Lew Long Smoking is fun!
 - Inciteful

Rhys Owens Your not to old to compete!!! Why don't you enter a bit of WKF Competition
 - Deluded!

Robert Traylor How about bare knuckle fighting round the back of the council car park?
- Illegal

Dione Smith You know if you get fat I will too....
- too late

Lew Long If you get fat I won't love you!

Philip Controversial Davies I have to say, as someone who is both fat and a smoker, both of these hobbies also get boring too.
I'm looking forward to being a slim, non-smoking fighter.... lol.

If you need motivation dude just think of the kids you train and how much they look up to you, if you quit then you'd fuck both of my kids heads up - so you're not allowed lol.


Lew Long Shut up Phil 

Lew Long Andy you sound like a 10 year old girl having her first period!
_ Nice :/

Then finally, as I was about to step off the stool and end it all, I saw something that made me look twice. An actual challenge, a martial arts gauntlet slapped me across both cheeks and hit the ground at my feet. A challenge too tempting to turn down:

Rob Taylor - Start training in the gi. Get yourself another black belt  Pretty big challenge.
- You're on!!

So tonight, 17th October 2013 the almost impossible challenge set by Rob Taylor begins. Am I looking forward to it? Not one bit.
Do I ever expect to complete it? NO! My personal goal is to get a BJJ Blue Belt before my fiftieth birthday then we'll take it from there.

Watch This Space!