Hamilton (left), Gawne (second left) and Shore (front) pose with Team England
First of all, congratulations! Tell us, what have the guys managed to win?
Jake: Thank you very much. The guys returned from the ISKA (International Sport Kickboxing Association) Amateur MMA World Championships with gold in their respective weight classes. Rob is now Middleweight (under 84kg) Amateur MMA World Champion and Adam is Lightweight (under 70kg) Amateur MMA World Champion. I am a very proud coach.
Did you receive any financial assistance?
Jake: As coach, my trip is funded by ISKA. I work full time as a Martial arts coach specialising in self-defence, team building involving fitness, and of course MMA.
Rob: I funded it by myself. I recently graduated from Nottingham Trent University and I'm currently looking for a graduate job. Fortunately, I had enough money built up in the bank from part-time jobs back in my student days.
Adam: I was mostly self-funded, but I did raise some of the money by doing the ‘10,000 Punches and Kicks’ sponsored event with the rest of Team ISKA.
What is MMA for those who don’t know?
Jake: MMA combines skills from various martial arts and disciplines. Striking is taken from things like kickboxing, Thai boxing, and tae kwon do. The grappling side of MMA derives from Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), freestyle wrestling, and judo.
So, you guys are a first generation of champions since Jake turned to Amateur MMA…
Adam: Yeah, that’s right. No doubt the first of many, though.
Rob and his final opponent
Take us through your journey – getting into the sport, becoming good at it, having it become such a major part of your lives.
It was Ex-Pancrase
and the UFC Heavyweight Champion Bas Rutten that got me into the sport. I came across his street defence videos on YouTube and, after researching him, realized the sport he was involved in and have been hooked ever since. I went to a couple of classes at my local club in Peterborough but soon moved to Nottingham to attend Uni. I went to a MMA class run by Owen King at the University. I was soon invited to his dojo, Nottingham School of Black Belts (NSBB), and haven’t looked back since. I’ve been training there under Owen, Peter Cope and Jake Shore for two years now. I’m not gonna lie – at times it’s been one hell of a struggle. One of the hardest things I find isn’t the training or the fighting, it’s the weight cutting in preparation for the fight. I had to shed 7kg of water weight for my Championship fight in Northern Cyprus. It certainly takes its toll mentally but once you get past it you know nothing’s going to stand in your way of winning.
Jake: I trained under Owen King since I was nine years old and still actively train with him now in kickboxing. He is a great mentor and friend and helped me so much setting up my own business. But I suppose I have to go back to before I was born! My parents met at a karate club and achieved brown and black belts in the discipline, so I guess it was always in my blood. I started with Owen after an incident with a bully. It was my first and lost problem with them! I was British Champion at 14 then, when I had my braces on, I had to stop competing so the extra time training allowed me to enter the world of MMA. My first competition back I came second at the ISKA Amateur MMA English Open and then went on to win the British Championship that year, aged 17. At 20 I achieved a silver medal at the ISKA World Championships and that’s when I decided I wanted to train world champions of my own and invested more time into that.
Adam: I started karate when I was eight years old, back home in Cumbria. When I moved to Nottingham I started kickboxing with Owen and Jake. Then, when MMA classes became available with Jake, I jumped at the chance to try something new. I now split my training between strength and conditioning work at David Lloyd gym, where I work as a personal trainer, and with Jake, working on technique and tactics.
So, how much training went into the title?
Rob: Two years.
Adam: As I mentioned I had always had an active role in martial arts from a young age, but I have trained specifically in MMA for four years. You have to discount 6 months of that, however, as I had to take that time off due to a serious shoulder injury. Unfortunately during a training exercise, a much larger training partner dropped their weight onto my shoulder and popped the joint clean out. When the shoulder was treated it became clear that the bone was also broken, which made the healing time as long as it was.
Kyrenia: nice place for a MMA rumble...
Once you’ve got to the top, is there a bit of a comedown, a sort of ‘Right, what next’ feeling?
Jake: Even as a coach, upon returning to England I could feel the blues start to set in after leaving such an amazing place and atmosphere. However, the messages of thanks and appreciation I received from my team were really overwhelming. I’ve never felt that level of emotion before, in either my competitive or coaching career, but I can’t wait to feel it again. I’m already planning for next year’s World Championships. I’d love for these guys to come along and become multiple world champions.
Rob: I’d say it’s a case of the feeling just going up and up. Once I’d won I immediately wanted another fight. As soon as I got home I had to travel back to Peterborough for a while but if that hadn’t been the case I’d have been straight back into training. There’s always room for improvement and the sport as a whole is just growing and growing. That’s the amazing thing about [the sport]: every day people are coming up with new techniques and they’re then sharing it with everyone.
Adam: I’m always looking for my next challenge. After the competition I made a point of wearing my medal to work: a bit of publicity and appreciation from people around the gym keeps the buzz going but I'm always thinking ‘what’s next?’
What other ambitions do you have in the sport, either in competition or, more generally, in contributing to the martial arts culture in Nottingham?
Rob: For me at the moment I plan to stay amateur for a little while longer. There are areas I need to improve in, and then maybe in the future I can start fighting semi-pro. I think it’s definitely best to create a strong amateur base and build from there. Not always the best to be thrown in the deep end!
Adam: I’m looking toward the next World Championships also and with Jake’s help I’d also like to advance to semi-pro.
Jake: I guess for me I want to keep improving as a coach and sculpting even more world champions. I believe the concepts I bring to MMA have the ability to evolve the game to the next level. I’d love people to start to see MMA for what it is too: a sport, not just a ‘fight’. Martial arts instills values that are starting to become less common, my favourite of which is the camaraderie amongst the team. It’s like an extended family.
NG-based BJJ champ, Victor Estima
Are you part of or interested in the rich Jiu-jitsu culture we have here in Nottingham?
Jake: Yeah, definitely. Training with BJJ World Champion Victor Estima at Gracie Barra, I love learning new skills and then adapting them to MMA and bringing them to my own teaching style.
Rob: Yes, I’m definitely a huge fan. My main background when I started out was No-Gi submission wrestling. I lot of my team mates train under Victor Estima and I’d love to start learning Brazilian jiu-jutsu there but at the moment I just can't afford to. Definitely one to think about in the future, though.
How does ISKA MMA differ from what we see on Pay Per View TV?
Jake: The MMA you see there, with the likes of UFC, is all-pro MMA. These guys fight for a living. At the moment in this country, the grass roots of MMA at amateur level is practically non-existent in comparison to other sports. This is what I’m hoping to change. Amateur MMA has a few rule differences, too. There’s no head striking, no elbows, no twisting or submissions of the ankles or knees, and finally no cranking on the neck.
Is it a lot more like the freestyle punching and kicking ‘Clash of the Titans’ days of old?
Jake: Yes and no, I’d say. Yes there is a lot of clashing, punching and kicking. However, there is now grappling that takes a huge part in bouts. Also, the sport is taking off so much more as exactly that: a sport. In fact, MMA is the world’s fastest growing sport over the last three years. The future’s bright for MMA, so watch this space.
I guess for a lot of people outside the sport, they just see the end result of being hard as nails. I suppose that’s a useful byproduct, but I was wondering whether you’d ever had a scuffle in Nottingham’s streets.
Jake: I guess it’s hard not to have altercations nowadays. However, I have noticed that when you know how to fight you don’t feel the need to have to prove anything to anyone. You get people who think they can fight who will get into fights at the drop of a hat. I know I can fight so I don’t need to prove that ‘on the streets’. Plus I have too much to lose. People often pick up on that persona, though, and seem, in my experience, to respect that so much more. You find people don’t want to fight you as much, whether they know about your training or not. Maybe it’s just something you give off as a fighter.
Adam: I tend to be the boring one of the group who doesn’t go out that much so I don’t get the chance to scuffle, but when I do go out I’m very protective of my wife and mates.
Rob: Unfortunately I have, yes. The general public tends to think of MMA fighters as being violent, angry individuals but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met have been fighters. In the cage or ring they might be scary blokes or women, but once the fight’s over everyone is generally friends. The amount of respect opponents have for each other is great. Unfortunately, you could be the nicest bloke in the world and still end up in a street fight. I’d just come in from a night out in Nottingham, and entered my building complex. A random girl and guy decided to steal a building sign from the foyer. I jogged after them an asked her to give it back. Before I knew it, the guy kicked my legs from behind me and I fell flat on my knees. I quickly stood up and turned around but obviously not quick enough coz he pushed me into some bushes and went to punch me, all while I’m flat on my back. Fortunately, we’d been drilling defending strikes from the bottom in a class the previous day. So what better chance to put it into practice? I managed to block his punches with my knees, grabbed hold of his head and wrist and lock on a triangle choke. I then swept his legs with my hands, and ended up in a mounted triangle. I’m not too sure on the specifics when it comes to laws of self-defence, so I didn’t hit him. I simply tightened up the choke until I thought I’d be safe enough to walk away without any retaliation, which is what I did. I don’t think he quite knew what had just happened.
Gold medallists Rob Hamilton (centre) and Adam Gawne (right)
pose with teammate Richard Wallace
Do you guys know the law regarding self-defence?
Jake: There’s lots of grey areas but the way I understand it is if I feel there is no other option or I am under physical attack then I can use ‘reasonable force’ to prevent that threat from continuing. The force is determined by the attacker. If someone is trying to knock you out then you need to put them down with minimal damage. If someone’s trying to do worse then the level of force should have more leeway.
Adam: I think you have to try and defuse things through talking but if that doesn’t work then do whatever it takes to stop them is my only rule.
Do you have a favourite martial arts movie?
Jake: Wow, what a question. I think Jackie Chan would have to be my favourite martial arts star. He really opened up martial arts. It wasn’t just a serious discipline where you learned to be perfect and whoop everything and everyone. He brings comedy to it, and clumsiness, but he still beats everyone. I like the idea that martial arts doesn’t make you without faults, but rather allows you to react positively to every fault or problem you encounter and turn it to your advantage. My favourite film would have to be Drunken Master or, if not Jackie, Enter the Dragon.
Rob: Believe it or not, I’m actually not a huge fan of martial arts movies. I enjoy them but I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch one.
Adam: I have to say Bruce Lee. He made everything cool. I love so many films though, all for different reasons: Enter the Dragon, Warrior and of course the Rocky films. They’re all so inspirational to me.
Lastly, what, in one sentence, is the secret of a champion?
Jake: I don’t believe there is a secret. Obviously you’ve got to train hard, et cetera, but if I had to choose one that’s personal to me, it’d be: Surround yourself with the right people and the rest is easy.
Rob: Belief. If you truly believe you can do something and you want it that badly, anything is possible.
Adam: Hard work and a great team behind you and you can’t fail.