Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Simon Yeo talks to Fightstore Media [Video]
Simon Yeo is a 15th degree black belt in Bujinkan Ninjustsu and a Roger Gracie black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). He has trained under the guidance of Helio Gracie, Royce Gracie, Roger Gracie and various other masters. Simon has trained in many martial arts including Judo, Karate, Kung-Fu and Tae Kwon Do since 1973. He talked to Fightstore Media about his journey to becoming a black belt and explains why you should think about taking Jiu-Jitsu classes.
“I started back in 2000. My training began with Royce when I attended a seminar of his in the UK. I was very fortunate because we seemed to get on very well straight away. After the first day he asked me to go and travel Japan for two weeks with him to teach the Japanese Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Obviously I jumped at that opportunity and spent two weeks sharing a room with him. He often slept on the floor and I slept in the bed which was nice of him. I used to get one on one tuition from him. He was only in the UK once or twice a year and it became evident as my skills increased that I needed much more input. It’s a very technical art so I needed a lot more guidance,” he said.Roger decided to go and start training with Mauricio Gomez who was the father of Roger Gracie. This allowed him to improve and he also got the chance to train under some ‘very serious world champion black belts’ that came over from Brazil while Mauricio was out of the country. “I used to do a lot of training with them. Eventually Roger Gracie came over and started to live in the London full time and I became one of his students. He taught me a lot between purple belt and brown belt. Royce gave me my purple belt, Roger gave me my brown belt and my black belt.”
“Around 2001 I went to Torrance, California to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy and after that trip I was given my blue belt. That was nice because I did think that I’d done all I could have done but it is a very technical art so that was nice. Then I went back again a year later and did an advanced course there which is for blue belts and above and Helio Gracie actually gave me my fourth stripe on my belt. He was there and he graded me as well. I had a gentle spar with him because he was over 90 at that time. That was a great experience,” said Yeo.
He returned back to the UK and kept training for another year and that was when Royce presented him with his purple belt. At this stage he said it became ‘difficult’ because he stayed at purple belt for around five years. He said, “There were times when I taught that I was never going to get out of it. I felt like an eternal purple belt. But anyway after five years Roger Gracie gave me my brown belt which was very generous of him. Then two years after that he gave me my black belt which was in 2010. That was kind of my journey but with all this kind of complex training there’s massive peaks and big lows and it’s full of plateaux’s in between where you don’t think you’re getting anywhere but you just have to keep going. The moment you quit or take your foot off the gas then you start going backwards so my best piece of advice is that if you want something just keep going for it and eventually you’ll get it. If you quit you’re never going to get anything.”Simon went on to tell us what Jiu-Jitsu is really used for and how someone can use it to their advantage in a fight. “There’s a lot of debate in the press and on the internet about exactly who or what Jiu-Jitsu is used for and a lot of people will see ground fighting done badly and then they will think that it’s all strength based. That is absolutely not the case. This is truly the place where a small person can be a big person. The ground takes away a lot of mobility and if you use your weight effectively you can overcome a huge amount of asomeone’s strength. Technique always wins so if you know more than the next person then generally your technique will overcome that person. However as you get closer and closer in technique then size and strength does become a defining point but apart from that generally the more skilled person will have a better chance of winning.”
Jiu-Jitsu is unlike any other martial art and Simon gave his thoughts on why he would encourage anyone to start training in it. He said, “For anyone who hasn’t trained in a martial art I would say that they should try Jiu-Jitsu more than any other art because firstly it’s really, really difficult and I make no bones about that but every reward is so rewarding because you’ve had to sweat blood and tears to get every improvement. Also it’s a real art; you learn technique like you do if other art forms but the big difference is that you pressure test it against a totally resisting opponent.”“It’s not the total answer because there’s some attitudes and viewpoints in the older martial arts were you have to be aware of hidden weapons but also the person on the ground could have friends that will kick you. Sometimes I see that this perspective is missing. I wouldn’t say that for the old style Gracie Jiu Jitsu but BJJ seems to be sport orientated. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu for me implies a no holds barred type of fighting so they are thinking about punches and kicks, and possibly thinking about another opponent at the same time. It’s a good place to start and get that under your belt. Then you can complement it with a good stand up art like Muay Thai or one of the stand-up Jiu-Jitsu styles. But because it’s so difficult it’s great to start with it first and get that going.”
But he has seen many fighters ignore their ground game in favour of their stand-up and he says that this is a recipe for disaster. “Normally what happens and I’ve seen it a lot with MMA fighter for example is that they get very good at kickboxing. The ones I’ve coached particularly have said that they need to go and hit the bags some more but they’re already good at that and they’re rubbish on the ground. However good you are you won’t be able to hide from the fact that you might end up on the ground as you move up through the ranks. It’s an absolute fallacy to believe that you’ll never be taken to the ground; it will not happen, there will always be someone who’ll be able to take you to the ground. To hide yourself away from that reality is a ridiculous position to put yourself in,” he said.
You can find Simon Yeo on his official website here.
The Simon Yeo video interview was recorded by Andrei Scintian.