Fighting spirit

September 1, 2018

North East Times celebrates the region’s thriving martial art and combat sports scene

Jade Slavin 
Specialism: Taekwondo
Home town: Consett
Current base: Manchester

Jade became interested in martial arts when she was nine years old. “My dad got me into it to learn self-defence and to keep fit and healthy,” she says.

At 13, Jade competed in her first Taekwondo competition – and won.

She continued to compete during school and sixth form, winning several British titles, before she was called up to compete for TeamGB while studying for a degree in sports science and nutrition at university.

Jade’s greatest achievements include winning the commonwealth championships in Glasgow, being a four-time British national champion and making the top 32 in the world, qualifying for the grand prix.

Twenty-five-year-old Jade has recently announced her retirement from TeamGB and is looking to move on to the next chapter of her life. She is currently working towards her level 3 personal training qualification.

Mike Williams
Specialism: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Home town: Newcastle
Current training base: Origin BJJ, Newcastle

Mike Williams started training in Japanese Jiu Jitsu in the 1990s but became interested in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) after watching videos of UFC fighter Royce Gracie.

The 51-year-old compares BJJ to a game of chess. “You have to plot your moves in advance and trap your opponent,” he says.

Mike established Msgworks three years ago, which offers marketing training, outsourced marketing manager services, planning and budgeting, plus email marketing, websites and SEO to clients. While balancing the demands of his own business and a one-year-old son, Mike admits that his training has become a luxury.

“I try to get to the gym at least once a week, for my own sanity, and I’m looking forward to when Theo can join me,” he says.

Mike is also CEO of UKBJJA, the not-for-profit association that represents BJJ clubs, athletes and grass roots practitioners.

“We’re at a critical point in the sport’s growth as we head towards full National Governing Body status,” he reveals.

Lanchana Green
Specialism: Mixed Martial Arts
Home town: Darlington
Current training base: The Lab Martial Arts Gym, Darlington

After Lanchana Green was attacked by three girls in Darlington, she decided she needed to be able to defend herself.

She began Thai Boxing and progressed to a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) before trying her hand at Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

“MMA pushes you out of your comfort zone daily, it’s an emotional rollercoaster but the rewards far exceed any negatives,” she says.

Lanchana, who turned professional in 2014, has had eight professional MMA fights, with the most recent resulting in her becoming the MADE4THECAGE (a North East promotion) Strawweight Champion.

She also appeared on season 23 of TUF (The Ultimate Fighter), reaching the semi-finals, and travelled to Japan to fight on RIZIN in front of 15,000 people.

The 29-year-old, who has a degree in Sport and Exercise science, established Lab Fitness Academy with Martin Wilby six years ago. The academy offers MMA Fitness, BJJ, Filipino Boxing and self-defense classes for all ages.

Lanchana, who is focused on becoming an MMA World Champion, currently trains 2-3 three times a day, 5-6 days a week.

“Sometimes I have to go without cake but I don’t see it as sacrifice because I love my life,” she says.

Barry Gibson
Specialism: Sambo
Home town: Sunderland
Current training base: New Level Gym and Roker Rough House, Sunderland

Barry Gibson has been participating in martial arts for 35 years specialising in the grappling arts of judo and Sambo.

“Sambo is a Russian martial art,” Barry says. “The actual term is abbreviated from SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, which translates as ‘self-defence without weapons’.”

Barry, who trains and coaches at New Level Gym and Roker Rough House in Sunderland, is a three-time British Sambo Champion (2001, 2002 and 2018), a twice Scottish Sambo Champion (2002 and 2011) a Presidents Cup silver medalist (2014) and a Commonwealth Combat Sambo Champ (2014).

The father-of-three also works as a higher level teaching assistant in the PE department of a school for pupils with behavioural issues/

“I have delivered some sambo coaching as part of the enrichment programme, which the pupils lap up. The discipline side really helps them focus, “he says.

Craig Jose
Specialism: Thai Boxing (Muaythai)
Home town: Newcastle
Current training base: Northern Kings Gym

Craig Jose, who always loved Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme films, decided to attend a kick boxing class with a school friend when he was 14 years old. He immediately fell in love with the fitness and discipline of the sport.

When the kick boxing club disbanded, Craig tried his hand at traditional boxing and MMA before he was introduced to Thai Boxing (Muaythai).

Over the next 10 years, Craig competed in 57 professional Muaythai fights, gaining several British and European titles and a world title. He also spent six months living in Thailand, which, he says, changed his knowledge of the sport.

“I learnt about the culture and the respect side of Thai Boxing; it gave me a big insight into the sport,” he says.

Craig – who has an HND in sports science and coaching – always aspired to own his own gym and when he returned from Thailand, opened The Factory with four friends.

In 2013, Craig established Northern Kings gym with wife Linda, a dedicated full-time and fully equipped Muaythai, kick boxing, boxing and fitness facility in Newcastle that was accessible to people of all ages.

Craig, who is acting president of UKMF (UK Muaythai Federation), is particularly pleased that the increased profile of Thai Boxing – which will feature in the Olympics from 2024 – in the UK.

“We recently sent a group of 14 kids to the world championships in Thailand and they came back with six medals,” he says.

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