Ready to start your Jiu Jitsu journey?



In this month’s blog, we interviewed one of SJJA’s newest black belts – Will Feyen, who started as a white belt at sjja alongside his father (greg). we sat down with will to hear all about their jiu jitsu journey from white belt to black belt together, and discover the amazing parts about getting to train with your dad.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself: where are you from, what do you do for a living, and what are your hobbies?

I was born in England and moved over to Sydney when I was 10 years old. I completed high school and university here and have now started working for the Ministry of Health, where I work with health practitioners and the different Health Councils of NSW to make sure that practitioners are safe to practice. Outside of that, I enjoy playing guitar, chess and have recently taken up boxing.

When and how did you first come across jiu-jitsu, and what made you want to start?

I first started Jiu Jitsu in 2013 (when I was 14 years old, I think). My dad introduced me to the sport alongside three other friends. Originally it was a way for me to gain confidence in handling myself at school. Dad had learned about Jiu-Jitsu whilst he was in New Zealand. He had also trained Kempo and Judo there. Or so he says.

Initially, I attended with my three friends before the classes at Bruno’s gym (SJJA). I was young then, and was constantly sparring against adults as there were no kids or teens classes at the time. Dad eventually started jiu jitsu as well, and started training with me.

Walk us through your jiu jitsu journey together as father and son – from white belts to black belts.

Dad and I were white belts together with a low resolution understanding of what we were doing. 

We would practice basic techniques together after classes: triangles, bow and arrow chokes and even some Judo throws. This was a major advantage having a partner who would always want to train with you and push you.

Once we received our blue belts we started understanding more of what Jiu-Jitsu is. Despite my keen interest in exploring the berimbolo, the worm guard and the rabbit hole of Youtube Jiu Jitsu, Dad would always tell me “what are you actually going to do when it comes down to it!” This is still a valuable lesson I think about now.

Blue belt was a fun stage of the journey. We trained really hard during the competition classes (which was when Bruno was preparing for the world championships, so the competition classes naturally got even more competitive). 

I started to want to really beat people in the sport and so my Dad became instrumental in developing my psychology of being competitive. He would say “a belt is nothing but a thing that keeps their pants up”, and “you’re not fighting the belt you’re fighting the person.” This could not be more true.

Getting to purple was like the equivalent of being pot committed in poker; by this point, you have invested too much to give up.

From Brown to Black we really honed in on the fundamentals of Jiu-Jitsu. We did not train as much together because of COVID, but when we did we just focused on incredibly basic things! No leg locks, no worm guard or matrix systems. Just closed guard, half guard, side control and back control. This is something I wished I learned earlier. Attach your tricks and traps to a strong foundational structure. Don’t let your game just be your tricks.

When we got our black belt together it was one of the highlights of my life.

How did the two of you approach your training when training together?

There’s not a whole lot of structure to our training. We do a lot of free rolling and sparring. I find sparring identifies your weaknesses and your strengths in your game, and provides immediate feedback when you test your ideas. I believe that techniques suit different people better. Our training together has always been based on working out in real-time what the key elements of the position are, and what works best for us. What are the frames? What are the counters? Where is the balance? As we moved on from white to blue the focus on Jiu Jitsu became more conceptual and so has our training.

Has Jiu Jitsu benefited your father-son relationship? If so, how?

Yes for sure! Jiu Jitsu is something we both share a passion and love for. It is something that we have experienced together. It is something that we have spent hours on the phone discussing, and hours on the mats doing. Jiu Jitsu is also a great medium for my Dad through which he can impart his knowledge and belief of the world and people. A lot of what I have learned on the mats from Dad are lessons that are transferable in every day life.

I think Jiu Jitsu for families is a great idea. It offers the opportunity to grow and learn together and experience ups and downs in the background of an upwards directory. I definitely recommend getting your family involved in jiu-jitsu and going through the journey together, as I think it will undoubtedly strengthen your bond even more.

Want to know how other jiu-jitsu practitioners navigate from white belt to black belt? – click here to read.

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