One of the fastest growing martial arts in the world, Jiu Jitsu is a combat sport that focuses primarily on grappling and ground fighting. The goal here is to neutralise your opponent, taking them to the ground and forcing them to tap out with various submissions or chokes.
As well as being a standalone sport, Jiu Jitsu techniques are also vital in mixed martial arts matches such as those seen in the UFC and are an excellent way to get fit and learn self-defence.
It has also become popular among a number of high profile celebrities recently such as Russell Brand and Tom Hardy.
Black belt Ffion, who now trains full time in Ireland, tells us that while it can be a very addictive sport to be involved with it is also not one for the faint of heart.
“Even if you’re an incredibly fit person it can be difficult to adjust to,” she said. “You’ll be using a lot of muscles you haven’t used before and you will definitely be sore for a few weeks starting off.
“Before this I was working as a bouncer at Ten Mill Lane in Cardiff, which was a really interesting experience. At the time I was definitely glad I knew some Jiu Jitsu to defend myself, though I did it purely just to fund myself through training.
“It’s wasn’t easy, and I had to work from 9pm in the evening until 6am in the morning so it didn’t clash with training sessions. Now I feel so lucky that I can do this full time and focus all of my energies on competitions.”
And all the hard work has paid off for Ffion as she recently won three major competitions back to back, including the illustrious Pan American Championships, Polaris 9, and the London Grand Slam.
She will also headline one of the biggest grappling shows in the world in Polaris 11 this August.
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While the down to earth grappler from Gowerton, Swansea, is keen to underplay her achievements, there is a confidence to her personality and an underlying self belief that allows her to take all the success in her stride.
“The last year has been amazing for me, working my way up in the sport and doing what I love. But I know there’s still a long way to go and a lot left for me to achieve, so I won’t get ahead of myself,” she said.
“As a female champion I felt I had to push for that headlining slot on Polaris. Our skills speak for themselves, and if you take away the influence of gender, or number of Instagram followers someone has, then this was the right call.
“I was really happy when I got the news. I know it sounds a bit cheesy but I really hope young women can get inspired by this, and get involved with the sport.”
Fellow Polaris competitor Jamie Hughes, who has also dedicated his life to the sport of Jiu Jitsu, argues that Ffion is a trailblazer not only for women in the sport, but also for male competitors rising through the ranks as well.
The 29-year-old from Abertillery said: “She’s the face of Women’s Jiu Jitsu in my opinion, and what she’s done over the last couple of years has been unprecedented. The way she carries herself is commendable and the way she trains is even better. She’s world class and everyone here in Wales is very proud.”
Jamie, 29, who prepares to compete in a high profile match up against UFC’s Tom Breeze, insisted that the influence of top level competitors such as Ffion can help massively in making this once unheard of sport popular in the mainstream.
“The sport is growing massively on its own,” he added. “With people like Ffion and myself making a living from it now, it really does show that anything is possible as well. I would encourage anyone who is interested to head down to your local gym and give it a go. It can be hard but you won’t regret it.”
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