13 Nov 2010
In part two of my interview with the featherwight veteran, Alain Pozo, he descibes his teaching principles at his academy, Black Label in Colchester, Essex and his impressive competition heritage...
Meerkatsu: Tell me about Black Label Fighting? What is it, where is it and who is running it?
Alain Pozo: It is in a small part of Essex (Colchester), kinda reminds me of my hometown, Recife, and the atmosphere Ze Radiola used to have in his gym. I teach grappling there; Alex Costa from Chute Boxe academy teaches Thai; Boris Uhlik( a phenom) does the MMA striking along with local wild man Paul Hartley. We have 4 Judo Black belts here and a bunch of wild Essex kids ready to fight anything that moves. The gym owner is Paul Townsend, a local geezer and an MMA and Thai enthusiast. He has trained in Holland for a long time. We have also started BJJ Gi classes not long ago and we are affiliated to Carlson Gracie Team.
Meerkatsu: Tell me about the kids you teach, some come from quite impoverished or socially excluded backgrounds, am I right? How has grappling changed their lives?
Alain Pozo: We recently had an article in the papers about a kid whose life was changed due to practicing a sport and socializing as a result they improve their grades in school and become more confident. We have a great atmosphere here and I have to say that my students are more mature than me hahahaha,..I have young kids in MMA like Paul Harper,Shane Gunfield, Jack Marshman. Also In grappling, James Costa, Keiren Minimi, Chris Giddens, Shane Ruffell, and many others; I truly believe that Essex has a strong history with fighting and these young fellas will definitely prove it.
Meerkatsu: How would you describe your teaching philosophy and the principles you try to get across whenever you teach?
Alain Pozo: I believe training is recreational to 90% of the people who come to gyms, and that is why I never shout at anyone. I don’t believe shouting motivates pupils. It is old school mentality. I was surprised when I saw this in a few gyms in the past. I am very laid back. I like good music when I roll with my students. If I show a technique and see them doing a different variation, I never discourage them. Sometimes I will mimic a competition to make it very realistic, so when they are in action they don’t feel...”what the hell am I doing here?” I make sure I always make my guys feel good about themselves, about the dojo and their instructors. A good sense of humour is important for a good atmosphere.
Meerkatsu: You compete all the time, tell me why you still love to compete, what drives you and how do you keep going as you get older?
Alain Pozo: I love fighting and as an instructor you need to compete. You need to know what your students will go through when they are fighting. I wish I could compete as often as Oli Gueddes, but to be honest I don’t know how he does it. I always ask him and he just takes it like another day at the office. I am very impressed with the new generation. That other kid Daniel Strauss is a phenom. And look at Nick Brooks, he is 50 and still competes hahahahha
Meerkatsu: How many matches have you had altogether (divide by gi, no gi, MMA) and what is your record?
Alain Pozo: Is very hard to say Seymour, I really don’t know. I fought my first comp in Recife after 2 weeks of training and that was in the 90’s...I did a couple Judo comps too with no Judo training,..Kamikaze style.
I would love to compete in Brazil again. Think I will do the master and senior worlds next year. You should come too. I wish I had had a camera and had youtube like olli has now. Actually my first comp ever was as a karate yellow belt in 1989 I guess...Dam I’m old...I can tell you that this year, 2010, I have been in 13 comps so far...I even fought my own student at a local comp in Essex in the absolute division.
Meerkatsu: What is your one most memorable tournament highlight - win or lose - and why?
Alain Pozo: First time I fought a Black Belt in a comp was in Orlando, Florida...It was no-gi obviously. I fought an American Top Team instructor Alex Bada and lost by points. He was about 40 kilos heavier too. Fighting in the UK against Luiz Tosta (twice), Lagatixa Santana, Eamon Madden, Mark Phung, Matt Benyon, Ian Wallus ,Paul Jenkins, Miad, Rob Lawler and many others was more than an honour. I can’t really pick one moment.
Meerkatsu: I think for me, one of the most memorable highlights was watching you fight against a much bigger and heavier black belt (Henrique Santana) at the 2010 SENI all winners absolute prize contest and you gave him a lot of trouble. As a smaller guy myself, I found that to be incredibly inspiring. How do you approach a fight with someone bigger and, on paper, higher ranked than you?
Alain Pozo: Henrique Santana is a true fighter. To me was an honour to fight him. How to fight big guys??...Kamikaze style, go suicidal hahahahah
Meerkatsu: You compete no-gi as well as gi, can you explain to the readers, what benefits can no-gi bring to gi and visa versa?
Alain Pozo: To me they are similar, but they are different sports. It’s like Spanish and Portuguese. I think you have to start training both at white belt level. No-gi makes your game a lot tighter. You have to contol people when they are slippery with no gi to hold on to. Gi makes you more technical. That is my point of view.
Meerkatsu: A lot of people I talk to say you love to submit using footlocks and in fact I have seen you do this myself, is this a favourite submission of yours?
Alain Pozo: If you fight a big guy, strong as a horse, is very hard to sub him in an armbar. I attack neck and foot a lot in sparring. The ankle is a small joint. It’s harder to defend with strength alone Unfortunately, some people hate it. I used to have a very big training partner who would get very upset whenever I tried a foot lock on him. Some people see as a “dirty” technique...Back in the day was worst...People looked at you like you were the antichrist if you tried a footlock.
Meerkatsu: Tell me about the injuries you have had to overcome - I remember you mentioned a pretty nasty knee injury a few years back, how long did that take to recover?
Alain Pozo: I blew my knee for the first time last year training with my friend Nick Forrer and it was one of the worst experiences in my life. It took a while to heal, almost a year. When I fought in Lisbon at the Europeans this year I was limping. Next year will be different, I’m going for the gold!
Meerkatsu: How do you, as a smaller, lighter guy, teach someone who is 100Kg or more?
Alain Pozo: I have a few giants here at Black Label and they are getting quite technical. We never show “flying secret sweep from half guard”, we just show basic techniques. Big geezers can do all that simple stuff...
Meerkatsu: What are your goals and ambitions over the next few years?
Alain Pozo: To fight the Worlds at masters, see my students compete - winning or losing is always a pleasure to see them in action. Travel some more, hang out with my girl Sarah, my friends and family. A simple and healthy life style...
Meerkatsu: Dude, it is an absolute pleasure to know you and talk to you, anyone you want to give a shout out to?
Alain Pozo: My pleasure, I am a huge fan of the blog. I would like thank to my girl Sarah Merriner- a badass BJJ fighter. Check out Zenith BJJ in Brixton with Austin Kathy, Valeu Eduardo Azevedo. Good Luck Valmyr Neto on your MMA this weekend, and give a shout out to all my students and friends. Hope to see you for a session at black label soon.
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