27 Apr 2011

Jiu Jitsu Saved My Life: Ed Brown - Part Two

Continuing on from Part One of Ed's story, here he discusses how jiu jitsu has helped shaped his path towards a clean life lifestyle...


Meerkatsu: Let’s talk about jiu jitsu. How has your dedication to the sport helped you in your recovery program and how has recovering from addiction helped your jiu jitsu?

Ed Brown: Well thinking about it, training BJJ for me is quite a lot like following the 12-step program. They both share many of the same principles, especially here at BJJ School. I mean I am an assistant instructor here and that allows me to help others, I also work a lot behind the scenes to promote the school and that’s my service portion, but most of all, the bond of friendship here is so strong. I can hand on heart say that quite a number my club mates here are my very closest friends and I know I can share honestly with them about anything.

Meerkatsu: Don’t you think you’ve just replaced one addiction with another?

Ed Brown: Ha! Yeah, but BJJ is a healthy addiction. The whole nature of the sport means that you really have to be level headed to do it. You have to learn how to tap out and not get so stressed about losing or winning. As I said before, when I wasn’t clean, I would beat myself up really badly about how badly I was performing at BJJ and BJJ really fueled myself hatred. But now it’s just a huge part of my life and something that is just as important to my life as the recovery program is.

Meerkatsu: Why do you think that BJJ of all the martial arts or sports you could have done, is the discipline that works for you and helps you stay clean?

Ed Brown: I used to be a freestyle martial artist when I was a kid, before I got into drugs and bad stuff, so I have tried other martial arts. BJJ just seemed to be the right sport for me. Even though I was beating myself up about it when I wasn’t clean, I still loved it. But there is something about BJJ School and the way Felipe (de Souza) has set up the organisation, that is unique. All the instructors meet every week and we talk about the school but also our personal issues. Everyone here is equal, we all feel safe and support each other, there are no egos. My role at BJJ School allows me to of service to others, especially with the ethos of helping each other and the Future champions charity work which is in partnership with BJJ School, the whole mentality is about helping other people. It’s the same ethos as a 12 step program. I have structure and discipline in my life and jiu jitsu keeps me serene.

Ed with his instructor Felipe Souza

Meerkatsu: What are your grappling highlights?

Ed Brown: Well, you know there was a funny situation at the IBJJF Europeans a few years back. I was really ill but I still competed and there was one moment when I just thought to myself, OMG How the f@#k did I get here? I was competing on a massive stage, doing pretty well and just a mere few years before I was an alcoholic and drug addict. It really hit me how far my life had changed since recovering. But since then some of my favourite memories include the English Open last year where I won my second fight 28-0 and there was this years British Open where I got to semi finals and won Silver (see the video here: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150182765010421). It is moments like those that really make me feel amazing inside.

Meerkatsu: One aspect of your life that I find interesting is that you went from a drink and drug binger who did not look after themselves to what you are now – as Strength and Conditioning Coach. It’s quite a transformation.

Ed Brown: Yes I am a qualified and personal trainer and s+c coach (Ed Brown Functional Fitness). But six seven years ago I was in terrible shape. I’m pretty sure I would have given myself a heart attack if I carried on with that lifestyle. I was a mess.

Meerkatsu: If you found out someone in the BJJ academy was taking drugs, how would you handle that?

Ed Brown: I would never help someone who themselves did not want to be helped. If someone wants to use, they’re going to use. The worst thing you can do is go up to them and lecture them, telling them to stop this, stop that. If they asked me for help, I would of course help – by sharing my experiences, without judging them, giving them identification and support. I mean when I was using, I really thought no one understood my problems and that I was the only one going through the experiences and thoughts that I was suffering from. But through speaking to other addicts , I realised that I was not alone and that helped a lot. So allowing someone to recognise that there are other people who went through the same things – and can come through their addiction, really can help.

Meerkatsu: Do you ever feel like a drink these days?

Ed Brown: Oh yeah I’m only human and occasionally I do have moments but they are really brief. As soon as I get that feeling, I go back to Step one of the program and realise what my life was like before. I definitely do not want to go back there again. It’s a very good deterrent. Life’s just too good now.

Ed, Cobrinha, Champ Camp partner - Leo Marcantonio

Meerkatsu: You’re also incredibly busy. In addition to training, teaching BJJ, running your PT sessions and film camera work, you are a partner of Champ Camp. Tell me more about that?

Ed Brown: Champ Camp began when my fellow training partner Leo Marcantonio and I were riffing around with ideas about crazy BJJ related projects and I hit upon the name Champ Camp and of bringing in some of the world’s biggest BJJ stars to the UK to conduct seminars and workshops. We knew it was crazy at the time but we thought what the heck let’s just do it.

Meerkatsu. Indeed, you did and last year in 2010, you brought us seminars with Cobrinha, Terere, Gazzy Parman the IBJJF referees course, pretty busy time then?

Ed Brown: Haha yeah it was nuts. As many know our first attempt to organise a seminar –with Andre Galvao – didn’t work out due to some paperwork problems but rather than just give up and go home, my typical addict brain was saying, no, next time, let’s go BIGGER and BETTER. So we managed to agree terms with Cobrinha, and this time, we set up a three day mini tour of the UK – three massive seminars in three days. It was intense! I don’t think I actually slept a wink for 72 hours!

Meerkatsu: So what else can we expect from Champ Camp in the future?

Ed Brown: We have a Leo Santos seminar coming up in May, Robson Moura should be visiting in July and yeah, many more exciting seminars planned we are thinking about hosting a combat and conditioning event. Lots of people have asked us about hosting another referee course so we probably will do later on in the year.

Meerkatsu: Just going back to the way you were when you were using, how would the former Ed Brown dealt with planning such big events?

Ed Brown: They simply would not have happened. The way my mind was at that time, every single dream I had, every idea, every positive and constructive thought that I had, I would instantly rubbish it and shoot them down. I never ever gave myself a chance.

Meerkatsu: It’s been quite an ongoing journey for you to get this far Ed, who would you like the say thanks to?

Ed Brown: My wife, Mrs Brown, she’s been there for me when I was rock bottom and is there for me now. She’s seen me go through it all. I owe so much also to Felipe Souza, such a great guy, an amazing instructor and human being. All the recovery programs and all my friends at BJJ School.

Meerkatsu: Thanks for sharing your story so openly and candidly Ed.

Ed Brown: Thanks Seymour. I hope this interview helps someone

Ed Brown Functional Fitness: www.ebff.co.uk
BJJ School: www.bjjschool.co.uk
Future Champions: http://www.futurechampions.org.uk

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


bixen said...

Hi there,

First comment in this blog so far, after being quite a lurker.

Very inspiring interview, very inspiring history.

I'm not very interested in what a professional sportsman (like a football star) have to say, and probably what a BJJ star have to say is not my preferred reading, but I do like when some pal who had do something with his life, broken or not, talk about it.

More than one of my long time friends was/is destroyed because of drugs, so I know a few things about that.

Very inspiring.

Thank you.


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