Academy aces are in the medals
A long-serving firefighter is swapping his heatproof mits for grappling gloves to coach the future stars of Jiu Jitsu full-time.
Neil Simkin has spent the past 20 years in the fire service at Walsall and is currently crew commander at Aldridge, but the former karate world champion has decided to focus on his love for martial arts.
His Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy in Lichfield Street, Walsall, has 350 students and runs 42 classes a week.
Many of Neil’s students are children, and the Simkin Martial Arts Academy had a whopping 20 medal-winners at the junior World Championships, held in Aldersley Leisure Village.
“It’s the second biggest competition in Europe,” explained Simkin. “We’re really happy, we’ve come back with a haul of medals.
“We’ve got lots of world champions in our gym, so it was a good result.”
“I was world champion in Karate, captain of the england team and had acocomplished everything I wanted to.
“I started Jiu Jitsu 16 years ago when it wasn’t very popular. I got in with a Brazilian guy from Birmingham, Braulio Estima.
“He’s a living legend, and one of the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters ever.”
The Simkin academy has been running for 10 years already, but it’s grown so large that Neil has decided to call time on his firefighting.
“I love the fire service, but I’ve worked so hard to get where we are,” he said. “Now it’s time for my life to take my journey.
“I want to spend more time at the academy. I’m the person that made the England UK elite squad.
“Now it’s quite big, we take kids as far as America. Some of the kids are 10 and 11 and they’ve been all over the world.”
So why has Brazilian Jiu Jitsu proved so popular with the families of Walsall and its surrounding areas?
“It’s a lifestyle really, for the kids it’s about coordination, discipline, confidence,” he said. “Just simple things like eating healthy, brotherhood, integrity, it’s one big massive team.
“If everyone did Jiu Jitsue, the world would be a nicer place. It’s a tough sport, but it’s very humbling.
“Loads of parents train, it’s really good. It’s one of the most popular martial arts, it’s one of the largest growing martial arts.
“There’s a lot of grappling in UFC everyone wants to learn that sort of thing now.
“We teach from three-years-old up to 16 and then they go into our senior sessions.
“Our kids compete an awful lot all over Europe. I take them everywhere. It’s a family business.”
Jack Powell, 8, and Thomas Farrell, 14, won double gold at the European Championships, while there were also gold medals for Georgia Evans, 15, Roxy Bolton-Warner, 7, Jack Phillips, 14, Alfie Highway, 12, Ben Spragg, 10, and Alissa Spruce, 12.
Zain Khan, 15, won double silver, and there were silver medals too for Jyoti Kaur, 12, Sonal Desai, 14, and Kaci Farnell, 10.
Ethan Bolton-Warner, 14, Billy Crabtree, 12, and Jacob Spruce, 9, all won double bronze. Oliver Allum, 9, Marcus Allum, 12, Harry Evans, 12, Yuvraaj Hayer, 7, and Joshua McCreadie, 8 all won bronze.