Edition No. 21. Winter, 1999. Today is
Cross Training and Neil Adams

By: Barnaby Chesterman
Neil AdamsI had heard a rumour circulating that some members of the Gracie family, legends themselves in jui-jutsu, vale tudo and ultimate fighting circles, had been on the mat with Neil Adams who had proceeded to armlock the pants off them. With this in mind I tracked down Neil to find out how true this apparent judo-conquers-all story is.
"What are you up to these days?" I enquired, gently trying to break the ice.
"I have been travelling around a lot coaching on mixed martial arts courses. These courses encompass all sorts of arts such as ninjutsu, jui-jutsu, thai-boxing, kick-boxng and taekwondo. There is a new craze to cross train in many different arts and I have been travelling all over the world to coach judo. The martial arts phenomenon has been sweeping across the US and it has become obvious that 90% of matches are won on close contact, either throws, strangles, armlocks or holds, so I teach these areas. I take courses in the States, lecturing and demonstrating judo. I have also done big seminars to help the spread of judo in America. I am trying to teach cross trainers to appreciate how technically complete judo is."
The interview was moving in the right direction so I started to probe a little more: "Who have you coached?" I asked.
"I recently took a karate class for a judo session and the buzz they got was incredible. They just did not realise how physically demanding judo was, the session left them gobsmacked. The shock on their faces after a two minute contest spoke louder than words. I think it is good to cross train to appreciate other arts. In judo, though, we are lucky to have one of the most complete physical sports that encompasses speed, agility, endurance, strength and technique.
A lot of people are practising cross training and attaining a little knowledge in lots of arts, but they realise the huge difference in ability when they face a specialist in one field. The message I am trying to get across is that the reason a specialist seems to have greater ability is that they are concentrating in one direction. Cross-trainers tend to want to become the perfect martial artist, but that just is not possible."
"And what about the Gracies...?" I enquired.
"The Gracies have had a lot of success and are particularly famous in jui-jutsu. They realise the strength of close contact fighting and Royce Gracie came to a course I took in San Francisco to learn about armlocks. The Gracies are really nice people but slightly misdirected in their concepts, so it was good to educate them."
It was clear that Neil is too modest a man to comment on the rumours that he had outclassed some of the most respected ultimate fighting exponents in the world. He did, however, put me touch with someone else who might be able to shed more light on the matter. Shortly after I finished on the phone with Neil, I got a call from Geoff Thompson, the man who pioneered cross-training in Britain and who has written over 20 books on martial arts and self-protection. Geoff is sub-editor for the Martial Arts Illustrated magazine and is also 5th dan in shotokan karate, 3rd dan in jui-jutsu and 1st dan in judo. He has trained with Rigan Machado, a member of the Gracie family, so he is well equipped to comment on the subject.
"There is great respect for Neil, and indeed for judo, in the mixed martial arts scene. Neil is revered wherever he goes. The Gracie family travelled 6,000 miles just to get on the mat with Neil. Rigan Machado actually spoke of him as his greatest hero. These guys caused quite a stir when they came on the mat at one of Neil's courses as they are so big in vale tudo, but Neil did not even know who they were. They have a great reputation but they were still looking to be taught by probably the most respected ne-waza player on the planet.
Vale Tudo in actionChuck Norris and Beni "the Jet" Urqedis (Thai-boxing champion) both really respect Neil and Kris Wheelan (US Olympic wrestling coach) invited Neil to America to teach judo to the national wrestling squad. A Sambo Moscow champion, Vadim Kolganov came all the way to England just to train with Neil in the international class he does."
Neil is obviously held in very high esteem not only in judo circles but in cross-training circles as well. However, it's not just Neil who is revered, judo is highly respected by exponents of these other arts. "I have done all sorts of martial arts," Geoff explained: "but I found judo the hardest. It's the best kept secret in martial arts. I spent a year training with Neil in judo and it was very demanding. The dan grading I did is the hardest I have ever done. I cannot speak highly enough of Neil and of judo. What is most attractive, though, is that judo people, like Neil, are so gentle off the mat and really humble. People in Britain just do not know how strong judo is, It is revered around the cross-training circuit."
Geoff certainly has a point, judo techniques are no strangers to the film industry even though the sport does not command the same glamour as other arts. Who can forget the beautiful tomoe-nage Pussy Galore used to flatten Bond with in "Goldfinger"! Exposure like that is great for the spread of judo, but even more important is introducing it at the grassroots level, in schools and to children.
As well as coaching at his training centre in Coventry and taking courses around the world, Neil is also national coach to the British Schools and Colleges Association. In this role he has been able to take an active role in raising the profile of judo amongst children while also teaching them the fundamentals of the moral side of judo. Neil also forged a link with Terry Welham, a long time friend, to reinvigorate the judo scene in Cambridge. Their success has led to over 300 youngsters practising judo in Cambridge every week. Welham's own input into this transformation was recognised in 1998 when he won the British Schools and Colleges Judo Association Coach of the Year award.
While Neil is admired all over the world by prominent martial arts figures as an international expert in his sport he is also recognised for his work with youngsters and in schools. All the while he is one of the nicest and most modest people you could ever wish to meet, and that is what makes him truly a legend.
Neil can be contacted via: info@twoj.org or by telephoning 00441203 418282
Barnaby Chesterman


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