Grassroots Grappler Unplugged: Ben Hodgkinson and Nic Barker

On this episode of Grassroots Grappler Unplugged, Ben Hodgkinson and Nic Barker from Grappling Industries paid us a visit.

Ben and Nic had just wrapped up another successful tournament in Sydney and they stopped by for a quick chat about how they got started in the sport, the birth of Grappling Industries in Oz and the ups and downs that come with running 16 events a year.

Ben also shared some of his training game plan for ADCC. Ben recently won himself an invitation at the Asia & Oceania Trials in Kazakhstan. 

This September he’ll be going up against the likes of Gordon Ryan, Romulo Barral and Vinny Magalhaes in the male 99kg division

You can also listen to GGU at: Apple PodcastsStitcherTuneIniheartradio


01:13 Where it all started for Ben and Nic
02:46 Grappling industries, how did it get started in Australia?
05:22 The most rewarding part of running a comp
06:22 Ben’s preparation for ADCC
09:17 The most exciting things happening in the sport right now
11:55 What the next year looks like fir them both.


Ben:  00:00  We’re both very involved in the community, especially in Australia. It’s nice to be a part of something that contributes to it. Grappling Industries does do a lot for the sport, it’s a different lane. You still need your AFBJJ comps, your Pan Pacs and your things like that. We have slightly different rules do the round Robin thing and all that. It’s just nice being responsible for something that the community enjoys and appreciates, I guess

Sereima:  00:25 You are listening to Grassroots Grappler Unplugged. My name is Sereima and on this episode I was joined by the two organisers of Grappling Industries, Australia and jiu jitsu black belts, Ben Hodgkinson and Nic Barker. Ben and Nic had just wrapped up another successful jiu jitsu tournament in Sydney and they stopped by to have a quick chat about how they got started in the sport, the story of David Aguzzi, Kit Dale and the birth of Grappling Industries in Australia and the ups and downs of running 16 events a year around the country. Ben also shared some of his training game plan for ADCC. Ben recently won himself an invitation to the event and this September he’ll be going up against the likes of Gordon Ryan, Romulo Barral and Vinny Magalhaes in the male 99 kilo division. So welcome to the podcast Nic and Ben. Nic, we’ll start with you. What got you into jiu jitsu?

Nic:  01:13  To be honest, it was getting my ass beaten by, my brothers at a wedding party and they were all doing judo and stuff and I was like, all right, I’m going to go learn something. So I started with judo and then moved into jiu jitsu.

Ben:  01:28  There was like a family friend staying with us. He’d been doing jiu jitsu and I was about 15 I think. I wanted to do a kickboxing. He was like, yeah, you should come down and try a kickboxing class, but also stick around and do the jiu jitsu class afterwards.

Sereima:   01:41  What was the scene like when you started

Nic:   01:42   There was no scene in Melbourne. Yeah, the bigger clubs that are still around today. So there was dominance, extreme John will and De been ground zero and Ben Hall and I think that was pretty much it

Sereima:   01:55  coming up in the sport. Who did you idolize?

Nic:  01:57  Augusto Fernando, Dan the wolf man, I don’t know who that is. He invented jiu jitsu. oh.

Ben:  02:03  I had idols in the sport because I started going and doing training camp. I first went over to America and went and trained to tame load over and it was the year that Keenan won the his division and the open way at Europeans and everything else. And he was perfectly about them but he was the same division as me. Actually I cut down because he was smashing me so bad and training. I was like, this is crazy. I got be in the same division that this dude

Nic:  02:24  that was back in the day where we called you Kevin Cornea is yet everyone fucking knew.

Ben:  02:30  So it looked like you Canaan. I know you’re listening to this pod,

Nic:  02:35  but um,

Ben:   02:37  yeah, so those guys idolize them quite a lot. Especially Keenan cause he had like a similar game to me and I was trying to use a lot, a lot of the stuff he does in training when I used to do more gay.

Sereima:   02:46  So grappling industries. How did it get started in Australia?

Ben:  02:49   Well goosy got in contact with kip because he wanted to bring it to Australia. He heard that, I don’t know if you would remember before then, but there was like pretty much a monopoly. It was just AFP today. Comps a long time, at least in Melbourne. Sydney had a few different ones but still like pretty limited choice of competitions and he just felt that there was a good market over here for it. And he was at a point where he was doing well in Canada and he was making good money warmer and he wanted to expand it. He started talking to kip because kip was literally the only Australian he knew. So he was like, hey man, I run this competition like I want to Hogan bring it to Australia. I need someone to help me run it and like do all the things I can’t do while I’m there. And Kit being kid was like, yeah, definitely. That’s awesome man. I’m your guy. I’ll help you do whatever you need, let me know. But I’ll probably, I don’t know, but I’m guessing it was something along those lines.

Nic:  03:36  I would have just expected none, man, I don’t work. What are you talking about?

Ben:  03:40 He agrees to work with. He just that he doesn’t do anything. It gives you a starting to realize that he’d need someone as well as kit. So a goosy started talking to other people in the Australian community at this time. He’s just like messaging pretty much anyone he could find on Facebook. At the time I was working, working on the weekends as a Bouncer, so I’d work Friday, Saturday, Sunday night and then I trained full time during the week. I was like, yeah, I don’t really have anything else to do. I have lots of spare time. I can book venues and email storage units, whatever needs to be done. I have no idea what to do. I’ve never done it before and like don’t have any experience. But he was like, don’t worry about that. It’s easy. I’ll tish you and I just agreed to it. A couple months later a gusy came and we ran a comp.

Ben:  04:20  It’s sold out. We had to close registrations early cause we only had six mats and everyone in Melbourne wanted to come. Then we did one in Sydney that sold out too. Then we got some more maps that we did one in Adelaide that went pretty well. Then we added Brisbane and Gold Coast and it’s been going well ever since and now big dog over here is ready to run some comps by himself cause a, I’ve got responsibilities elsewhere in Europe and ADCC and things like that so sometimes I have to leave him unsupervised. He hasn’t dropped the ball yet.

Nic:  04:47   Haven’t dropped the ball up but nothing but score. Slam dunks except for that checking list. Alphabetical order doesn’t mean anything. Okay. If there’s a name on the list, you’ll find it. He printed the checking list. He didn’t put it in alphabetical order so the people would rock up and the girl on the checking. Les would have to look through 450 names. Hang on. Yeah. I did that once, but, but then there I was like, you idiot, I need to fix this. But then I was in such a rush because it was the morning of the conference. I had 10 other things to do that I just did the exact same thing. I just hit print. It’s a simple mistake to make. What is the most rewarding part of your job

Ben:  05:22  besides the money? We’re both very involved in the community, especially in Australia. It’s nice to be a part of something that contributes to it. Grappling industries does do a lot for the sport. It gets a different lane. You still need, yeah, AFP, JDA columns, the Japan packs and your things like that. We have slightly different rules. Do the round Robin thing and all that. It’s just nice being responsible for something that the community enjoys and appreciates. I guess.

Nic:  05:46  It’s good to see it growing in Australia. There’s a couple of big international names come up and they’re sitting right here. I was thinking Craig at the guy has done amazing things. Who is that? I think he trains at my gym before text Johnson last weekend. You fought tech’s have a new, how’d that go? I think I lost, oh, he beat ticks. Yeah, he really naked show kicks in like two minutes. Which city has the best Jujitsu Melbourne. There are definitely some standout athletes in every state, but as a whole there just seems to be a much deeper pool in Melbourne,

Ben:   06:22  so nick will be rolling Solo, running grappling industries for a little while because Ben, you’re off to compete in ADCC this September. For those people who have been living under a rock, what is ADCC? Yeah, it stands. The Abu Dhabi Combat Club is one of the biggest competitions in the world for Jujitsu. Definitely the biggest one for the Nagi. Yeah, it’s kind of like the Olympics of Jujitsu. They do it every two years. Every division has 16 spots. Half the spots go to the best athletes in the world that are killing it and they get invited and the other half of the spots go to people that have qualified. They’d run a couple in Brazil, a couple in America, a couple in Europe and Oceania. I won the one in Kazakhstan a little while ago so I get to go. How did you prepare for that? Just back at home at Absolut training.

Ben:   07:06  Um, every day Saint Kilda, same crew. Lockie Craig when he’s around a, we got some good brown belts and stuff coming up. Now when I can stay in Melbourne and like my sleeping’s good. I can wake up the same time, eight this time trying this time I’ve got my strength and conditioning coach JT. He’s like one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the country. I trained with him three times a week. I know which sessions are going to be hard, which sessions I can roll a bit lighter and like try some stuff out. Just having that routine is really important. That’s where you make the biggest gains is not traveling around. And even if you get to drop in at a really good gym and you might get one or two really good training sessions, it’s the consistency that’s really important. I don’t think I’ll be doing a camp for ADCC. They’re like, I think I’ll stay home because we’ve got a few guys going. We got a Locky and live going as well. I don’t know if Craig’s going to be around or if he’s doing a camp somewhere, but um, yeah, just training at home is about as good as it can get right now. And how did you prepare mentally? Mental preparation is just something that you constantly doing. If you’re a athlete or competitor everyday I think about ADCC you know, it’s always on your mind.

Nic:   08:07  It’s also on your vision board and in your dream diary that to like kill, kill,

Ben:   08:13  kill all the people. What do you do for recovery? I’ve got a Sauder in my building at the moment, so I use that every day, which helps a lot. Farm rolling every day. I need to stretch more, but I should, I’ve got a stretch. I usually get a massage once a week. We go to a couple of physios training with us and go see them every couple of weeks. Basically training full time is a battle of like constantly being on the verge of getting injured. You want to train hard and push yourself, but if you go past that point you might push something too far and hurt it. So it’s just always making sure you just recovered enough to push yourself again the next day. Do you think the fact that you’re currently an active competitor makes you better at organizing cups? Yeah, I think it gives you a different insight to it and cause I’m still competing and like I’m still going to comms. I’m always thinking like, how would I be like looking at this? What would I be thinking? Is this like an amateur like Ron competition or would I be thinking, you know, oh this is really cool, they got this, this and this. It’s not that hard to figure out where to be and all that stuff. So yeah, it’s good to have that insight to it as well. That’s really exciting. You right now about the direction that the sport is going.

Nic:  09:17  I think it’s exciting that people can actually make money off a hobby. Now when I started it was like looking at so many avenues of making Jujitsu a profession. But realistically at that time the only thing that you could do is coach run a gym. Right now I think it’s, it is exciting to see that people can make a living off Jujitsu

Ben:  09:38  that comes from, um, just the growth of the sport though. I think it’s like getting bigger and bigger because of MMA, but it’s becoming its own thing now and I feel like it’s right on the verge of becoming mainstream in five years. I think everyone’s going to know what it is kind of thing. Really. Yeah. Could you imagine being an outsider trying to watch like everywhere or something? I’d get, that’s what I sort of realized doing the Europe expansion. We grappling industry like this every way, every way. Like countries I haven’t even heard of and there’s like 10 BJJ gyms there and stuff. We five deals all over the world. Like everyone, I didn’t follow the sport. I think what we’re just talking to lies.

Nic:  10:11 Well that’s how boring it is.

Ben:  10:14  I think there’s sort of two lanes in Jujitsu now and the new lane is more exciting to watch and it has more potential to be a spectator sport and that’s where a lot of the growth is coming from because like back in the day, if you wanted to be a professional athlete and Jujitsu train really hard, go to worlds, try and win worlds, the black belt world champion. And then even most of those got forgotten and even wouldn’t even know their name if I mentioned it and they probably broke sitting in a shack in Brazil somewhere. But now the other lane is that you can train really hard, go to local competitions, get a bit of a name for yourself. If you’re in America, you can follow the events. They have a production on the west coast or production on the east coast. I’m talking about grappling industries over there.

Ben:  10:56  They have a production and goes city to city. So every weekend they have guys that just follow, that helps set up. They get the a free registration, they get 10 matches a weekend, you build a bit of a name for yourself locally. Then you start emailing people. You get on your local sort of fight nights. He might get on the Indycar to fight to win or something like that. More people start to know you. You do your social media, you start to get bigger and bigger. You start to get bigger, super fights, build a name for yourself and you can grow that way. Which is sort of more the way guys like Gordon, Ryan, Craig have done it. That sort of new direction that you can take with the sport. Those events are a lot more viewer friendly I think, than tournament style. What do you think?

Nic:  11:32 No, I’d have to agree with that. Everybody wants to be no gay guy. He’ll hook people start on their back.

Ben:  11:40 Yeah. I don’t think that it’s like everyone wants to do that. It’s just that there’s, there’s two, there’s an afternoon falls now. Yet there’s still the guys that prefer blank. They want that. There’s guys that don’t like us for that reason and that’s, that’s good. So, so guys like us for no

Nic:  11:53  reason.

Ben:   11:55   Oh, I’m sure that raises. What does the next year look like for both of you? We’ve got a lot of events planned in Australia, even more planned in Europe and I’ll do to try and do some competitions and super fights and things like that in there as well. Now I’d like to go to the next few ADCCs as well, make sure I stay sharp on that.

Nic:  12:14   For me, I’ve been cutting back more and more and more on what I’m doing. Interstate 2017 I think I spent four months at home and that was it. They lost Ya. I did 26 competitions running fishy eight in referee and so I didn’t get much time at home either. And then this year I think this is only like my ninth or 10th competition. We’re already halfway through the year. I’d like to spend more time at time. I’d coached at three gyms in Brisbane, BTC,

Ben:  12:44  and if anyone out there is looking for a job, it looks like I need someone else to help me run combs.

Nic:  12:48  Not yet. Wait till I’m done. I’ll send you two weeks notice. Don’t worry. ATC in Brisbane at Suave and UK Yuku Jujitsu clubs. So I’d like to spend more time developing there as well. Mainly my students can come out and win grappling industries.

Ben:  13:04  It’s tough out there. It’s hot on those mats. It is. There’s some talent come up through the, uh, through the grappling industry. Super absolutes. There definitely is.

Nic:   13:14  I don’t want to mention names because I’ll go give them a big head.

Ben:  13:19 Ben and Nick, thank you so much. Thanks for having us. This was kind of fun. It was very fun.