Welcome to our second installment of Open Guards Home Grown Athlete. This week we had the chance to catch up with Ben Hodgkinson from Absolute MMA.
Hey Ben first of all mate congratulations on the recent success at the Abu Dhabi Sydney Trials, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to have a chat with us here at Open Guard.
Ben would you like to take a little bit of time to introduce yourself to our readers, tell us about your journey so far and your plans for the future.
Sure, my name is Ben Hodgkinson (perhaps better known as sandbaggingcreonte). I am currently in the air somewhere between Melbourne and California. Writing to kill time on my flight from Melbourne to LA, where I will be competing and hopefully winning in the IBJJF Pan Ams.
But to back up,
I started training in Perth, Western Australia. Over the first 5 years or so of my journey I entered some small local comps and had a little success. I racked up a few medals at White, blue, and purple, nothing really to brag about, however I didn’t know that yet and I thought I was a bit of a badass… That was until I started travelling and saw how the real badasses train and felt the level of competition internationally. In 2011 I made my first trip to worlds including a 2 month training camp at the infamous Team Lloyd Irvin. Although the camp wasn’t enough to help me win worlds (I got smoked 10-2 first round), it opened my eyes to how I needed to train if I were to take the sport seriously, and I have had a lot more success in competition ever since. It was not long after this that I moved from WA to Melbourne.
When you made the move from Western Australia to Melbourne what was the main contributing factor to making the move over?
Well as I mentioned before, travelling to America and seeing how real athletes were training over there really motivated me to change a lot of things in my life. Ideally I would have moved straight to America and started training full time at one of the big teams over there. However this is easier said than done due to the issues of getting a visa, saving money, finding a job, accommodation, etc. So I settled for the next best thing. Melbourne was then, and still is in my opinion the epicentre of jiujitsu in Australia. At the time the only guys doing anything on a world scale were Kit Dale and Yuri Simoes, both were in Melbourne and I wanted to surround myself with the best. So I packed my shit and I went.
With such a busy schedule with training, competing and promoting events how to do you plan out your week and keep yourself motivated to compete at the highest level?
I’ve never struggled to find motivation to train, I genuinely love the grind, and the feeling of accomplishment from getting your hand raised at a competition is the greatest sensation I’ve ever experienced with pants on. I do have days when I have to dig deep and really force myself to go to training, but these are rare. My motivation for Grappling Industries ties right in with my motivation to compete. Finally I have found a job which allows me to not only train full time, but also gives me the funds to go on trips like this one where I can compete and train abroad for extended periods of time. Besides that I have felt for a long time like the competition scene in Australia is lacking in many areas, and Grappling Industries has given me the platform to try and help grow the sport locally. That is all the motivation I need.
What type of training if any do you do off the Mat that either is directly for your jiu Jitsu or just personal enjoyment?
Depends what I have coming up, generally speaking I just try to get to the gym and lift 2 or 3 times a week on top of bjj, and I have also recently started wrestling 1-2 times a week as well. I also think that yoga is also one of the most important practices for longevity in bjj and allows you to be more effective in many positions, especially guard. I highly recommend the website www.yogaforbjj.com
A lot of people have their idols, which they base their game of, if you have anyone in particular who do you model the foundations of your game?
I try not to copy anyone’s “game” or moves too much, I have come to the realisation that if I try to do something exactly the same as someone else, the best I will get is going to be a less good copy of that persons move. If I watch Andre Galvao do an arm bar and then try and replicate it exactly, it’s probably not going to work as well for me as it does for him. We have very different body types, and the way he sets it up might not work well into my game. The smarter way to learn I think is to try to understand why something works and how that person is setting it up, and then apply the same concepts to do your own version of whatever you are trying to do.
That being said I have learned a lot from watching competition footage of many high level black belts, particularly Keenan, and Lo. Both have similar body types to me and a lot of what they do suits my game without being changed too much.
Apart from those mentioned above who are your biggest influences both locally and internationally?
Everyone who I roll with has a huge influence on my jiujitsu, every time I travel to do a training camp or a comp I expose a new problem to solve and find new motivation to train harder. And of course all the guys I train with at home in Melbourne are the biggest influences. Especially the ones who smash me! I’m lucky enough to have beasts like Kit, Lachy, Ezra, and Craig to show me the holes in my game.
When you first started training BJJ to now, how have you seen the sport as a whole grow and in particularly the competition scene?
It’s moving forward slowly, but is still many steps behind countries like America in terms of its competition scene. As a competitor, I have noticed a lot of areas to improve the tournaments that already existed before GI came along, and I heard a lot of other people expressing the same complaints but not being listened to. Not that I’m trying to hate on other organisations in Australia past and present, they have done a lot of great things and are responsible for Australian BJJ being where it is today. However hopefully as Grappling Industries continues to address all of the problems we find, and attempt to produce a better and better tournament which is of course our aim, the other tournaments in Australia will be forced to lift their game if they hope to stay relevant.
You head up the Australian arm of the Grappling Industries tournament circuit how did you get involved?
Grappling Industries was taking off in Canada thanks to the entrepreneurial genius of President David Aguzzi, he got wind that there may be a market for his event down in Australia. The only person he knew of from here was Kit Dale. He contacted kit to ask for his help with the expansion, but kit being the social media sensation that he is was too busy with his own career to take on any more responsibilities, so he recommended his best looking brown belt for the job. And after that didn’t work out, I got the call.
The growth of Grappling Industries in Australia has been phenomenal what do you put its success down to?
Hard work, organisation, creativity, originality, listening to the people (including the criticism), our burning desire to continue growing and improving, and our undeniable ability to embrace the grind.
What would you tell someone who is sitting on the fence contemplating their first step into their own BJJ journey?
That it is a lot of fun and can be a great way to stay healthy. But also to be careful as it is more addictive than watching Game of Thrones and can easily become an obsession and take over your whole life for better or for worse.
What do you wish you were told when you first started your journey, and is there any advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you did and vice versa?
Not that I can specifically remember. Mostly I just wish I had taken the first few years of my training seriously, and had been training from day one the way I train now.
On the advice front if you could go back to day one on the mats and tell anything to your white belt self what would it be and why?
Invest in Bitcoin.
Other than the growth of Grappling Industries and your competition goals what can we expect next from Ben Hodgkinson?
In just the next 3 months I have Pan Ams, the Abu Dhabi World Pro, and Worlds, so hopefully some medals! We also have 3 more sets of Grappling Industries events planned for 2016 and hopefully I will find time to take a few more jiujitsu holidays towards the end of the year.
Thanks mate for taking the time to join us at Open Mat we look forward to seeing whats next! Do you have anything you would like to add?
If you’d like to follow my journey, look my name up on Facebook or Instagram (@sandbaggingcreonte). Oss