An interview with Paul Severn

Why have you committed so much of your life to training and teaching BJJ?

I ask myself this everyday WHY?!?!?!? hahaha… I’ve done lots of different Martial arts and BJJ is the one that has resonated with me the most.  Every martial art has its own answer to “what if…?” ,some martial arts have a simple answer, some have degree level theoretical answers…for some reason my brain seems to be wired to think the way BJJ is structured.

I prefer the training side more than teaching but I wouldn’t not coach.  I started coaching purely by accident…the previous coach left Trojans and I was asked to take over the classes at both gyms and I wasn’t that bad at it, then we got my current Coach Chico Mendes and he took over but I was given my own class and then in time he moved on and he turned over the teaching at Worcester to me again.

BJJ I have a love/hate relationship with as there are some days when after training when I’ve been awful I feel like stopping and taking up something totally different, but then there are the other days…it has allowed me to meet people I am proud to call friends from all over the world and learn from them and about where there from sometimes we both speak different languages but we can speak through BJJ. I’m lucky in a way.

For me personally what I get from training is it’s like my medication…it’s my stress relief, it resets me, the times in my life when I have walked away from the mat has been when to be honest my life has gone to shit and I’ve made bad choices and bad decision.  No matter what is going on in your life, bad day at the office, your stressed about something, your partners left you, your pet brick has died, you feel shy you lack confidence, you can get on the mats put your gear on and train and I guarantee you will be smiling by the end of it due to the family you make through training.  Everyone goes through something when you just want to sit down and give up, in training there’s always someone to drag you through the other side and make you realise it’s not that bad

What has been the highlight of your coaching career?

That’s really hard to pick, because there’s two but for different reasons:

  1. The first time Chico took the class in Cheltenham as I’d been teaching there for a few months whilst he sorted out moving to the UK?….at the end of the class he pulled me to one side and told me I’d done a good job teaching till he got here.  Coming from the boss that means a lot..
  2. The second was when I got my brown belt in front of nearly all the guys I teach…I think they were more proud than I was.

How would you describe your style of teaching?

There is a saying “the student is a reflection of the teacher” I’m sorry guys your all doomed and I’m not paying for your psychologist…I have my lesson plans on a three month block of what I’m going to teach so it builds the kind of style we have here but it changes depending on if I see mistakes or bad habits creep in to people’s training

I’m also a massive nerd and study lots of footage of competitions /guys I admire to try to figure out what they do as I’m a visual/kinaesthetic learner and I try to learn and train using someone else’s game so it adds to mine so I can teach it

The hardest part for me isn’t teaching the class it’s teaching the individual in the class so you all improve and go home happy.  Some days I see people walking in who have had a bad day or misfiring and not looking themselves so I need to change what we are doing and have some fun and do drills ,our conditioning challenges etc.  For every hour you see in class there’s probably twice as much prep time

If you could go back in time to when you started training what would you tell yourself?

The first ten years are the worst, after that you don’t care, change your mind-set. You judge yourself against person next to you in class and that’s wrong. You shouldn’t judge yourself against someone that has been training longer than you as you will lose and feel bad every time you tap. Judge yourself against the people that join behind you and who think you’re really good. Don’t train to beat people up, train to beat yourself; you are your own worst opponent. Focus on improving 1% per class over time add a little to a lot and that little will be much.  And beware of your coach as he is subtle and quick to anger.

Finally what is your favourite Arnie film?



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