The Jiu-Jitsu Society – Celebrating 30 years at a 100-year institution
Societies at the University of Leicester give students an opportunity to make life-long friends, learn a new skill, build on their teamwork with other students and get involved in university activities like Varsity and Freshers that take place yearly.
With a lengthy list of clubs and groups currently active at the University, from football and rugby to the Anime society and Enactus, it is no surprise that many of them have a long history since their creation. One such society, the Jiu-Jitsu society, celebrated 30 years in 2021 since it was formed. We spoke to Isaac Bitelli, current Captain of the University of Leicester Jiu-Jitsu club and their 1992 club Captain, Soke Dr Richard Catterick about their founding, their achievements and how they feel celebrating 30 years of Jiu-Jitsu at the University, during the University’s Centenary year.
“It’s crazy to think the club has now been running for 30 years.” - Soke Dr Richard Catterick
Founded in September of 1991, the society ran as an unofficial club at the University of Leicester, later becoming official in the Autumn of 1992. The first club Captain was Joanne Harvey, with Kevin Sharkey as the club’s Secretary and a total of 8 to 10 members.
Soke comments: “It’s crazy to think the club has now been running for 30 years. It has become an institution in Leicester that produces quality martial artists and all-round great people. I am proud to have been part of its history and look forward to help celebrate the 50th in twenty years’ time.”
Isaac added: “I am proud that I can not only be part of, but also shaping something that has been around many years before I was born and will hopefully be around many years after I am dead. Legacy is a key value imbedded into the University of Leicester and the Jiu-Jitsu society is certainly part of that, and so it is fortuitous that such a big milestone of the club co-insides with one of the University.”
A brief history of Jiu-Jitsu
Jiu-Jitsu was founded originally in Japan. Jiu-Jitsu is a family of Japanese martial arts and a system of close combat that can be used in a defensive or offensive manner. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also exists and is a martial art and combat sport based on ground fighting and submission holds. It focuses on the skill of taking an opponent to the ground, controlling one's opponent, gaining a dominant position, and using several techniques to force them into submission via joint locks or chokeholds.
The style of Jiu-Jitsu practiced at the University, however, is its own, which was founded here at Leicester by the 1992 club Captain, Soke Dr Richard Catterick. Isaac describes how their style differs from the traditional style:
“It is in the nature of all things to change, to adapt. To overcome the challenges the future brings. Jiu-Jitsu is no different. We are no longer just for safety on the battlefield but also safety on the street, no longer just for the privileged few but for everyone, no longer for lords to make war, but for people to make peace.
Our founder practised a variety of different styles, gaining black belts in many of them. He has taken what he learnt and, with some new ideas of his own, produced his own style of Jiu-Jitsu".
Overcoming the pandemic
Lockdown brought about a new set of challenges for many societies at the University, particularly around membership of new students. With the pandemic ongoing, Isaac looks back on their perseverance to overcome a hurdle that many faced:
“We kept going through lockdown by live-streaming lessons. Even though we persevered, we still struggled like everyone else, ending the year with no members (other than current committee). We went into this year worrying we wouldn’t be able to continue, and the club would have to shut down.
Through hard work however, we turned this around. We currently have 22 members. All except 3 are brand new members and many of them have recently passed their first Jiu-Jitsu grading. Before Christmas, we were the biggest martial arts club on campus (unless the other clubs have significantly grown since then, we still are), and we expect to continue to grow as we set up opportunities for competitions and continue to provide a safe environment for people to learn how to defend themselves.
”Issac continued: “Jiu Jitsu, to me, represents the chance to be better, not just physically but emotionally as well. It has helped me develop perseverance, confidence, and discipline, with which I have overcome many obstacles. It isn’t for everyone, but it is something I feel everyone should try, because if it is for you, you’ll be glad you did."
If you’d like to get involved, the Jiu-Jitsu society provide free taster sessions. Be sure to contact first by emailing [email protected]. For sessions, make sure you are in sportswear, and take along with you a water bottle. Training takes place at the Danielle Brown Sports centre on Tuesdays 7:00pm - 8:30pm and Thursdays 7.30pm - 9:00pm.