This week Bill Carne bumped into an old sporting friend in Stuart Tyrie and was able to find out all about this former rugby player’s total involvement as a qualified instructor in the martial art known as Brazilian Jujitsu . . .

Stuart Tyrie was originally well-known in local sporting circles as a tough rugby player with Pembroke, Tenby United and Whitland but over recent tears has developed a considerable interest in martial arts.

“I enjoyed it at Pembroke and Tenby,” he said, “but when I moved to the Midlands on a scholarship at Wolverhampton I played semi-professional rugby at Worcester at under 21 level. I also played for Birmingham/Solihull and went on loan to Walsall, learning my rugby trade all the time before I came back to Pembrokeshire and signed for Whitland RFC, where I scored nine tries in 12 starts as a flanker alongside superb players like Phil Morgan, Randall Williams and Johnny Koloi.”

“But I had always fancied travelling and when I placed my playing details on I was invited to play for St Patricks Old Boys in Sydney, Western Australia, where I was voted player of the season before I was on the move again, turning out for Alpago in North-East Italy scoring 30 tries in 22 appearances; both reasonably good grades of rugby.”

But Stuart lost his hunger for the game when his father, Mark Meaney, died and he stopped playing. He put on weight but was saved by his friend Alex Ward, who did ju-jitsu in Pembroke Dock and persuaded Stuart to try it.

Stuart then started Brazilian Jujitsu in 2008 and loved the philosophy behind this form of martial art because it generated self-discipline and in a way a new outlook on life for him – and so started up his club in 2010, with Chris Rees from Swansea as a terrific mentor to give advice after so many years of experience.

He is now the chief instructor at what was previously known as the Brazilian Jujitsu Pembrokeshire in Pembroke Dock but with the development of the club on its current sites in Pembs and Carmarthen is now known as CRA West Wales.

“I got it up and running on the 15th August of that year,” Stuart told us, “and it is still hard to believe how much it has grown since after we set out in a dingy back room at the old DJs Nightclub in Penally, which had previously been used by a boxing club.

“Some friends and I cleaned it up so we could train together but more and more joined us so we became really short of mat space so we moved to a larger unit behind Criterion Motors in Pembroke Dock.

“Before long we were training five nights a week and even added a Saturday morning class so that others could join us for fitness training if they wanted, as well as wanting to follow this brand of martial art.”

Stuart was then employed as a fitness instructor at Pembroke Leisure Centre but was by now so busy with the BJJ Club that he decided to take on the running of the club full time – and started out some renovation of the facilities to bring their headquarters to its current excellent condition.

“I love the fact that participants in Brazilian Jiujitsu are made to realise that there is no room for ego in our training because it does encourage that need for self-discipline and mutual respect – and progress through the coloured belts is enhanced by testing yourself against your peers and opponents from other clubs to show improvement alongside hard work in training on a sustained basis.”

Stuart is now a Brown Belt and in the near future aims to achieve the coveted Black Belt status.

“My problem at the moment is the fact that because I’m so busy coaching others that I have less time for myself, which makes my own training time very limited,” he says with a typical chuckle!

“The thing I am most delighted about is the large number of children we have who are eager to get involved.

“So we have classes for kids from four to seven and then eight to 14, which now take place weekly on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, plus Saturday mornings, with a fun element involved in what we do with them.

“We also encourage good behaviour, readiness to listen and always trying their best, and by encouraging these elements at every stage, which soon rubs off on those who find it hard to focus.

“It is obviously different with adults who join us because they have to understand and accept from the outset that self-discipline is a key factor, Brazilian jiujitsu can be a very effective form of self-defence but for us, is predominantly a sport so we are not out to hurt anyone more to improve ourselves mentally and physically and when possible to win medals is a nice bonus. 

At senior level coach Stuart holds classes 5 nights a week and a Saturday morning (four classes a week) in Pembroke Dock and one in Carmarthen (hence the change to West Wales in the club’s name), with upwards of 35 attending in mixed classes.

It is clear to see the improvement they have shown from the less experienced and those who want to keep fit to the competitors in the team like Kaycee Blake, who has recently been competing in Bahrain as part of the UK Mixed Martial Arts’ team.

“Kaycee came to us as a novice looking to find something positive to channel her efforts into and she has received just reward for her terrific commitment and eagerness to develop her skill levels – and everyone in our club, young and old admire her for what she has achieved.

“She had to self-fund not only her own competition entry fees and air flights etc but even had to cough up to pay for her own kit!

“When she joined us she had trained in kick boxing at 83kg but for these world championships had reduced to 70kgs – and this girl will make it” says Stuart with typical understatement!

Stuart himself had previously trained at Merlins Bridge ABC with Graham Brockway and competed in cage fighting after his days in rugby - and started off with bang as he beat his first opponents in 16 seconds and then 27 seconds with his aggressive striking.

But now he is fully focussed on his own MMA and Brazilian Jiujitsu team and is clearly doing a great job since so many others are joining him – and we are delighted for him because he has always been a terrific flag-bearer for Pembrokeshire and is continuing that tradition in what he is doing now!