An Interview With John Goldson
Words Stewart Norriss
Photo Gregg Rodgers
John is the owner and head coach of the Forge Martial Arts centre in Sheffield http://www.theforge-ma.co.uk/  and also my head coach I sat down to talk to him about the past, present and future.
SN: John how did the whole martial arts adventure start?
JG: I started at the age of 11 doing Wado Ryu Karate and trained until I got my first dan black belt at 16 years of age at which point the instructor wanted me to teach but I felt I had more to learn. I then tried Tae Kwon Do and got my black belt in that as well but the same sort of thing happened. Next stop a traditional Jiu Jitsu club but my instructor was moving towards BJJ showed the art to me and from that point I was hooked. I had my purple belt in traditional Jiu Jitsu but BJJ felt like the thing I had been looking for as I would just keep learning.
SN: Is this an ethos difference between the Japanese and Brazilian attitudes?
JG: I think that is more that BJJ is an open minded sport, many traditional arts teach them to the exclusivity of all others. In BJJ a student can walk in with a new technique and I want them to show me and to add it which is why you never stop developing.
SN: The transition from student to teacher must have been a hard one?
JG: It was very much by accident, I was training under Andy Roberts who pretty much helped bring BJJ to the UK and he had decided to move down south. I was the most experienced constant at his gym and a purple belt and he asked me to take it over. At first I was not confident enough as I felt that Andy was the man and I was not ready. Oddly though a chat with Royce Gracie in America changed my mind.
SN: What did he say?
JG: We knew him quite well as had been under him briefly before we became a Gracie Barra and he was asking how things were going. I told him about Andy leaving and not being sure about taking the whole thing on and Royce basically said, give it a go or it stops there. I thought well if Royce Gracie thinks it is worth a go then why not and it snowballed from there, some days it had one or two people and then it began to grow. I went from working a job as well as coaching to having 40 people on the mat and it was clear we needed a full time gym, I never set out to make it my job I did it because that was what we needed.
SN: You mention you moved away from Royce to Gracie Barra why was that?
JG: In the early 2000’s there were few high grades around in the UK and we were not really getting that much input or support from the Royce network at the time. Andy moved it to a Gracie Barra who had placed the Estima brothers and others in the UK as support. Then after I took over I met Lucio “Lagarto” Rodrigues who is Carlos Gracie Jnr’s head of school in Europe and a world class black belt, became good friends and we became Gracie Barra Sheffield Team Lagarto http://www.lagartoacademy.co.uk/  . He is always there for me and for us and has helped us build the club and develop the sport in the UK, he is like a brother to me and will support me in anything I and the team want.
SN: Next came the move into MMA and the cage, why was that?
JG: I have always loved the UFC and MMA and have watched it from pretty much the start, I saw Royce back in UFC II but I was a karate guy back then and it passed me a little. It all came full circle when I then got into BJJ and had met Royce and others and it brought me back to MMA and the UFC. I was then a corner man to Carlos “Ronin” Netwon at UFC 38 v Matt Hughes at the Brawl at the Albert Hall. I met a lot of guys, Bruce Buffer, John McCarthy, Tito Ortiz and that got me more and more into it. However I did not want to just rush and start a MMA gym because it was becoming more and more popular. I wanted to know BJJ first and really be able to teach that before I moved and expanded.
I also wanted to grow organically, get the right people round me as I can teach a lot of it but we now have people like Shaun Morley (2 time Commonwealth Greco Roman Silver Medallist and Team England Manager) to teach wrestling and other top people with other specific skill sets.
SN: Did the sometimes volatile British MMA scene worry you?
JG: Yes that did worry me and there are even shows in Sheffield as recently as this month selling it totally the wrong way, like it was done back in the 1990’s, as a bloodsport. When people come here we tell them, you are joining a team, you will learn to fight and learn a sport but you are not here to have a fight. You come here to learn to be a fighter not to have a fight.
SN: Would you put a show on and try and redress the negatives that some shows have presented?
JG: I believe that Sheffield is the right place and the right city for a show and with the right people with the right way of thinking we could have a great show in Sheffield. I want to build my team and strengthen the family here first but yes it is something in my mind. This is why I have gone into this fully, spent to the hilt and put as much in this gym as I could to give people the right foundation and the right way of thinking. If I do not care and do not look professional then my team will not do so, I would rather have this gym and all we have here than have Porsche outside. I also want to make sure that people are safe I have been doing this a long time now and understand it I have in the past turned down a fighter as I felt it was not right or safe for them.
SN: So what is next?
JG: If it is BJJ or MMA I want to teach the best way I can and build a team and a family, get as much experience as we can, don’t rush and we can all grow together. We will also continue to build on the excellent reputation we have with world class seminars such as the Gazzy Parman one we have December 4th http://www.theforge-ma.co.uk/about_us_news.html  watch this space