Steve Phillips

Which sport(s) do you compete in?
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

What is your current rank? 
Black Belt

When and how did you start BJJ?
I started in 2003. I was actually looking to take up Judo, but couldn’t find a club that was conveniently located. I walked into a BJJ Academy, did a few introductory sessions and 14 years later here I am.

How would you describe your style?
Passive and sneaky. My core style is not overtly aggressive and I will often fight from a bottom position, relying on sweeps and reversals. As a smaller guy I have developed some nice combinations to help deal with more aggressive fighters who are often larger / heavier / stronger.

Who are your BJJ heroes and why?
My jiu jitsu heros aren’t the regular people you might expect (e.g. ‘the greats’).

My hero is the regular guy in the background doing his burpees, being diligent in his drilling and getting submitted as he allows himself to fall into difficult positions for the sake of learning. At the same time he is confident enough to decline a roll with that reckless and large white belt to make sure that he can train again tomorrow.

My hero is the woman that is one of the few females in her academy, persevering despite being smaller and weaker than many of her training partners. She keeps coming to training despite getting sore ears from that guy that headlocks her and squeezes like his life depends on it. And one day soon she will kick that guy’s ass and love every minute of it.

These people give to the art. They are happy to share a technique that they are good at. They compete to represent their academy and test themselves, not for the medals or kudos that come with success. They are humble if presented as a role model but glow on the inside. They make it easier for the people that will follow them into the art that I love. They are my heros.

What is your most memorable BJJ moment? 
My single most memorable moment was being awarded my black belt by Thiago Stefanutti in 2016.  My journey through brown belt was the toughest of any of the belts and I am so appreciative to have been acknowledged as a black belt by someone whose influence and guidance stopped me from quitting altogether.

What are your goals and motivation to compete?
I love the preparation much more than the competition itself. Pushing yourself to the limit, with people that you know and trust shows that the benefits from Jiu Jitsu goes beyond technique and why camaraderie at an academy is so strong. I see my part of helping others to prepare as part of my contribution back to my academy and the art.

At the other end of the journey, the process of focussed improvement happens after the event is over. You go out and work on whatever let you down on comp day, be that a position, defending a specific technique or improving your conditioning.

What does your weekly training schedule look like (including S&C)? 
I train Jiu Jitsu 2 or 3 times a week. The bulk of my training occurs in the middle of the day during lunch breaks. I also strength train twice a week. Finally, if the weather and my schedule allow I will ride my bike on the weekend for 30 to 100 kms. Otherwise Sunday becomes a conditioning workout that I do in the comfort of my garage.

I also teach a self defence class, which helps me to think about Jiu Jitsu and I consider this part of my mental training.

In your opinion, what do you think most BJJ fighters lack in their training?
Rest and focus. BJJ suffers from a ‘more is more’ mindset. I have found that as age and competing priorities have restricted my  training time, I have become more focussed on training effectively. The idea of having a lot of mat time available can allow people to become selective about what they work on / how focussed their time is. By eliminating junk training time, you can be an effective and competitive grappler without completing 11 sessions of training per week.

What are your highest values in your BJJ and training life?
As a student: Be respectful. Turn up and make an honest effort. Work on your weaknesses and be appreciative.

As a coach: Honesty and practicality. Some techniques or exercises are really effective under very specific circumstances. That’s fine, but it is important to be up front about those limitations. I like universal techniques that are relevant in many situations, especially from a self defence perspective. These are the techniques that everyone can use because they don’t rely on having a specific physical attribute e.g. wild flexibility.

What do you do for fun or to relax outside of your training/competition schedule?

I spend time camping and this is a great way to get back to the things that are important to me: family and friends. I always come back to training refreshed and energized, and slightly overweight.

How has Strength & Conditioning impacted your BJJ?
Strength and Conditioning training has kept me on the mat, both mentally and physically. The diversity of my training routine has kept me interested and active, avoiding burnout. Physically the benefit of this training has been to avoid / minimise injury, building confidence and being aware of my limitations. I love it when someone says that I’m stronger than I look – or when people 15 years my junior ask to pass on the next round of rolling because they are exhausted.

Lastly, when I feel strong and healthy, I feel confident as a martial artist, as a competitor and as a person. It enables me to perform at a higher percentage of my ability, for longer. So I get better positions, am more dominant, finish more submissions due to being able to perform when it matters.