Fighter Feature: James Saks

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu South Africa caught up with one of SA’s top BJJ talents, James Saks, and got to do a quick Q and A with the 2016 NAGA Champion and Abu Dhabi World’s Silver medallist.


1. BJJSA: “James tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, where you’re from, where do you train and how long you have been training in martial arts?”

James: “I live in JHB South Africa and train out of Fight Fit Militia (Gracie Barra Sunninghill), I’ve been training in martial arts for about 15 years now, and I started with judo, then moved onto Kungfu eventually moving into MMA and then BJJ.”

2. BJJSA: “What got you into BJJ?”

James: “I got into BJJ in early 2008 when a friend of mine asked me to help him with a bit of judo, I went to join him at a Club called Tapout Academy, where I noticed that they were doing a lot of Newaza, I was very intrigued as it was my style of fighting and I enjoyed the technical side of the ground work. It’s safe to say I was instantly hooked and never went back to judo, giving up my brown belt and swapping it for a bjj white belt.”


3. BJJSA: How often do you train and what does your weekly training regime look like?”

James: “I train 2 to 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, starting off at 11:30 where I’ll train Gi on Tuesdays -and Thursdays and no-Gi Mondays and Wednesdays, I then do wrestling on a Friday. All my conditioning is done under the close eyes of Richie Quan and Mathew from Fight Fit. On a weekend I’ll generally take part in an open mat or just a light roll with some of my students.”


4. BJJSA: Last month you travelled abroad with a few fellow South African’s and competed overseas, tell us about what it was like competing at such prestigious events and how they went for you?”

James: “WOW AMAZING!!! To be privileged enough to have gone to worlds was one of the best experiences of my life!! The way the comp is set up and the prestige that comes with competing is something you cannot put into words. I met all my favourite BJJ hero’s and made wonderful new friends and connections from all around the world. I was also lucky enough to bring home a silver world’s medal!!”


5. BJJSA: What does South Africa need to do, in order to run tournaments of the same calibre?”

James: “It’s simple!! Listen to the people that know and support the community events STOP REGISTERING ON THE LAST MINUTE!! Unfortunately South Africans don’t support other South Africans and everybody knows best and wants to be the “top Dog” instead of working together. Work together and with the community they need to start hosting good quality events with ONE set of Rules!! Heel hooking white belts is an MMA mentality and with just bring demise to our sport.”


6. BJJSA: Were you the founder of SABJJF?”

James: “I was the founder of SABJJF yes.”

7. BJJSA: What was inspiration behind starting SABJJF and who runs it now?”

James: “I started the SABJJF because we had no sort of community when it came to BJJ. My goal with the SABJJF was to Force the Leaders of our sport to stand up and take control and to recognise that it’s not only about sitting in your gyms and charging fees to teach and getting graded by the affiliate, but to stand as one and represent our sport united as a community. It’s like the saying goes ‘you can snap one twig by its self with easy but a bunch of twigs together cannot be snapped’.”

8. BJJSA: We recently saw that SABJJF changed its name to SAGF, could you give us some insight as to why? And what we would possible need to do in order to get BJJ to become its own recognised sport under SASCOC?”

James: “I handed SABJJF over to David Aghion and Nathan Raaths two black belts respected in our community and also neutral to the politics involved in our sport as most of you know I’m very controversial and not the right character to head up an organisation like the SABJJF. In order to cover all forms of ground combat they felt it more relative to change the Name to SAGF South African grappling federation. However in saying that I have restructured the SABJJF to fall under SAGF as the governing sector of bjj we will still be active and try to grow the sport as best we can. SAGF falls under SASCOC let’s just hope they do it properly.”

9. BJJSA: We see that SABJJF has fund an athlete, how could we see athletes benefit from that and how can sponsors get involved?”

James: “Fund an Athlete was created by me for the athletes that don’t have means to pay for comps, travels or even equipment. The fund has successfully raised over R40 000 and my personal campaign has paid for my trip to worlds and the London IBJJF event in august last year. It’s a very helpful tool that allows the athlete make people aware of what they are trying to do, Again this tool relays on the participation of community.”


10. BJJSA: We have noticed the sport explode in popularity over the last 5 years, what would you say is keeping big sponsors away from funding events and athletes to do this full time?”

James: “The Sport has grown yes however the thing keeping big sponsors away is the unprofessional manor people are hosting comps. Unless the guys driving our sport are reaching out to the bigger originations and or getting small things like adequate medals right we are unfortunately stuck in a rut. Until we can start acting as a community I’m sad to say I don’t see the comp side of things growing big enough to attract comps like NAGA or IBJJF. But we won’t stop pushing and I personally will not stop calling out the things I see that are wrong.”

BJJSA: “Thank you so much for your time James, all the best for the rest of 2016!”

Thank you for everything BJJ has done for me and because I will never stop giving back. GUYS DON’T SIT BACK AND ACCEPT, CHALLENGE EVERYTHING, ESPECIALLY YOURSELVES.

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