British Black Belt Interview – Tom Barlow

When I first started this blog I had a vision of interviewing every single British Black Belt in the country, while that hasn’t happened for a while, I’ve decided to revive this with a bang. Today we have an interview with British Black Belt and 3 time world Champion Tom Barlow. I recently met Tom at the Chelsea Leah Seminar I recently attended and he is a regular sparring partner and friend to my head coach Darren Yeoman. Anyway, over to you Tom!

How long have you been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
I started training BJJ at the end of 2005. Prior to that I’d trained Judo, Lau Gar, Kickboixng, Muay Thai, JKD, and a little CSW. I’d also attended a few Jiu Jitsu seminars but regular classes were pretty rare around that time.
When were you promoted to black belt and who promoted you?
I received my Black Belt in December 2011 from Braulio Estima. It was an amazing experience, he gave it too me at the end of a seminar being taught by his instructor Ze Radiola.
Why did you decide to take up the sport?
I first started martial arts training because I wanted to be Bruce Lee.
While at University I was lucky enough to train with a JKD instructor who introduced me to many forms of martial arts. He encouraged me to pursue the area’s of martial arts I found most interesting.
Around the same time as I started with him I saw UFC 1. I was amazed that this skinny Brazilian guy was able to demolish all these monsters.
Unfortunately, at that time there was no one training MMA or BJJ in Plymouth. All I could do was practice what I’d seen on TV or online with friends, and attend seminars whenever I could.
One of my biggest influences at that time was, MMA super coach, Erik Paulson. He used to come to the south west a couple of times a year to teach seminars and I developed a friendship with him. This led me to spend a month in LA training with him in 2004 and sparring with Ken Shamrock but that’s another story.
After spending some time training with Erik in LA, he suggested I train BJJ with Braulio Estima to continue my development. Erik had trained with him in the past and spoke very highly of him.
However, it wasn’t until about a year and a half later that I finally met Braulio and began training regularly with him.
When you first started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the sport was relatively unknown in the UK, how do you feel about it’s recent explosion?
It seems there’s a decent Jiu Jitsu instructor in every major city nowadays.
When I first started training I used to make a 400 mile round trip to train with Braulio. I’d wake up early in the morning drive for 4 hours, train for an hour or two with Braulio, then make the four hour trip back in time to teach at 5pm.
I glad that Jiu Jitsu is a lot more accessible than that now and there are a lot more competitions for people to attend.
Can you name you top 3 fighters that you love to watch?
That’s a tough question so I’m going to cheat just a little 😉
Mendes Brothers
Estima Brothers
What are your BJJ goals for 2016?
For competition, I’m planning on going back to the No Gi worlds in November, hopefully I can win that again.
I’d also like to compete at the World Championships in June. I’ve been pretty successful at the Master but I want the challenge of competing at Adult again. This means I have to compete in a whole bunch of competitions to qualify for it.
For my Academy, I want to spread the positive benefits martial arts training can have and help my students develop as much as possible. My academy is doing pretty well but I think we can do a lot better.
If you could give one piece of advice to anyone wanting to start the sport, what would that be?
Enjoy the bad times. Jiu Jitsu is like a rollacoster you’ll have ups and down (sometimes in the same session) but stick with it because the benefits are amazing.
Would you like to promote yourself? (Here you can mention your club, any blogs that you may write, companies, etc.)
I run Masters Acaddmy in Plymouth and everyone is welcome to come and train with me. For more information give us a call on 01752 262233 or visit our website at
I would also like to thank Scramble ( and Axien Security for their continued support.
To keep update with everything I’ve got going on like my Facebook at or visit

About the author


Richard Presley

A purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Richard is the owner and primary writer of Attack The back. Check out my About Me Page to learn more!