Let’s be honest covid-19 has put a stop not just a lot of peoples training but also their holiday plans. Hubby and myself had been toying with the idea of visiting Belfast – not just because it is in the UK so exempt from quarantine challenges (at present) but it also has fully functioning gyms including full contact BJJ. So when the opportunity came to pop over the water to visit the latest affiliation under Stealth BJJ we jumped at the chance.
Stealth BJJ Northern Ireland opened early this year and is the most recent club affiliated under Stealth BJJ (in Manchester) and coach Steve Campbell. . The gym was set up by Stealth Purple Belt Karl Casey and is also registered under UKBJJA.
Getting to Belfast from the NW of England was easy with a mixture of daily flights (from both Manchester and Liverpool) as well as the option to drive / take the ferry. As a major city Belfast has a range of hotels and Airbnb’s – we stayed in a Premier Inn within the cities Titanic Quarter which was only a 10 minute walk into the city. Stealth NI isn’t in Belfast city centre but is only 10 miles out of town in Newtownards County Down. However, it is easy to get to by car and there is a bus that runs directly from the city centre to just a few minutes from the gym. You can also stay in Bangor if you want to enjoy the coast which is only a few miles away.
Stealth BJJ NI is located through an unassuming door on the high street to the upstairs gym that is small but spotlessly clean. As regular readers know the changing rooms were the first thing I checked out! There is a separate space for females including our own toilet. Like the rest of the gym it was incredibly clean and despite the space constraints and smaller number of female grapplers it was definitely a female only space – no nipping into the extra loo when desperate etc. There was also a thoughtful basket of essentials to use if needed including sanitary products, make-up remover, deodorant etc.
The gym offers a mixture of gi and no gi classes seven days a week. During the week classes are held every evening as well as Saturday and Sunday morning open mats. As we were visiting over the weekend we only attended the open mat sessions. As a relatively new gym there are a lot of beginners on the mat (including some with only a few weeks of training) but they do have some more seasoned grapplers and it was great to see a number of visitors from local gyms attend over the weekend. The Saturday session in particular had a great mix of grapplers and what was meant to be a gentle session after months of not training ended up being a 2 hour rolling sessions!
Overall the mat had a great vibe and it was definitely “jits and giggles”, which let’s be honest I think that was the only reason I managed to get so many rolls in! This vibe extended after the session when we indulged in the gym’s tradition of post session coffee and food at one of the local cafe’s. The remainder of our time was spent enjoying Belfast as a city which I have to say during a “heatwave” was brilliant with a lots of good food, conversation and a couple of cheeky local beers.
Getting some rolls in after months of covid restrictions was one of my main motivators for this initial trip over to Belfast, but I’ll be honest it won’t be my last. Stealth BJJ NI was a great little gym and I look forward to catching some more rolls in the future. Whether you’re in the area and want a BJJ home (they do regular beginners courses) or fancy a break away its definitely somewhere I’d recommend giving a try!
Note – Covering the covid guidance stuff – Northern Ireland is part of the UK so for English travellers is a great way to get away without leaving the country and being impacted by covid restrictions plus it has lower numbers of cases so it is further ahead with reopening you can do full contact BJJ. However that does not mean there is zero risk so it’s important to remain a responsible minion and follow guidance (appropriate social distancing, handwashing, supporting track and trace and wearing masks when required etc). Also, if your from outside the UK you will need to check the latest guidance and restricted related to your country.