IN a year where the combat sports industry has taken a significant hit due to restrictions and lockdowns, C4 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Mixed Martial Arts still managed to find something worth celebrating.
The Mid North Coast based combat gym recently passed ten years of operation and also promoted a new black belt.
Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, head coach Chris Helback was forced to postpone his plans to mark the occasion, but the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) blackbelt and former pro fighter says it's still worth celebrating, albeit in a more muted fashion.
"It's a significant milestone; ten years ago I re-branded my academy from Coffs Coast Jiu Jitsu to C4 MMA, it's been a challenging few years but well worth the effort," he said.
"Nothing can compare to the lifelong relationships and friendships you gain in combat sports.
"I had some grand plans to celebrate, host some special guests and a few other surprises, but I've had to postpone most of it until after all the COVID restrictions are eased."
Coinciding with the ten year anniversary was the promotion of one Helback's students to black belt, the second highest rank a person can achieve in the BJJ grading system.
Under normal circumstances, achieving a black belt is a noteworthy feat, but Helback says this promotion represents another significant milestone for C4.
"We now have four black belts on the mat; to my knowledge C4 is the only BJJ club between Newcastle and Ballina with four black belts," he said.
"This is a very special promotion as well because this is the first student who has trained through from white belt to black belt under my banner.
"It takes around ten to twelve years of dedicated training and commitment in a legitimate gym to reach this point, but that has been the goal from the beginning, create an environment where students can excel.
"We have a lot of depth on our mats, with multiple people at all belt levels."
Since its humble beginnings, C4 has grown from only a handful of students to one of the biggest in the area.
With a focus on BJJ, MMA and wrestling, hundreds have passed through the full time combat centre; some sought to improve their fitness and lose weight, while others were chasing dreams of championship glory.
Under Helback's team of elite coaches, multiple professional and amateur MMA champions and competitors, including a dual Australian title holder have been trained.
Along with the first and only female professional MMA fighter on the Mid North Coast and more than a few state BJJ champions.
"I initially didn't have aspirations to be a coach; it all happened by circumstance after my coach moved back to Sydney, "Helback said.
"I was left with a choice, take over the academy with the handful of students who remained or there would be no more BJJ club.
"We would have to travel to Sydney, Newcastle or Ballina to train at a legitimate club; fortunately, it all worked out, C4 is thriving."
For more on C4 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Mixed Martial Arts, check out their website here.
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