I recently had the chance to have a conversation with Mr Nathan Spain, founder of one of the youngest and most exciting brands on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi market: NVM Jiujitsu. I met Nathan a few times at my friend Michel Verhoeven's seminars down in Kent and I could really sense his dedication to the art, the community and was so impressed by his uncompromising attitude towards quality, I thought it'd be cool to have a chat about his background and how the Non-Violent-Movement Brand came about (how cool is that name?!)
Nathan was kind enough to answer my interview questions and I'm currently in the process of reviewing two of his lines: "Death of the Ego" & "Order & Progress" so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming reviews. In the meantime, Mr Nathan Spain.
Hi, so ultimately I’m a normal guy from very humble beginnings.
A family man, I have a beautiful wife and three amazing kids. I have been training martial arts on and off, boxing, kickboxing, MMA, Judo and Jiu Jitsu since I was about 10 years old, Jiu Jitsu being the latest addition (around 3.5 years) and now my primary focus.
I studied Design at college and focused primarily on Fashion and textiles. My path went in a hugely different direction however and I ended up being a builder for around seven years and for the last ten years have been selling office equipment and software in London running my own company.
Are you currently training / teaching Martial Arts? Is that Full time / Part time?
I don’t teach, I would one day love to teach, but I am there to learn, I wish I had the time to learn full time ha.
Which arts do you study and under whom?
I learn Rickson Gracie Jiu Jitsu at Fluxo under Al Fulton and Simon and under the umbrella (watchful eye) of Michel Verhoeven of TeamBabytank in Holland.
How long have you done that?
I have been with these guys three and a half years.
How do you manage to fit your own training around work and family time?
Fortunately for me I work from home most of the time, especially now I am running NVM. This allows me plenty of time with the family (too much sometimes) I can take the kids to school, pick them up and generally I’m just present. Also it means I can drop everything at a moment’s notice and go train, if one of the guys has a couple of hours one afternoon or whenever. It’s pretty cool but not as amazing as it sounds.
Do you compete in your art?
I haven’t, I do it purely for self defence and to learn something cool. However I’m feeling more so now, like I want to do it just for the experience. I think I’ll enjoy it and do a lot more of it. I have an addictive personality.
What is the greatest thrill you have gotten out of practicing jiujitsu?
I think personally when I have those eureka moments; I love the fine details that make all the difference. I really like the principles of jiu jitsu and how they run throughout, I’m cerebral, and I think that is why I’m so hooked. Outwardly, the community. I just love how it kind of pulls together and how there are common paths, I think all forged in sparring, its tribal. I love that.
Give us your top 5 tips for time-management (to fit exercise around life)
Dude, this is a bad question for me. When I worked in London full time my time management was perfect as it had to be, you can’t be late to meetings and you can’t miss trains ha. Now I kind of move more freely, I hate constraints. I would say this; I have, on more than one occasion given 14-16 hour days to my career. Everything suffered, my health, my relationships. The only thing that prospered was my bank account. Life is about balance. Find balance, find time for people and for yourself. You’ll thank me later.
Now let’s balance that with what you consider the top 5 time-thieves.
1. Social media has a lot to answer for; I think that would be sufficient enough for all 5.
2. Your boss and your underlying willingness to please.
3. Procrastination, and believe me, that comes from personal experience.
4. The pub, I’m a social guy; I have a lot of experience.
5. My wife and Kids, ‘can you just’ and ‘help me do’. (I don’t begrudge J )
Do you have any regrets?
Plenty, but I try not to dwell on them. Don’t take yourself too seriously. One that bugs me, I watched an early PRIDE FC Video my friend had then went to buy UFC 1 at HMV, I fell in love with Jiu Jitsu when I was 15, there was nowhere to train and the internet wasn’t such a huge resource then. I wish I had pursued it regardless, saved and travelled, bought mats and tried to self teach from what I was watching. I would be so much further down this road if I hadn’t of PROCRASTINATED haha.
Why do you train? What drives you?
I’m from a pretty rough background, my biological father was in and out of prison my whole life and was a violent criminal, bad crowds. His whole philosophy on life revolved around toughness and fighting, it kind of drove me in different directions, sometimes I wanted to prove myself, sometimes, and because of the things I saw I wanted no involvement. It caused this inner conflict, of having to fight and not wanting to. I train because Martial Arts gives you the skill, relieves that inner warrior but under a controlled mind-set, its controlled aggression. Therein lies the balance. It gives me confidence, I meet good people and it’s a sneaky little martial art, people who don’t know, don’t know....
What is your involvement with NVM? How long have you done that for?
I own the company, I do everything, and I have had help from a designer who worked for MAHARISHI & MONEY clothing. I have two guys in the states who have been helping and trying to be actively involved. One as an ambassador and one as an influencer. It’s been around 6 months. (Early days).
I just thought one day when I had really bad anxiety about a deal I was working on in London: “Wouldn’t it be cool to be creative again, build a clothing brand, and within an Industry I love?”, So I did it.
What has been the highlight of this company's history?
Well, it doesn’t have a history, yet, to speak of. But I would say creating a physical product from scratch is pretty liberating, trawling suppliers and being creative with how to find the best ones, the design process through to import then receiving that first delivery. That felt great and I have learnt a lot, I have had to turn my hand to many things. I have failed and improved. That’s my highlight so far.
Do you currently sponsor any athletes?
I don’t but I’m looking into it now, I have been approached by a few, I helped with a small event and have two ambassadors. I spoke to Kit Dale just before his comeback but he was a little out of reach for this start up.
What do you look for in a brand ambassador?
Someone who loves the brand, I want to give back to those who show loyalty and want to be a part of the movement. Also someone who is active with social media and potentially competition.
If someone is in two minds about purchasing a NVM Gi, what would you advise them?
I would say, you either like it or you don’t, go with your gut. If the concern is regarding quality then, take a look at our social media and look at the reviews on facebook and our website. There are only a few major manufacturers in Pakistan and a couple of those don’t even entertain new business. I was VERY lucky.
Summarize the brand in 5 words.
Unique, ambitious, creative, movement, strong
The name NVM (Non Violent Movement) is often associated with Gandhi's and Dr ML King's philosophies. Have you drawn inspiration from any of these?
Not directly, but why not! I love the concept of peace, who doesn’t want that?! It was drawn predominantly from ‘the gentle art’, the more you know the less strength and violence is needed to execute.
It’s both violent and non violent by its nature, It’s a paradox. That’s my take anyway, that’s what I think people realise as they go further down this road. I can make this easier if I just stop fighting.
Ghandi and MLK had a few quotes that are relevant to Martial Arts:
‘Nobody can hurt me without my permission’
‘The means can be likened to a seed, the end, a tree’
‘Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will’
‘The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands at times of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy’.
I'd like to thank Nathan for his candid attitude and for sharing his story. I can't tell you how excited I am to be working on these reviews, not just for the quality of the product, but for knowing how much he is keen to grow and help the community.
ZHOO ZHITSU IS FOR EVERYONE!
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