You may have seen him recently on Polaris Squads with perhaps the only sub of the evening, and you may also remember him from the ADCC World Championships after winning the European Trials.
From Ireland, a country already big on a wide range of sports, but also a country where we are seeing a huge influx of great combat sporting talent both in mixed martial arts and also jiu-jitsu.
Still young and clearly in his prime and still continuing to improve and reach new heights and I am sure we will see him feature again at the ADCC World’s and put on a show!
It is our great pleasure to introduce:
Share with us briefly who you are, where you are from (or where you reside) and how long you have been training jiu-jitsu?
I’m Tom Halpin from Limerick, Ireland. I’ve been training Jiu Jitsu since 2011.
Congratulations on the Polaris Squads victory and getting a sub (I think the only one) at the event. How did you find that event and how was the training structured for you for that event? And how was it being at an event being closed doors, I think it is pretty surreal not seeing such a crowd at those events?
Thanks, it was great to have a positive result after 6 months away from competition. The training structure didn’t change much for me leading up to it, I always like to keep good positioning and attack a lot of submissions. The only extra thing I had to keep in mind was being prepared to compete against larger opponents. It was a great event, with amazing production. The only shame was the lack of fans, they always give great energy so I’m looking forward to competing at some sold out events soon.
Could you talk to us a little more about your journey into Jiu-Jitsu, and how you went from Limerick in Ireland all the way to Brazil, and then onto Miami?
There was only one small club in my city in Ireland, so I was always eager to travel and train in other gyms. I went to Miami for the summer after my first year of college and it completely changed how I looked at jiu jitsu at that time. I trained with some of the best competitors of all time over there and realised I was no different to them. If I put the love into it and kept improving myself and enjoying the training, then one day I could build my life around the sport. I guess the dream became a reality for me over there, so it was a valuable experience to have as a young man.
What was it like for you training in Brazil, do you still visit?
I’ve had a lot of trips to Miami but have only spent about 2 months in Brazil, it’s definitely somewhere I’d like to visit again soon. It’s the birthplace of jiu jitsu as we know it, so I’d recommend anyone who can to take a long trip out there. I competed at the Rio Open in the famous Tijuca Tenis Clube as a brown belt while I was there. That was a very special experience to feel a part of the history of the sport and compete and the old setting for the world championships. The noise in the arena was deafening all day, easily louder than any sporting event I’ve ever been to. I also realised about 2 hours before my match that I had to donate 2kg of dry food before checking in, so I had to frantically run to a supermarket to buy some rice and beans before competing. I managed to get a podium as well that day, so it was a special experience for sure.
You must have trained with some amazing individuals and coaches along the way, some who we know well, but are there perhaps some people that we do not know who you’ve trained with worth mentioning?
Too many to mention, I never looked up to anyone though and just thought of them as my friends and peers, that probably helped me get some good training with everyone along the way. Even as a blue belt I just thought of myself as a future blackbelt, not in an arrogant way, I just knew that I would get to that level if I kept doing my best.
Would you say you were you a good kid at school?
Everyone will have their own opinion but I think I was quite a normal kid at school. I was lucky that the work came easy to me and that I loved going to school, hang all my friends, play sport every day, it was a great time and gave me a lot of confidence for the future.
Where do you currently train and who is/are your coach/coaches?
I’m a bit of a freelance athlete with the current state of things in the world, but have been getting the best training of my life recently. I train at a couple different gyms at the moment and also have a small consistent training group of high level people. I find it very beneficial to be mostly in charge of my own training, so that every minute I spend on the mats is specific and very focused, I hate wasting time. In terms of coaches, my biggest inspirations have been Cyborg, Darragh O Conaill and John Eustace. They’re all geniuses on the mats and have learned so much training with them over the years.
Ireland, as we know, is huge on sport and produces some amazing talent across many domains, but jiu-jitsu is one that has really taken off – why is that do you think?
Irish people have always loved fighting and it’s something that’s cool to be good at. With mma becoming more popular, people are realising the skill that’s involved in it, and then getting hooked on it. The fact the sport has weight classes benefits us a lot as well, we’re not always the most athletic bunch.
Are there any standout athletes from Ireland that are perhaps worth mentioning to watch out for besides yourself?
There’s this Conor McGregor guy from Dublin, he seems to be pretty good.
We see you competing nogi a lot, would you say you are competing more nogi now? Which do you prefer: gi or nogi?
I don’t know if I prefer one over the other, it’s all jiu jitsu to me. I’ve been enjoying nogi a lot recently and have some big goals for those tournaments.
What is your biggest ambition at the moment that you want to achieve in grappling?
Mastery. It’s only possible theoretically, but chasing that is the biggest motivation.
Is there anything about your sport that frustrates you?
Being an athlete is definitely a unique challenge. I haven’t come across anything that makes me so happy and sad at the same time. Nothing is particularly frustrating because this is the game I’ve chosen, but I am envious of footballers who have a different match every weekend. They get to play more and the losses are more forgiving, but the latter also adds to the excitement of winning jiu jitsu tournaments.
How long into your training did you start competing?
I started competing just a couple months after starting training. I saw it as a good way to improve and get some direction for your training. Also, you wouldn’t go to football training but not do the matches, so competing seemed natural to me.
What has/have been your biggest accomplishments to date and why?
ADCC European Champion and Combat Jiu Jitsu World Champion definitely stand out, those were special days.
Is there anyone or anything else in your life who serves as a prodigious inspiration to your progress? Maybe family or friends?
Family and friends are always an inspiration. Realising there’s more to life than jiu jitsu has actually improved my game more than anything else, it gives you a freedom on the mats when you realise there’s actually nothing to lose.
What is your favourite submission and why?
Rear naked choke. When all else fails, it’s all that’s left.
As nutrition is a large portion of what we are about, could you briefly talk us through what you would usually eat?
We have these digestive biscuits here, with a thin layer of caramel and chocolate on top, they’re pretty amazing. Besides those I eat a lot, but generally healthily. I cook all my own meals as well.
Do you follow any form of conditioning and if so what sort of things are you incorporating?
I always take care of my body to avoid injuries and perform my best. I do a lot of yoga, bodyweight exercises, and also lift weights along with my jiu jitsu sessions. It’s fun to learn and improve in those other areas too.
Do you have any other passions in life outside of the sporting world?
Too many passions to be honest. I love watching and playing other sports and games, even though sometimes things get very competitive. I also love learning new skills and languages, so I always have something to work on. Besides that I watch a lot of films, especially the classics, and take a lot of naps.
Important question, what is your favourite food?
Frozen blueberries, can’t get enough of them.
Most hated food?
Nothing, I wouldn’t eat it if I hated it. My mom always taught me that hate is a strong word too.
Minority Report, It’s A Wonderful Life, On The Waterfront, Groundhog Day. Those are the most special films for me. I’ve seen them all dozens of times and I get something new from them each time. Highly recommended.
Favourite quote to live by?
I don’t know how much quotes will help you with or sum up life, but they’re definitely nice to get some ideas and think about how the lessons apply to your life. One that sticks with me is from the end of a great sports film called ‘Bull Durham’. ‘’Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains. Think about that.’’
“Shout out to Scramble Brand“
There you have it!
Thank you Tom, once again you show that hard work and humility are a great mix and really set a great example for any athlete or individual to learn from.
Make sure to tune in 7th November on UFC TV for the next Polaris event where we see Ireland battle Wales in Tom vs Ash Williams for the Featherweight title and another potential crown for the already decorated Tom!
We really look forward to seeing Tom in action once again and look forward to seeing the rest of his career unfold…
Who would you like to see featured here next?
Let us know…
@banejitsu (Combat worlds)