“I want to play some fu*king tournaments man. Grappling Industries – hit us up! We want to play a tournament!”
Kimura! have recently been a highlight in the grappling news, for their (obvious link to BJJ) debut single release, and they are a four-piece heavy metal BJJ-influenced comedy band from England. The four band members are called Dan, Brendan, Elliot and Luke. All of them train BJJ at the same academy in Harrow, England (except Elliot who doesn’t train). The three that do train, roughly started BJJ in 2016 and have trained for around five years now.
They released their debut single and music video ‘Do it Again’ featuring cameos including BJJ legend Claudia Do Val and catch wrestling icon Randy Couture. ‘Do it Again’ is literally 60 seconds of heavy metal and “Do it again!” being screamed repeatedly – but we’ll get to the band’s motive behind that later on. We talk about; their influences, the ‘Do it Again’ music video, why they set up the band, new music they have in store for us and where they plan on taking Kimura!.
Origins of Kimura!
Although they all (but Elliot) sort of met at BJJ, where did the band idea come about? Brendan says, “I reckon it was 2019 when Dan was like ‘I want to make this hardcore metal band all about jiu jitsu’ and I just fu*king sat there and rolled my eyes and went ‘alright mate’. The band chuckle in laughter, Luke adds, “Yeah sounds shit – I’m in!”
Prior to Kimura; Dan, Luke and Elliot were in a pop punk band called RXR, and Luke met Brendan via jiu jitsu and that’s how they all came to get to know one another. Although Elliot doesn’t train BJJ, Luke banters, “He’s the only drummer we know so we just pull him into everything!”
Luke says how the name came about, “One night I think we were all horrendously drunk and we were just like, ‘kimura!kimura! Is a cool name for a band man, and it just sort of spiralled from there. We were like ‘Oh my God, yeah – everything is going to be about jiu jitsu!’ – We didn’t google it – and find the other ten bands that were also called Kimura.”
This leads to the question of the importance of the exclamation mark. We established during the interview that the exclamation mark is indeed a part of the band’s name. The reasoning being? What was just mentioned above. Dan decided to differentiate the band on the search engine by adding the extra bit of punctuation – so there you have it – Kimura!
‘Do it Again’ Music Video
For those that have watched the music video to ‘Do it Again’ you’ll notice legends Claudia Do Val and Randy Couture being featured in cameos. The reason being? The band have a big catch wrestling influence as well as BJJ and are big fans of the likes of Billy Robinson and those who trained under him like Kazushi Sakuraba and wanted to add a nod to their martial arts influences.
The main inspiration for their song is Billy Robinson, and the band’s head coach trained under him, and he was a pretty tough coach to say the least… Luke explains, “We have an EP (Flying Triangle) with Do It Again and two other songs on it but we kind of just had this idea of doing the video. So the reason the song came about, is our head coach trained under Billy Robinson and if you speak to any of those guys that train under him it’s like, our coach says it gives him PTSD listening to the song, because all he remembers is Billy just shouting “Do it again! Do it again!” because he was like the biggest perfectionist with technique and if you didn’t do the technique right, just so, he would not let you stop until you got it right. That was kind of where the song was born. Also, we just thought it would be really funny to have a minute and a half hardcore song that was the same words over and over again.”
When asking how the band managed to score the cameos they praised Claudia and Randy, Brendan says, “We’ve just sort of been on that mad catch wrestling front for a while. To get her we just reached out, we emailed her, said we go to a BJJ academy and would she be interested? You know what? She is the nicest person ever.” Luke continues, “She’s so cool man. Absolutely brilliant. We were so stoked to have her do that for us and Randy we were trying to get a catch wrestling theme as well as a jiu jitsu element, like Randy Couture on our cameo he is sort of an old time great wrestler. That fight where he beat James Toney …”
Potentially Ruffling Some Feathers
As mentioned at the start of the interview, Kimura! Is a comedy band. Luke explains further, “I’m not sure if people realise – obviously it’s kind of hard to tell with the song we put out – but the band is actually a comedy band. We kind of lean quite heavily into BJJ meme culture so most of the songs are very tongue in cheek. We have some unrecorded stuff as well. There’s a song about Stinky Gi Guy, we have one that’s super super heavy that’s about knee-on-belly. The whole thing is pretty tongue in cheek but I think just out of that one song that people didn’t quite realise…” he continues, “I’m waiting for Drew Weatherhead to come and pick us up – that’s where the money is at right now. We can be the soundtrack for his next reverse kimura instructional.” Dan chirps in, “Yeah that would be the gold standard. Get on to an instructional. We want to get on to a BJJ Fanatics instructional. That’s the goal.”
‘Do it Again’ is actually a single from their debut EP – Flying Triangle – which also includes two other tracks; ‘Strong Style’ and ‘Warrior Garden’. Luke goes into more detail about the Flying Triangle EP, “So it’s out now. You can find it on Spotify, iTunes and all the places that there are music. There is ‘Do it Again’, there’s a song called ‘Strong Style’ – which is a Sakuraba quote – and then just the words ‘Strong Style’ screamed for 30 seconds. Then we have another song called Warrior Garden which is a collection of kind of bullshit inspirational quotes that blue belts probably share, things like “a blue belt is equivalent to a black belt in other martial arts” and the chorus there is “I’d rather be a warrior in a garden, than a garden in a war.”
The reaction to the release was mixed. The band received both positive and negative feedback, but they enjoy it, Dan says, “It’s fun to see how people react. I think some people just thought we were just some band that decided to do a jiu jitsu themed song. If you see some of the comments people think we’re just like trying to do jiu jitsu because it’s cool or something.” Luke jokingly adds, “People are just like “jiu jitsu is so commercial these days” what does that mean?”
When speaking of the whole ‘jiu jitsu allows a small skilled person to overcome and beat a larger unskilled opponent’ Luke argues it’s true to an extent but continues, “Them guys that say strength doesn’t count for anything…weird…jiu jitsu is kind of weird man. There’s a lot of… it is pretty cultish in places. Some magic mythos surrounding a lot of things and yeah I think we’re gonna, we’re gonna definitely ruffle some feathers.” Well I for one am looking forward to seeing some feathers be ruffled, hear some BJJ truths being spoken, and BJJ memes being sung.
Covid hasn’t just messed up live touring, it has also messed up being able to record and get in the studio to get your music produced. Kimura! Have the content – they just need to get in the studio in order to be able to push it out. Plans for an album could potentially be in the works and this interview was the first time it was brought up in conversation with the whole band, so I’m glad I could get that out into fresh air. The band recorded Flying Triangle EP in a studio, but have considered taking more of a DIY approach with future work, Luke expands, “Going forward I think we are going to go a little bit more DIY. I’ve got a bunch of kit here. I’m going to try and record us. Recording drums is a fu*ker but everything else is alright, so hopefully we can put out some more stuff. We want to get an album out, hopefully this year – would be sick. It’s the first time we’ve had this conversation. Nobody else has heard me say that!”
As for music video production, Luke continues, “At the time we thought we will just do it (‘Do it Again’ music video), it will be fun, it’s fine, kind of put it out there. But it’s had such a wicked response we’re looking to put out the next one. The next video we’re going to do is for ‘Warrior Garden’. But we need to wait until some lockdown restrictions are lifted before we can get to places. It’s tough to shoot a video right now. Especially with jiu jitsu where you have to be touching by definition.”
Plans to Gig
With current lockdown restrictions in the UK, any plans for artists to tour or to gig have been thrown completely out of the window until 2022. Live performances allow bands to receive more exposure and extra cash to keep going, and without the live music industry running as usual it has caused a lot of musicians to take a step back. Brendan explains how the pandemic in the UK has affected future plans for the band, “It’s one of those things. We had been practicing for a while. We had all of our gigs lined up. We were planning to start touring in April 2020 so we were all ready. We had shows in the bag, ready to go and then yeah everything shut down and all of a sudden we’re left twiddling our thumbs. The problem has been that even that brief period where gigs kind of opened up a bit and we got to do acoustic shows – it’s not a band that translates acoustically.”
Luke says, “We would’ve been playing some shows by now but obviously we can’t. I’d like to do more recordings because I don’t see it (lockdown) loosening until at least the middle of the year probably. I don’t have my crystal ball but I don’t think we will be getting back to live shows any time in the immediate future. It’s not a priority for them (live shows and government) is it? Nor is jiu jitsu which is really depressing.” Dan comments, “Hopefully we will get some more stuff out soon, we’ve been working on keeping things moving. Obviously we’re looking to gig as soon as anybody lets us out, we will be touring, getting about.”
Talking of gigging, Luke begins to tell me a story about a hardcore thrash metal gig he went to where the crowd were in such a tumultuous and aggressive state, the lead singer got involved in the carnival of rage and nearly killed a bouncer – “The bouncer was trying to wrestle this guy off him and I’m not kidding man he wrapped the microphone chord around the bouncers neck and started strangling him with it and then a bunch of guys bundled in – security came out and was like the show is off booted him out of the venue and blacklisted him and it was the best show. They must have been on stage for like five minutes – it was so good. I want to be that.” He continues to speak of his ambitions for the band, “I just want to get people rolling in the pit. I want to play songs just put the mats down and have everyone roll. That would be sick.”
The image of a room full of mats and Kimura! standing on a stage belting out 40 second long hardcore thrash metal songs whilst everyone rolls – still won’t leave my mind – or the band’s. If anyone fancies a grappling themed hardcore metal band to play at a tournament, Kimura! are more than ready – Luke shouts, “I want to play some fu*king tournaments man. Grappling Industries – hit us up! We want to play a tournament!” he continues, “Sort of like a Mad Max vibe. Everyone is thundering away, and making people fight each other on the mats.”