Your first reaction when you found out you were going to be a Dad?
I was about 25 when we got pregnant with Alex our son and like most blokes I figured I knew it all. ‘This is how its going to be, this is how its going to work, this is the way its going to happen’ and I couldn't have been more wrong about any of it! I was overjoyed to be a Dad. At the time I was like ‘we are going to lose this and that’ but you don't lose anything as a parent, you gain so much.
What HAS Fatherhood taught you?
I always loved the idea of having a tribe of kids and as you have them your heart just opens up. It’s been an amazing journey. Before kids, you’re self centred. It’s just natural. Kids teach us that it isn’t about us!
When you grow up you think the world revolves around you. But becoming a parent made me stop and think there’s something more here, something larger at work. Just knowing those areas in your heart have opened. When my son was born I was filled with all this joy and pride and pleasure. When my daughter was born 18 months later, there was this whole new part of my heart opened up that I wanted to protect and guide and father. I was new at it and didn't know anything but I was keen to learn and keen to grow. You need to realise your own shortcomings and parenthood brings that out. It shows you where you fail, how to evolve and it challenges you.
What is the most challenging part of being a father?
A healthy kid, is not always a happy kid. Sometimes for them to be healthy they have to be a little bit unhappy. If my kids says ‘I want a coke’ and its ten o’clock at night, they’re going to be unhappy! If you're always trying to make your kids happy, your not always doing the right thing. You need to have that balance. You can be their friend, but you cant be just their friend. You need to be the parent as well.
I think though one of the biggest challenges most dads have is talking to their kids about sex. I think when they are little and they want that toy or they want that coke, most parents figure that out. When they hit puberty, that’s when most parent feel challenged. You shouldn't start the conversation at puberty, that should start at 5! I told my kids one day when we were cooking eggs. The littlest was about 3 and the oldest about 9 and they asked “Where do babies come from?” and so I told them! ‘The man takes his pecker, and the women gets her front-bum and they put together… after they are married and after they are in love.’ There was silence for ten seconds then they burst out in laughter! They said “aaahhhh I’ll never do that!” It was hilarious. We’ve always kept it humorous. It’s just about having that ongoing conversation and making it accessible. And look it’s not perfect. I’ve made mistakes. I wouldn’t say what I’ve done is right for everyone but I would say if you don't talk about it, that’s not good.
What is your Fatherhood philosophy?
I am there, often, at a regular junction. In the morning I am cooking brekkie, finding those lost shoes and getting them ready for school. I am the morning guy because, like a lot of people, I work shift work and at night I am hanging out at the gym. We are in a 24/7 environment in this culture but I am there every morning to touch base with the kids. The second thing is, when I say I am going to be somewhere, I’ll be there. Like this morning, my son had a swimming carnival and I was there hanging out with him, encouraging him and getting his towel for him. So if I say ‘Here I am regularly and here I am when you need me’ between those two things they know I care for them and we value that time. In a big family I make sure I get a lot of one on one time with each kid, even if its just a trip down to the supermarket. It’s presence -I think that’s it. Just being there.
What are your strongest memories of your Father?
I grew up going go-kart racing and pistol shooting on weekends and we did that together until I was about 12. When I got to about 14, I started wanting to play guitar and explore artistic stuff and I didn't want to go go-karting anymore. So what did my Dad do? He didn't crack the sads, he went and bought a guitar. He sat next to me, we started learning a few chords and writing songs together. He saw what I was interested in and invested in me. I was very fortunate. Its only now that when I meet other men and talk about life that I process how fortunate I was to have a dad like I did. He had a dad who was the same. We’ve spoken a lot about people who don't have that relationship, and we can’t relate. We had amazing fathers and a great relationship that not everybody has.
I say that knowing there are a lot of men out there who haven't had that relationship modelled well and struggle. I think a lot of the things I am doing, I shouldn't get the credit for because I had it modelled to me well and that counts for so much. So I am trying to model that for my kids. The best thing they can see me do well is to pursue Jesus - that's the best thing I can do.
Tell us about your about your Christian faith and why YOU follow Jesus?
I grew up in a Christian home where Mum and Dad modelled Jesus as best they could. Mum was AOG Pentecostal and Dad was Salvation Army, and they encouraged me to seek Jesus myself. I saw a lot of it but they never pushed me. So when I was 18 and moved out of home with a girl, they weren’t happy but they bought me a freezer! “ We aren't happy about this, but here's a freezer cos we love you!” and I look back now and think about how that thing is still working 20 years on!
I went through a rebellious period like a lot of people do but having children made it different. I wasn't going to a church but I still had a bible. All the kids got dedicated, we got married by a Salvation Army chaplain and would go to church every Easter and Christmas, but for me it was a religious thing.
I got diagnosed with anxiety disorder, and the Doctor said to me you need to meditate and do yoga. Now I didn't need yoga, I do jujitsu and that is yoga on steroids! What I did feel is that I wanted to return to prayer and I guess at that time Jesus was pursuing me. There was a guy who walked into the gym, one of my best and closest friends, and he said to me “You’re a Christian are you? What don't you tell people about it?” He just challenged my heart. I also had my daughter come home, she’d heard the gospel from a religious instructor at school and wanted to go to church. We were church shopping, and I took my wife along. I remember sitting there thinking “Ahh man we are going to lose our Sundays!’ and I wasn't too keen about it. And I turned to my wife and tears were just rolling down here face. It was the first time at church, and bang, she was saved! So God just swept in through the hearts of my family.
I wrestled with it because I knew what it meant. If I am going open a gym its going to be in the middle of Melbourne, its going to be everything on the table. If I am going to have kids, I am going to have 5. If I am going to be a Christian then I am going to take the gospel seriously and let it affect all areas of my life. The more I get to know Jesus , I believe he’s making my capacity to love greater and he’s helping me to be a better father. He’s used the vehicle of jiu-jitsu and he’s used the vehicle of parenthood, but ultimately it’s Jesus.
Tell us about your business at Renegade?
It started with five of us and God has grown it to 250 people. We have an amazing amount of wonderful people involved. Probably about 30% are Christian but we also have an amazing lesbian community here, and that’s not something I advertised for but they feel safe and comfortable here so I am honoured.
How do you balance being a Christian with running a gym that trains people in Mixed Martial Arts?
In every Christian community you are always going to have people saying this and that, but I bury my head in the trench of grace and say ‘you go away and argue it, I am just going to be here on the mats, loving people ferociously and seeing what Jesus does with them’. We don't live in a world that is lovey dovey. It’s a world where confrontational violence is a reality. Having said that I’ve never had a fight in my life. I don't like MMA particularly, I don't follow it. I don't go home and watch it. I watch enough of it here with the dudes rolling around! I go home and watch the Wiggles or X-Men, whatever the kids are watching.
How do you see what you do as a creative expression?
Bruce Lee said that martial arts is ultimately an expression of one's self. He’s the guru, he never meant much to me in my life, but I agree with that statement. I see a lot of musicians that train here. I wrote songs and played in bands for years, but when I got into jiu-jitsu I drifted away from that. I am still very thankful, as my music was an act of worship to God, I wrote a lot of songs and explored my faith, but I believe jiu-jitsu bought me back to faith, it gave me a deeper understanding of faith. It taught me to set goals, achieve them and be a better husband and father. God has worked larger in my life through jiu-jitsu than music.
As a father, what do you see AS your biggest challenge ahead?
Teenage years will be a challenge- boyfriends, girlfriends …how am I going to stay out of jail by not killing them! I want my kids to stay in community. We have plans, long term, to have an investment property where all their names are on it. So it will force them to talk to each other, at least about the property! The function of the investment will be to tie the family together and manufacture the necessity for a relationship. Too many families drift apart. I’ve seen too many families in my world fracture over money. I pray that doesn't happen to my family. I pray they pursue Jesus and I want to see each one staying in relationship. I just want to keep loving and serving them because that’s my first ministry, my wife and my kids. It’s got to be for any Dad- that’s key. As much as I love Renegade, if it burned to the ground I wouldn’t loose sleep because my family are safe.
What do you think is the most important thing every FATHER should be doing?
I think fathers today have a tough job, because they need to be counter cultural. Dads are painted in such a crappy light, they have an uphill battle just to say ‘Hey I’m functioning, I’m providing, I’m trying to do the best I can’. They should lead well and complement their wives. They need to love and serve their wife above themselves. That’s leading well. And their wives need to do the same for them. That’s what my wife does for me and that to me is what makes a good marriage.
How do you want your kids to remember you?
As someone who pursued Jesus, as a man of God.
Renegade MMA www.renegademma.com.au
3/60 Stubbs Street. Kensington, Victoria Australia (Make sure to hit up a trial class and tell them Blackframes sent you!)
Help Jamie support the underprivileged kids of Bali by getting behind his World Record attempt with Grappleathon www.gofundme.com/grappleathon