The rise of the Dinky Ninja


“Real martial arts, Real coaching, Real results”

Behind every top level fighter is a great fight team and there is no better example of this hidden away in Glasgow, Scotland. Working hard each day to develop and push forward in the martial arts world is the Griphouse Gym. It is the home to world class coaches, athletes and facilities. Whether it’s to train for competition, fitness or to learn new skills, the Griphouse caters for all and has just been voted the number one UK gym.

Every success story has a beginning and for the Griphouse their story started 13 years ago when they formed. Since then they have stuck together and worked hard to make sure that they have a great place to train and to develop on through the ranks. James Doolan, Griphouse Coach and Fighter, explains how it all began.


“We got together late 2000, at the time we hired halls a few nights a week and pretty much trained anywhere that would have us. Today we have three full time gyms, an excellent coaching team and one of the most successful teams in Europe and the UK”.

From small beginnings to a mini-empire the Griphouse has developed successfully and now they are reaping the rewards.  It has lead to starting the Dinky Ninja fight team which is made up of three gyms: Griphouse in Glasgow, D-Unit MMA in Dumbarton and Higher Level MMA in Whitburn. All the gyms offer classes in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wrestling, boxing, MMA and strength and conditioning. Each of the classes are popular and as James explains the classes are popular with people coming from around the world.

“Between the three gyms I guess there could be anywhere in the range of 3-400 people training between the various classes.  Classes can obviously vary in numbers depending on factors but we have had classes with up to 90 people in them. Like every martial arts gym only a small percentage of students training at DNFT gyms are going to go on an compete, there’s lots of different reasons for people being there. On the average night we will have guys travelling from all over Scotland to train with us. We frequently have groups from other countries come to Scotland for training camps also”.


With people travelling from all around Scotland and the world to train, the gym must have a great atmosphere and work ethic. The best results come when everyone is enjoying what they are doing and can focus on the task at hand. For the Dinky Ninja’s the atmosphere and work ethic are second to none:

“We have a very unique atmosphere in the gym, the right balance between hard work and fun. The work ethic in the gym is second to none but at the same time if people don’t enjoy something there not going to do it. I’ve been in martial arts since I was a kid and been around all sorts of gyms, clubs and so on, one thing I believe is people learn more when there enjoying the subject there studying.

We have a a real close knit group in the gym and at classes, everyone’s welcome and everyone’s equal when they come through the door”.

This is all down to the success of the team and the hard-work which is put in at all the gyms and with the fight teams. John Nicholson runs the D-unit, Guy Ramsay and Paul McVeigh run the Griphouse and James Doolan runs the Higher Level MMA. Not just that they deal with the fighter management side, work with promoters and sponsors. It is a big team effort and it has to be commended how well they are all working.

A question I always have wanted to know and i’m sure others have as well is how did the Dinky Ninja name come about? Everyone could take guesses but i’m sure we would be off the mark. It is a unique name and something which everyone will remember:

dnft“A guy who seen us training in an area of Dumbarton, in maybe 2002, was asking us what we were doing and commented afterwards that we were like a bunch of dinky ninjas and it just stuck. It’s a bit different from the other team names about, it kind of reflects how we aren’t super serious about stuff like our image or that regardless of how serious we are about training and fighting”.

The Dinky Ninja fight team has many fighters competing in many organisations around the world. It’s a Dinky Ninja world domination and they are sure to go far. It’s not just MMA they are focusing on as well. They are active in many of the martial arts. So how many fighters do they have spread out fighting and how many titles have they won over the years?

“At last count we had something like 26-27 pro MMA fighters with maybe 10 amateur guys competing right now. A few of them will be turning pro soon and we have some new amateur guys coming thorough.  On top of that we have guys competing successfully in Muay Thai, boxing and a big competition BJJ team.

I’ve lost count, we’ve had champions in major shows like cagewarriors, BAMMA, OMMAC, vision FC, on top, made 4 the cage, supremacy FC, total combat and others”.

That much competing and championship experience is how the team can keep advancing. Having top level fighters, like Joanne Calderwood, Paul McVeigh and Graham Turner, pushing each other in the gym each day and knowing what it is like to hold the gold can only help to the younger guys coming through. Mix all that will the coaching of the James and his team and you have a true formula to develop anyone. All of it has been a learning experience for James to get to this point but having that experience is vital:


“Myself, Paul and John Nicholson are the main MMA coaches at the team, the three of us have been in the sport since its early days in the UK so have a vast amount of experience. The biggest thing I’ve noticed from a coaching perspective is that when we started we had to pretty much work everything out from trial and error. We now have a system in place were we can take dedicated athlete and have them well rounded successful fighters ins couple years. These young guys coming thorough are fast tracked to levels it took us years to get too because of the success we had, the mistakes we made and because of learning from experiences.  We were self coached and a lot of what we did was useless, now we are coaching right and the results of fighters like Graham Turner, Joanne Calderwood, Martin Delaney, Alan Johnson, Alan Love, Stevie Ray, Robert Whiteford, Brian Hyslop and James Mcalister speaks a lot for out coaching systems.

As well as me, Paul and John our coaching team includes: Garry Christie Doug McMaster and Marcos Nardini. All BJJ black belts and Guy Ramsay helping with Muay Thai as well as some others”.


The coaching techniques and training are definitely working now. They are stronger than ever and ready to push onto the next level and over the next few years we can expect to see quite a few young names pushing on through the sport as well as some of the more experienced fighters:

“I expect big things for the young fighters  like Graham Turner, Alan Johnson, Stevie Ray James McAlister and Joanne Calderwood in our team, some of our older guys like Alan Love, Robert Whiteford and Martin Delaney can still make an impact also giving the right opportunities”.

Along with training hard and producing talented fighters the Dinky Ninja’s also know how to have a laugh. Every gym has people in their who like to keep the jokes flowing and pull the pranks. So does the gym have anyone in-particular or is there more?

“The gyms full of them. We have jokers like the Gray brothers constantly winding people up, then the more dangerous type of jokers like Robert Whiteford who seems to be partial to stuff  like kidnapping and then guys who are just weird and funny like Paul McVeigh who ended up running a fight team when he was probably looking to start a street dance group”.

I’m sure if Paul started a street dance group there would be many a fan who would want to see that. 

With everything that is going for the team opportunities must be coming to sponsor the gym and team? Not just that, what do they see for the future? With the platforms set over years of hard work, the future must be bright.

“Right now it isn’t actually, some of our fighters have individual Sponsors to different degrees but the team as a whole isn’t which is weird considering how active and successful we are.


We want to keep progressing our athletes individually and our team as a collective. We want to be getting our fighters on to the big shows and staying there. At the same time we still want to provide top level coaching for anyone interested in martial arts and looking for proper instruction, there is unfortunately a lot of people jumped on the success of MMA and cowboy coaches after a quick buck”.

Along with running three gyms and a fight team the guys up in Scotland also help out with a great show called OnTop. It is a show which is run professionally and gets some of the top names in UK MMA and the world. It has provided a platform for the Dinky Ninja fight team but also for Scottish fans. So how involved is James and his team?

“Pretty involved, the promoter of the show Tam Collins trains with us and fought for us last year. John Nicholson is the match maker for the promotion. On top has been great for Scottish MMA bringing some big shows and excellent fights to scotland, if it wasn’t for that show Joanne might not be at Invicta and making such a big noise right now. We have champions on the show at featherweight (Turner) and lightweight (Delaney)”.

With champions in some of the best shows in the UK and the world, it’s fair to say that the Griphouse and the Dinky Ninja’s are setting themselves up for quite a run in the future. They have shown you can start from small beginnings and develop into a top team. They have a such a work ethic and know exactly how to get the best out of anyone who comes to the gym. With the Dinky Ninja’s it’s about working hard, fighting hard and enjoying everything they do in the martial arts world. Don’t be surprised to see them lighting up a show you attend anytime soon and possibly one day gracing the UFC. 

Watch out Dana, the Ninja’s are coming for you.


If you want to know more about the Dinky Ninjas and there gyms you can head over to their website at:

A special thanks to James Doolan for taking the time to answer my questions and giving me the chance to write this piece.

Photo Credits: The Griphouse Gym and Invicta

2 thoughts on “The rise of the Dinky Ninja

  1. Pingback: Artemij Sitenkov: “To participate in the main fight of the evening is always exiting” | SplitDecision MMA UK

  2. Pingback: On Top of the Lightweight Division: Martin Delaney | SplitDecision MMA UK

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s