Hi, I’m Christian Graugart from Copenhagen, Denmark. I started grappling in 1999 and am currently a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If you want to know more about me, you can check out my biography on www.ShogunHQ.com, where I’ve been documenting my journey in the sport since 2007.
I always disliked politics in Jiu Jitsu and pretty much managed to steer clear of most it myself, but throughout the years, I’ve heard and experienced my fair share of bullshit. Students who are told they are not allowed to train with whom they want. People who has gone traveling and gotten a friendly reminder from their instructor, that they can only visit academies on their trip within their affiliation. Bad mouthing of former students and friends, who has chosen to change academy, sometimes even online in public. Being encouraged to keep a distance towards those not training with you. Push an “us vs. them” mindset, even to the children of which the people are role models for. The list goes on, and I am sure you know, what I am talking about.
In 2010, I got the obvious idea of doing a round-the-world trip to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in as many places as possible. It was a long and intense experience that took me to 56 academies around the globe in 140 days. It resulted in a blog full of photos and I even wrote a book about it, when I got home.
Strange things happened to me on that trip. Moving around so quickly, jumping from place to place at a frantic pace, going from one extreme to another, I somehow caught a rare glimpse of the whole world from above as one, connected, border-less place. A strong feeling deep inside of me of everyone being one. Like all the people I had met on the trip were the same person.
I was free. Completely free. My mind was vibrant, alert and it was like all my experiences and memories had come together as one. The feeling of my whole world being in a single city at home, had been replaced with a feeling of the opposite. The entire globe and everything in it, was my world. It was a playground; there was nothing I couldn’t do. I felt the presence of everyone I had met along the way. Every friendship, every personality, every interaction. They all melted together into a unity, a combined feeling of being one with everyone.
– “The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotter”
The stories about Jiu Jitsu politics I heard from people, haunted my mind for long, after I returned home. The feeling I had gotten from visiting all these academies of the world, finding friendships in each and every one of them, made them painful to listen to. One day, whilst riding my bicycle home from training, an idea popped up in my head. With my new-found position in the top of the make-believe, fantasy hierarchy of grownups that we call the belt system in BJJ, I realised that I was in a position to do things differently. I could create a team against teams. An alternative Jiu Jitsu affiliation, that poked the traditional notion of our tribalised culture and would advocate against the typical BJJ business model of making sure your customers are scared enough to keep eating in your restaurant out of “respect”.
There is no “us vs. them”, it’s an illusion, a stone age mechanism, hardwired into our brains to keep us safe by staying with and fighting for our own desert tribe. Anything else would’ve meant certain death 2.5 million years ago. The typical Jiu Jitsu business model builds on—and takes advantage of—this and channels it into a culture of “expected loyalty”, which is great for short term money-making, but very bad for long term karma. At the end of the day, we’re all just adults, who likes to grapple and no other adult should tell us, who we can and can not play with.
A new team could too easily fall into the trap of becoming just another closed group of followers, before anyone would’ve noticed, though. It had to be build on a foundation of actively encouraging people to stay open and politics-free. So I wrote down a set of defined values, which are forever unchangeable. You can call it a mission statement, maybe a constitution; most important is, that it can not be touched or altered in any way, at any time. If I ever make changes to these values, please abandon the team immediately and tell everyone I suck.
- We don’t pay each other any affiliation fees
- We wear any patches we like on our gis
- We are free to represent any (or no) team in competition
- We encourage training with anyone regardless of affiliation
- We are willing to promote anyone who deserves it—members or not
- We arrange camps, seminars and visit each other for training and fun
- We believe everyone is equal both on and off the mats
- We strive to enjoy life, people and the world through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
I posted about this on my blog, encouraging anyone who wanted to “sign up” to send me an email. In my mind, the whole thing was still merely a provocative experiment, but the interest was overwhelming and I got more than a hundred emails the first week. Apparently, I wasn’t alone with my dream of an alternative to the highly political teams that were at war with each other. Before I knew it, the ball had really started rolling and suddenly, people from all over the world started traveling, gathering at training camps and visiting each others academies.
Choosing to be part of this community, is not about “following” me, joining my “lineage” or giving me the (awkward imo.) title of “professor”. Every single person, regardless of their belt rank, should be treated as an equal member of the group and that includes myself. We all follow and inspire each other, from beginner white belts to seasoned black belts.
BJJ Globetrotters is growing by the day and my personal mission with it is clear. For myself and everyone else involved, I am determined to try and create as many friendships and memorable experiences as possible. True, honest friendships and positive memories are amongst the very few things really worth collecting in life. Jiu Jitsu is a fantastic tool for designing your experience here on Planet Earth to be a good one, and with this constantly expanding community of like-minded people, we have in our hands a powerful vehicle to do great things together.
Any person you meet could potentially change your life forever. You could die tomorrow; why limit yourself in any way, including who you choose to be friends (read: train) with and allow to influence your existence?
I am sincerely looking forward to meet you.
Also see: The story of the BJJ Globetrotters camps