German Top Team (Reutlingen, Germany)

Reutlingen, Germany —The road trip in Germany through Matsurfing continued. After training in Stuttgart with my host, Philipp, he invited me to visit his old training ground in Reutlingen. Visiting this unknown city was unplanned, but I was rather excited to explore a smaller German city and train at a new academy. Without Philipp, there would not have been a chance to train at German Top Team.

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Reutlingen is an industrial city in Baden-Württemberg located about 35 km south of Stuttgart. Along with the beautiful university town of Tübingen, Reutlingen is a part of the larger Stuttgart Metropolitan Region. The first settlement in the area dates back to the 4th century and the historical buildings can be spotted all over the city. 

German Top Team was founded in 2004 by the head coach Peter Angerer. Professor Peter “Yamatodamashii” Angerer is a highly decorated martial artist with black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Luta Livre, Shooto, and Shidokan Karate. As a seasoned fighter who competed all around the world, he is considered one of the most successful and experienced MMA fighters in Germany. With over 600 fights in Karate, Kickboxing, BJJ, and MMA, Professor Angerer’s experience and records speak for his qualification. With his various experience, the academy offers a wide range of combat sports including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Shooto. 

German Top Team was Philipp’s old training ground. He introduced me to Professor Angerer and other students, and we joined the Luta Livre sparring class. Luta Livre is a Brazilian style of grappling art similar to no-gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The martial art was developed almost parallel with BJJ. However, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu heavily favored Gi while Luta Livre only uses no-gi. In addition, Luta Livre puts an emphasis on wrestling and leglocks, unlike traditional BJJ practitioners. Luta Livre is an important part of training in German Top Team with its easy transition to Mixed Martial Arts. You should definitely watch your legs when you are sparring with students from German Top Team.

With German Top Team’s hospitality and friendly training environment combined with high-intensity training, I could not ask for more during my visit. 6 months later, I ran into Professor Angerer in one of the BJJ tournaments in Frankfurt. He greeted and told me I am always welcome to come train at German Top Team if I am in the area. With skilled instructor and students, German Top Team is a must visit. It would be even worth visiting Reutlingen just to visit German Top Team. I would highly recommend dropping by German Top Team if you have a chance. 

Location & Facility
German Top Team is located around 1 km away from the Reutlingen central station. You could easily walk from the main station to reach the academy. The facility is divided into two areas: an open training mat and an MMA octagon with heavy bags. (Google Map: Link)

German Top Team offers a variety of classes from Shooto to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The academy’s most recent schedule is posted below:

Visitor Pass
German Top Team did not charge for the training. However, it is always courteous to reach out to the gym before your visit.

 — German Top Team’s Website

Things to do

  • Spreuerhofstraße — Reutlingen has the narrowest street in the world with an average width of 40 centimeters and the narrowest at 31 centimeters. 
  • Maultaschen — It is a traditional German dish that originated in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Covered with an outer layer of pasta dough and filled with meat, spinach, bread crumbs, and various spices, Maultaschen is a must try in Baden-Württemberg. It looks similar to ravioli but it is bigger in size and contains more fillings.
  • Stadtmitte (City Center) — Along with Marienkirche and Tubinger Tor, the town of Reutlingen is full of history. Marienkirche is one of the most distinct and significant Gothic buildings in Swabia, and Tubinger Tor, one of the two surviving city gates, creates a typical old German town atmosphere. You can simply stroll through the town and enjoy the city of Reutlingen.

Traveling & Training in Hanoi, Vietnam

Reasons to go: extremely affordable, unique city, amazing food, very safe for solo female travelers, lively ambiance, beautiful temples.

Of all the countries I’ve traveled to (over 20 in the last 3 years!), Vietnam is the first that has felt like a truly foreign experience. I stayed in Hanoi almost a full month and my first couple days in Hanoi were, in all honesty, a little overwhelming. The city is huge, very crowded with people and dense narrow buildings, constantly noisy, with the most insane traffic I’ve ever seen and much less English spoken than any country I’d previously been to. By the end of the stay, however, I’d grown quite acclimated and comfortable with all of this, and had grown to love a lot of the city’s unique charm.

Hanoi, Vietnam

A Growing City

Hanoi, Vietnam: DIY workout equipment near my home, cleverly made of scooter tires filled with cement!Hanoi is still a developing city but very rapidly becoming more modern with a better economy and larger middle class. It seems to have embraced a lot of new technologies, while still retaining many traditional elements, resulting in a very interesting mix of the old and the new.

Everyone has smart phones, gaming lounges lined with high definition monitors are popular, many buildings and scooters seem very new, and drivers use apps like Grab to coordinate rides. A couple larger freeways are currently under construction and there’s no problem getting fast wifi throughout the city. At the same time, you’ll find ancient temples and many much older buildings still in use, and see many traditional activities such as men smoking tobacco from long bamboo pipes in the streets, vendors carrying goods in baskets hanging off poles balanced over their shoulders, and women washing dishes in large basins outside.

Many aspects of Hanoi have a certain makeshift improvised quality. Whatever people can’t afford to purchase or acquire as commercial equipment, they’ll simply create with resourcefulness and ingenuity from the materials they have.

People who have left then returned to Hanoi a couple years later say that they’re surprised by how much the city has changed and developed in their short time away. I feel like if I returned in 3, 5 or 10 years, the version of Hanoi I saw today would already have changed significantly.


Hanoi, Vietnam: blankets over an electrical wire clothing line!Hanoi doesn’t have regular larger grocery stores. Instead, they have many tiny shops which specialize in different things, and street vendors for fruits/veggies/meats. Some vendors ride bicycles with large baskets strapped to the back and sides carrying goods, which makes them a little hard to find when you’re looking for a specific thing.

Most shops are family owned, with the ground floor being the shop/restaurant and the family living upstairs. It’s not uncommon for extended family and a couple different generations to live together in one building/home. Many restaurants are very small, so set up with tiny plastic tables and stools on the sidewalk out front to accommodate additional customers. These makes you feel like a giant when eating!

Property costs (at least in ancient times) for homes/shops were based on the square footage of the front facade, rather than overall size of the house. For this reason many older buildings have a very narrow front faces which extends far back and many stories high. The overall architecture of the city feels very organic, as if buildings and additional stories were added as needed rather than planned out in advance, with very little space is wasted between buildings.

Once again, there were crazy wires everywhere – to a more dense and disorganized extreme than I’d previously seen elsewhere. I get the feeling there aren’t really any general safety standards here, or at least not any strongly enforced.

Hanoi, Vietnam: temples and the city

My Neighborhood

My studio (an AirBnB rental) was located in a very local part of town outside of the touristic area, about 20 minutes south of the main city center by taxi. I lived in the middle of a large, dense block of narrow residential buildings many stories high. The area around my place was a labyrinth of tiny alleys just large enough for pedestrians, bikes and scooters to pass through, but not large enough for cars. The closely sandwiched buildings didn’t offer much of a view from my 3rd story window or let in much natural light, giving the space inside the ambiance of perpetual dusk at all times of day. Most morning around sunrise, you could hear a rooster crowing outside. Some evenings, you could hear the soft melody of a flute being played from one of the neighboring buildings.

Hanoi, Vietnam: tiny alleys in my neighborhood

The area which I was staying in was not at all a tourist part of town. I was almost the only Westerner/foreigner staying here, which got me more than a few curious looks from the local people in the neighborhood. Which I can understand completely. Sometime towards the end of my stay, I did cross another Westerner in the neighborhood. I’d become accustomed to seeing only local people at that point and was so surprised to see him that even I caught myself staring, wondering what he was possibly doing in the neighborhood!

There was diamond shaped lake close to my block surrounded by many cafes and restaurants, with a park/walkway along three sides including benches, an assortment of outdoor fitness equipment, and a playground for the kids. It was a popular place to hang out for people in the community, especially in the evenings. Here, vendors would set up small food stalls with tiny plastic tables and chairs for their customers, groups of friends would sit around drinking tea and eating sunflowers seeds, families would bring their children to play, men would sit around fishing, groups would play music and practice classical dances in pairs, fitness enthusiasts work out on the outdoor equipment, and all the cafes along the waterfront would be filled with customers. It was a very comfortable and family friendly ambiance!

Hanoi, Vietnam: the lake near my neighborhood

Not for Everyone

Hanoi is not for everyone. If you want to vacation in a place with more Western standards, with English spoken everywhere, pristine streets, large all-in-one grocery stores, orderly traffic regulation, good public transportation, and spacious uncluttered sidewalks – in all honesty, you’d probably be better off going elsewhere. While there are certainly very beautiful areas and many higher end hotel rentals available in Hanoi (for amazing rates!) – most of the city isn’t like that. While it’s not always beautiful, it certainly is lively and interesting, with tons of history/culture, and no shortage of things to see and do!

Hanoi, Vietnam: Old Quarter on a weekend (when streets are blocked off to vehicle traffic)


I’ve heard it said before by people who travel that they often feel much safer in South East Asia than in US, and I’d completely agree with that sentiment. At no point did I feel even remotely unsafe, even when in much lower-income areas, even living in a neighborhood made up of tiny dark alleys and sometimes returning home solo late at night.

Hanoi, Vietnam: the city at night

Needless Apprehensions

Vietnam was one of the places I was most excited to see in person, but also one of the ones that I felt the most apprehensive about. Reviews online seemed rather polarized – people either loved it or hate it, with nothing in between. I wondered which would be the case for me.

My concerns fell into three main categories. First, that I would have a really hard time getting around due to language barrier and lack of infrastructure such as public transportation. Second, that I would have something important stolen. According to the online reviews, petty theft such as purse snatching was rampant. Third, that something I would eat would make me terribly sick.

None of these turned out to be valid concerns. It is true that there was certainly much less English spoken, and at much lower level of fluency than many other countries I’d previously been to. But with the help of Google Translate, body language, little bits of English – I had no problem communicating. I used general caution and was aware of surroundings/belongings in tourist areas, so had no issues with theft. Lastly, despite eating a huge variety of foods from many different places and street vendors including ice cream and ice cubes – nothing I ate gave me any digestive problems.

I think perhaps the internet has a tendency to vastly exaggerate the dangers of things.


Entering Vietnam was a pretty straightforward and simple process. I applied for an e-visa online in advance through the National Web Portal on Immigration, paid a small processing fee (about $26), and after a couple days received a letter of approval to print to present upon arrival. The online application asks for fairly standard information such as passport info, photo, birthday, home address, entry/exit dates and port of entry.

I’d read online that a passport sized photo was needed as well upon arrival at the airport so had these ready to present, but no one actually asked for this. With all my documents in order and ready to present, passing through immigration didn’t take more than a couple minutes. I was not asked for proof of an outbound ticket, or for any details as to where I’d be staying for the month.


Hanoi, Vietnam: local currencyThe exchange in Vietnam is quite extreme: $1 United States dollar (USD) = ₫23,000 Vietnamese dongs (VND). It’s a little confusing at first, but not too bad if you just memorize a few benchmark values to have some general idea of what things cost when out and about. Vietnam operates largely on a cash economy, so it’s best to withdraw some cash in advance and not rely on vendors having credit or debit card machines for most transactions. Vietnamese currency has no coins but rather is made up entirely of paper bills. American dollars are widely accepted here too, though you might not always get the best exchange rate and will often receive the change in dongs.

Everything in Vietnam is VERY affordable compared to US standards! Lodging and tours are very reasonably priced, a full plate of food (often including tea and soup) typically costs $1.25-$2, and Grab taxi rides (the Asian version of Uber) throughout most of the city are under $5 (even less if you’re brave enough to ride a scooter taxi!).


The modern Vietnamese writing system (called Quoc-ngu) uses a Roman alphabet with some additional digraphs and accents. It was created by a Portuguese missionary then further developed and made mandatory by French colonists during a time of cultural imperialism. Prior that, an alphabet of modified Chinese characters was used for writing.

In this written system, the are no multi-syllable words. Every word is equal to only one syllable. Words can be written one after the other to act like what would be multi-syllable words in English. Some words have no meaning on their own, and need to be strung together with other words to acquire meaning.


The food in Vietnam was AMAZING – consistently delicious, healthy, and made with local, fresh ingredients. Many really great restaurants here have very underwhelming facades. You’d never suspect such amazing food could be found down these tiny allies and inside hole-in-wall shops!

Meals in Vietnam are often served in a way that lets the customer personalize them to taste. Dishes of noodle soup often come with a plate of mixed herbs, greens, and soy bean sprouts on the side which you can add, along with many optional sauces. Meals are eaten with chopsticks and a shallow soup spoon.

A small glass of cold tea is often complimentary with the meal. Fruits are eaten after meals to refresh your mouth and clear the taste of the meal. What we would consider desserts are actually eaten between meals as snacks.

Two of my favorite snack were popped grains and sweet soup. Popped grains were sold by street vendors on bikes in the streets, and consisted of blocks of popped grains coated with sugar, a bit like caramel popcorn. Sweet soup is a milky dessert with custard, jello blocks (but of a different consistency than the American kind) and other flavors (like berries or syrups) mixed into thick milk, served with crushed ice on the side. You can add however much ice you’d like to your bowl to dilute the sweetness and flavor intensity to taste.

Vietnam also has a huge selection of delicious milk teas and plant-based milk drinks such as corn milk, soy milk, coconut milk, sesame milk, and walnut milk… just to name a few. These are usually pretty sweet. I tried as many different kinds as I could and loved them all!

Having now eaten actual pho, I can say that many of the Vietnamese restaurants in USA actually do a pretty accurate job of reproducing this meal… for about 6x the cost of what you can purchase it for here!

Hanoi, Vietnam: tasty meals!

Great (Vegetarian!) Food

Tinh Tam’s (near my home) quickly became my favorite local restaurant in the area. I ate here almost every day – sometimes even twice a day! The ambiance was cozy and calm, with friendly staff, quick service, and amazing food. Most meals were either noodle soup, a ball of rice surrounded by different assortment of raw and cooked veggies, or a plate of noodles and veggies. I didn’t realize until the last day of my stay that it was actually a completely vegetarian restaurant.

Hanoi, Vietnam: vegetarian food at Tinh Tam's


Hanoi, Vietnam: egg coffee!Egg coffee is a specialty of Hanoi. It’s made of egg yolk mixed with condensed milk and sugar, beaten and boiled into a very thick cream which is then poured over a shot of super strong black coffee. Very delicious! Not all cafes serve this though. Regular coffee in Hanoi consists of a small, super strong, super dark shot of coffee served with sweet condensed milk and liquid sugar on the side.


The pollution in Hanoi for the month that I was here ranged from “moderately bad” to “unhealthy”. I downloaded an app on my phone which I’d check throughout the day, and wore a cloth air mask anytime the air quality dipped into the “unhealthy” range. On the worst days, the pollution could be seen as a brown haze over the city, obscuring the buildings on the far side of the little lake in my neighborhood, and the air felt thick to breath.

Public Transportation

For all practical purposes – there is none. Ride sharing services such as Grab (the Asian equivalent of Uber) are immensely popular here and very cheap. You can use Grab to arrange for either a scooter or car taxi. The scooter taxis always provide an extra helmet for their passengers.


Hanoi takes all aspects of scooter driving to a new level. Compared to other South East Asian cities I’ve traveled to there’s denser traffic, faster driving, more weaving amongst other vehicles, less strongly enforced traffic laws, and less clearly marked intersections and lane divisions. The direction of roundabouts seems to be somewhat optional – while about 80% of people go the uniform, correct direction – it’s also totally fine to just drive the other way if it’s shorter, apparently!

In the center of the city, there’s many more scooters than cars on the roadways. And, for good reason – it really is the perfect vehicle for commuting around Hanoi! For starters, scooters are much more affordable than cars. This is partly because scooters are made in Vietnam, whereas cars are imported and heavily taxed. It cost about $1000 USD to purchase scooter, which is 3 months salary for average person here. It’s also much cheaper to purchase fuel for a scooter than a car. In addition, driving Hanoi is much easier on a scooter because of the small streets and dense traffic. There are many tiny alleys a scooter can pass through which a car would not fit into.

You might think that it would be inconvenient at times to have a scooter when needing to transport people or larger items. Not so! I’ve seen a truly amazing amount of large items strapped to a scooter, proving that you really don’t need a car for this. Scooters can easily comfortably accommodate 1-2 passengers, and sometimes up to 4 if stacked together well!

Hanoi, Vietnam: masterful stacking! Photos by Soner Dogan.

There’s constant honking in Hanoi. It isn’t rude, but rather more of a “watch out” notification used whenever drivers are coming around a corner, getting close to another person/driver, about to merge, about to do something unexpected etc… basically any situation where another person might not be aware of them.

I once took a scooter taxi in Hanoi morning rush hour traffic. It was the most insane driving experience I’ve ever been through! It included weaving through dense sea of scooters (and few larger vehicles), the equivalent of 5 lanes of traffic (one way) with no lane divisions, lots of honking (of course), driving onto the sidewalks, and going the WRONG way into oncoming traffic on few one way streets! The most amazing part was how normal this seemed for my driver and everyone around us.

Despite all of this, amazingly I didn’t see a single traffic accident in the entire month I was here! I think Vietnamese people might be best drivers in the world.

Crossing the Street

Crossing the streets was a little daunting at first. The majority of the time there are no crosswalks or traffic lights – you basically just have to take the initiative and literally walk into traffic. The proper way to cross a street in Vietnam is simply to walk calmly and with purpose into the street. Do not stop, speed up, or slow down. The oncoming traffic is a constant flow and doesn’t actually stop when pedestrians are crossing – vehicles just speed up, slow down or swerve to the side accordingly to avoid obstacles. Changing your pace will just make it harder for them to predict where to go. I definitely significantly improved my Vietnamese street crossing skills in the month I was here, but even toward the end was not brave enough to attempt to cross many of the larger, more busy streets this way!

Hanoi, Vietnam: Scooter life!


Vietnamese people love soccer. In the evenings when games were happening, all the outdoor bars would set up projectors for their customers and will tune in all televisions to watch the game game. Bursts of cheering or disappointed groans of dismay could be heard periodically every time one of the teams scored a point.


Hanoi, Vietnam: St. Joseph's Cathedral in Old QuarterHanoi has many beautiful and richly decorated temples throughout the city. Although Vietnam has no official religion, it still plays an important role in people’s lives. In Hanoi, the following five religions are common: Buddhism, Confucianism (although that’s more of a philosophy and social structure rather than religion), worshiping the mother goddess, worshiping ancestors, and Catholicism.

Confucianism was brought to Vietnam during Chinese occupation. It puts a strong emphasis on living virtuously, good behavior, obedience, loyalty, and education, but diminishes the role of women in society. In response and to balance this, a religion of worshiping the mother goddess was developed, paying tribute to the importance of women in society.

Hanoi, Vietnam: offerings at a templeTemples will often include a table for offerings in front of statues of important figures (Buddha, the mother goddess, past kings and important scholars, for example). Offerings almost always including fruit but also often including donations of money and other food items, sometimes even including beer!

Buddhism, Confucianism, worshiping the mother goddess and ancestor worship blend harmoniously together. It’s not uncommon to see a temple with elements of all of these together. A person can without conflict practice all, and can pay respects to different aspects of different religions. Catholicism, however, excludes all other religions.

Hanoi, Vietnam: alter to Buddha (left), alter to the mother goddess (right) in same temple

Văn Miếu (Temple of Literature)

This site consists of a series of courtyards divided by beautiful gates, with a very ornate temple dedicated to Confucian sages and scholars at one end. In the past, students enrolled in the Imperial Academy lived and studied here. The fourth courtyard includes row upon row of turtle steles (big stone slabs on the back of giant stone turtles) engraved with the names of doctors who passed the royal exams. During the war, these were covered in sand as protection from aerial bombardment. This visit was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city.

Hanoi, Vietnam: gates at the Temple of Literature


I usually spend most of my travels exploring on my own, but since everything in Hanoi was so extremely affordable, I went ahead and treated myself to a few organized tours on a couple separate days.

Hanoi, Vietnam: great restaurants down tiny alleys!The first was a walking street food tour in Old Quarter, which included a big variety of tiny meals and drinks in a bunch of different restaurants. The guide was informative and charismatic, all the food was incredible! The biggest thing I learned here is that there are a ton of really amazing little restaurants hidden behind very unassuming facades, sometimes down tiny little alleys behind buildings which you wouldn’t even notice while passing by!

The second tour was an all day biking, boating, walking tour with Hanoi Explore Travel that covered a couple different areas to the south of the city.

First stop was Hoa Lu, ancient capital, to walk around in the temples area.

Hanoi, Vietnam: Hoa Lu temple area

Next was biking through the nearby Ninh Binh province, an area with giant limestone hills covered with lush vegetation and surrounded by flat rice patties and slow small rivers and lakes.

Hanoi, Vietnam: rice fields in Ninh Binh province

Following that was small boat rowing tour along the lakes near Trang An wharf with more giant limestone cliffs on all sides. The boats went through many cave tunnels so low I could touch the ceiling, lit with little lamps along the way to avoid total darkness.

Hanoi, Vietnam: boating near Trang An wharf

Hanoi, Vietnam: boating near Trang An wharf

The tour’s last stop was Mua cave, which wasn’t actually a cave but a giant hill 500 steps high with breathtaking panoramic view from the top!

Hanoi, Vietnam: hiking up Mua cave

Hanoi, Vietnam: hiking up Mua cave

Training in Hanoi

BJJ is still a pretty new sport in Vietnam, with very few black belts in the country, but is gaining popularity and developing quickly. Hanoi has three gyms: BJJ Hanoi, Agoge and Ronin BJJ Hanoi.

I did have the opportunity to visit and train at all three during the time I was there, and enjoyed some great rolls at each! BJJ Hanoi was a short 10 minute walk from my studio, so became my “home gym” for the month in Hanoi. Both Agoge and Ronin are Globetrotter associated gyms but were located a bit further from my place, requiring a 30 min Grab taxi ride to get to, which unfortunately didn’t make them practical options for training on a regular basis.

BJJ Hanoi

BJJ Hanoi was actually the first BJJ club in Hanoi, founded in 2011. The gym was located on the second story of a large sporting facility building. There were often people practicing other martial arts in groups outside, playing table tennis, or lifting weights in other rooms of the building. The BJJ room was rather small for the number of students training regularly (about 20 per class) but had good quality mats and padded walls. There was no air conditioning but that wasn’t really a problem for the time of year I was there, with exception of a few hotter days.

Class most days was taught by purple belt coach Trần Tuấn Anh. The students consisted primarily of white belts, so many of the techniques we saw focused on the important fundamentals. The instruction was clear and detail-oriented, usually not given in English but my training partners were always happy to step in and translate. The students at the gym were very friendly, enjoyed having visiting travelers, and very passionate about BJJ – it was a pleasure to train here!

During the last week, two black belts traveling happen to be in town for vacation and stopped in to give class! The first was John Bernard Will from Australia with brown belt wife Melissa Will. The second was Louis Levy from US. Super nice instructors, greatly enjoyed their classes and learned some valuable details from both!

Hanoi, Vietnam: group photo with the BJJ Hanoi crew!


The Dreaded Knee Injury!!!

The Dreaded Knee Injury

It’s a long time since I last posted an article about my travels. It will a bit longer still as this article focuses more on something that plagued me for the rest of the Odyssey and still today at times. It happens to the best of us in the Jiu-Jitsu community, especially those who always grapple at high aggressiveness or compete, hell it just happened to Gordon Ryan arguably the best of best of the Jiu-Jitsu competitors. Sooner or later we get injured on this path of the Jiu-Jitsu Life. It’s not about if we will get hurt but more rather when and how and can we mitigate and minimize those injuries through smart training, which is whole other topic. It just comes down to it that injuries come with Jiu-Jitsu, like all combat or full contact sports, and at some point you’re going to have a back problem, a popped elbow, a torn shoulder or of the one thing everyone fears the most, a popped or torn knee. Through my Jiu-Jitsu life so far I have been very lucky with no major injuries sidelining me from training (excuse me while I now dawn every possible ward and hex to protect me after making such a bold statement) but while traveling I was met with a serious enough injury that kept me from the mats at times, or at least learning to adapt and cope so I could continue to train, and at one point almost made me just quit the Odyssey all together.


Let’s pick up where I last left off in the previous article I wrote a while back. Since It’s been awhile click the link to read about my time in Auckland and Taupo NewZealand if you haven’t already or want to recap the previous adventures. I had just finished teaching and rolling with the fine bunch of eager killers at ROC Taupo and was about to head back to my hostel for the last night there before taking the bus in the morning to meet up with a long time friend from Canada who now lives in Wellington. The class I taught all focused around the half guard and with that so did the rolling afterwards. This means there was a lot of knee action involved throughout the session. At this point I had been wearing knee pads for a while. I came to terms that wearing protection isn’t about being old or weak and first picked up a pair at the first BJJ Globetrotters camp I went to in Heidelberg Germany. I have for a long time had problem with patellar bursitis on my left knee that comes and goes when I train a lot. Luckily I don’t get swelled up kneecaps like in the link but there is a little swelling and a lot of tenderness right under the kneecap on the patella. This makes it impossible to use that knee on the mats (as in direct contact to the mats like pushing off or kneeling etc.) without incredible pain at times. It started to flare up when I was at the camp and I decided I didn’t want to miss out on training and rolling with everyone so caved in and got a pair of knee pads, like I was admitting I’m some old guy now or something. Best decision ever, in reflection I think anyone who trains aggressively or trains a lot in general should get knee pads just to protect the longevity of their working knee joints. Jiu-Jitsu is hard on our knees for a number of reasons after all.


Anyways back the story, so I finished class with everyone and we all slowly packed up and were leaving together while still chatting about Jiu-Jitsu and traveling, my left knee, the hurt knee, being a knee intensive training session it was quite sore. This is something I noticed coming in waves while I was traveling, if I had good aggressive sessions or a lot of training days in a row, my knee would tend to hurt, and a rest day from the mats just meant more sight seeing which meant more hiking and not really resting my legs. A point I overlooked for the longest time. So we’re leaving the gym and standing on the sidewalk, I say my goodbyes and pivot to walk down the street away from them and *RIP* I feel this horrible cutting/burning sensation from the inside of my left knee. I instantly stop and say to the guys ‘I think I just tore my meniscus’ to which they just laugh and walk away and get into their cars, thinking I’m joking. I gave it a few seconds and tried to shake it off, maybe it was some sort of nerve reaction to the training, it hurt like hell and wasn’t going away. I slowly limp down the sidewalk toward the hostel thinking what the fuck do I do now?! I couldn’t believe it, It wasn’t during some competition match or some life or death situation on the streets, or even an aggressive roll in a gym, of all things I hurt my knee from walking down the street…



Looking back I can see now there were all kind of signs of the knee hurting from all sorts of different actions, telling me to take better care. It’s funny really when I think back of all the times I would just foam roll things out and do light yoga and think that fixes everything. Really I may of helped my back and relaxed all my aching muscles but nothing I was doing was taking care of the joints. It wasn’t until this point that I even thought about what to do in this situation, and really it wasn’t even until much later on that I even began to do anything for it to really heal it other than just rest. One thing I know I still don’t do enough is ice my joints after training. Through my travels I had the privilege of being able to try some cold baths at a few places, most notably the cold tank at Mjolnir Gym in Reykjavik Iceland during the BJJ Globetrotters Iceland camp, the Chill’n Out cryotherapy chamber in San Diego during the Free Rollers San Diego camp and of course jumping into the Arctic Ocean in Nuuk Greenland at the BJJ Globetrotters Greenland camp. They all work amazingly well, I felt so good after training, joints not hurting near as much and all muscle cramping gone. Really folks, we need to ice our joints and make ice baths a usual thing at gyms.



So I make it back to the Hostel and I rest and stretch out and ice my knee. I was in a torrent of emotions that night as I thought out my options. What if it’s worse in the morning? What if I can’t train anymore? Should I go to the Doctor’s? Or just got home and get it check out it? What if I have to quit the Odyssey? All sorts of questions went through my head that night, I decided ice it and get some rest and figure it out when I get to Wellington. In morning it actually didn’t feel too bad, I felt like I strained something but I really never know when I tear things until I finally get it checked out and I’m told. I definitely wasn’t doing anything strenuous on that knee anytime soon. I say as I continued to hike around with my 25kg backpack. After a few days my knee still hurt but I still trained without rolling. Only going to classes for drills without any rolling really sucks, especially when you’re visiting the gym in what might be you’re one and only time ever being there and meeting these people. But it was better than nothing.


At this point for the next few months I was trying to continue training like normal until something hurt, then I would stop doing that one thing but continue on. I did this through Singapore and Cambodia and most of South East Asia where I would try this trial and error method, often doing things I shouldn’t be doing in the first place, until I would hurt myself again then say no more of that one action, trying to find my limits with this injury without missing too much training. It’s a weird concept to explain now but it’s all made sense back then. I want to see the world, I want to meet and train with as many people as I can. This injury prevents all of that but if I can just find ways around it I’ll be OK. But really I’m just hurting my knee more and more while I travel. In Cambodia, which was shortly after New Zealand, I was there for the holidays and took a week or so off to rest and heal. I then decided I would join in on the class warm up running and doing a leap frog type drill, for some reason I was thinking I could hop on that knee that I can barely do more than walk with. Hurt again. This obviously wasn’t a great method to dealing with an injury while traveling and really I should have have stopped and put up with the fact I was missing training until my knee was healed. Sometimes you’re just caught up in the moment. 


It wasn’t until I was in Vietnam weeks later after Cambodia that I began to even think about doing anything other than just rest and stretch and ice. I hurt myself yet again trying to do the drills in class that the instructor, an American expat wrestler who has a lot of experience with this type of injury, told me about rehabilitation methods for the knee to strengthen it. The thought of rehab never occurred to me but as the same time I knew I should have been looking to it as soon as he told me. At this point it had been around 2 months since first hurting it in New Zealand and as the instructor said, whatever got injured is healed, now it’s about making it work right again. 3 years ago, the year before starting the Odyssey, I had an operation on my neck to remove a tumor causing all kinds of tension on my neck and shoulders. That operation led to months of rehab in my neck and shoulders to get the posture and strength back to be able to roll again. It took very little time for the neck to heal, but it took a lot longer to get everything working right again so I wouldn’t have neck and shoulder pains from light rolling. Having gone through that I should’ve have been thinking the same thing for my knee but instead of looking for ways to make the joint stronger I was treating it like it was a continuing injury to be dealt with later, which just led to it to hurting more and more not getting better.


So I get put on the right path in Vietnam and start looking at different rehab videos on YouTube. Slowly I start putting together what I can and can’t do for training and a rehab sequence I can do while staying in hostels. The hardest part was keeping within my limitations for training and continuing to do the rehab workout consistently. I would do the routine for a while, as in the whole week while visiting a city, then it would feel better and I would forget about it the exercises the next stop and my knee would start aching again. This cycle of ‘fixed again, hurt again’ happened over and over until I finally got home and got into a regular routine to fix the knee and make it feel better and stronger. As of today I would say my knee is still a little messed up if I train hard or a lot over a week but it also feels a hell of a lot better and I no longer worry about doing most warm ups or rolling several rounds in a row. I don’t think it will ever be 100% and I’m sure at some point I’ll end up having to get an operation done down the road but the more aware of my joints, all joints not just knees, and the more I work toward keeping them healthy then hopefully that day won’t be for a long time. 


So remember folks, keep good care of your joints. I’m not a professional on this stuff and there is a plethora of videos and articles on joint and muscle care for BJJ out on the internet but a few steps I’ve learned, some too late. Ice them after training, especially long and aggressive sessions. Take rest days, I know of some people who schedule a week off just to let their joints and ligaments reset and relax. Of course always tap early and be kind to your partners, my elbows have suffered from ignoring both of those facts, not taping during competitions and partners who think your arm is a stick shift and needs to be slammed into 5th gear to get the tap. But most importantly, always be careful of doing anything strenuous after class when your muscles and joints are sore and tired and cooling down and tightening, never know, you just might tear your knee walking down the stupid fucking street.   

I’ll be returning to retelling all my tales and adventures of traveling the world, training Jiu-Jitsu and meeting awesome people in the next post, where I meet up my old friend and fellow traveling Canadian in Wellington New Zealand.  

Until next time,

see you on the mats!



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Empty Stomach Rolls in NYC

Hello world! I managed to pull off a quick weekend trip to New York City last weekend. I try to drop by annually to say hello to a few friends. It was abnormally warm as well (at least 10 degrees celsius warmer than Toronto), so walking outdoors without a coat was also a blessing. I’m trying to change, but I’m naturally a very go-go-go type of traveller. I’m curious. I want to see EVERYTHING. So when I reach a point where I don’t need to check out anymore touristic destinations, I know that I’ve gotten comfortable with a place and can take it slow.

I took it so slow that I found time to drop into Clockwork BJJ for their Sunday morning beginner and mixed classes with Sebastian. The gym is located near Washington Square Park. I also brought my friend Jen along for her first class! We came in from Brooklyn and it was super accessible by transit. I found it to be a very friendly and welcoming training environment. Someone was always around to lend a hand whenever we had trouble with the technique.

I always love bringing someone to try this sport. Jen is very open-minded and I thought she did pretty well for her first BJJ class. She stood out and watched the rolls during the beginner class, but by the end of the mixed class, she and I were beginning to roll lightly. When I first started, I personally didn’t roll until after my 3rd class, and I was still pretty intimidated.

We also chatted with some of the gym regulars. We met Che, who was two months into her jiu-jitsu journey. She was telling us how she was a bit nervous starting out, but she jumped right into the mixed classes and it helped with her confidence in rolling with people of all weight classes. Now jiu-jitsu is an important part of her routine.

Empty stomach rolls wasn’t a great idea. I did not eat or drink anything in the morning after staying up until 4AM consuming alcoholic beverages. I don’t get hangovers, but trying to roll with purple belts proved to be next to death. My advice? Don’t… do… that… anyways, the meal below was so satisfying entering my stomach. Sorry, getting off track.

Next time I hope I get to stay longer so I can train more. There are so many top gyms in New York City and of course, they are on my list to visit. But in the meantime, I’m compiling my gyms to check out in Istanbul next month!

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Blog 8 – Texas and Kasai Pro

Up until this moment we’ve put about 60,000 km or 37,000 mi on our small RV. We’ve been travelling in it for two years now and don’t particularly see an end in sight. Last year we weren’t able to explore Texas as much as we would’ve liked to, so this time we made sure to set aside more than enough time to do so. 

Entering the state from the West side, a Jiu Jitsu gym was in our sights as our first destination. The academy I decided to first visit was Rodrigo Pinheiro BJJ located in San Antonio. They were extremely welcoming and said of course I could train with them. I don’t get excited often but being in a new gym for the first time is one of the few things that always does it for me. 

You won’t often see me write about specific training that happens within academies because a) I don’t think it morally right to be speaking about the specifics of an academies’ training regimen and b) I do not wish for my training throughout my travels to be viewed as any sort of review system of academies. I simply love both the art and traveling, and respectfully enjoy learning and sharing it with others. White belt mentality always. That said, I very much enjoyed the classes here and was surprised to be shown a couple of chokes that I have never seen before. I met a lot of really cool people here. One of which being a black belt, Tony Erard, and a brown belt Jeremy Abates. *Side note* Jeremy’s son is a young phenom who trains full time and has won a ton of tournaments. His name is Cole Abate, he’s a great kid and you should go like his page on Facebook. Both of these men made me aware that the Gordon Ryan vs. Joao Rocha Super Series Kasai Pro event was happening the upcoming weekend, just a few hours North of us, and that there was also a huge open mat the next day at the grand opening of the VA Academy in Wylie TX.



Well in my mind I didn’t really have much an option. No way I could return to Canada knowing I was only a few hours away from one of the largest grappling events being done this year and I didn’t see it. I informed Sarah that we absolutely MUST travel a few hours North to Dallas so that I could attend both of these events. Lucky for me, Sarah is incredibly understanding and supportive and she said lets go!

Kasai was being held in a neighborhood called Deep Ellum, located in East Dallas. Its known for beautiful street murals, art galleries and entertainment venues. It’s a very unique place with a ton of character and an interesting history. 

One of dozens of murals
All of the murals were of impressive quality



The last minute ticket I picked up for the show turned out to be a great spot, although I don’t think there was a bad seat in the house. I was on the balcony with a seat, table, and could clearly see the stage and large projector screen. There were plenty of exciting matches, pyrotechnics, and everything seemed to run smoothly and without a hitch. Absolutely the best grappling event I’ve ever attended. After the event Sarah and I walked around the area and explored the streets and shops, ate some food and grabbed a couple beers at a restaurant at night. 

View from my seat
Klyde Warren Park, Dallas



The next morning we drove 15 minutes to Wylie TX so I could get some rolling in at the VA Academy/Soul Fighters grand opening. I was elated because a lot of the competitors from the event were there along with the recent pals, Jeremy and Tony, I’d met in San Antonio. Sure enough the place was packed with more than 15 black belts and all other lower ranks. I rolled until exhaustion like usual, as I LOVE the grind, and did about 12–15 rounds. Great time. 

Picture by Tony Erard
Too many names to name but some of the best in the world



Our plan while heading East was to ride the southern coast to visit beaches along the way to Florida. So from the Dallas area we had to head back down Southeast a few hours to Houston. I am a Gracie Barra member, so I usually try to look for an affiliate where we are, however that’s not always possible. In this case when we arrived in Houston I found Gracie Barra Westchase. Now although I do not review any gyms that I visit, I have to say that this was one of the best gyms I’ve ever been to. Amazing facility, coaches, and training. Porrada everyday. Head Instructor and Owner, Ulpiano Malachias treated me like family and welcomed me into his academy. He’s got some amazing competitors there that were a privilege to train with. I plan to spend a lot more time here next year upon return.

Ulpiano Malachias, myself, Inacio Neto, Pedro Marinho (current #1 world nogi purple belt)