Featured traveller: Anna Fischer – BJJ Globetrotters

Anna Fischer - BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 28

Belt: Blue

Profession: I’m studying Plant Sciences at the University of Helsinki.

How many years in BJJ: 5

Other martial arts: I’ve trained Krav Maga for 3 years.

Where do you live: Helsinki, Finland

Where are you from: A small village in the south of Germany

Other fun or curious information you would like to share: I’m really into plants. I’m a trained gardener. Cacti are my favourite plants – they’re really fascinating and have the big advantage that they can survive without water or any care for several weeks while I’m traveling.

I also really like to learn languages. So if you see me at some camp and want to practice some fancy language, I’m in! Besides German and English I can offer a bit of French, Finnish, Portuguese, and Spanish (in that order) and if I should ever have time I want to learn Swedish and Dutch. And some of the Cyrillic alphabet. The problem is I don’t have time.

Anna Fischer – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
I’ve always liked traveling. Before I even knew what Jiu Jitsu was, I did some solo trips to the German and Austrian mountains and to Portugal. Then I figured out that Jiu Jitsu exists and stopped taking longer trips because I didn’t want to miss training. I was in a dilemma. I didn’t know back then how open and visitor friendly the Jiu Jitsu community is. Then I was randomly talking about single leg takedowns with a guy from my gym and afterwards he sent me a link to a BJJ Globetrotters video that covered that topic. That’s how I first heard about the Globetrotters. Learning that I can go to a Jiu Jitsu camp for a whole week and train as much as I want and at the same time explore a new city or country was amazing. I signed up for my first camp and knew immediately that this is how I will spend my holidays from now on.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
My most recent trip was to Rome to participate in the Rome Open and the European Nogi championships in October together with my partner. Well, let me put it like this: I should work on my armbar defence. My partner did better and brought home gold. It was nice to catch some sun before the Finnish winter.

I’ve planned two more trips for this year: one weekend trip to Berlin to participate in a Grappling Industries tournament, and then I will visit my family in Germany over Christmas. There’s a small gym nearby which I’ve already visited a few times, so I’m looking forward to meeting the group again. And then I want to visit the two gyms where I trained before I moved. It’s been almost a year since I was there last time. I hope somebody trains there at that time of the year. But I’m sure I can organize the key and some motivated old training partners.

Anna Fischer – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
I like to get to know new countries and their culture, cities, people, and nature. Traveling is always a little adventure and a break from whatever might be stressful in life. And traveling also teaches me a lot about myself. Not everything goes as planned and difficulties can pop up everywhere. Finding solutions for all kind of problems makes you grow a lot as a person.

I’m a very introverted person and always had problems with socializing and talking to strangers. When traveling within the Jiu Jitsu community, things are a bit easier because there are so many like-minded people. From these travels, I’ve learned that it’s worth pushing myself out of my comfort zone for a while, and nowadays I enjoy meeting new Jiu Jitsu people from all around the globe.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
I stayed in a Japanese village in the middle of the Polish nowhere and trained on the hugest matspace ever. I wrestled with a Viking and hiked in a country where hot water shoots out of the ground. I had a wrestling match in an Estonian bog. I rolled at an open mat from midnight till 3 in the morning until I almost fell asleep while trying to choke people. There are so many great memories. But one memory sticks with me particularly…

When I started training Jiu Jitsu, I used to train in two very small gyms in southern Germany – the only ones in the whole area. In the beginning it was only me and a handful of big, skilled guys most of the time. I didn’t mind that and really enjoyed training, but I had serious doubts that I will ever reach a somewhat reasonable level, or even get a blue belt. Then I went to my first Globetrotters camp and there were so many women, mostly blue and purple belts. I had never seen a woman with a colored belt before. I was quite intimidated, but they were all so nice and trained with me and gave me tips. I was really looking up to them.

Years later, I eventually made it to blue and was asked to teach classes in one of my old gyms and also in two other small gyms in Germany I have visited. There were these white belt women everywhere and at some point I realized that they are just like I was back then, but the roles have switched. Now I can pass on the inspiration I once received. In these moments I always have to think back to that overwhelming experience at my first camp and I’m so grateful for the Globetrotters community.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
The most surprising thing so far happened at the Globetrotters Fall Camp in Tallinn in 2021. It was my second camp, and my first time in Estonia. I had signed up for a group dinner and was curious to meet new people, but at the same time I was also a bit nervous because I’m not very good at talking with strangers and often end up saying no more than a few words. And then there was this guy at my table, wearing a t-shirt with an “Introverted, but willing to discuss Jiu Jitsu” print. So I talked with him. Over the next few days he kept asking me out for dinner, and we trained and rolled together quite a few times. And well, now I’m writing this text from Helsinki because I moved in with this guy. I ended up living in a country I probably wouldn’t have been able to point out on a map before the Tallinn camp, and coming here has been one of the best decisions in my life so far.

Anna Fischer – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
Kind of. Travelling and training is where I’m willing to spend my money, but since the university doesn’t pay me to study plants, I try to look for cheaper options when there are alternatives. Booking flights and train tickets well in advance can save a lot of money. I’ve also slept on some airport benches because the options with an overnight layover were much cheaper. Not sure if I can recommend that though – they were not the most comfortable nights. The airport in Helsinki was really okay, but Riga and Munich were not so much fun. I also try to travel light. Often hand luggage is enough and much cheaper when flying.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Go out and discover the world. Just do it. There is so much waiting for you out there. The destination doesn’t have to be the other end of the globe. Sometimes amazing experiences are waiting in the next town just a few minutes away.

Try to train with many different people from many different gyms. That has helped me a lot to improve my Jiu Jitsu and it’s fun.

Don’t blindly trust everyone. Often I watch people train or roll first before I pair up with them, especially when there’s a big weight difference.

Always bring enough tape. It can fix everything. Your body, shoes, tent, phone… everything.

Thank you to Anna Fischer – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured affiliated academy: Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala

Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala

Where is the gym located?
San Marcos, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

(Locally we organize under the umbrella name “KEFI Collective” as a way to brand ourselves beyond just “the dudes who do Jiu-Jitsu.” Makes it easier to find us when you’re in the area.

But for all intents and purposes, “Lake Atitlan BJJ” works just as well.)

How many people train there?
We have about 4-6 core members who train regularly (and who actually live here long enough to train regularly). This number is constantly fluctuating since it’s a small town with lots of travelers coming through.

We live in a small town in rural Guatemala. So formalized martial arts is hard to find out here. But one thing we do have is lots of travelers. We’re constantly posting about our trainings with the intention of catching any traveling practitioners who have an itch to train.

It works great during the high season when lots of travelers are around (Nov to Apr). But come low season (May to Oct), it’s mostly back to our dedicated core members.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
We’re not a gym. It functions more like a structured open mat session.

We’re simply a group of martial arts how train together, and welcome anybody else how has skills/experience to share.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training in Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala?
We’ve had the full range of belts training with us. Just recently we had a brown belt stay in town for a few months. He helped out a lot in teaching techniques.

When did the gym open?
~Spring 2021

Some facts about you:

Name: Alphi Quitevis
Age: 37
Belt: White belt (my skill level is probably closer to blue belt, but since we don’t have a formal gym/school, there aren’t belts being earned)
Profession: Business Development Manager
Years in BJJ: 3
Other martial arts: MMA (a little bit from everywhere: Muay Thai + boxing + wrestling + judo), escrima. I was in the US Marine Corps for 8 years and trained in various modalities of combat and defense, including multiple weapons.
Currently living in: San Marcos, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
Originally from: Chicago, USA


Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
In the first half of 2021, Jonathan Landa and his friend Milton (blue belt) threw out a post on the local Facebook community group, to paraphrase, “Anybody want to do Jiu-Jitsu?” All they had was a single set of puzzle-piece fitness mats. Two weeks later, I answered their post and joined the training. Another week later a giant blue belt Scotsman joins (who would later put us onto BJJ Globetrotters).

With other people coming in/out of the mix, we then start rolling twice a week, every week. Open mat style.

We did it for 6-7 months straight, just a handful of us. The blue belts helped spin Jonathan and I up to speed (I had some grappling experience from my time in the Marine Corps, to which we transitioned to more BJJ-specific training). We soaked up whatever experience travelers had to share. Blue belts, purple, brown, black. They’ve all come through. Couple of Globetrotters too.

With exception of periods wherein the core group breaks away due to travel (since many of us are foreigners on tourist visas in Guatemala) this “collective” style of training continues.

As mentioned earlier, Jonathan is a big part of why we still train. He’s the one that started organizing people under the KEFI Collective.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
Our core group is an international group of misfits. Jonathan is local Guatemalan; he’s the bulldog. Fitness trainer background, strong af. He’s the backbone of this whole operation. Has an iron half guard that damn-near impossible to pull out — like a bulldog.

We have an Italian guy, Edo. BackgroA/boxund in MMing, with professional cage experience. A big dude, Italian Stallion. Has a mean overhand left, but on the ground he’s quite fluid.

We have Timo, French guy. Tall and long, slender limbs. Years of Muay Thai experience who helps us when we train MMA/striking on Thursdays. He teaches us Muay Thai, we teach him ground game. Has a beautiful question mark kick.

There’s Medhi, another French guy. Years of BJJ experience, Animal Flow trainer. Another beast of a man. Loooong arms which he takes advantage of by specializing with the darce and anacondas.

Until recently, we had a brown belt — Tom — from the US, train with us regularly. He had to go back to the States, but he plans to return in the Spring to stay for long term. Older gentleman in his 50s with average height and build, but could put a hurtin’ on any of us young bucks with his big ol’ head. He gives Edo and Medhi a run for their money.

Why do they train in Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala?
I suppose it’s the same for most people on the Warrior path: learn skills/stay sharp, challenge ourselves, stay in shape, camaraderie, and most importantly, have fun.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
Getting enough people to train has always been the challenge since day one. It’s in part to the fact that we’re in rural Guatemala, and that a lot of people who train are only traveling through (whether only for a few days or a few weeks).

For our core group, since we are so few, we have to rely on our training partners to stay committed to training and show up in order to have a solid session.

We have a rule of thumb: if at least three people are available for a training session, we’ll open up the space and train.

A majority of the time it’s no problem, but we all have different lives. Some weeks we may have some guys out to due to travel, or work, or injury, etc.

It’s always possible to train 1 on 1, but having various people to roll with is a lot more fun.

Social media marketing helps to bring in new bodies.

Again, this isn’t so much an issue in the high season, when lots of travelers come through.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
The more the merrier.

ONE IDEA: Jonathan owns a local hotel business. It would be interesting to have some kind of work exchange for traveling practitioners (higher belts) to come and stay for a few week/months to teach us things in exchange for, say free accommodation and a place to train while they’re traveling. We’d have to figure out those logistical details, but it’s an interesting idea to play with.

Aside from our group, there are other BJJ/martial arts practitioners around our area. So I only hope to continue spreading martial arts in all its forms in the area.

There are other grapplers on the other side of the lake. But since boat travel across the lake isn’t really convenient for regular training, they don’t come through as much. It would be nice to grow the group AND training facilities to the point where we can host each others’ groups, say once a month, to have friendly training sessions together.

Additionally, there’s an MMA fighter in the area (trained in Gracie Barra lineage; aiming for the UFC) who wants to eventually build a formal martial arts school and have other fighters come through. His organizational philosophy is quite different from ours, as you might imagine from his time with Gracie Barra, but as long as we have more and more practitioners in the area we see it as a benefit.

What’s the best thing about Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala?
We train hard, kickin’ each other’s asses, but we’re all pretty laid back because of the relatively informal nature of the training.

And we live in a jungle paradise.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
We live on an insanely beautiful lake surrounded by three volcanoes. A simple Google search of “Lake Atitlan” will turn up endless sights and activities to see.


Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala, you can contact them here.

Featured traveller: Nathan Featherstone – BJJ Globetrotters

Nathan Featherstone - BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 33

Belt: Purple

Profession: Martial arts and fitness coach

How many years in BJJ: 12 (with time off due to injuries and lockdowns)

Other martial arts: Irish stick fighting (Doyle and Antrim style), Dog Brothers martial arts, Collar and Elbow wrestling.
Previously karate, boxing, muay thai, MMA, Judo, HEMA, and capoeira.

Where do you live: Dublin, Ireland

Where are you from: Wicklow, Ireland

Other fun or curious information you would like to share:

  • I teach both BJJ and stick fighting in my gym. With my stick fighting I teach two styles of Irish stick fighting, which is a martial art indigenous to the island and very unknown to many. With my background in combat arts I wanted to test this material out and make sure it worked, which led me to the Dog Brothers who do full contact sparring bouts with sticks and various other weapons. Picture MMA with sticks and a fencing mask. This has also made me work really heavily on stick grappling, which is a really interesting way to look at BJJ and grappling.
  • I run a Youtube channel all about Irish history and martial arts called the Rambling Kern. I have done all sorts of historical recreations since my teens. which led me to combine all of my various obscure hobbies into one place.
  • I am a pretty big nerd and like to take on a new pursuit every year or two. Growing up in a rural area I don’t want to miss out on things now I’m all grown up and able to do things. As a result I’ve trained in a lot of martial arts and recently got heavily into learning knife throwing, which has been way more complex than I ever thought. I had a friend pass away during Covid who used to play Dungeons and Dragons, and I started playing with some of his old group at first as a way to remember him. Ever since I’ve gotten hooked and am big into playing on my time off.

Nathan Featherstone – BJJ Globetrotters


Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
From a very young age I always wanted to grow old and be like Master Splinter from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Seeing a documentary about Helio Gracie and seeing him rolling at such an old age made me want to take up BJJ. From there I wanted to travel and learn BJJ. With Ireland being such a small island, early on that was the best way to learn, but now we have some of the best instructors around. This curiosity also made me want to discover if Ireland had its own martial arts, and I found that out it did. This really pushed me to want to visit other places and learn about their past and travel and train with those I could.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
I’ve just gotten back from teaching Irish stick fighting and Collar and Elbow wrestling in Florida. As part of the trip I got to teach at a yearly Escrima meet up, which was amazing getting to learn so many unique martial arts in one place. Next month I’ll be going to Holland for my first actual break in a few years, and I’ll hopefully get in some training while there.

Nathan Featherstone – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
I love to learn about a country’s past. Not just the old buildings, but the land, wildlife, foods, and cultures. It’s a real bonus for me to learn about their martial past as I love that stuff. Things like local martial arts styles, wrestling, or fencing are all really fascinating to me. Getting to train with local people often opens up some really fun chances to see and experience parts of a country only a few people get to see.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
It’s hard to pick out any single moment due to all of the weird martial arts I have had the chance to train in old fortresses and castles, on top of mountains, in swamps, and just experience some amazing parts of the world with really cool people. On my last trip alone I got the chance to swim with dolphins and manatees, which was incredible.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
I’ve found for me it’s coming across people in really far-flung parts of the world who know all about some obscure town in Ireland. Or, even more surprisingly, knowing someone you know, which I have had happen.

Nathan Featherstone – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
Yes, I tend to travel on a budget. Travelling light and staying somewhere I can cook at least a few meals often saves me a lot of money and allows me to spend more on worthwhile things like training and experiences.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Look up. Often there are some really interesting things above us in cities that can be hard to spot if you’re focused on the streets below.

Thank you to Nathan Featherstone – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured Camp Instructor: Paul Urbanik – BJJ Globetrotters

Paul Urbanik - BJJ Globetrotters

Paul Urbanik – BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 35
Belt:  Blackbelt in Luta Livre (brazilian catch wrestling) Blackbelt in BJJ
Profession: Teacher for Mathematics, Physics, IT

Started training (year): Started my grappling journey 2008
City/country: Paderborn, Germany


Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

It’s hard to say. There were some competition results that I’m quite happy with but most of the times the one where you place are not the memories you’re to proud of. For me the things I’m most proud of are not on the competition mats but rather things around the sport. Looking back I’m happy that i had the time to create stuff in the community. A teammate of mine (Sven Goder) and myself ran the first German blog about the grappling community in Germany (grapplersparadise) for quite some time, interviewing a lot of people and even publishing three magazines. Besides that I ripped of other peoples work by organizing some weekend camps called „Mattentreffen“, after I couldn’t attend the Globetrotter camps (because at that time Christian didn’t host that many and I need to stick to the holidays) as well as a EBI Rip Off called „This is MATness“. But all of that slowly faded because Life is kinda busy sometimes. But above all I’m most glad that i could be a part of our team „Paderborn Wombats“ and help the team and gym evolve to what it is today, as well as working together with likeminded people with the aim to create a place to enjoy the sport. #wombat4ever

Paul Urbanik – BJJ Globetrotters


Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

I started off pretty early with the camps in Copenhagen in 2013. After that I attended several camps in Leuven and Austria. Lately I tried to attend at least 2 camps a year with Austria, Estonia and Heidelberg being the last ones.


Which camp has been your favorite so far?

Looking back at the camps the Copenhagen ones stand out the most because it was such a different vibe compared to the whole scene back then. Nowadays I really love the Winter camps, maybe because I don’t need to do laundry and the whole camp stays at one place.


Paul Urbanik- BJJ Globetrotters


Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

One of the best memories was the CSA anniversary at the Summer camp in Copenhagen. Christian went all out with this one with free BBQ, drinks and a MMA event containing a David vs. Golliath match beween a 120kg Danish monster and a small child (not serious of course) and a BJJ match in suits.


Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp? 


It really depends on what I’ve been working on but i love to teach guard passing, darces and leglocks.





Paul Urbanik – BJJ Globetrotters instructor

Travelling and Training Martial Arts in the 90’s

Before BJJ

Back in the mid 90’s in my late teens/early 20’s I wasn’t aware Brazilian Jiu Jitsu existed. I was training other martial arts. I started with Taekwondo but soon lost interest in that when my best friend Rich introduced me to Wing Chun.

Later I would also mess around with a little JKD and Kali and much later Boxing and Muay Thai, before finally giving up all forms of striking in my late thirties for pure grappling only.

I don’t know why I’m high kicking this dummy, there’s no high kicks in Wing Chun 😆

I trained Wing Chun with Rich for around six years, at first with Sifu Anton Van Thomas in various parts of London and Surrey and then Rich and I left for Hong Kong to train with the late Grandmaster Ip Ching, the youngest son of Ip Man, who’s since been cemented in martial arts history with a string of part biographical, part fictional movies.

His older brother Yip Chun was more famous but was getting pretty old and frail by then and we were far more taken by the much younger, more sturdy and robust brother who taught at the Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association in Mong Kok where we travelled to classes by bus, ferry and then MTR, twice a week from our beachside apartment on Lantau Island.

We also arranged weekly private lessons at his home, a modest apartment where he and his wife lived, which also housed his father’s wooden dummy, the same dummy Bruce Lee had learnt on many years before, which felt like a ridiculous honour for two young foreigners obsessed with martial arts.

Terrible quality photos but it’s all we have, this was pre smart phones and it’s only due to Rich having a camera that we have anything at all.

Training in Hong Kong

There was only just enough room in that apartment to complete all three hand forms, Mook Yan Jong (wooden dummy), Baht Cham Do (butterfly knives) and Lok Dim Boon Kwan (6 and a half point pole), though I’m sure we almost put holes in their wall on a few occasions.

Grandmaster Ip Ching did not speak any English so a student of his was kind enough to join almost every session to translate for us. There were a couple of occasions where he wasn’t there and we muddled through but there was definitely one very memorable time for me, where both the translator and Rich were not able to come and I found myself alone with the Grandmaster for our private session. The training was fine but a two hour class is a long session and we’d always stop for a break half way through where his wife would bring us tea and we would sit for a few minutes before resuming training. I had spent a year previous to our first trip trying to learn Cantonese but now I’m trying to learn French I know that an hour’s class once a week was next to worthless. In that awkward break I got my notebook out and tried to say a few basic things. Suffice to say he politely shook his head and hand, very clearly saying “I don’t know what you’re trying to say and I never will, please stop”. I did stop and never tried again 🤣

We spent six months in Hong Kong and a year or so later we returned again for another three and a half months. Both trips we were able to stay at my Godmother’s little holiday apartment on the beach, which was as memorable a part of the whole experience as the training.

It was pretty dirty and basic with cockroaches, geckos and other wildlife often shacking up with us but we absolutely loved it. We ate instant noodles at the beachside cafes and played a lot of frisbee on the beach, the cleanest beach in Hong Kong at the time. We waited tables and bar tended, taught English and played a lot of pool at a bar near the ferry, sometimes winning enough prize money to pay for our food and drinks. Rich practised his magic tricks on the giggling local girls, we played chess late into the night, listened to music, watched movies, played table tennis at a local club and practiced our forms on our rooftop terrace.

Aside from our three trips into the city to train every week, we ventured further afield here and there too. We visited the Bruce Lee Cafe of course, a few other Wing Chun clubs including one at a University and we bought our own original Wing Chun Poles and Knives from a famous shop specialising in martial arts weapons.

We visited my Godmother every now and then, who lived with her young son in an apartment up in the hills and she sometimes invited us out on her friend’s boat or for a meal at the fancy Hong Kong Yacht Club. Through her we landed a job painting and decorating a beautiful house while the tenants were away and to this day I’m pretty sure we did a good job, even though we were so young and inexperienced.

At the end of our second trip Grandmaster Ip Ching gave us photocopies of his father’s recipe for Dit Da Jow, a famous blend of dried plants which are left for years to soak in rice wine and the resulting tincture used to treat bruising. It smells… unique… but it’s actually quite effective. Our friendly and helpful translator took us off to the Chinese medicine shops to buy the ingredients, which were vacuum packed for us and we managed to get home in one piece. That pack of dried bark and spices sat in my cupboard for years but eventually I did actually make a big flagon of it and it even made it out to Myanmar with me when I moved there years later.

After that second trip Grandmaster Ip Ching said he didn’t have anything left to teach us and we had to just keep practising what we’d learnt. He presented us with our Instructor Certificates and off we went to a local mall to have business cards made with shiny metallic embossed lettering with both English and Chinese characters.

I never really intended to teach but Rich returned for a forth trip a few years later and taught Wing Chun in London for many years. He always excelled at anything physical and was and still is an outstanding teacher. He’s a qualified swimming and tennis coach and now a BJJ black belt coach too and puts a lot of thought into his teaching.

On that second trip I had already started a business plan for a martial arts social club, which eventually did come to fruition a couple of years later, albeit in a slightly different form. Rather than try to describe Ginglik, the club in Shepherds Bush London which I owned and ran for 11 years with my boyfriend and business partner Colin, I have a video on my channel which will give you a good idea.

Play Fighting to BJJ

Before I discovered BJJ I had returned to Wing Chun after an eight year hiatus while running Ginglik, this time with Rich as my coach instead of training partner.

A bunch of Wing Chun buddies were round at my flat in London one evening and we started play fighting as we often did, which is always tricky when you only train a striking art. You can’t generally punch and kick your friends, though I’ve suffered plenty of dead arms and legs and dished a few out too. Not for the first time I found myself pinned to the floor and in that moment I knew the time had come to learn some grappling.

Having someone bigger and stronger sit on me and then pin my hands to the ground, was frustrating and scary and it made me appreciate how lucky I was to have only ever experienced it with my brother or other martial arts friends, whom I trusted. I never wanted to be in that position with someone I didn’t trust or who intended to harm me.

One of the guys told me a very reputable gym had just moved premises from Hammersmith, which wasn’t too far away, to a street just a short walk away. This gym was Carlson Gracie London and I soon rocked up one evening for a free trial class.

I was partnered with a brown belt guy who was around my size. He was so nice, patient and helpful and maybe if I’d had a very different experience that first class I would not have wanted to return. I wish I knew who he was so I could thank him now. Partly due to him I immediately fell in love with Jiu Jitsu and definitely wanted to keep training.

Carlson’s policy at the time was to encourage only serious students, so there was no drop in fee (even now this is discouraged with a very high drop in fee) and membership was priced such that only training several times a week made it reasonable. I was only able to train once a week at that time but I noticed that you didn’t have to be a member to take private lessons and that if you shared the private lesson with a friend you halved the cost.

I convinced several of my Wing Chun buddies to join me for private classes. Rich was one of them and our great friend Ash was another, now a brown belt. The others didn’t take to it quite the same! It’s not for everyone 😆

After about six months of these weekly classes, give or take a few, I left to go travelling for six months, intending to head straight back to resume training somehow, though with the club in London closed I wasn’t sure how I would earn a living or even afford to live in London. Turns out I never had to.

Thanks for reading,

Next Time…

My first BJJ experience abroad, alone in Pattaya, Thailand on a Muay Thai camp with a visiting Aussie black belt teaching BJJ and some crazy Russians trying to break me, a week before I move to live in Myanmar and discover there’s no mats to train on, anywhere 😅


Alan’s Summer Camp

What a dreamy beginner of summer I had! I took my home on wheels and headed towards Riihimäki, a small town in Southern Finland. I have friends and family members living around the area and quite few of them do jiujitsu as well so it’s very convenient when I can take care of my social life and training at once!

Anyway, woke up to this beautiful, hot summer day and Alan Do Nascimento aka Finfou was having one week Summer Camp in Heracles Academy. Alan is originally from Brazil but has been In Stockholm, Sweden as a head coach in Allstars Training Center for several years. He’s been in the sport about the same amount of years than I’ve been on this earth so I was looking forward the classes and maybe hearing some stories throughout those years.

I got to the first class just on time and as a nice surprise my brown belt brother was also there! First class was with gi and we were going through k-guard/matrix-guard and different scenarios from there, usually ending up with ankle locks. I’m very intuitive in sports and if somebody would ask me what is the name of certain guard or how to do it, I probably wouldn’t be able to answer, I just do different guards whenever they feel good of doing without any analyzing :D And I remember first time somebody showed me k-guard I wasn’t too convinced I’d implemented that in my game. But now there’s been quite a few seminars/classes based on this technique and I’m starting to warm up for the idea and actually got few successful situations with k-guard in sparring. Alan had very nice way of teaching, there were lots of reps and he was explaining key parts and principles of the techniques instead of going into super specific details.

After the training I invited myself to my friends place and we had a nice catch up over the lunch. Also they let me take a short nap in their children’s room on a proper bed, which was well needed after sleeping all these months in a van. We all drove back to the academy for the second training session, which continued the same theme as the morning class but as nogi. As much as I enjoy meeting new people, it’s always such a joy to train with old friends. There were lots of laughter and sweaty hugs to give. And because training is not really training without sauna on top, we rented a cutest little sauna by this beautiful lake close-by. To wrap up this beautiful day, I invited my dear friend Sofia for a sleepover in my BJJBiili.

We stayed the night by the lake and had a refreshing skinny dip before brekkie in the morning! After swimming and breakfast we headed to the morning nogi-class and continued with ankle locks. At this point my calves and ankles had already gotten nice summer look :D A group of us headed for the lunch after the class and we spent almost 2 hours talking and Alan was telling such interesting stories of his years in jiujitsu. The sport has definitely lived through changes throughout those years. It seemed to be such a wild west back in the days!
Alan’s classes, seeing my close ones and hanging by the lake were such a good kick start for the summer and for the next leg of the journey: 4 day Everyday Porrada Camp in the cutest Finnish summer town!

Featured affiliated academy: Pirate BJJ, USA

Pirate BJJ, USA

Where is the gym located?
Pirate BJJ
312 Palmer Road, Suite A
Madison, AL 35758

How many people train there?
Currently we have 30 kids training and 9 adults, hoping to continue to grow both the adult and kid classes.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
We are growing! Albeit slowly, we’ve been adding 1-2 people here and there. It’s still our first month of operation so people are just finding out about Pirate BJJ. We have had a couple new kids since opening and a couple new adults.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
Highest belt is a 1 stripe purple. The lowest is a no stripe white belt with a couple weeks of training.

When did Pirate BJJ, USA open?
Labor Day – September 4th, 2023!

Some facts about you:

Name: Seth Spratlin
Age: 37
Belt: 1 stripe brown
Profession: Mechanical Engineer
Years in BJJ: 6, my jiu jitsuversary is August 7th, 2017
Other martial arts: None
Currently living in: Madison, Alabama, United States
Originally from: I was born in Charleston, South Carolina. My dad is a Marine so growing up we moved every three years all over the US. I would call the southeastern US where I’m from. Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina are where I’ve lived the most.

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
Well, like all good pirate stories, my gym began as a mutiny. I had been training at the same gym since starting Jiu Jitsu, and after a couple years had created and was running my own kids class. This former gym was set to move to a new building and was merging with a karate program into a mega-martial arts thing. I have long had a tumultuous relationship with my former coach, and I found out he was plotting to steal my kids’ class from me in the move and reorganization. So I struck first, and opened Pirate BJJ, taking my kids class and a few adults with me in the split.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
I call them the Skeleton Crew: those few plucky adults who came with me in the move. They are less traditional, less formal than many practitioners. Most of them, myself included, are nerds. We like watching UFC, and we all have engineering and/or military service backgrounds. We don’t like silly warmups before class, and everyone is excited that I am moving to the ecological approach of teaching jiu jitsu.

Why do they train in Pirate BJJ, USA?
Everyone has their own reasons. I know one is a lifelong martial artist who discovered he liked BJJ the best, another is former military who fell in love with BJJ after training combatives in the Army. Some are high school wrestlers who do BJJ because it’s like the pickup basketball version of their sport, and some are just coworkers of all these people: they got pestered enough to try it and now we won’t let them quit.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
There are two main challenges I’ve faced so far. The first being the wearing of many, many hats. I’m not just an instructor, I’m the adult class instructor, the kids class instructor, the mat enforcer when out of towners visit, I’m also doing construction work to remodel the inside of my building to function as a gym better, I’m a businessman getting all the appropriate licenses and equipment, I’m the accountant doing billing and payments, I’m the IT guy running our website and social media presence (Pirate BJJ on FB and @piratebjjllc on Instagram!). If it’s related to running the gym then I’m either doing it myself or coordinating getting it done.

The other big challenge is one of the hats – advertising. Just getting the word out so that people know we exist. But doing that cheaply because everything about opening a gym is expensive. It’s tough.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
There’s a ton of potential here. We’re in Madison, but basically a suburb of Huntsville. There’s a huge Army base here, tons of law enforcement, and lots and lots of other engineering nerds like myself. Along with the ever-increasing popularity of BJJ, there’s just going to be a ton of growth in the area. I think there will be several more gyms that open in the next few years, hopefully mine has grown dramatically in that time.

What’s the best thing about Pirate BJJ, USA?
The merch! Everybody loves a pirate theme! Ha, but seriously the openness. I have belt requirements and expectations available for anyone to review, so what I think constitutes each belt level is not a secret. I’m always happy to talk with anybody about what I’m doing or why in terms of how I teach classes and how I do promotions. I actively encourage everyone to go train anywhere and everywhere, and we gladly welcome anybody who wants to train, regardless of whatever gym they call home. And we have an excellent group here. We like to train hard and get after it and help each other get better, but we all have jobs to go to the next day so we take care of each other as well. Everybody here is just chasing skill, trying to get better at this crazy art we all love.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
The NASA Space and Rocket center is not even 5 minutes away from Pirate BJJ. It is a fascinating place to tour if you are remotely interested in space or the US history of space travel. A lot of retired engineers who worked on programs like Apollo just hang out there and they are happy to talk about what it was like and what they worked on.

We have a ton of fabulous local breweries, restaurants, and food trucks right here in Huntsville and Madison. There’s a thriving classic car scene here as well. We’re also close to a lot of cool places to visit: Memphis, Muscle Shoals, Nashville if you like blues and country music, and Atlanta is just around the corner too.


Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit Pirate BJJ, USA you can contact them here.

Featured Camp Instructor: Stevie Antoniou – BJJ Globetrotters

Stevie Antoniou - BJJ Globetrotters

Stevie Antoniou – BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 28
Belt: Black
Profession: Photographer and wilderness guide

Started training (year): 2008
City/country: Stockholm/Sweden


Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

 I have medals from ‘’back in the day’’ but I haven’t competed in years.


Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

I’m at 19 camps now so pretty much all of them except the very early ones and Faroe Islands.


Which camp has been your favorite so far?

Stevie Antoniou – BJJ Globetrotters Carribean Camp


Either Zen camp or St Barth. Zen because it’s so chill and has a sick location. St Barth because the island is amazing and it’s the exact opposite of Stockholm haha.


Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

Well, the Globetrotter Grand Prix scooter race in Pärnu is definitely up there. The boat party at St Barth 2019 was incredible. My favourite memory overall is just filming the documentary and doing all the camps 2019. Such a crazy year full of amazing memories. I can’t believe how many great people I got to meet and how many friends I made in a year.


Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp?

‘’Small guy pressure: Mount attacks’’ or ‘’Play with your food: Back attacks’’



Anything else you want to add to your profile?

Instagram @stevieantoniou



Stevie Antoniou – BJJ Globetrotters instructor

Featured Traveller: Matt McDonald – BJJ Globetrotters

Matt McDonald - BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 36.9

Belt: Purple

Profession: My background is in software engineering, and currently I’m working on a property maintenance company and rehabbing ugly houses.

How many years in BJJ: 4.5 years, with some time off for injuries.

Other martial arts: I wrestled in high school, where I won the superlative award for Best Catwoman Costume.

Where do you live: Sarasota, Florida, United States

Where are you from: I was born in Columbia, South Carolina, but I’ve moved around a lot. Columbia, Missouri is mostly where I grew up. One day I’ll probably moving to another Columbia.

Other fun or curious information you would like to share:

  • I’ve started doing a kimura with my feet from side control. For now I’m calling it the Mattlock.
  • I have a cautionary tale about competing without understanding the side effects of your medication. I was taking antibiotics for the week leading up to my first tournament. Overall it wasn’t bad, but it did affect my stomach. Midway through my first match, I realized I was starting to have a downstairs mixup. We were in a scramble, and ended up way off the mats. I was confused at why we weren’t being reset, everyone was yelling, and I had to tap really early to an armbar so I could run to the bathroom before things went south. I’m just glad my opponent never got to knee mount.
  • I’m really into miniature wargaming, to the point that I go to several conventions. I have several armies and spend a ton of time hunched over painting my models.
  • I co-founded a startup that now employs around 3000 people and has branches in 36 states.
  • My wife is smart, beautiful, kind, and puts up with me for some reason. And she’s definitely not helping me write this.

Matt McDonald – BJJ Globetrotters Castle Camp

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
I found a post about BJJ Globetrotters on Reddit when I was a few months into BJJ. I went to the Heidelberg camp in 2019 and fell in love. I also sent a bunch of emails out to people on the Matsurfing website, and went to visit anywhere that someone answered from. I ended up training with people who didn’t speak much English and it was a really neat experience.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
I’m writing this from Asheville, North Carolina. Some of my training partners and I took a road trip up to spend the weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains for Camp Grappalachia – which I only learned about because I met several awesome people at Maine Camp a few years back and stayed in touch. Our next trip is to Poland for Zen Camp, with a stopover in London to visit a friend who has an addiction to wristlocks.

Matt McDonald – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
The bread! The US doesn’t have good bread, and I love finding the good stuff when I travel. More generally, I’m usually looking to try all of the local foods.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
Oh man, where to start? I dressed up as a Happy Meal for a wrestling match. Attended a dinner concert for an 80s Estonian pop star. Watched an underground scooter race. Participated in the most epic dodgeball upset. Jumped into Lake Michigan in February. Went to prom at camp. Grappled on a waterfall. Wrestled with a viking in Iceland. Took a helicopter tour in the Faroe Islands. Explored a black sand beach on an ATV. So many cool experiences, and they were all made so fun by the people that we were with. Some of my closest friends are people that I’ve met through traveling and training.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
Some of the people at Globetrotters camps are able to party so late and be on the mats so early. It will always be a mystery to me.

Matt McDonald – BJJ Globetrotters Beach Camp

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
I have a budget, but I’m not a budget traveller. I like staying in fun places, and at a lot of camps I will organize sharing a large Airbnb. My best budget strategy is to play the reward points game, and my favorite tool is roame.travel which helps me find cheap award flights.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Take more photos. Many times I’ve been scrolling through my photos and been reminded of a fun event that I’d completely forgotten about. Without photos, those memories might have been forgotten.

I think it’s also important to get out of your comfort zone from time to time. Try something that you wouldn’t normally do – it can be good for you to be a little uncomfortable from time to time. It builds character or something.


Thank you to Matt McDonald – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Building a Jiu Jitsu Tour Bus

Hey Fellow Globetrotters!

I’m Tammi, a brown belt currently training and coaching in the UK but itching to travel again after a lucky almost half a century of travel and experiences around the world.


The Impact of a Book

I started training at Carlson Gracie London back in 2012 when I was 36, but had to stop temporarily while I had surgery for a condition called Hip Dysplasia. While recovering I was travelling in South East Asia and read Christian’s book. I was so inspired and I realised I didn’t have to go home to get back to training, I could train anywhere with mats and other willing bodies.

So I moved to Myanmar where there were absolutely no Jiu Jitsu gyms and no mats either!

There were however, a handful of guys who also wanted to train and we had use of a hard studio floor in a local fitness gym at weekends. It was tough on that hard floor but we were all dedicated and trained there for months before I managed to ship some judo mats over.

You can read a  Jiu Jitsu Times article here about how I turned my apartment there into a gym and how Christian helped us get coaches from all over the world to visit and coach in return for hospitality.

If it hadn’t been for Christian’s community of people who loved adventure as much as Jiu Jitsu, I don’t think I would have lasted there as long as I did.

After a few years there and many excellent visiting coaches, I decided to move to Bangkok Thailand and join Morgan Perkins and his team at Bangkok Fight Lab. BFL was an established gym with a full daily class schedule and 20-30 regular students on the mats. Even a few girls!

Returning Home

I had many happy years in Bangkok. Morgan and his then partners allowed me to build a cafe inside their new gym and it was finally starting to take off when the pandemic started.

Unfortunately the last lockdown forced me to eventually close that business and move back to the UK in late 2021 to live with my Dad in the countryside. My sister and her husband live next door and she was pregnant with their first baby when I returned, so the timing was as good as it could be.

However, dealing with that first winter after 8 years abroad in the constant heat of Asia, was a massive shock to my system and I had to make sure I could somehow spend future winters in warmer countries.

I wanted to convert a vehicle into a home and travel to gyms across Europe, inspired by other BJJ Globetrotters.

I found a local job and soon had enough money to buy an old Mercedes Vario ex-school bus. I drove it back to my Dad’s and with help from a friend we stripped it and got to work dealing with the rusty chassis and replacing engine parts.


I knew to make my dream of travel across Europe work that I would need to earn money while travelling and travel vloggers were starting to earn a decent living from their content so I signed up to a course and spent several months learning how to make videos for YouTube.

I’m still learning and always will be but I really enjoy the creative process and I’m determined to keep improving my videos and growing my channel. I feel like a white belt again, entering a new realm, learning new skills, looking for mentors and inspiration, trying hard to innovate, progress and grow.

You can see how the bus is coming along and also enjoy some purely Jiu Jitsu content there too. At some point it’s where you’ll also find…

The Grapple Travel Show

I have an idea for a YouTube show to help promote friendly gyms and the idea of training while travelling or on holiday. I hope to start releasing episodes on my channel soon, even before the bus is finished (which could be another year or more). The pilot episode will be on the gym I currently train and teach at, VT Jiu Jitsu in Wiltshire UK.

Some of you might already know Sabine from Grappletoons and the BJJ Open Mat card game she made with Christian’s assistant Vara. I’ve known Vara for years as we both lived and trained in Bangkok and I met Sabine when she visited Bangkok Fight Lab.

I asked Sabine to make me a logo for the show recently and I’m really happy with the result. If you haven’t already made yourself an avatar at Grappletoons then get yourself over there, or make one for your favourite training partner or coach 😃

Relying solely on YouTube for income would be dumb, so I’m trying to do various other projects too, in the hopes one of them takes off, or perhaps they all just help contribute a little.

I write a free weekly newsletter on Substack all about my attempts to be a solopreneur.

This is the first of my blogs here but I’ll write more as the bus and The Grapple Travel Show progress. If you’re reading this then you probably love Jiu Jitsu and travel too, so hopefully you’ll be interested in the show.

I’m very open to any ideas other people might have for the show and I hope in time I can get other people to present their own show using the format too, so we can go global and encourage more gyms to give visitors a good experience, help them promote their gym, give travellers a good idea of what to expect from the gyms they’ll visit and show people new to the sport that they have ready made friends all over the world, just waiting for them to drop by for some rolls and share with them the best things to do and see in the local area.

I hope to connect with you on your preferred platform for now (see links below) but hopefully soon I’ll be asking for recommendations for gyms with space or a nearby spot for the bus for a few weeks and if I visit your gym I hope to connect with you IRL on your mats 😃

Thanks for reading,



Featured affiliated academy: The Misfits Club, BJJ California

The Misfits Club, BJJ California

Where is the gym located?
Crescenta Valley, Tujunga, California

How many people train there?

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
10 a month

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
7 black belts – 45 white belts

When did The Misfits Club, BJJ California open?
May 27, 2023 in the current location. Established in 2019.


Some facts about you:

Name: James Martinez
Age: 48
Belt: 1st degree Black belt
Profession: Detective for LAPD
Years in BJJ: 25 years
Other martial arts: Muay Thai / Boxing
Currently living in: Los Angeles, California
Originally from: Los Angeles, California

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
Prior to receiving my black belt, I had a major knee injury and stopped training for a year. Trying to avoid any further injury to my knee, I decided to quit BJJ and focus on Muay Thai. The Muay Thai gym I was training at wanted to start a BJJ program and traded free Muay Thai lessons for my family in return for teaching one BJJ class a week. Before I knew it, I was teaching 5 classes a week and we had more students than Muay Thai. Covid struck and our academy closed down but we continued to train both sports in the backyard of our home. Prior to winter we converted our garage into a gym where the student count grew as well as the number of black belts who joined us. At the end of 2022, we decided to open our own brick and mortar academy, already having over 25 students and 7 black belts that joined us on our venture.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
The majority of the students (60%) are women, the rest are mostly professionals over the age of 35 looking to train, stay in shape, and be in a friendly environment with like minded folks.

As a 25 year veteran of law enforcement and with prior military service, our academy has focused on teaching police officers and military service members how to defend themselves and find an outlet they may carry due to their profession. We offer reduced cost to them as they progress through their martial arts journey.

Why do they train in The Misfits Club, BJJ California?
We have a major focus on empowering women by not only having an all women’s class taught by a female 2nd degree black belt, but making it a goal to build their confidence to train in the co-ed classes. We make it a point to treat students not by their gender, but by their belt rank. Empowering them to roll against all kinds of body types and perfect their technique.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
Having students who transfer in from another academy expecting to get promoted on time and not skill level. We don’t have promotion ceremonies once or twice a year but have decided to award students the same way I was. At any given time any of the black belts can recommend any student for promotion to the next degree or belt at which time a vote is taken after all the black belts have rolled with the student. If the majority decides that the student is worthy of promotion, then their main instructor is authorised to promote that student. I have been vetoed by the majority and held a student an additional (6) months at their belt until another black belt brought their promotion back-up and we all agreed it was time.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
We are surrounded by traditional martial academies such as Taekwando and Karate, and are attempting to break into a niche market by showing the self-defence aspects of our sport for children as well as adults.

What’s the best thing about your gym, The Misfits Club, BJJ California?
Training out of our home for over two years made us just not another school, but a family that would enter our home everyday that we trained. We celebrated milestones, birthdays and very often BBQ just to BBQ after training. We have brought that atmosphere with us by continuing the way we treat our students like family. We have open mat Sundays, cross training Saturdays where guest instructors are brought in free of charge and open to all, and most importantly we still BBQ, drink, laugh and have fun as a family.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
It’s Los Angeles….. I recommend see it all.


Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit The Misfits Club, BJJ California, you can contact them here.

Featured traveller: Leslie Baird – BJJ Globetrotters

Leslie Baird - BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 30

Belt: Blue

Profession: Nanny

How many years in BJJ: 3.5

Other martial arts: Boxing (11 years)

Where do you live: Currently London

Where are you from: Scotland

Other fun or curious information you would like to share: I’ve been to 76 countries so far and have lived in 4 countries (not including the UK)

Leslie Baird – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
I’ve always loved travelling. I’ve been travelling since I was 19 and started boxing in Australia just to keep fit and then basically that spiralled into more martial arts and travel. It’s a great way to meet new people in new countries, especially when travelling alone.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
Currently this year has been a lot of European travel, including two camps in Estonia. I’m trying to keep the cost down as I spent three months in Africa (11 countries) last year camping and overland trucking.

As for upcoming trips, I have a trip to Iraq in October which I’m very excited about. Hoping to do some BJJ in Saddam Hussein’s palace.

Leslie Baird – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures, and definitely the food. Also learning new things – I always seem to leave a place with some new fact, usually weird and wonderful.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
So I don’t always train when I travel. Often I travel solo to places which don’t seem to have gyms. I find it pretty fun to meet other travellers or locals who are keen to learn a few basics and end up showing them some things. Whilst in Africa last year I ended up showing a local guy from Zimbabwe armbars and triangles while we were on a house boat on the Zambezi River. We got told off several times by the captain, as he was scared we would fall off into the croc and hippo-infested water, but it was definitely a lot of fun. I love showing people who haven’t had the chance to learn or even try it. Looking forward to try and teach a few people in Iraq a thing or two.

Non-training examples are meeting and experiencing amazing people and things. From walking up hills for views in Samoa and being stopped by literally every person because they are that friendly and want to say hi and even giving you free fruit from their plantation because it’s customary, to having a local tap tattoo done in a beach hut next to a guy receiving his pe’a (from knee to bottom back tattoo, needs to be finished or it’s dishonour to family) being chased by elephants in Zimbabwe and having zebras sleeping next to our tents, to playing netball with local girls in Malawi. It’s all simply wonderful.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
How kind people can be. I started travelling when I was 19 and moved halfway across the world. I had so many strangers look out for me. I used to door knock as my first job and I was terrible at it, but I met some wonderful people by knocking on their door and often would get homemade dinners to take home with me. I was even invited to spend Christmas with another family I met doing the job. Obviously you always have to be careful, especially as a solo female, but I think if you always show kindness then most people will show the same. Even had the most wonderful experience in Yemen where I was invited to the house of a local woman who didn’t speak any English and we ended up having the funniest and most genuine “conversation” with the few random words I knew in Arabic and hand gestures and pointing to things. I think simply smiling is the international language that we all know.

Leslie Baird – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
I used to only be a budget traveller, but not always now that I’ve gotten older. Tips are: cook at hostel, find fellow travellers to cook with, and meal share. If you know you’re going somewhere expensive, pack some dry packets of rice or pasta etc. Also walking everywhere is incredible – you usually find some secret treasure and obviously it’s a free mode of transport.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Just go! Go somewhere new that you barely know much about or somewhere that scares you. You will be pleasantly surprised at how wonderful places can be.

Thank you to Leslie Baird – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured Camp Instructor: Bryan White – BJJ Globetrotters

Bryan White - BJJ Globetrotters

Bryan White – BJJ Globetrotters

Belt: Blackbelt
Profession: Law enforcement
Started training (year): Started in 2007
City/country: Levittown, PA (U.S.)


Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

My name is Bryan White.  My start with BJJ began as part of my career as a police officer.  I’ve worked in law enforcement since 2001.  In the beginning of my career, I received some self-defense training, which I found to be outdated and impractical for law enforcement needs.  In my search for something more efficient, I was convinced by a co-worker to try BJJ.  I fell in love at the very first class. I remember that class like it was yesterday.

I’ve been training regularly since 2007.  While my initial goal in BJJ was to improve self-defense skills for work, my journey has led me to all kinds of experiences that weren’t even on my radar in 2007.  I became an instructor for other law enforcement officers through the Gracie Survival Tactics program.  I’ve instructed at in-service sessions for all of the law enforcement agencies in the county where I work.  I’m also an instructor at a local police academy, which even gave me the opportunity to teach my oldest daughter, who is currently a police cadet.  I also teach self-defense classes, annually, at my agency’s Youth Police Academy, which is a program run each summer for high school aged youths.


Bryan White – BJJ Globetrotters


I teach gi and no-gi classes to adults at Revolution Academy, which is located in Levittown, PA (U.S.).  I earned my black belt there, in 2016, from my professor, Anthony Colantuano.  My competition days are probably behind me at this point, but I never say never.  My most enjoyable experience was with the F2W event.  They put on a good show; and it’s kind of cool to step off the competition stage, and walk right up to the bar!


Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

A few years ago, my wife suggested a BJJ vacation.  I had not heard of the BJJ Globetrotters at the time, and had no idea what to expect.  But it was one of the best moves I’ve ever made.  I enjoyed the Maine camp so much that I went back a second time.  I’ve also been to the Arizona Camp, Winter Austria, Heidelberg, and Iceland.  The experiences I’ve had in these places are unforgettable.  I’ve met some really cool people, seen places I never would have seen otherwise, and been able to share my version of BJJ with people from all over the world!  I’ve trained in a lot of gyms, but the vibe on a Globetrotters mat is like no other.


Bryan White – BJJ Globetrotters USA Camp


Which camp has been your favorite so far?

It’s difficult to name a favorite camp.  Each one that I’ve been to has offered a unique experience.  But, if you ‘held my feet to the fire,’ I would probably say Heidelberg.  That town was beautiful, and has an awesome energy to it.


I’m trying to pick out my next camp, but I want to go to them all!  I’ll choose my next one soon, and I can’t wait to see everyone there!



Bryan White – BJJ Globetrotters instructor

Featured affiliated academy: Team Shadow Dordogne, BJJ France

Team Shadow Dordogne, BJJ France

Where is the gym located?
Team Shadow Dordogne is located in France, in the small village of Biron, in Périgord. We are located 5 minutes from the magnificent “Château de Biron”.

How many people train there?
Not many people are training here. It’s a very small gym, a bit lost in the middle of the countryside.

We are two people living here and training on a permanent basis. We received visits from a few people for a drop in and we have welcomed locals who wanted to discover the discipline. To date, we have only one truly motivated student who comes to practise regularly.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
The gym is growing really slowly and organically because we don’t advertise.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
The highest belt is the coach (purple belt), the lowest belt is white.

When did Team Shadow Dordogne, BJJ France open?
The gym opened in April 2022.

Some facts about you:

Name: Jeremy
Age: 35
Belt: Purple
Profession: Computer engineer
Years in BJJ: 6 years and 9 months of training
Other martial arts: Krav Maga for 4 years
Currently living in: France, Dordogne.
Originally from: France, Haute-Savoie.

My coach Mohamed Taj visiting the gym.

My coach Mohamed Taj visiting the gym.

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
That’s a long story ^^ I started BJJ thanks to a black belt colleague in my previous job. In addition to his club, he was giving lessons on a voluntary basis in a sports association accessible to employees of our company and suggested that I come and try BJJ as I was doing some Krav Maga at the time and I liked the ground part. There was only one time slot per week – Tuesday during lunch break.

The first few times were quite difficult. I could not even hold 3-minute sparring rounds. I did not know how to breathe, move, survive…

During the first year, I even skipped some classes and it was a little hard to motivate myself to go, but I held on until the passion took hold of me.

The next year I focused a lot on BJJ, trying not to miss the only class I could have per week and I even started going to “unofficial class” on Friday with my colleague who was usually going alone for physical training. Very soon that wasn’t enough for me and I started trying to find a club not far from where I was living. At this point I found Team Shadow Vitry with Azzedine and Mohamed Taj. Since that time I have never stopped and I was practising between 3 and 5 times per week (only at Team Shadow, since life events prevented us from fully continuing BJJ with my colleague).

I suffered a burnout in January 2021 and it triggered major changes in my life. I was lucky enough to be able to settle in the Dordogne, in the countryside, in a magnificent place. It was obvious to me that I was not going to stop practising BJJ, but there was no club nearby.

It turns out that the place that welcomed me was intended to welcome people in difficulty, depression, burnout, or with psychological weaknesses. We see the whole project as a unique intersection of physical activity, socio-cultural engagement, and mental well-being. By combining these different elements, we believe we can provide a holistic approach to wellness that is accessible, affordable, and effective. Our project interfaces with other related projects through its focus on health and wellness, and we see potential opportunities for collaboration and partnerships.

With these perspectives, it was obvious that I had to create a space to promote BJJ and allow everyone to enjoy this wonderful discipline.

Tell us about the people that train in Team Shadow Dordogne, BJJ France – who are they?
Mainly locals interested in discovering the discipline and/or maintaining a good physical condition.

Why do they train?
Discovering the discipline and/or maintaining a good physical condition. They practise for leisure, not for competition.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
Located in the countryside, there are not many regular practitioners. We do not advertise.

As a purple belt, I still have a lot to learn technically but I try to pass on my knowledge in an educational way.

Also, the courses are totally free and the non-profit organisation to support the activity is not yet registered.

It’s not always easy to find schedules suitable for everyone and also an accessible technical program for someone new to the discipline, without boring more experienced members.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
I think the club will continue to grow organically with the locals. I’m also hoping to welcome practitioners from all over the world who would like to organise seminars or simply continue their practice during their vacation in this magnificent region.

I’m not sure that many other clubs will appear in the area, and I therefore hope to be able to bring what it takes to allow the discipline to make itself known and to exist here.

What’s the best thing about Team Shadow Dordogne, BJJ France?
The club is located in a unique location. We are very welcoming and eager to create an atmosphere conducive to good understanding, sharing, and mutual progress.

The dojo is in an old stone building which makes it special…

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
With us you can also take part in Yoga classes. We have a music room, we like to play chess, and are open to discovering new activities that you would be willing to bring to us.

The Périgord is so rich and so dense that visits and walks are very numerous. Villages, castles, gardens, caves… but also the rivers, the forests and the panoramic sites – all can be discovered from near or far in Périgord.

A unique and unforgettable experience -> https://www.dordogne-perigord-tourisme.fr/


Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit Team Shadow Dordogne, BJJ France, you can contact them here.

1st academy of the journey!

Featured Traveller: Arlan Hall – BJJ Globetrotters

Arlan Hall - BJJ

Age: 40 – AHHHH, first time I got to write that down!

Belt: Blue

Profession: Massage Therapist, homeschool mom, and chronic traveller

How many years in BJJ: 5

Other martial arts: Does kickboxing in college count?

Where do you live: Oceano, California, United States

Where are you from: The Yukon Territory in Canada

Other fun or curious information you would like to share: Oh my gosh, I would say the way I was raised is curious and strange. I grew up on 40 acres on a lake in the middle of nowhere. Our closest neighbour was 5 miles away. I did not have electricity or indoor plumbing. So outhouses, pumping water from the lake into the house, and heating our home (which was thrown together in 10 days) via a LOT of firewood was our average way of life. We had a garden, fished lake trout in the summer, and hunted moose in the fall to survive. It was wild and free. The Northern Lights in the winter were magical. The mosquitoes were so plentiful that I had chicken pox and we didn’t even know it until after. I hated it, loved it, and would never trade it. My parents still live up there and the peace of it feeds my soul.

Arlan Hall – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
I am a free spirit, and if I don’t have a trip planned – lets just say it isn’t pretty. When I started BJJ, at about 3 months I attended a belting ceremony. Our Brazilian professor gave a speech which I understood ZERO of… except the words “take your gi when you travel and train with other gyms”. A lightbulb went off inside me. I went on a girls’ trip to Palm Springs and did just that. I was so nervous!! It was an incredible experience, the high was unbelievable, and I was addicted. It has only grown from there. What a perfect combination!

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
My most recent travel that involved Jiu Jitsu was the Maine, USA camp. It was my second time there and I think this one was extra special. The weather was hot so we had huge floatie swim parties. I think my favourite part though, was the ambient sound around camp of everyone having a good time. The laughter, the connection. It will stay with me forever. After that I went to New Orleans to check out the city. I hit up a new city or two every year just for fun. I also travel to central Mexico a lot. If you have never been to San Miguel de Allende, it is a must!

This fall I plan on going to Denver or Philly, and then to the Arizona camp in Tempe. NEXT year (2024) will be big! I want to hit up the USA camp, Iceland, and Germany. That will be my 10th camp milestone! I also plan on going back to Spain and then England, Ireland, and Scotland for a girlfriend’s birthday.

Arlan Hall – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
FOOD. I always plan trips around good places to eat. I also enjoy that only through physically being IN a place do you get to experience culture, the vibe, and random quirks. It is also an amazing way to learn history. Of course I love meeting new people too.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
You have an instant community. When I go to central Mexico, I train there. My first time I was so scared. I didn’t understand the language – and I mean, I am a woman going to some obscure gym location to train. It was humbling (they roll hard and it’s hot) and I also made some amazing friends. The next time I went to visit they had a party for me afterwards. Aren’t Jiu Jitsu people the best??!! I am always so grateful when I travel and train because I get good local tips on places to go, and what to eat – but also just reminded how freaking cool this community is.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
Oh gosh. How dirty and unsafe New Orleans was. That was a new one for me. How much cheaper tattoos are outside of the US. LOL! I don’t know if I can name one thing. I think it is just experiencing the different cultures. Horses in the back of pick up trucks in Mexico, kids out till midnight, the way life and family is celebrated with random parades and fireworks. In Spain, they have a siesta in the afternoon and everything closes.

Arlan Hall – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
I think I am, until I get there and then it all goes out the window. I am very much a “life is short, money is just an energy, experiences are priceless” kinda person. Eat the $50 lobster roll. Find the hotel or Airbnb with the killer location. I think it is worth it in the end.

IF I am really on a budget though, I find ways to save via cooking my own food when I can, hole in the wall restaurants (tasty and cheap, especially in Mexico), travel with a buddy, and split the cost of accommodations.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Lean into the fun. If an opportunity comes your way and it MIGHT not kill you… say yes! Fly that freak flag and embrace the adventure. Also, talk to strangers. People have cool stories.

Thank you to Arlan Hall – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured Camp Instructor: Joey Carta – BJJ Globetrotters

Joey Carta – BJJ Globetrotters

Belt: Blackbelt (18 years training)
Age: 41

Profession: Correction Officer State if Connecticut (16 years)
Started training (year): Started in 2004
City/country: Newington CT USA


Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

I would have to say the main achievement of my BJJ journey is that I have been able to teach with the BJJ Globetrotters and BJJ in Paradise organizations.  Both have allowed me to meet and have a positive impact on so many people.  There is no medal that can replace these experiences.


Joey Carta – BJJ Globetrotters

Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

I started my globetrotters journey at the very first camp at CSA.DK in Copenhagen in 2013. I was one of maybe 4 brown belts and one of the instructors (Daniel Reid) got sick so Christian asked me to cover his classes.  Have been teaching at the camps ever since. I taught at Copenhagen 2015 (distortion camp if you know you know ).  Taught at Leuven in 2017, was supposed to go back in 2018 but I had a little snafu on my end but we don’t talk about that.  I have taught at every USA camp except 2021 and this will be my first Arizona camp and also my 10th.


Which camp has been your favorite so far?

I don’t think I have a favorite camp. They all are special and include different experiences that separate each camp.   The people at that camps is what makes them all my favorite.


Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

Favorite stories,  I can’t remember them all. I would probably have to ask for permission to use peoples names in my stories so I don’t incriminate anyone but doing berimbolos in the middle of the street in Copenhagen was fun.


Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp?

My favorite class is all of them.  I enjoy watching what the other instructors show.  I like seeing everyone’s personalities coming out through the technique they show.  I love watching the students start at the beginning of class and have some difficulty but by the end of class they are more or less doing the technique correctly.  Seeing the hunger and fire in all their eyes keeps me motivated to keep on training. I see myself at different stages of my journey in each one of them so it’s easy to relate and connect.

Only other thing I have to add is this: Don’t quit



Joey Carta – BJJ Globetrotters instructor


Joey Carta bjj

Featured affiliated academy: 300 Jiu Jitsu, BJJ Netherlands

300 Jiu Jitsu, BJJ Netherlands

Where is the gym located?
Leiden in Holland (the Netherlands)

How many people train there?

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
Growing goal is minimum 40 for the end of the year

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
Black belt is the highest and and white belt the lowest

When did 300 Jiu Jitsu, BJJ Netherlands open?
I took over the gym from my teacher on 30/03/23

Some facts about you:

Name: Angelo Storm
Age: 39
Belt: Black
Profession: Personal trainer and owner of 300 Jiu Jitsu
Years in BJJ: 6 years
Other martial arts: Muay Thai and kickboxing
Currently living in: Rijswijk
Originally from: Holland (the Netherlands)

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
It all started when one day my teacher sent me an article about soldiers struggling with PTSD and how BJJ helped them get back on track again. At the time I felt lost, struggling mentally. As a Dutch airborne veteran I did several tours. In the years before that, my teacher and friends of mine would ask me frequently to come and roll. I always said to them: I’m a stand up fighter – I don’t cuddle with men.

But after reading the article about the soldiers: I thought why not?! Things can’t get any worse. So that’s where it began at the age of 33

When I started with BJJ I directly fell in love with the sport. I wanted to learn and mostly wanted to know the “why” of the movements. I made a study of the sport. My teacher even said that I became obsessive with the sport and watched a lot of instructionals and made all kinds of mind maps. I was hungry and still am today. I discovered my talent in BJJ and grappling, and that in my mid 30s. Putting my talent to work on a daily basis for getting better as a fighter, as a person, and as a teacher. I enjoy every part of the BJJ journey

I was fighting in a lot of tournaments during those years. From local tournaments to AJP Pro, and everything in between. Four-time AGF European champion in the gi and no gi, and two-time AJP Pro champion. And I will continue to fight in tournaments.

My teacher Alex, a 3th degree black belt, didn’t feel the same passion for teaching as he did in earlier years because of personal problems. And now is focusing on the most important things in his life: his kids! So he didn’t want to teach anymore. So there was an opportunity to create my own gym. So we had a handover, and Hermanos got changed to 300 Jiu Jitsu. (Long story short)

I took my experience as an former airborne sergeant, having served for almost 10 years, combined with my experience as a fighter/ personal trainer/instructor, and mixed it all up to create a new experience in BJJ. Teaching “the gentle art” and teaching the why behind movements/grips so people learn to understand BJJ.

I have been teaching for almost 20 years in total. From skills and drill and tactics with the Dutch airborne to safety courses for people going offshore. And almost 12 years as a personal trainer. I really love to teach and share my knowledge.

Everyday I’m thankful for the opportunity and my own gym.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
I have a diversity of people from IT specialists and a banker and students to tattoo artist. A great mix of all kinds of personalities.

Why do they train in 300 Jiu Jitsu, BJJ Netherlands?
All kinds of reasons. For their health, some for their mental health. Some just for fun and others to go fight in tournaments.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
I just started with running my own gym. For me the most challenging so far was creating something new. What I did was work from my experience as sergeant/instructor/personal trainer and created something that will make something complex simple and logical. And also using modern technology, as we have an app with a video platform/social/agenda and more. As I look at the learning curve and listen to the feedback of my students, my method of teaching works.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
I know we will outgrow this location. So eventually a new location bigger and more classes that people can follow.

What’s the best thing about 300 Jiu Jitsu, BJJ Netherlands?
The working mentality of the members and the great vibe when we train.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
You can go into Leiden city, but The Hague (our government city) is also close by for sightseeing. You can also go to the beach at Noordwijk or go to Scheveningen.


Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit 300 Jiu Jitsu, BJJ Netherlands, you can contact them here.

Featured Traveller: Michael Taekyu Choi – BJJ Globetrotters

Michael Taekyu Choi BJJ

Age: 32 (33 soon)

Belt: Purple


  • General Dentist for public health sector
  • Most highly educated farmhand for my friends who own farms
  • Occasional full-/part-time staff at camps to help Christian facilitate his crazy ideas
  • Official model for Faroe Islands Camp along with Tatu

How many years in BJJ: 12 total, but 6 years of rehab and crippled training due to ligament and nerve reconstruction on my left knee and a broken right ankle.

Other martial arts: Judo-Brown Belt (Sankyu), Taekkyon (Korean Traditional martial art focusing on kicking and take-downs)

Where do you live: -Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
-You’ll also find me on the waters, deep in the woods, or in underground caverns

Where are you from: Hardest question for me to answer. I was born in the USA, but grew up in South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, and the USA. Spent my childhood in S. Korea, went to British Preparatory school in Singapore, and did high school, college, and dental school in the USA. I would say that I am an expat or a multicultural Korean-American dude with a strange mutt accent.

Other fun or curious information you would like to share:

  • AKA: Choi/Choibear/Bionic Man-Bear/BJJ Globetrotters’ Fish N’ Chips Shop Owner
  • Mostly human, part-plastic/metal/zombie. 1) Both of my eyes have artificial lenses after surgeries due to congenital cataracts. 2) I broke my right ankle when I fought against a teammate in a judo tournament, and had permanent metal screws placed. 3) A white belt jumped guard and did the scissor takedown wrong in a horizontal direction during regular class at my old gym. Half of my left knee ripped off where 3 ligaments and a nerve got severed. Almost needed an amputation, but now I have a mostly functional zombie left knee re-built with some dead guy parts.
  • I tried to immigrate to Norway before the pandemic, but I didn’t pass the Norwegian fluency exam then and got too settled into the USA during the pandemic. Thanks to all Norwegian globetrotters who let me practice my rusty Norwegian with them!
  • Outside of training hobbies such as BJJ/Judo, I love spending my time in nature as an outdoorsman. I try my best to remain connected to nature and understand where my food comes from, and do my part in conservation.
  • I mostly cook and eat wild game and fish at home that have been hunted with my compound bow/rifle/shotgun/muzzleloader or caught on my fishing rods. My freezer is currently stocked with wild turkey, venison, black bear, pheasant, duck, wild sockeye salmon, and various ocean fish. For fishing, I am mostly a fly fisherman going after trout and salmon, but I do plenty of regular fishing with bait for saltwater species. To do my part in conservation as a hunter/fisherman, I volunteer for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers non-profit organization for public land clean up and conservation projects, and help my friend with land management on his farmland for wildlife habitat improvement.
  • My backyard lawn was converted into an urban permaculture garden during the pandemic, and now I grow about 15 different varieties of berries, fruits, and edible mushrooms. I eat them fresh, make jams, and make berry-ade concentrate. I stopped doing vegetables due to the lack of space, but I am hoping that I can buy more land to start a small homestead in the future. I also love to go out for a hike foraging wild mushrooms and plants. Trying to make it to Zen Camp in the future to search for porcini and bolete mushrooms.
  • When I am out in nature not looking for food, I like to drive the tractor, chop wood, and lift stones at my friends’ farms, go exploring by paddling on my packraft, hiking, camping, and spelunking.

Michael Taekyu Choi – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
Growing up in 5 different countries, traveling has always been part of my identity, but I never thought about training while traveling until I met a globetrotter who introduced me to BJJ Globetrotters. I read Christian’s book and lurked online following the community for a while. It took me about 3 years until I finally did my first camp at Greenland 2018, and I always travel with training gear now.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
Last year, I was in Alaska fly fishing for sockeye salmon among brown bears and went straight to the Faroe Islands camp fly fishing for brown trout and cod (also training). Managed to award Mike’s Fish N’ Chips achievement to several campers, so I was elated about that. Just came back from Maine Camp where I hunted turkeys, fished, trained, made a pro-wrestling debut, and performed stand-up comedy. It was probably the most action packed trip I’ve ever had in my life! I’ll be heading to Austria Summer camp in August to fly fish, visit family in S. Korea in October, and then head to Colorado to hunt mule deer. Trying to fit in a trip to Norway soon to meet my friend’s new baby too.

Michael Taekyu Choi – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
When I travel to a country, I learn the history of the land and its people. When I am on a fishing or hunting trip and bring back meat, I am reliving the memories of the trip whenever I cook and eat my meals. When I visit different gyms, I get different perspectives and styles of BJJ. When I meet new people, I get to listen to their stories and no story is ever alike. All these things are interesting to me and feed my soul.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
I am fluent in English and Korean, and can get by with Norwegian. However, training has been so far the best universal language to connect with people. Nothing like training together, grabbing food and drinks, and sharing stories. All my friends who are dear to my heart make training while traveling worth it.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
I befriended my Airbnb roommate during Iceland Camp 2019 and he invited me over to visit him in Gibraltar. I had no idea where Gibraltar was on the map at the time, but I visited him right before the world shut down for the pandemic in 2020. I had a grand time. I thought I was well traveled before that, but it was an eye opening experience for me as to how much of the globe I have yet to explore.

Michael Taekyu Choi – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
In general, I won’t get the cheapest flights as I am always looking for the shortest travel time for comfort, and to get back to my dental clinic on time. However, I usually save money by staying in hostels, Airbnb with friends, or couch surfing at friends or family. I also save money by cooking my own meals. Saved quite a penny on food during Iceland Camp 2019 by catching cod and eating home-made fish and chips about half of the camp.

*Keep in mind that in certain countries, eating out at local street vendors may be cheaper than cooking your own meals!

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
I almost died four times so far, and lost a few friends. Tomorrow is never promised for you nor your loved ones. If you want to and can travel, NOW is the time to plan your trips to explore the world and visit your friends! Pack your training gear, and don’t forget to make new friends!


Thank you to Michael Taekyu Choi – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview

How it all began

Hi you! Wow this is exciting, my first ever blog post in BJJ Globetrotters. First let me introduce myself and my project; BjjBiili.

I’m Laura and I come from this beautiful Scandinavian country, Finland. Combat sports have been a big part of my life since I grew up, starting with karate, then switching to thaiboxing and then few years ago I found myself having the time of my life being strangled on tatami. It was love at first sight.

My other loves are travelling, exploring, and adventuring. These passions of mine have also been there since the early days. As a kid I could tie a piece of fabric to the end of stick I’ve found to make it a bag for myself and leave for my adventures (well it was usually a forest 3 minutes away). This quality of mine has also turned into a lifestyle when I grew up. The insane amount of curiosity had led me into living in Swiss alps, travelling through Siberia with a train and backpack around Caribbean islands.

Home sweet home












So that’s about me. Then what is this BjjBiili? Bil is swedish word and means car. So basically BjjBiili is my super ugly, neon yellow van, which used to be an ambulance and now is my home. I gave up all my stuff, gave up my apartment and converted the ambulance into a camper van. I finally moved to BjjBiili last April. My mission is to tour all the 82 bjj academies in Finland while living and wandering with my dear Biili.

Lot of people have been asking, where the hell I got this idea from. My brain and it’s ways are mostly mystery to myself, too. But if I really try, I can find few seeds that have been planted in my brain and been there growing into these fulfilled dreams.

One of the first persons to blame for this idea is Finnish (now ex) UFC fighter Anton Kuivanen. It was year 2008 and I’ve travelled to Thailand for training camp (muay thai). I was 15 and never travelled that far from home. I was beyond excited.

It was hot and humid morning with a nice ocean breeze. We took tuktuk to the training center, which was at the countryside of Pattaya. I was so faschinated of the traffic, the smell of spices in the air, people opening their little businesses early in the morning. We got to the camp early and the previous private class was still going on. This athlete was, well, super athletic and was throwing punches to the pads in a way, that you could tell that he’s been doing this for awhile. Then I recognized this man, he was Finnish MMA fighter Anton.

In between our sessions my coach and Anton started talking. I was obviously way too shy to say a word so I was just warming up, so they would think the blush on my cheeks was from warmth and not from the fact that my teenage idol is stretching in front of me.

Anton told about his adventures; he travelled to Thailand all the way thru Siberia and Asia, visiting all the different boxing and wrestling gyms. Now he was cruising around Thailand with a motorcycle. I was blown away. I was inspired. That evening I had hard time to fall asleep. These adventure stories and the inspiration kept me awake. I thought how lucky I’d be if I could have even the slightest piece of that kinda adventurous mindset when I’ll grow up.

Miserable vanlife times in 2014

Then I would also blame French people. I guess it was year 2014. I’ve just turned 21 and travelled to Australia all the way from Finland, via Trans Siberian trailway and South-East Asia. Then one weekend I suddenly found myself sitting in old camper van, with 5 frenchies, holding our sleeping bags on top of our heads as covers since the pouring rain rained inside. Rooftop of the van was working with electricity and that got broken and we couldn’t close it anymore. So it rained inside.

Also the car battery got empty or broken or something. I wouldn’t really know because all the frenchies were speaking only French. I just knew that car didn’t move anymore and by reading this French body language, apparently there were some sort of problem. So we continued our journey by hitch hiking.

Even tho it was miserable and wet and all that, I absolutely loved it. Every miserable moment. After all, I am Finnish. Misery is what we live for. And so the seed of having my own miserable van had planted.

Let’s jump to summer 8 years ahead, to year 2022. I worked A LOT.  My elbows were infected. My foot was wrecked and some days even walking hurted, not talking about bjj. I was exhausted. I was lying on my floor deciding, this is the last time I’m spending my days like this.

I wanna roll around tatamis. I wanna explore. I wanna be healthy and recovered. I wanna meet new people. I wanna LIVE. Then slowly it all came together. Fabrics on the end of the sticks. Anton’s adventures. Thailand. The Frenchies. Van. Feeling of freedom.

Before I even noticed, I found myself at this remote gas station in Finland with an old ambulance I’ve just bought. An old ambulance which I drove 30 km before it left me at this gas station. I turned the key and all I heard was a little click. The engine didn’t even try to start. And this was supposed to be the beginning of adventure of a lifetime. Well, this great adventure might haven’t had the best beginning, but I thought adventure was what I asked for and it already seems to be pretty clear that adventure is what I’ll be getting with this van…

So there’s a little background of how BjjBiili was born. I’m currently living in the van and been touring academies around Helsinki. I’ll be quitting my job this week and then hit the road properly. Welcome to follow my journey, hope you’ll enjoy!


Visiting Orion’s Belt Jiu-Jitsu, an academy based in Helsinki