Finishing the Story

Dust Mop Jiu Jitsu: The Combat Base: Part Seven

SBG Portland-Portland, Oregon


-On changing your self concept, realizing nobody cares and leaving your gym

This is the Fifteenth article about my journey in Jiu Jitsu. If you want to know more about what this project is, you can read more about it in the first article here.

It’s also the last of 7 articles about my time as a member of Combat Fitness MMA. While I was there, I would learn to push myself beyond harder than I ever had.


Put yourself in my shoes. I’ve spent all day in Tyngsboro, MA at a tournament. It’s the fourth tournament I’ve been to and it’s not going well. I had a long slog of a gi bracket earlier that day that left me ragged and medal-less. I’ve got one more no-gi bracket that will be best 2 out of three with the same person. There’s just two of us, and I have a feeling it’s not gonna be me. We already did the first round and he beat me with an arm bar where I definitely tapped too late. As I ice my elbow, my coach, Amber Farr stands at the ready with a brace. She smirks and says, “…I mean, it’s gonna hurt tomorrow either way.” 

Amber taught the monday class. It was my first real introduction to wrestling. Instead of just learning techniques, we would do suicide sprints, wall sits, sit out and back takes, shoots and sprawls to the point where you would want to puke. I felt better having her in my corner but I wasn’t exactly feeling up to the task.

I had been psyching myself up for this tournament for a whole month. I had finally gotten my first victory earlier that day in my gi bracket but it wasn’t enough to place. I lost four matches aside from that. This was my fourth tournament and despite all the weight loss and strength training it was looking like it was going to end like all the other ones. 

The guy I was up against had never lost a match according to smoothcomp. I looked him up before my buddy Max, from Team Jucao in New York, could advise me not to. He was doing a great job of pumping me up. But still, the damage was done and I had let that get to me in the first round. 

I drag myself back to the mat and slap hands. I use an overhand headlock throw and get him to the ground. He reverses me and tries to pass my guard. I throw my legs up as high as I can and we’re both stuck in my lock down. I slowly, painfully, get my arms on either side of his neck. I think it took me a full minute, but I felt him tap. I couldn’t believe it. I had a shot of winning if I could make it through the next set. 

I got up, Amber takes my arm brace and gives me an ice pack. She starts talking to me about ankle picking. But I say I had an idea. I realized I had taken him down twice the same way. I had visualized this all week and it was happening. The ref called us back, I traded Amber once more for the brace. We slapped hands, I drove him down and we landed in Gesa Ketame. I used my legs immediately to get him in a kimura position, he escaped and fell right into my arm bar. In six seconds, I had won my first gold medal. Self concept=changed forever.

The coolest thing was the ref saying, “dude, you might’ve set the record for fastest win today.” I’ve never been able to confirm that. The match started before the refs were able to start the clock. 

I also got my first serious tournament injuries. My elbow was definitely over extended and sensitive to the touch and, the next day, I had a little bulge in my ear. It looked like something was growing in there. Alongside a gold medal, I had won me some cauliflower ear.

Or at least I thought I did. It turned out to be way worse. They sliced, drained and stitched it like everything else. But Cauliflower ear is swelling with blood. With stitches in, a cyst in my ear kept swelling up. On my ear, there was an unstoppable force meeting with an immovable object. I don’t enjoy weed, it doesn’t make me feel great mentally. But I used it that week to deal with the pain. I had to sleep on my side to prevent anything from touching it.

Eventually, they scraped it out and now my ear is fine if a little chewed looking. But I wasn’t able to roll for 6 weeks while everything healed up. While I had finally accomplished something, I had to take a pause. Ah well, in February of 2020, I had a feeling I would be back to competing in no time…

While I was waiting to heal, I went about my normal routine. Substitute teaching, graduate school and BJJ. I would sit on the side of the mats and wistfully watch people roll. Like everyone, I tried coming back from my injuries too early but my ear would be in so much pain that I had to stop. 

Despite all my hard work, achieving a gold medal didn’t change much. I got back to work on Monday and remembered that most kids weren’t in the habit of asking teachers about their weekends. Instead, everyone was making jokes about this new virus in China that seemed to be spreading to Europe. 

Rachel and I were getting bored of our routine so we planned an epic trip. In March we would go to Oregon to visit some friends. Rachel would fly to Colorado to begin working as a backpacking guide. I would keep working in Burlington until the semester was over then drive to Colorado on an epic journey visiting friends and training at random jiu jitsu gyms until I began work at the same place as her. So off we went to Portland.

Since I was there, I knew I had to visit the legendary Straight Blast Gym. SBG is known worldwide as the franchise that holds Connor McGregor. I followed other people whose path took them to SBG Portland. The founder of BJJ Globetrotters had been there as well some youtubers, like Rokas Leo, whose guidance I relied on when I was living in Korea.

The only class I had time for was a beginner’s class. I liked going to those. I usually felt like they explained a certain detail that I had missed. And my ego was still brimming over from my gold medal. 

Everyone from SBG was really nice when I got there. But since I was at a beginner’s class, nobody had seen me before and I was renting the Gi, they probably assumed I had never done jiu jitsu before. The instructor talked to me like I had never done jiu jitsu a day in my life. He was even trying to sell me on the sport as a whole and to give it a try. He told some epic story about how his son had judo-thrown a bully at his school.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool story. And if you go there, I hope you get to hear it. But my only issue with being a white belt for so long is when people talk to you like it’s your first day. The deeper issue is that I, like a dick, wanted people to see that I won a gold medal and that this obviously wasn’t my first time. Going to SBG, I learned that most wins are anonymous. I had my 15 minutes of fame. Then I learned that nobody cares and life goes on.

Now I know, the win wasn’t the important part of my victory. It was learning that I could push myself harder than I previously believed capable. I went from someone who felt like he didn’t belong in Jiu Jitsu to someone who won a gold medal in 6 seconds. From the moment I entered Combat Fitness to the time I left Vermont, I became a different person. I was stronger, faster, capable of dealing with loss and looking myself in a mirror to see past my own bullshit. 

But I had only scratched the surface of that. And I had to hold on to that just at the exact moment that the world decided that we should all be standing six feet apart from one another. I got home from Portland and a week later, the Covid-19 Pandemic lockdown started. 

Our work in Colorado and our epic trip was canceled. We quickly realized we couldn’t afford to live in Burlington without income. We made plans to move to Massachusetts to live with my family. Combat Fitness MMA would no longer be my base.

More painfully, I never got to say goodbye in person. Not to Amber for teaching me wrestling and sitting in my corner. Nor Rob for teaching me the throws that led me to victory. Aaron for driving me to tournaments and being my first friend in Burlington. Anthony for making me stronger. Vince for always being willing to answer my questions and all my teammates for encouraging me and making me better. But the era of Combat was closing and a new epoch was about to begin.

If you ever want me to visit yours and write about what it’s like to learn from you, feel free to reach out at [email protected]. You can also follow me @DustMop_JiuJitsu If you want to read my articles as soon as they’re published be sure to subscribe on my blog site!

Reinvention and BJJ

Dust Mop Jiu Jitsu: The Combat Base: Part Six

Port City Brazilian Jiu Jitsu-Newington, NH


-On reinventing yourself in BJJ and remembering who you are

This is the Fourteenth article about my journey in Jiu Jitsu. If you want to know more about what this project is, you can read more about it in the first article here.

It’s also the Sixth of 7 articles about my time as a member of Combat Fitness MMA. While I was there, I would learn to push myself beyond harder than I ever had. 

There’s a funny way that Jiu Jitsu shapes your personality. You kind of forget who you were before you did it. That’s not instantaneous of course. There’s a slow process of getting absorbed into this cult-like lifestyle. A denial of sorts. 

You hear about some things that you can’t imagine  yourself doing. “I’ll train but I’m not gonna compete.” That turns into “I’ll compete but I won’t cut weight.” All of a sudden you’re intermittent fasting, watching ADCC highlights and quoting John Danaher’s most recent interview on Rogan. The thing for me is that all of this happened away from home. It started in Korea then I moved to Vermont where I continued to train.

After a year of living in Burlington, Rachel and I were at a crossroads. We loved it there. My gym, Combat Fitness MMA, was finally feeling like a community, I had competed twice and was about to compete again in the new year. But Burlington is small. Even as the largest city in Vermont, it only has around 50,000 people. Rachel wanted to get a phD and I wanted to be a therapist. We had to consider moving somewhere else.

In early December 2019, we found ourselves in New Hampshire. Here’s another interesting fact. New Hampshire is next to Vermont and is almost the exact same shape except for being upside down. Rachel was spending a few days looking at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. 

It’s strange visiting a place that you might be moving to. Rachel hadn’t even applied yet but the professors there were still willing to meet with her. I used to work there when I facilitated people on high ropes courses. That felt like a lifetime ago. But from my connections there we had a beautiful place to stay near the sea coast. Those friends weren’t around but I knew they would be if I moved there. I also knew it wouldn’t be difficult to find work in that area. But that’s not what I cared about. I had to find out what the Jiu Jitsu community looked like.

I found Port City BJJ because I was still in competition mode. Right before thanksgiving I competed in my third tournament where I lost every single match. I was determined to get back on the horse and was putting all my effort into it. There would be a new tournament after the new year and I was going to throw myself back in the ring.

Port City was part of a wider sports complex complete with a gym and a field area for track training. I used both before the class because, for the first time in my life, I had paid for professional strength and conditioning from Combat Fitness MMA’s very own boxing coach Anthony Bambara. Anthony was our gyms biggest draw. While a Jiu Jitsu class often had 12-15 people, boxing classes jammed the mats. He also was a certified fitness instructor who gave me my start at guided weight lifting and conditioning. I was determined to work harder than I ever had in preparation for the next tournament.

The Jiu Jitsu classes  at Port City were nice and intimate. I’ve written many times before in this blog about how important it is to measure success in a way that goes beyond the black and white of winning and losing. I remember being paired with someone bigger for sparring and making him panic. He tapped me for sure, but I made him work hard for it. 

The second class I went to was more memorable for me. The instructor was a goofy dude who drove up from Boston to teach. I remember him the most because he reminded me of the world I used to belong to.

People in the jiu jitsu world seem to love the reinvention trope. It makes sense, you get stronger, faster, more efficient and mentally tough. You realize that the person you are could kick the ass of the person you were. But that’s natural. It happens over time. 

I come from the world of outdoor facilitation. Goofy people who like to have fun and aren’t macho. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been so pleasantly surprised about feeling at home in jiu jitsu. But this instructor reminded me of a friend whose house I happened to staying at. A guy named Jeff Frigon.

Jeff is an incredibly nice guy. A great outdoors instructor, facilitator and a dad joke teller extraordinaire. He’s kind of the opposite vibe that most BJJ gyms cultivate. So imagine my surprise when his doppleganger is teaching the class at Port City BJJ. This guy looked and sounded like Jeff. They even had similar mannerisms.

I remember approaching him and asking him


Me: Do you have any relatives around here?

Him: No not really.

Me: You look and talk just like my friend Jeff who lives around here.

Him: He sounds like a really handsome guy!

Me: …See Jeff would say that…


Of course, I don’t want to give you the impression that everyone at Port City was like him. Sure enough, this old dude with a bald head bigger than Dana White’s was sitting on the side with his arms folded giving the instructor the stink eye.


Instructor: This guy always seems to have a problem with me

Dana White’s Twin: There’s no problem. You’re just not manly.


Dana White’s Twin had actually lived in Burlington Vermont. He got his black belt from Vermont BJJ. “He’s the weirdest Brazilian. He keeps everyone at brown belt forever and once you get yours, he ignores you. Once I told him I was moving to New Hampshire and he just told me to make sure I paid my last bill on time. That’s the last time we spoke.”

I had a blast that day. I felt like I would be comfortable living in that area and signing up with Port City if Rachel went to UNH. Spoiler alert, that’s not what ended up happening. But still, I left feeling okay with the possibility of moving.

The Dust Mop Takeaway from visiting Port City is about self acceptance. I was coming off a three tournament losing streak. I thought I had to abandon who I was to become someone who could win. Sure I would become stronger, faster and more confident. But that instructor helped me realize I didn’t have to forget who I was to be better at Jiu Jitsu.


If you ever want me to visit yours and write about what it’s like to learn from you, feel free to reach out at [email protected]. You can also follow me @DustMop_JiuJitsu If you want to read my articles as soon as they’re published be sure to subscribe on my blog site!

Featured affiliated academy: Crazy Monkey Centurion, BJJ South Africa

Crazy Monkey Centurion, BJJ South Africa

Where is the gym located?
The gym is located in a suburb called Centurion in Pretoria in South Africa. About 40 km north of Johannesburg.

How many people train there?
We have about 80 clients including our kid’s classes.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
The gym is growing, slowly though, but it is growing. We gain about 1 to 2 clients a month.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
We have white belt clients all the way up to brown belts.

When did Crazy Monkey Centurion, BJJ South Africa open?
We officially opened our doors to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in January 2000.

Some facts about you:

Name: Jacques Wagner
Age: 49
Belt: Second Degree Black Belt
Profession: Full-time Martial Arts Coach and Studio Owner
Years in BJJ: 23
Other martial arts: Functional Boxing, Savate, Taekwondo, Muay Thai and Krav Maga.
Currently living in: Centurion in Pretoria in South Africa
Originally from: Durban in South Africa

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
I started training martial arts in 1993 after I left the military. I started with Kuk Sool Won and then went over to Taekwondo in 1994. I received my black belt in 1995 and bought the studio from my coach in 1996.

In 1999 I started training in boxing, MMA, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Rodney King (4th Degree Black Belt under Master Rigan Machado) and in 2000 I changed from Taekwondo to a full-time MMA, Boxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Initially it was a love-hate relationship with Jiu-Jitsu, as I was never trained in ground work, I mean in Taekwondo, you just kick, right? But I did love the challenge Jiu-Jitsu brought and fell in love with it to the point that my studio is now mainly Jiu-Jitsu based.

I have been fortunate to have trained with Master Rigan Machado, Chis Haueter and Matt Thornton.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
Most of the students that train with us are on the older side of 30, white collar workers, or a lot of people that are self-employed. It is not uncommon to have a doctor train with a lawyer or a varsity student train with the owner of a company. So we really have a widespread group of amazing clients.

Why do they train in Crazy Monkey Centurion, BJJ South Africa?
Most of our clients train for self-preservation and to do something to challenge them physically and mentally. They train to be a part of something bigger – a bigger community united by the love for Jiu-Jitsu. We focus a lot on taking the lessons on the mat and taking it into your everyday life. Besides that, all our clients have an insane amount of fun on the mats and they always leave feeling happy and ready to face the challenges in life.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
Where we are in Pretoria, not a lot of people want to do Jiu-Jitsu as they don’t want to “cuddle” on the floor. Fighting is done with fists. In Johannesburg and Cape Town the Jiu-Jitsu culture has a good base and they generally have a lot more members.

The economic climate in South Africa is not great, as our currency is very weak against the Dollar, Euro, and Pound. People really don’t have a lot of disposable income, and with our rolling blackouts where people do not have electricity for sometimes up to 8 hours a day, it really challenges a studio and trying to keep clients is a real hard thing to do.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
Hopefully people will change their minds and get more into Jiu-jitsu as there are a few up and coming studios in our area and with the word spreading there seems to be a lot more interest due to people like Jocko and Joe Rogan etc. So hopefully the Jiu-Jitsu culture takes hold in our area.

We hope that the economic climate improves and that the rolling blackouts come to an end.

What’s the best thing about Crazy Monkey Centurion, BJJ South Africa?
I must say the people. My clients are some of the most amazing people you will ever meet and they all share the passion that is Jiu-Jitsu. I have some of the craziest and “feral” clients you will ever meet on and off the mats, but they will soon give you the shirt off their back should you need it.

We stand together and the bond we share is something that only a sport like Jiu-Jitsu can bring to the table.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
There are so many monuments, architecture, and historical landmarks, and the wildlife in South Africa is absolutely breath-taking. Most places are 40 minutes to an hour away where you can see lions, zebras, elephants, rhino, and various game. You can take a drive in a game reserve, hike an amazing trail in the bushveld, or cycle in some of the best nature spots in South Africa.

Our summers are the best, as it gets crazy hot but everything is green and lush and getting outside is a must.


Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit Crazy Monkey Centurion, BJJ South Africa you can contact them here.

Featured Travellers: Verena Illmer – BJJ Globetrotters

Verena Illmer - BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 31

Belt: Purple

Profession: Yoga & meditation teacher, proofreader for French and Spanish

How many years in BJJ: 6

Other martial arts: I did some traditional Jiu Jitsu for a couple of years, several years ago

Where do you live: I live in a van; I’m mostly in Bocholt (Germany) where I train, or am travelling

Where are you from: Voerde, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Other fun or curious information you would like to share:
When you are in Spain, “coger” means “to take”, but in Latin America it means “to fuck”. Think twice before you speak ;-).

Verena Illmer – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
Since I was a child, I always loved travelling, just like my dad. When I started training Jiu Jitsu I quickly realised that I love visiting other teams and training with a lot of different training partners. Not only because it’s a lot of fun and you get to know a bunch of cool people, but also because it helped me a lot in Jiu Jitsu in general, getting new insights from different sparring partners and coaches and experiencing new styles of Jiu Jitsu. So it was very natural to me to combine both by training a lot in other gyms during my travels (also because Jiu Jitsu people are the most welcoming when it comes to inviting you to the gym), and I improved this “ability” by moving into a van, which gave me the chance to travel and train even more.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
My last big trip was to Spain in January and February. I competed in Paris and went to a seminar there afterwards (Mica Galvao & Diogo Reis, highly recommendable!), from where I drove all the way down to the Atlantic coast of Andalusia, passing through mountains and the mostly unsettled central regions. I stayed some 6 or 7 weeks there for surfing, training, and enjoying the sun, meeting a lot of cool and extremely friendly (Jiu Jitsu) people.

My next trips will be to several of the Globetrotters camps in the summer, some by airplane, some by van. The next trip might be in fall, maybe somewhere in France/Spain/Portugal for surfing, maybe a larger trip outside of Europe. I tend to not plan a lot in advance, as usually when I make plans I end up doing something completely different anyway. :)

Verena Illmer – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
What I love the most is being able to go wherever I like to, knowing that no matter the place, I will find beautiful new places, experience things I’ve never done before, and meet lovely people in other gyms. I’ve actually never been disappointed with that one, which is for me something unique and beautiful in our sport: you can go to almost any gym in a random foreign country and know you will be welcomed as if you were an old friend, even if you’ve never been there before. This makes it so easy for me to travel, because I never feel like I miss anything; I can feel home in any place I go (perhaps also because I can take my home with me on the road…).

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
A lot! Apart from being sure that you are never actually alone no matter where you go, because you can find the coolest and kindest (and craziest, in a positive way) people in the gym close to your destination area, you get a lot of useful and precious helps or tips regarding your journey and activities. The best surfing spot, a good local restaurant with reasonable prices, a secret beach… Just ask your travel training partners! The help and support is incredible and I appreciate it so much, even more travelling in a van. For example in Spain, I never had to worry about water, because everyone was more than happy to fill my water tank at their house. And even better, almost every single coach whose gym I visited invited me to dinner with his wife or family at least once, providing me with the best local food, as if letting me train with his team and learning from him wouldn’t already be a huge pleasure for me.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
The hospitality in other countries. At least in the beginning – now I’m more used to it. When I went to Chile some years ago for some volunteering in a nature park, I went to the southern region “Región de los Lagos”. Being there in the Chilean winter, it was freezing cold, much more than what I had expected and was prepared for (or was willing to endure…), and I would have to spend 3 months in a cabin in the woods with the two other rangers, remotely placed from civilization and without electricity, running water, or anything close to heating. In summer, it would have been great for me, but being winter I got a really bad flu, a middle ear inflammation, and could barely sleep. So what did the ranger do? He first organised a place to stay for me in another nature park in the central region of Chile with milder weather, which belongs to the huge family of his friend. They welcomed me like a member of the family. I lived in their house, shared my everyday life, my sorrows and laughs with them. I felt so at home there that I didn’t even want to leave. After that, I visited the family of the first guy for a while in the northern part of Chile near the ocean and also lived with them in their apartment, sharing a room with their daughter and again being welcomed like their child. I spent a beautiful time there with them and never felt strange or out of place.

Both families did not even know me, they had never seen me before, but invited me to live in their house with them for how much time I wanted to stay, asking nothing in return, providing me their help, their food, their company, whatever I needed. It was something that really surprised me at first, but in time and during several travels I noticed that this is much more usual in countries other than Germany and I learned to appreciate it a lot.

Verena Illmer – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
Yes, I would consider myself more of a budget traveller, as I travel in my van, spending money only on diesel and nothing else. It is a beautiful, relaxing, cosy and less expensive way to travel – even more so when you live in your van and always have everything there that you need (and possess) without ever having to pack your bags. :)

Before I bought my first van, I mostly spent the nights in hostels in shared rooms, which was funny and economical as well, but I wouldn’t do it that much any more or not for such a long time – I’m getting old…

I tend to not plan a lot for my travels. Sometimes I even change my destination (the city, but sometimes even the country) the evening before I want to depart. I stay where I feel good and happy, and leave when I want to see something new. Being able to do that is something I appreciate a lot travelling in a van.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Be friendly, polite, curious and open-minded. Don’t be shy to ask if you don’t know or don’t understand something (same as in Jiu Jitsu classes :)) and offer your help whenever you can. Don’t expect others to be or act like you, try to understand and respect the local habits, try to communicate (even being able to say “Hello” and “Thanks” in their language is a good start to get in touch with the locals). Don’t act like you don’t want others to act in your home country!

Thank you Verena Illmer – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Having People In Your Corner

Dust Mop Jiu Jitsu: The Combat Base: Part Five

Team Jucao- Manhattan, New York


-On mentorship and learning to admire people who can handily kick my ass

This is the Thirteenth article about my journey in Jiu Jitsu. If you want to know more about what this project is, you can read more about it in the first article here.

It’s also the fifth of 7 articles about my time as a member of Combat Fitness MMA. While I was there, I would learn to push myself beyond harder than I ever had. 

For a while, I have been doing some volunteer work with an organization called WeDefy. It takes US Veterans with a high disability rating and gives them a scholarship to a BJJ gym near them. My role is to be their first point of contact should they need anything. 

Really, I’m there if anything is going wrong. If they’re injured or hurt they let me know so that we can put the scholarship on hold. But I always tell them the same thing. “I’m also here for when things are going well. I want to hear if you got your first arm bar or triangle choke. Did you try competing for the first time? Let me know! Because most guys get really excited about Jiu Jitsu and realize that most of their friends don’t know or care about it. So they have nobody to celebrate with.” 

That was true for me. I didn’t have any friends that did Jiu Jitsu when I started. Save for one guy. 

I first met Max when I was in college. He went to college with a few buddies of mine and later on I found out he was getting into boxing. Those friends told me I should keep in touch with him once they heard I was getting into BJJ. We weren’t even friends on Facebook. But we had come from a familiar enough background that we started bonding over it. 

It felt important to have a friend that knew I had a life outside of the gym. We had already gotten drunk together, he was friends with my friends and was dating someone from my high school. Max was already a purple belt and had done way more tournaments than I had. 

After Thanksgiving of that year, I was still motivated by my tournament losses. So I took the opportunity to train everyday in Lincoln, Nebraska. I had learned a ton in my classes at Lincoln Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Center and I was excited to go straight back to Combat Fitness MMA in Vermont. 

There are, however, no direct flights from Lincoln to Burlington. And Lincoln is one of those airports that is prone to cancellations. The only way we were getting home was to grab an available flight to NYC, spend the night there and hop on a puddle jumper up to Burlington. For those of you that aren’t American, the journey was gonna look a bit like this.

We realized we had to spend the night in NYC as we were flying there. Luckily, Rachel’s brother lived in Manhattan so accommodation wouldn’t be a problem. My worry was about seizing an opportunity to train somewhere in the city. I had a clean travel gi with me ready to go for the occasion. How could I miss this?

So I texted Max to see if I could train with him in the next 12 hours. As it happened, he was going to a lesson at Team Jucao that night on the Upper West Side and he just happened to live five blocks away from my brother-in-law. 

We met up and did the 30 minute walk together catching each other up on life and jiu jitsu. He and his partner were thinking of moving to Hong Kong for a little bit. Having lived in Korea, I was amazed at how much overlap we had in our lives. 

I had no idea what to expect for Team Jucao. Other than footage I’d seen of the notorious Blue Basement, I couldn’t imagine how you would fit a BJJ studio in a city that’s as famous for it’s lack of space as it is for the halal food carts, high fashion and subway fires. Most places I had trained were in strip malls so imagine my surprise when we took the elevator up to the 20th floor of a city tower apartment. I would have had vertigo looking out the window but they were all fogged up from the sweat and cleaning chemicals. 

It was a fairly small class of about 10 or 12 people and we got the drills going right away. As we ran forwards, backwards and started contorting ourselves to be ready for the class I couldn’t help notice a big bald black belt standing to the side chewing gum. There is a trope about upper belts skipping warm-ups but I had never seen that before. As the only white belt there, seeing this guy sitting out while we were all sweating our balls off was quite the novelty.

The class was really just a series of positional sparring. Most people were incredibly relaxed as I started on their back ready to squeeze the life out of them. But they got out of every hold while looking like they were ready to fall asleep. Max has an infuriating habit of whistling while he plays with your lapels like he’s just mowing the lawn while you are trying your hardest.

But then I got to roll with Baldy. He winked and waved me over with a smile. Baldy did something I had never yet experienced. I was in his closed guard and out of nowhere I felt a stinging sensation in my elbow that was gone before it even registered. 

Prior to that day, I had never been wristlocked before. Baldy had slapped my elbow and fist to send a shockwave down my forearm. He didn’t hold it either. He let it go as soon as I felt it. But then as soon as I lifted my arm again, he did it again. It was like being a fish caught on a line six or seven times in a row. 

It didn’t get better from there. Later on I found out that he had been doing martial arts for almost two decades. He told us how he almost threw up the first time he watched a Kyokoshin Karate black belt test. These were back in the days of dojo storms and style show downs. But for him, a tap didn’t mean start over. It meant that he would let go of the submission and fight from there. 

You might read this and think that’s not cool. I don’t really disagree with you. But I think  it’s important to have experiences like this from time to time. Some people in this world can kick your ass and make it look beautiful. Nothing personal about it. Besides, everyone at Team Jucao kicked my ass with a smile and wink. 

Max and I left Team Jucao feeling closer than we had. Remember, we had met each other before, but now we had shared an experience. He ended up moving to Hong  Kong and we still talk Jiu Jitsu. He has been a source of advice and inspiration as I geared up for tournaments and kept the journey going. 

Having people who care about your Jiu Jitsu progress is an important part of the process. Knowing that transcends your gym membership can be even more beneficial.


If you ever want me to visit yours and write about what it’s like to learn from you, feel free to reach out at [email protected]. You can also follow me @DustMop_JiuJitsu If you want to read my articles as soon as they’re published be sure to subscribe on my blog site!

Featured Camp Instructor: Dustin Stoltzfus – BJJ Globetrotters

Dustin Stoltzfus – BJJ Globetrotters

Belt: Black Belt luta livre, BJJ brown belt
Age: 31

Profession: MMA fighter
Started training (year): 2010
City/country: Lancaster, PA USA


Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

 I’ve done well in a lot of tournaments, won a NAGA or two, hit a twister in a MMA fight.



Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

Heidelberg and Austria.


Which camp has been your favorite so far?

Heidelberg is basically in my backyard, so the Austrian camp felt more like a camp.


Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

Just the insane pace of the Austrian camp, hitting the slopes early, boarding till closing and rolling into the night. 


Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp?

I always love to spread the good news of our lord and savior freestyle wrestling



Dustin Stoltzfus – BJJ Globetrotters instructor


Dustin Stoltzfus BJj

Quitting Jiu Jitsu

Dust Mop Jiu Jitsu: The Combat Base: Part Four

Lincoln Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Center-Lincoln, Nebraska


-On quitting jiu jitsu, rejoining and finding motivation

This is the Twelfth article about my journey in Jiu Jitsu. If you want to know more about what this project is, you can read more about it in the first article here.

It’s also the fourth of 7 articles about my time as a member of Combat Fitness MMA. While I was there, I would learn to push myself beyond harder than I ever had. 

This is usually a blog about what it’s like to drop into gyms around the world. For this article, I want to do something a little bit different. 

I’m from New England. It’s a place I love. The architecture, the four distinct seasons, the intellectual history. But if there’s one thing I dislike, it’s elitism. A brilliant article once talked about how folks in my part of the country never watch sports if their teams aren’t playing. Even when we vacation we usually do it on the cape, new hampshire or martha’s vineyard. 

My wife however didn’t grow up in the Northeast like I did. She grew up in the direct middle of the country. In a place called Lincoln, Nebraska. A place that we don’t even think of in Massachusetts. Since we began dating, I’ve actually made it a point to pay attention to people’s reactions when she tells folks where she’s from. One person actually rolled her eyes and just said, “I’m sorry.” 

In fairness, people in Nebraska seem to apologize to me when I’m there. They feel like I must be bored out of my goddamn mind. But if there’s one place in the world I would move just for Jiu Jitsu, it’s there.

By the fall of 2019, it had taken me a long time to actually rejoin Combat Fitness MMA. After a summer away, I was still licking my wounds from my devastating tournament losses. I seriously considered whether or not I would continue on with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. So, for the first time ever, I didn’t. 

Rachel and I had spent most of the summer apart so we made plans to do the long trail after my work assignment. The long trail is a walking path that goes from the Northernmost part of Massachusetts to where Vermont meets Quebec. 

I was still reeling from my loss at Plattsburgh but I had an amazing summer. I’m good at teaching. It’s one of the few things I feel like that really comes naturally to me. The youth program I taught at made me feel really good about my ability to engage teens and teach them healthier communication skills. And then we went hiking and I remembered how natural it feels to be outside all the time. That’s not always there in Jiu Jitsu. 

More importantly, hiking doesn’t have that competitive feel. I didn’t feel like I was looking at the Appalachian trail hikers and comparing journeys. We were all on the same path but approaching it differently. Some had walked from Georgia, some from Maine and some were just there for the day. 

After about three weeks on trail, I made up my mind. I wasn’t going to rejoin Combat Fitness and I was going to get back into rock climbing. I remember telling my friend and coach, Aaron, about it. I didn’t say I was quitting, I said I was taking some time. But I think he had been around enough to read between the lines. To his credit, he never pushed me back into it. I brought it up when we went over to his house for dinner one time and he said, “anytime you want to come back to the gym I will happily drive you there.”

That could have been the end.

By the end of September, I missed Jiu Jitsu. Rock climbing is fun. Before Jiu Jitsu it was my main form of exercise. But there are a few things missing. With climbing, you really do it alone. I mean, someone is belaying you, but they’re not really doing it with them. You take turns. 

There’s also no interaction with other people at the gym. Most people come with their climbing partner and leave with them. You might make small talk with someone but for the most part, there’s no forced interaction with the people in the gym. 

A lot of adults just don’t make new friends. They forget how to do it. They get into a room full of new people and they feel like they did at a middle school dance. But middle school DJs are smart. They invented the snowball. They call out the word and you have switch partners. That’s kind of like what sparring does. You are now getting close enough to a new person to learn what kind of deodorant they like to ignore. 

I also missed the competition, the constant feedback that inspires you to try and get better. Of course I could do that with climbing, but the set up of the sport just wasn’t calling to me. I made the call and went back to Combat Fitness MMA.

It started with simply getting back into the gym. I told myself that I was going to get back to training but I wouldn’t get too much into competition. I’d just be a student and forget about this stupid aspect of the sport that gets into your head. 

That didn’t last long. Aaron announced another competition that would be happening just before thanksgiving. It would be in Plattsburgh so plenty of Quebecois looking for blood. But this one would be a whole gym endeavor as opposed to the last one where it was only me and Aaron and Tyler.

Tyler showed up for one of the practices, asked me if I was going to compete and I told him no. “What?! Come on dude, that’s our thing, we go fucking hard and then get weird beers!” How could I say no to that? 

Honestly, peer pressure does a lot for me. People tell you when you’re a kid that anyone who asks you to do something you don’t want to do isn’t your real friend. But sometimes you just need that extra nudge. 

I decided to do it but not obsess over it. I also chose to try competing at a lower weight class than I normally did. At that time, I generally woke up around 150 lbs each morning. I felt small for my weight class and wanted to challenge myself to get down to 145.

Weight cutting was so miserable. On the day of the tournament, I was so happy to be eating real carbs that I didn’t even care about the results. I got beaten again but I felt so euphoric from my Trader Joe’s crackers that I was on cloud 9. It was a challenge that I had gotten through. But I knew I could have done better than I did. I was in.  I wanted to compete again. I told Aaron and we made a plan to do another in February.

But then, it was time for Thanksgiving in Lincoln. I’d be away from Combat just when I was feeling inspired. I’d have to put that plan on hold. Or so I thought.

 I can’t tell you how many people feel like their in-laws prevent them from doing Jiu Jitsu when it’s time for the holidays.

Mine are the opposite. My mother-in-law is a Californian transplant to Nebraska so she wanted me to be excited about coming to Lincoln. She not only told me about the new gym that had opened up around the block, she also sent me the website with their daily schedule. Unlike my gym which offered classes four nights a week (only three of which I could attend) Lincoln BJJ had classes multiple times a day. My dream of being able to train daily was finally coming true. 

The instructors were really good. They really taught me to start looking for things in the transitions. Using another person’s mount escape to get into armbar position. After leaving Lincoln, I started getting armbars in a way that I had never gotten them previously. 

I started looking forward to my vacations to Lincoln because I knew I would get to learn something amazing. This was in 2018 and I’m actually there right now for the 2022 Christmas break. I’ve been going almost every day. It’s my fourth time coming in for a random week and folks are starting to notice me. “Haven’t I seen you before?” 

Josh Cather is one of the instructors. When I met him in 2018, he wore a purple belt and completely mangled me. Now he’s wearing a Black belt and still kicks my ass in the most gentle way. He lets me work.

This year, I was especially excited to come to town this week because I’ve been volunteering with the We Defy Foundation for a year. The organization finds U.S. veterans with a high disability rating and gets them a scholarship to a BJJ studio near them. I essentially call a few veterans a month and see how their journey is going. I made a decision last year that I only wanted to take on Veterans who I had a chance of seeing in person. So when I saw that two guys were going to Lincoln BJJ, of course I snatched them up real quick. They are the first scholarship recipients that I’ve had the pleasure to both roll with in my mentorship role. 

This particular time has been a blast. I’ve met all kinds of awesome people who are absolute killers. Some of them are still surprised that I’m there because I’m not from Lincoln. But I tell all of them that it’s my favorite place to train. Many of them have traveled elsewhere for work and agree that it’s one of the best places to get good. 

Part of it is the atmosphere. Conan, the owner, is a really humble guy. He wants people to train smart. “Practice it slow” he’ll say if he sees some over-excited out of towner rushing through the drills. There’s a secret sauce to making a gym successful and he’s definitely got it.

Who knows what holiday will bring me back to town but the awesome thing is that I know I’ll be back and get to see what my training partners have gotten up to. 

Lincoln Brazilian Jiiu Jitsu is not my home gym. But it undeniably informed my game and made me a better roller. It’s like a waystone for me in the way that Boston BJJ used to be. At a time when I was getting my motivation back to train and push myself, Lincoln gave me the opportunity to learn every day. In the next few articles, I’ll talk about where that momentum brought me.


If you ever want me to visit yours and write about what it’s like to learn from you, feel free to reach out at [email protected]. You can also follow me @DustMop_JiuJitsu If you want to read my articles as soon as they’re published be sure to subscribe on my blog site!

Knowing You Suck is a Form of Progress

Dust Mop Jiu Jitsu: The Combat Base: Part Three

Great Falls Brazilian Jiu Jitsu-Great Falls, Montanna


-On devastating losses, licking your wounds and searching for proof that you suck…and how cool my wife is

This is the Eleventh article about my journey in Jiu Jitsu. If you want to know more about what this project is, you can read more about it in the first article here.

It’s also the third of 7 articles about my time as a member of Combat Fitness MMA. While I was there, I would learn to push myself beyond harder than I ever had. 

My wife Rachel is the most fascinating person I know. Her life and childhood have been beyond unusual. But since she has that midwest Nebraska modesty, she’ll never tell you the following facts:


  • Her parents received grants from National Geographic when she was in elementary school which meant that she was homeschooled while looking for rare birds in New Zealand and Australia 
  • She went to high school in a public school that allowed her to do her biology classes in a zoo
  • She’s been to more national parks than anyone I know
  • She’s more than comfortable operating as a ranch hand

Neither of her parents grew up in Nebraska. Her father was born in Chicago but moved to Great Falls, Montana as a child because his father had dreams of starting a farm. His father also, apparently, had dreams of leaving his wife and children leaving them to be raised by their mother. She kept that farm going and now it’s something of a summer home for everyone.

Great Falls is not a well-known place save for a weirdly well visited bar that has a mermaid tank behind the bottles. Other than that, it’s mostly big skies, flowing rivers and unbearable pollen counts.

Mermaids in Montana, 600 miles from the ocean, may have saved their motor  inn - The Boston Globe

Great Falls, MT | American Adventure

My first time going there was at the beginning of one of the darkest periods for my jiu jitsu that I can remember. 

In the last article, I wrote about trying my first local competition. It served as a wake up call to start training more seriously and I worked hard for my first real tournament. I had two brackets and lost them both badly. I got submitted by everyone and I couldn’t have been more dejected. What was worse was, I was leaving Combat Fitness to work in Boston for the summer. I had three months to consider my shame. 

But before Boston, I was on my way to Great Falls to spend a week with Rachel’s family. I looked up the only place that was nearby for a training session which is how I found Great Falls BJJ. A few years down the line, it would become a lifeline for me for the first COVID summer. By then I would have a much different self concept. But walking in there the first day, I had one thought on my mind: How much I sucked at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Great Falls Maps | Montana, U.S. | Maps of Great Falls

The first real competition I went to was in Plattsburgh, New York. Plattsburgh is across the lake from Burlington, Vermont and just south of Quebec. Most American grapplers  have never heard of the place but I guarantee that you would know if you like strangling people and you happen to speak Quebecois. 

In a knee-jerk reaction to the UFC, the provincial Quebec government forced all of the different Martial Arts organizations to unionize in an attempt to crack down on prize fighting. It might be bizarre to think about the fact that Tri-Star gym, the home of Georges St. Pierre, has some of the most elite training in the world. But if you want to compete in a tournament, you have to leave the Province lest you break the law. 

So this middle of nowhere tournament in upstate New York was filled with Quebeckers looking to make the day count. If you’re European, maybe this wouldn’t phase you too much. But you get a weird olympic vibe competing in a place where the coaches of the other grapplers are shouting in a foreign language. 

That wouldn’t matter for my first bracket. I got demolished by two Americans in the gi division. I had never felt adrenaline like that ever before. I don’t honestly remember what happened but I remember not being able to breathe by the end of my second match and being called over to the no-gi section as soon as it was over. Aaron was there to coach me. Aside from him, the only other guy I knew there was Tyler Haylee from St. Albans who came to Combat every once in a while. 

Tyler was a stand up guy. The kind of person who would offer you encouragement even if you’re having the most shit day of your life, of course after he chokes you across your own jaw. He’s short and tough and I considered him an inspiration for a small stocky like me.

My no-gi bracket went even worse than the first ones. I remember Aaron suggesting that I not even do my final match. “Let’s just get out of here,” he said. Even though I knew I wasn’t going to win anything, a part of me knew that if I didn’t finish my bracket, it would be worse than losing. Sucking would be way less shameful than knowing I walked away a coward.

I don’t remember what happened in my last match. But the feeling afterward was horrible. Aaron and Tyler and I got beer and pizza afterward and I felt like I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t think of a single thing I did right that day and I had all this self-doubt creeping all over me. I felt like I was coming to grips with the fact that I was completely untalented in this sport. And I was about to leave Burlington for the summer with just my thoughts of how much I sucked to keep me going. 

Great Falls BJJ is at the mall. I had never been into a BJJ place that’s actually in a structure like that. But why not? It’s actually a good setting for the place.

There were mats that were black with pictures of submissions around the place. I wouldn’t get to see an actual class because it was just going to be an open mat. My self doubt and the world’s strongest pollen were still in my head and I felt like I could barely breathe. I remember taking the back of a big Montanan who seemed unamused as he shook me off just by nodding his head. 

The instructor, Preston Bludworth, was really nice. He was a freshly promoted brown belt. I told him I was White Belt and that I had been training for 2 years. I remember feeling kind of sheepish about that. But he told me he had been a White Belt for 7 years before getting promoted. “I’ve been to gyms where I wear my purple belt and everyone thinks I’m a god because I’m submitting everybody. But it’s not that I’m that good, it’s because they think I’ve been training for less time than I have!”

I’ve been trying to make sense of this phase of BJJ. A lot of folks that I’be rolled with have mentioned how important it is to have a “dark night of the soul” for your game. A time when you think that this entire project has been a foolish waste of time. Many people I’ve talked to seem to think it’s a badge of honor to go through that because it proves you’re mentally tough enough to get through.


There’s another perspective that I heard recently on the perfect named “I Suck at Jiu Jitsu” podcast. In a recent episode, he basically described this phase as progress in and of itself. 

He described four phases of BJJ that actually can be applied to almost everything. I actually learned it previously from my high school history teacher, Mark Rosenberg. Those phases are the following:

Unconscious Incompetence: Not knowing how much you suck

Conscious Incompetence: Knowing how much you suck

Conscious competence: Learning you don’t suck so much, at least for some things

Unconscious incompetence: Doing so well that you forget about everything and you just feel the progress.

Before the tournament in Plattsburgh, I was unconsciously incompetent. I didn’t realize how big the holes in my game were. But the losses taught me some pretty important lessons of what was missing in my game. That conscious phase is essential for progress. It IS progress. But entering into that phase is harder than any difficult round of sparring. It’s not over after five minutes. It can last months or even years. 

A few days ago I competed and took silver. I lost one match and I won the other. I’m proud of my win but I’m a lot more focused on the one I lost. Not in a way that puts me into phase one, but in a way where I’m able to see the lesson that it’s there to teach me. But I’m only able to do that because of how I felt after my first real tournament. 

But at the time I went to Great Falls BJJ, the funk I was in would last for months. Throughout the summer I would continue to train at Boston BJJ but it was only at the crazy early morning classes. Those guys are the hard core black belts that only helped hammer in the thought that I was just not cut out for that sport.

Nobody was putting these thoughts in my head. I was the only one looking for proof that I sucked. Lo and behold, I found it.

This wasn’t the lowest point. That comes in the next article when I quit Jiu Jitsu.


If you ever want me to visit yours and write about what it’s like to learn from you, feel free to reach out at [email protected]. You can also follow me @DustMop_JiuJitsu If you want to read my articles as soon as they’re published be sure to subscribe on my blog site!

BJJ Kills the Ego” and Other Lies We Tell

Dust Mop Jiu Jitsu: The Combat Base: Part Two

Limitless BJJ- Cincinnati Ohio


-On taking breaks, coming back fresh and the myth of ego death in jiu jitsu

This is the Tenth article about my journey in Jiu Jitsu. If you want to know more about what this project is, you can read more about it in the first article here.

It’s also the second of 7 articles about my time as a member of Combat Fitness MMA. While I was there, I would learn to push myself beyond harder than I ever had. 

In a previous article, I talked about going to Ohio for a grad school residency. The closest academy at that time was Fairborn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but, due to the academy circle or life, they had merged with another academy all the way in Dayton. With no car, there was no way I was going that week. 

Going back to Yellowprings felt incredibly different from the time before. In December, I had been traveling for three months prior and was not doing anything in particular. By May of 2019, it had been quite the opposite. I had several part time jobs which were making me crazy.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I was a full time French teacher. 

How did I get that job? Funny story:
Substitute teaching is honestly a pretty great way to learn about a new area. All you do is get registered and then, based on your location, you see what schools need a person. You can work five days a week or none, it’s all up to you.

One Middle School was looking for a gym teacher for a day. Those classes are huge so they honestly don’t even need a sub since one of the two normal gym teachers was still there. He was so burnt out that he didn’t introduce me to the kids or himself. I had fifty middle schoolers trying to figure out who I was. 

It was also crazy loud. Gyms echo, and middle schoolers like to shout. OSHA apparently has noise limits for its employees that should apply to gym teachers. That poor gym teacher was basically deaf after 20 years of enduring that kind of ear beating. 

After two of those classes, I wandered around the hallways just to get the layout of the school. I ran into a friendly woman in the hallway and we had a little chat.

Her: Hi, you look new

Me: I’m just subbing for the day

Her: Oh cool! I’m the in-building sub. They put me where they need me each day.

Me: Nice, I have gym. It’s kind of brutal.

Her: I love gym! I would so trade with you. You don’t speak any French do you?

Me: …I mean, a little, yeah.

So I ended up with the French class…For the rest of the school year.

I wasn’t lying. I do speak some French. I was in a relationship with someone from France for a few years and I got a bit carried away with the language. For the record, I never claimed to be fluent and still don’t. I’ll tell you exactly what I told the kids: “I know exactly what it’s like to go from knowing zero French to knowing some French. And that’s where you’re at.”

Thursdays I taught Hebrew at a synagogue in South Burlington. Everyday I had graduate work to do for my degree in mental health counseling including a class on group therapy culminating in a residency in Yellow Springs Ohio. 

In between, I had been finally convinced to start weight lifting, an endeavor that I seriously resisted in my attempts to hold on for dear life that size and strength didn’t matter in Jiu Jitsu. By the second week of January I had already become a member of Combat Fitness MMA. Under the tutelage of my good friend and coach, Aaron, I finally got to try a competition. It was super local, the kind of competition where everyone watches every single match because there’s only space for two grapplers. 

I remember going and feeling that adrenaline dump for the very first time. It felt like I couldn’t even move let alone defend myself. I was almost relieved to find myself in a triangle choke after 30 seconds. The second guy got me in an armbar and I still felt like I couldn’t breathe or do anything. That day, the myth of strengh-less jiu jitsu died. I knew I had to do something to improve my strength and my cardio if I was going to achieve a different result.

I didn’t know it then, but that would be the first of three competitions in a row where I didn’t win a single match. But since it was my first competition, I didn’t allow myself to get depressed. I still felt like there was something to do about it. 

Luckily I had someone at Combat who could help me in that department. Anthony Bambara is a boxing coach who is without a doubt one of the biggest draws to the gym. Whereas the BJJ class usually had up to 12 people on a good day, the Boxing classes filled the cavernous warehouse and were absolutely packed. It’s easy to see why, he’s just so freaking enthusiastic when you talk to him about martial arts and fitness. So much so that it feels like he’s almost shouting with excitement. 

Since I never took the boxing classes, I rarely interacted with him but always knew that he was a good strength and conditioning coach. I always saw him working with people of all shapes and sizes to get more fit. Yet there’s something funny that can prevent you from admitting that you want to be and feel stronger. Almost like wanting to be taller except you can actually do something about this. But those losses at the tournament got me past that timidness. Once I got back to the gym, I approached him right away and he made an appointment. 

From there I had a two day a week lifting regimen. I had done some weights in the past but never thought I would start squatting, deadlifting and swinging kettlebells. I did, and I still do. It revolutionized my game but it was still just another thing to squeeze into my busy week of work, grad school and jiu jitsu. 

So as I got back to Yellowsprings for the residency, aside from lifting, I did nothing but focus on my grad school week. I went to the classes, performed group therapy and participated in it as well. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in group therapy but it’s exhausting. Our University had a strict no role-playing rule when it came to practicing counseling. People who are told, “act depressed and see where it goes’ ‘ don’t know when to start cooperating with the therapist. Instead, we just talk about lives but try to discuss things we’ve already processed in the past. It keeps things from getting too intense but almost everyone breaks that rule by the end of the week.  

Facilitating group counseling is even more tiring. The skill is in learning to allow the group to naturally go in one direction but to use the members of the group to deliver therapy to the others instead of everything having to come from you. My professor said she always packs the extra strength deodorant for group sessions. So imagine doing that for eight hours every day. Nobody wanted to hang out at night, they all wanted to sleep or process their life. 

That was fine with me, I had a new season of Cobra Kai and I couldn’t believe how good it felt to have nothing to do in the evening. Oh and that schedule that I referenced before, it’s a pattern that I frequently get myself in. I do too much. In undergrad I had two majors and two minors. Even as I write this, I’m on my lunch break in between the morning Jiu Jitsu class, the kids class later tonight and an insight meditation group I attend on wednesday nights.

The first time I was in Yellowsprings, I couldn’t stand the fact that I wasn’t training Jiu Jitsu. This time, I was so relieved to have permission to do nothing. 

By the end of the week, however, I knew it was time to go back. Of course, I could have waited to get back to Combat Fitness, but my rested self was antsy to explore. I had one night in Cincinnati before going back to Vermont and my host would be a fantastic friend of mine from a camp I had worked at years before. Alicia was studying to be a Rabbi and was excited to host me, but she had some classes until the early evening. She asked if I would be okay waiting somewhere. So my classmate from the residency drove me straight to Limitless BJJ.

Limitless is in, what looks like, a hollowed out factory floor. The raw bricks combined with the shiny modern mats almost made it feel like a hip coworking space. A real rust belt chic vibe. I got the attention of a coach who was already in the middle of teaching the fundamentals class. He assured me that I could pay a drop-in fee later, borrow a gi and hop in right in the middle. 

A word about drop-in fees. As a member of BJJ globetrotters, I wholeheartedly subscribe to the idea of letting travelers drop-in free of charge. But I’m never offended by a gym that asks to pay a reasonable fee. I never know what a gym’s finances are but I’m sure a great deal of them struggle to keep the lights on. In writing this blog, I’ve learned that some of the gyms I’ve been to have permanently closed. According to a sociologist friend of mine, in bad economies gym memberships are often the first thing people get rid of. I’m fine paying 20 bucks so someone can keep their lights on. 

I was still reeling from my two major losses at that local tournament. Competition isn’t everything but it does give you a barometer of where you are in your Jiu Jitsu. So I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder during that class. I wanted to see where my skill was at compared to the folks I would be training with. 

We did a bunch of rounds of positional sparring from the guard. These guys looked at me in my oversized smelly borrowed gi and figured it was my first day. When I threw their legs up in the air and landed in side-control, I felt pretty good about myself. After a week being away, I had really missed it. It felt good to be going in fresh. 

At the end of the class, the coach said he owed me a roll since I was visiting. I had never heard anybody say that before. What an interesting idea to roll with the newest person as a thank you for showing up. I had never been so honored to get submitted four times in a row. 

After that class I went upstairs to the office and met the head coach and owner Robby Malof. I saw he had a Jewish bumper sticker somewhere in his office and asked him about it. Turns out he’s competed in Israel, teaches Jiu Jitsu to a local Rabbi’s kids and his instagram name is the @HebrewHearthrob. That was kind of cool to see, I’ve met other Jews who do Jiu Jitsu but not a whole lot of them. Not everyone makes it as public as he does.

Peter Tanksley - Limitless BJJ Head Black Belt Instructor & Gym Founder

The fundamental class was over but he invited me to stay for the Intermediate No-Gi class that he was about to teach. I changed out of the rental as some of the fundamentals guys were putting on their civilian clothes.

“So, were you a wrestler or something?” I turned around and realized one of the guys was talking to me. I explained that I train in Vermont but am just in town for the night. But again, I was at a point where I was looking for something to feed my ego.

Jiu Jitsu guys will ask questions like this all the time. It’s not to gauge where you’re coming from, it’s for them to see where they’re at. Some other varieties of the same question are:
-How long have you been doing this?

-Is this your first class?

-You play any other sports before this one?

Sometimes it’s not even a question. I remember submitting a new guy at Combat Fitness one time and he did exactly what I did when I was new. He sat on the side to watch me get my ass kicked to see just how low he was in the pecking order. 

But there it was, my ego boost. It was the first time I had ever visited a gym and had people comment that I seemed like I had learned Jiu Jitsu before and wasn’t a complete beginner. 

The Intermediate class was a different story. Robby had all sorts of drills that I had never really seen before. I had never done shadow grappling and it was interesting to try and get into a flow. Then we did some two-man drills where we took turns carrying each other across the room and climbing around each other. 

I can’t honestly remember what ] technique Robby taught. But I remember the rolls being intense. Again, people didn’t know who I was or what I was going to do. Every gym has it’s own way of thinking about setups to submissions. In that way it becomes like their own dialect. Somebody new will either subject them to what they’re used to or vice versa. It’s always interesting to see. 

At the time I was working on what we at Combat Fitness called Amber’s throw. Named after our coach Amber Farr who liked teaching it to small people so they can use it on unsuspecting giants. I actually learned from her husband Rob.

Rob is a jiu jitsu coach with no interest in pure grappling. He only wanted to train it insofar as it would make him a better martial artist. If he can’t hold you in side-control without being able to hold a rubber knife at the same time, that technique does nothing for him. He wasn’t mean, but he wanted to be skilled in violence. Nothing fancy but everything painful. He was my first instructor to encourage me to force my elbows into peoples faces.  

Initially, I never saw him roll with anyone. He could usually be seen throwing elbows on the heavy bag or practicing wind sprints with a spear or another thai weapon. Aside from Muay Thai, his main passion in life was fighting with the dog brothers. If you don’t know what that is, enjoy your newest rabbit hole.

 Still, it’s Amber’s throw. You put your arm around a person’s head and step though so that you land in Gesa Ketame. From there, you put your leg over their forearm and, voila, instant armbar. 

I feel like I should pause for a second and reflect on the fact that I was being a little bit aggressive when I visited Limitless. I felt like I was going through a period where I maybe felt like I needed to improve myself and work toward a new self concept. On the one hand, I struggled with being non-competitive. But I was trying to think of myself as someone who could and deserved to win. 

I rolled with a guy that was much bigger and much stronger than I was. At that point, my proud moments came from making that person more out of breath than I was. A smaller dude who was my around the world partner was very wiry and very dynamic but I was working on my pressure. It ended up being a great match.

Robby offered me the same sign of respect as the previous instructor. I remember there was rap music playing in the background and he was almost dancing to it while advancing toward me at the same time. Eyes on me, focused for sure, but also loose and relaxed. I remember trying Ambers throw but eventually my back got slowly taken and the life squeezed out of me for the tap. I asked for anything he noticed about my rolling. It’s something I always ask higher belts for. 

He let me know that I turn my back a lot when I roll. That throw that Amber taught me, was effective. But the Gesa Ketame position had a downside, it put my back toward the other person. If they got their elbow out or if I stuck my head up too high, it was just asking for my back to be taken. His observation is exactly what I was looking for, direct feedback about something that I could be doing a lot better. 

My training partner for the day offered me a ride into downtown Cincinnati to my friends house. I love that I got to catch a favor from someone in the gym. BJJ guys can be crazy accommodating to outsiders.

I still see things that are going down at Limitless on instagram. The mats look as shiny as ever and Robby is still pushing himself to compete at really high levels. If you’re reading, thanks for the rolls and hope  to see you all on the mats again sometime.

Looking back, I thought the big myth that shattered for me during this time was that size and strength didn’t matter in BJJ. But I think another myth was beginning to disintegrate as well. BJJ, in no way gets rid of your ego. It can actually ramp it up.

Going to tournaments is what focuses a lot of people in BJJ. They also think of them as a barometer of their skill level and their academy. For me, visiting academies does the same thing. I get to see the holes in  my game and actually learn some alternatives to my flow. People are always welcoming but there’s still an idea that this visiting person is a chance to show off to their coach. It’s like a better tournament because there’s no adrenaline dumping and people actually try and use their skill instead of just muscling through.

Going to tournaments, you do see some beautiful technique. But there are times where you feel like none of it matters if the other person is bigger and stronger than you. It’s like the scene in the second book of Harry Potter where they’re learning how to duel. These cerebral spells that help them channel magic against each other go completely out the window and they just end up punching and headlocking each other. 

People in BJJ love to get super competitive, train for hours, do their best to strangle someone or destroy one of their joints and then say, “don’t compare yourself to other people.” I feel like that’s what happens in the cartoons and someone says “whatever you do, just don’t push the big red button.” We all know how that episode ends. 

Comparison to others is just a thing you have to learn how to live with. At that tournament, I was out of breath, gassed out and oddly euphoric afterwards. Aaron, a purple belt at the time, moved slowly and deliberately. While his opponents struggled to sweep him, his legs wouldn’t budge. There was one point where he gripped up with a guy, forced him to move to the center of the mat and then rolled into a picture perfect sacrifice throw landing in a soul crushing knee on belly. At that moment, the whole room actually clapped. 

I’m not advocating for constantly comparing yourself to others. That’s just a recipe for disaster. On the one hand, you can convince yourself that another person’s size, strength and experience doesn’t matter in a sport where your bracket is determined by all three of those things. The flipside is living a life filled with fear and creeping insecurity. Ignoring that mental tightrope is almost like refusing to learn the guard. 

After the tournament, I was down. The comparison game sent me on a wave that crested over at Limitless where I was telling myself I was awesome for passing a bunch of new white belts guards. Soon it was going to crash hard. But that’s for my next article. 

It would eventually be up to Aaron to help set me straight. After he had done a high level competition he said it was always important to take comparisons but really of yourself. “You today could beat the crap out of the person who first walked into Combat Fitness MMA a year ago. And it wouldn’t be a pretty fight either. That person would be begging for mercy by the end of it.” For Aaron, telling someone that you could inflict violence is always a compliment for Aaron. 

If you ever want me to visit yours and write about what it’s like to learn from you, feel free to reach out at [email protected]. You can also follow me @DustMop_JiuJitsu If you want to read my articles as soon as they’re published be sure to subscribe on my blog site!

“Do Less!”

Dust Mop Jiu Jitsu: The Combat Base: Part One

Combat Fitness MMA-Winooski, Vermont


-On beginning competition, finding a coach and finally establishing myself at one gym for a year and a half.

This is the Ninth article about my journey in Jiu Jitsu. If you want to know more about what this project is, you can read more about it in the first article here.

It’s also the first of 7 articles about my time as a member of Combat Fitness MMA. While I was there, I would learn to push myself beyond harder than I ever had. 


Put yourself in my shoes. I spent all day in Tyngsboro, MA at a tournament. It’s the fourth tournament I’ve been to and it’s not going well. I had a long slog of a gi bracket earlier that day that left me ragged and medal-less. I’ve got one more no-gi bracket that will be best 2 out of three with another grappler There’s just two of us, and I have a feeling it’s not gonna be me. We already did the first round and he beat me with an arm bar where I definitely tapped too late. My coach, Amber Farr smirks as I ice my elbow. She knows I’m not sure if I should continue.  “…I mean, it’s gonna hurt tomorrow either way.” 

I drag myself back to the mat and slap hands. 

How did I get here?

The first time I went to Combat Fitness MMA, was in January of 2019. I had just moved to Burlington, Vermont after more than a year being out of the country. It hadn’t even been two weeks and I had already tried two other gyms in the area. I was dedicated to getting into a BJJ rhythm.

With two instruction areas, a boxing ring and a weight lifting spot, the warehouse feel of Combat is impressive. After registering at the front, I made my way through the weight lifting area to the open air changing room where people coming from work unbutton their shirts to reveal rashguards like superman reveals his red S. 

 The first lesson was taught by  a long haired purple belt named Aaron. he was apparently covering for the normal Monday night instructor. I remember coming home from that practice and Rachel asking me how it went. “It was fine, the instructor was good but goofy as hell.” Overtime, I would learn that those adjectives were an understatement. Little did I know that he would end up being a great coach and an even better friend. 

Within the first few weeks of me being there, Aaron and I became really good friends. Rachel and I didn’t know that many people in the area and it was in the dead of winter when most people weren’t making new acquaintances. He invited me and Rachel over for dinner. A wicked cook and a solid cocktail maker as well. Rachel still loves going over there whenever we visit Burlington. Our favorite game is to see where he’s got the knives hidden. I won’t tell you where they are, but I will say that if  you’re planning a home invasion…good luck.

He made the announcement that he would be hosting extra practices for people interested in competition. I was still debating it in my head. Competition is and was something I have a rocky relationship with. I don’t really think of myself as a competitive person. I remember that I was supposed to compete in Korea but had to pull out because of an injury. I knew it was something nagging at the back of my mind and I had to try it eventually. 

The normal Jiu Jitsu schedule was Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at combat but Aaron and I carved out our own time to prepare for an upcoming tournament in March. It was just us and it was so clear that I needed some individual attention to clear up some bad habits I had developed in Korea. Back then I couldn’t understand the instructions. It was clear I missed a lot of fine details. 

Our first roll, he just wanted to see what I would do. So I pulled guard. On a person who was 205 lbs to my 150. I don’t remember being submitted yet tapping just to the sheer pressure. Aaron’s the kind of guy that can kick your ass while leaving you wondering if he has a pulse. That’s how our first few one-on-ones went. Eventually I learned to stop pulling guard on folks that are bigger and stronger than me. 

Eventually we got to a major one of my core issues. I was doing too much. Just like the guys at Grind had pointed out, I was rolling harder than I needed to, which was gassing me out and signaling to my opponents that I had lost my will to live.

There was one time where he made it abundantly clear after I had somersaulted all around trying to impose at least some of my will on him. The best description would be how Nali, my childhood dog, dealt with puppies. The scamps would growl, roll around, jump up and circle around her. Nali would simply pin them with one paw without making a sound. “Was all that worth it?” he said, “all that moving around, was it worth it? Do less!”

It’s been almost five years since he said that and I still hear that sentence in my head. “Do less.” It didn’t sink in right away. I would hear him shout it at me from my corner in a few different tournaments. It took a while for me to get it. 


The Dust Mop Takeaway:

Thus far, this project has been dedicated to a challenge. I want to remember at least one thing from all the gyms where I’ve been to at least one lesson. But Combat Fitness MMA was the gym that I trained at the longest. If not for the pandemic and my wife getting her doctorate, it’s possible I would still be there. In fact, while I was at combat, I visited six gyms. Finding one takeaway to sum up a year and a half of training is a tall order. 

Instead, I want to take the next few six articles to explore how Combat influenced me as a grappler and a person. Each gym I visited at that time, helped me accomplish my goals of becoming a better martial artist. Although I was still a globetrotter, Combat was my solid base. Thus the name of this section of my journey.

Aaron was always telling me to do less and take my time. Amber helped me see patterns and become more efficient in competition. I received advice from coach Rob Farr with his no-bullshit Jiu Jitsu. Anthony Bambara, although not a BJJ coach, started me on a journey where I finally started lifting. Vincent Guy, our black belt, openness to me learning from everyone. Maybe it’s the joys of having teammates like Kyra, Christian and Mary and Miriam who made me feel like I was a part of a community. All of this made me better and I can’t distill it into one article. 

I began this article talking about my last competition with Combat Fitness. Before I can tell you how that story ended, I have to tell you about how close I came to quitting jiu jitsu for good. But that’s in the next chapters. 

If you ever want me to visit yours and write about what it’s like to learn from you, feel free to reach out at [email protected]. You can also follow me @DustMop_JiuJitsu If you want to read my articles as soon as they’re published be sure to subscribe on my blog site!

Featured affiliated academy: Dahlonega BJJ, USA

Dahlonega BJJ, USA

Where is the gym located?
The gym is located in Dahlonega, GA (USA), a small town in the north Georgia mountains.

How many people train there?
We have about 25 students currently. We just opened two months ago.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
It is definitely growing. We are adding about 10-15 members a month.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
We have white belts through brown belts.

When did Dahlonega BJJ, USA open?
March 6, 2023

Some facts about you:

Name: David Curtis
Age: 37
Belt: Brown
Profession: Jiu Jitsu Instructor/Gym Owner
Years in BJJ: 6 years
Other martial arts: No
Currently living in: Cumming, GA
Originally from: Pennsylvania

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
After discovering my passion for Jiu Jitsu and truly falling in love with the art, it became apparent that not only did I love training Jiu Jitsu, I loved teaching and coaching Jiu Jitsu even more. I wanted to dedicate my life to it. After getting the opportunity to coach the no gi classes under my professor, Layton Wilcox at Canton BJJ, I felt that the next step of progression for me was to open my own gym.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
We have people from all walks of life. Dahlonega is home to one of the senior military colleges in the United States. It also houses one of the country’s Army Ranger training camps. So, we get a lot of members with a military background. We also have everyday people. Adults working your typical 9-5, moms, and other college students. Our kids program is starting to take off as well. Being a new, smaller school at the moment, we are excited with how things are progressing and the culture we are building. The gym is coming together better than I ever imagined that it would.

Why do they train in Dahlonega BJJ, USA?
The same reason that a lot of us train. They want something more in life. Something real. Many may want to feel empowered. Some come for exercise, self defence, or to sharpen their skills for their career. Ultimately, a lot of people come for that sense of camaraderie and community that comes with training at a good place.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
In general, the biggest challenge is learning the business side of running a gym. For instance, understanding marketing, advertising, and creating value for your members. Another big one seems to be just embracing the grind and responsibility. At the end of the day, the success of the gym hinges on you as an individual for a very long time and that feeling can be slightly daunting. Lastly, and maybe this is me specifically, but just trying to take care of my body while growing the gym. When there are a lot of people, you can pick and choose rounds, but when there are smaller classes you have to lead. You have to take the beating day in and day out.

The biggest challenge specific to our area is the rotating membership due to the college and military schedules.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
Honestly, I see it growing quite a bit. We have seen a real desire for high level grappling in the north Georgia area. There are actually quite a few high level people who want to learn it not just for sport purposes, but for practical purposes as well. Be it for occupations and careers specific to this area, or to learn some self defence, or maybe just to get the kids off screens for a bit, it seems like north Georgia wants Jiu Jitsu in their lives.

What’s the best thing about Dahlonega BJJ, USA?
The people. Watching everybody go from strangers to each other to seeing them form friendships and bonds with one another. Watching them achieve their goals, not just with Jiu Jitsu, but with life. Seeing their confidence grow in different situations. Watching the growth of each individual. Those are the greatest moments.

If I had to pick just one though, it’s doing this with my wife and kids. One thing that hasn’t been discussed yet, is how much help you need along the way. If it weren’t for some very good friends, an incredible coach, a supportive family and an even more amazing life partner, I truly would not be given this opportunity. It is to them that this gym is, in many ways, dedicated to. We would be nothing without the help and support of those in our lives.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
The list could go on forever, really. From amazing local food to large community driven festivals, Dahlonega stands alone in its people and its beauty. You could get lost in the scenery forever. We did. That’s why Dahlonega BJJ exists and we truly hope to see you all on the mats.

To be more specific, you should definitely check out:

Gold rush (festival once a year)
Bear on the Square (festival once a year)
Amicalola Falls (state park)
Historic downtown
Golf Course
River Rafting
This truly could go on forever…


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

Featured Travellers: TJ Jankowski & Beatriz Amaral – BJJ Globetrotters

TJ Jankowski & Beatriz Amaral - BJJ Globetrotters

TJ Jankowski & Beatriz Amaral – BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 34 & 25

Belt: Purple & blue

Profession: Online Strength and Fitness Consultant, Admin Assistant.

How many years in BJJ: About 4 years (TJ) and 2 years (Beatriz)

Other martial arts: No martial arts as such, but we both played rugby to a decent level.

Where do you live: Kinda anywhere we want.

Where are you from: St Albans, UK (TJ) and Curitiba, Brazil (Beatriz)

Other fun or curious information you would like to share:
I always enjoy the fact that B got her blue belt before ever training in Brazil.

We also have a contractual obligation to state that we are vegan (which surprises most people we tell).

TJ Jankowski & Beatriz Amaral – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
In our hearts we’ve always been explorers, having both lived overseas to play rugby. We actually met when B was in Colorado to play for a season.

The tipping point for the life we live now was the you-know-what in 2020. B had to give up rugby and TJ went fully online with work. There were now no restrictions keeping us in any fixed location, so we sold most of out stuff that didnt fit into 2 suitcases + 2 carry-ons and booked a couple months in the remote beach town of Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic and from there haven’t really looked back.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
In the past year we’ve been to Bangkok, Phuket, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Italy, Colorado, St Albans, London, Leeds, Oslo, Curitiba, and Florianopolis. Typing it out seems like quite a lot but we usually keep a hub and develop a routine over a few months.
We’ve just sorted plans to head to Albania for the summer (maybe visiting a bit more of Europe, whilst we’re there) and then make our way to Australia via Bali at the end of 2023.

TJ Jankowski & Beatriz Amaral – BJJ Globetrotters


What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
Ready for a cliché? Seeing the world and experiencing completely different cultures is what makes life worth living. In a way, it slows the passage of time because we get to have so many unique experiences in all of these new places.
Day-to-day we are actually ridiculously routined, but we get to spend our “off” time creating more memories in different places.

Add in BJJ training to the mix and wherever we go, we get to make friends for life… there’s something about the mindset and vulnerability of grappling that makes connections much easier and faster. These friends will also generously help us make each place feel like much more of a “home” than a tourist attraction to look at. The different ways people all go about life is fascinating.

There’s also an amazing sense of gratitude and appreciation for life, especially when seeing first-hand how the vast majority of the world are just really good people.

Oh, and actually the biggest thing is that we can basically avoid winter 😉

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
Our first experience of travelling and training came about solely because of the help of the BJJ Globetrotters group. We had never heard of Las Terrenas, and would never have found it if it wasn’t for the recommendation. It was PARADISE.

Another cool experience was when we met Vara (#askvara) in Phuket, she gave us the inside scoop on local places and invited us to join her in Bangkok. We had an awesome weekend and took part in a fundraiser open mat for a lad that had been injured in Phuket.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
Rather than say one particular thing, I think the experience as a whole has been surprising. Namely, how easy and “normal” this lifestyle feels to us

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
We are absolutely “budget” travellers, in the literal sense that B keeps a running budget month-to-month. This means we can intentionally tighten up when we need to so that we can splurge on short-term trips and experiences that are really worth it (like Globetrotter camps!).

Living in places where our money goes much further is probably the most obvious money-save, but also, like, actually “living” in places helps too! Some AirBnB’s drop their prices over 50% for a monthly rental. We also rarely eat out more than, say, twice a week, but we can still experience local food in supermarkets!

Figuring out frequent flyer miles and points etc is a huge saver (if only we’d learned this earlier) and packing our gis in our hand-luggage always helps us to avoid paying overweight fees for our checked luggage. Actually, being restricted to two suitcases and two carry-on bags also forces you to restrict the “stuff” that you can buy and own (which is in reality very liberating), especially when a good chunk of which is training gear. We should also thank our sponsors @soultakerfightwear who support us with all the training gear we could possibly need.

A couple more practical tips – having a Wise or Schwab account also means you can deal in the local currency without paying fees and using the Airalo app to download eSim cards can give you data cheaply and conveniently wherever you are.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
I feel kinda preachy saying this but, because this goes out to the Globetrotters newsletter it should strike a chord with some of you. At the time of writing time travel doesn’t exist, that means every moment that passes is gone forever. There are always going to be reasons that “could” stop you from travelling, but they don’t necessarily need to.

One of the first things Christian ever said to me way that “it’s only scary until you get out the door, then it all becomes natural.” This is so true.

We often get comments from people saying they admire or envy our life, but to us it feels completely normal. I’d genuinely encourage everyone to travel as much as feasibly possible. How feasible that is will depend upon you, but it will be more than you think and probably more than you’re comfortable with…. It’s definitely worth it.


Thank you to TJ Jankowski & Beatriz Amaral – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured Camp Instructor: Priit Mihkelson – BJJ Globetrotters

Priit Mihkelson BJj


Priit Mihkelson  – BJJ Globetrotters

Belt: Belt black belt 3rd degree
Age: 45

Profession: 1/2 Gym owner, 1/2 Defensive BJJ owner, full time Globetrotter
Started training (year): ~2000ish
City/country: Tallinn / Estonia


Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

Competition wise I think 2008 Scandinavian Open Gold -88,3kg purple belts. But overall I think it would be the fact that I am able to travel the world doing BJJ and I found a niche in the system that I can help to improve.



Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

So far I have done 39 of them and the first one was 2017 Copenhagen.


Which camp has been your favorite so far?

Because my location where I live I would have to say St-Barts but actually I think it is the Winter Camp in Wagrain because that camp combines two of my favorites things – BJJ and snowboarding.


Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

Somebody actually came and talked to me :)


Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp?

I think one of my best classes was teaching layered twister defence in 1h and I think I pulled it off during one of the Spring Camps in Tallinn. Also I think my Zen Camp Anaconda defense class was the one that I am actually happy with.


Anything else you want to add to your profile: No! (it was a joke …a good one I might add)



Priit Mihkelson – BJJ Globetrotters instructor




Affiliated academy: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Sri Lanka

BJJ Sri Lanka

Where is the gym located?
Colombo, Sri Lanka.

How many people train there?
Around 40 students.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
Yes, 2-5 new students monthly.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
Purple belts are the highest and white belts are the lowest.

When did the gym open?
We started in November 2016.

Some facts about you:

Name: Tithira Hiranjith Perera
Age: 38
Belt: Blue
Profession: Martial arts instructor
Years in BJJ: 7 years
Other martial arts: Jeet Kune Do, Wushu, Wing Chun
Currently living in: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Originally from: Colombo

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
I and my business partner, Prageeth were both software engineers by profession. We were martial arts enthusiasts since we were kids. Prageeth was practicing MMA and I was doing JKD. When we invited one of our instructors, Kirk Weicht of the Jeet Kune Do Athletic Association from the USA, for JKD training, we ended up doing seminars for the general public and the military. So we decided to continue the effort of spreading the knowledge, and started to build the gym from scratch.

While we were building the gym I got the opportunity to fly to Singapore to train with Rodrigo Teixeira, a 3rd-degree black belt . I was introduced to Rodrigo by Arun Sharma, now the first Indian-bred black belt, who was also a fellow JKD instructor. After I returned from Singapore, we started our BJJ program for gi and no-gi. That marked our gym as the first gym that had dedicated BJJ programs in Sri Lanka.

Alongside the gym, we are running an active small-scale BJJ competition called “Invictus”.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym– who are they?
Most of our members are from all walks of life. Ranging from the oldest student of 72 years old to the youngest of 4 years old.

Why do they train?
Most of them train for recreational purposes. Some of them for health benefits, such as reducing obesity and improving cardio etc. There are a few who train for competitions in both MMA and BJJ.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
In Sri Lanka, BJJ is a very new sport. Competitions like UFC or One FC make BJJ popular among Sri Lankan fans. There are many members who cross-train with other martial arts like MMA and Muay Thai etc.

Getting new members is hectic work. We have to be very active in social media and have a referral scheme. Due to cultural barriers it is very hard to get female members to train too.

Due to the political and economic crisis at the moment, in general all gyms are suffering with low clientele.

Also, being on an island, it is very hard to bring down knowledge. There are three possible ways. Bring down a black belt and do some camps, fly out and get training, or online instructionals. Occasionally we get visited by BJJ practitioners who visit Sri Lanka for holidays.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
Due to all the hard work of gyms that are related to BJJ, word is spreading faster about the sport. Generally the future is looking good!

What’s the best thing about your gym?
The culture! We are like family. Anyone who has a like-minded clique together. We as the gym hangout once every three months or so, or in annual outbound training, paintball comps or kartracing challenges etc. So people bond together easily.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
Sri Lanka is a beautiful island. We have surfing points in Weligama (2 hours from Colombo) or Arugam Bay (8 hours from Colombo). And World Heritage sites like Lion Rock and the Sinharaja rain forest (the most bio diverse forest in southeast Asia). Also misty mountains and tea plantations (4 hours from Colombo).

There are lots of things to see and discover on this island. Visit and see for yourself.

Warning*** if you’re a spicy food lover you will never leave Sri Lanka!


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

Featured Traveller: William Dorman – BJJ Globetrotters

William Dorman BJJ

William Dorman – BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 43

Belt: Black belt 3rd degree

Profession: Retired piano player in a brothel

How many years in BJJ: 16 years and 6 months

Other martial arts: Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling, MMA, Judo, all types of fighting, I guess. Train everything with everyone, there is no one art that is better than the other (I prefer BJJ though, it is the very best). Fighting is fighting and if we want to understand all areas of combat, we should dabble in all of it.

Where do you live: Sarasota, Florida, USA, but I travel half of the year.

Where are you from: Frankfort, Michigan

Other fun or curious information you would like to share:

  • I am sailing across the Atlantic Ocean as soon as the Maine Camp is done.
  • I used to be a beekeeper.
  • Traveled to more than 40 countries so far.
  • Teaching Jiu Jitsu seminars along the east coast on the way to Maine, and I am willing to travel anywhere on the planet to teach at any academy regardless of affiliation.
  • I sometimes throw people out of airplanes for money (they are attached to me).
  • I do odd jobs when I want now that I am retired. Teach Jiu Jitsu, SCUBA Diving, Tandem Skydiving, Handyman, Landlord, Expert Witness, Consulting, Chef etc.
  • I climbed the highest mountain in the Americas (Aconcagua).
  • Golden Croissant Surf Champ at St. Barts.
  • Pretty good at drinking beer and I will still hit every class I can get to.
  • Don’t be mad at me when I forget things. My brain is a bit broken. It is nothing personal.

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?

William Dorman – BJJ Globetrotters


   “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!'”

Life is good! This pretty much sums me up..

I grew up in a small town in northern Michigan where it is easy to never leave. People get stuck easily if you let it happen. I had multiple friends with kids prior to graduating from High School, and I decided that life was not for me. I took the more difficult path and joined the Navy. I have always been drawn to excitement and adventure. While on active duty with the military, we traveled all over the world, and I was able to train everywhere we went. For my last 14 years in Special Operations, we brought a whole fight gym set up with us no matter where we went. I was gone roughly 300 days per year, and I was rarely in the same place for more than 3 weeks at a time other than 4 month deployments. I guess that kind of ruined me and now all I want to do is travel full time. I am now free to travel on my own with no time limit or restriction, so I am fully embracing this. A good friend of mine, Soonja Tyrrell, told me about BJJ Globetrotters many years ago, but I was never able to make it to a camp due to my unknown schedule. After I retired in July of 2022, I made it a priority on my list of things to do. St. Barts was my first camp and I fell in love with every aspect that the BJJ Globetrotters embrace.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
The last couple of months have been full of adventure for me. In January I helped sail a boat from Sarasota to Key West and had some fun weather along the way. The boat was about 50 years old and it had no autopilot – or motor for that matter. The last day we had 30 kt winds and 10’ seas, so that’s what I mean by fun weather haha. I had a great time.

Once I arrived in Key West, I rented a car and drove back to Sarasota to catch a flight to Puerto Rico to visit some friends who live there. I met a couple in the Azores last year and we were able to reconnect on a hike to a waterfall as well. During my visit, we were able to get some really good training at several academies and also spent some time exploring the island and snorkelling.

After I left Puerto Rico, I flew to St. Barthelemy and attended the Globetrotters Camp. I was very impressed with every aspect of the camp and am now hooked. The instructors were all amazing and I took something away from each class that I attended (I attended them all). People think that being a black belt means that you know everything, but I promise you we do not. I like to enjoy life off the mat as well, and the social activities and aspects of these camps are something that I think is even more important than the amazing Jiu Jitsu. Everyone is welcoming and helpful and tries to include you in everything. Of course there will be small groups that form naturally with the party people or the introverted people, but everyone gets along so well. The logistics of the camp was also amazing as well. I am pretty picky on everything and the only thing that I could suggest is to have a blanket for the camp and some really good ear plugs for the noisy frogs and snoring people. I met so many great people during the camp and will have lifelong friends from it.

After the camp, I flew back to Puerto Rico for a few days and I was supposed to get on a boat to sail around South America through Magellan’s Passage and Patagonia up to Chile. The boat got caught in a big storm is is now broken in Argentina. With my sailing trip cancelled for now, I headed back to Sarasota for a few days to get rid of boating gear and decided to visit some friends in Germany.

After some great training and sight seeing in Germany, I flew back to Miami for a Roger Gracie Seminar and prepared for the PAN. I will likely be in Florida until May 6th (Mike Love Concert in St. Petersburg on May 5th) and then I will start my journey to Maine, teaching a few seminars along the way. I’m going early to prepare the sailboat that we’re sailing across the Atlantic after the camp. I will spend some time in the Azores and then I will start to hit all of the camps starting with Pärnu.


William Dorman – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
There are so many to list. I enjoy meeting new people from different cultures and learning about their lives. It seems that you learn quite a bit about yourself when you start to see things from a different perspective. I normally travel for specific things such as mountain climbing, Jiu Jitsu, sunshine, ice fishing, parties, or concerts, and I normally chase the nice weather. I also enjoy the challenge of travelling to and from a remote location and figuring out how to do everything. I am not going to lie, I normally use UBER in most of the places that I have travelled to, but figuring out connecting flights, boat schedules, and train schedules is challenging and fun sometimes. It can also be quite frustrating, causing me to exercise patience – which I am often lacking.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
Even before I became involved with the BJJ Globetrotters, I was traveling solo and training all over the world on my own. I have visited more than 100 gyms all over the world, and have instant friends who are just like me anywhere I go. It is amazing to see how many people welcome you with open arms at their gym or into their homes. It seems most people in Jiu Jitsu enjoy life, are accepting of your views, and are always up for a challenge or an adventure.

I have been able to train and teach Jiu Jitsu seminars in some amazing places so far. A couple of the notable ones were at Bunker Cusco Training Center in Cusco Peru at nearly 10,000 ft while preparing to hike the Inca trail, and another at Jiu Jitsu Roots Villa Mercedes Filial Cicero Costha in Argentina after summiting Aconcagua. After the Argentina Seminar, they hosted a barbeque that would make a medieval feast look like a snack! It was amazing! #MacKsandHerSnacKs would have loved it!

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
This is a hard question to answer because nothing really surprises me anymore. I guess it surprises me to see how many people are stuck doing something that they do not enjoy and are not actively trying to change. Jiu Jitsu seems to be a unique outlet for some of these people, but most will just continue to dislike where they are and what they do until they die. Kind of a bummer, I know…

William Dorman – BJJ Globetrotters


Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
I am not a budget traveler but I do understand how to do it. I chose convenience and ease over budgeting for the most part. I live within my means, but don’t mind spending money. I have the same mentality as Mack who was featured in the last newsletter. There is always time to make more money, and our time is probably not unlimited like our cell phone plans. You probably only live once! This is a new expression that we made during St. Barts camp due to reincarnation and what not…

Spend it all, put it on a credit card, pay it back later, have fun right now, and do the things that you want to do in life because tomorrow is not guaranteed. I have lost too many friends and family over the years who were saving up money or waiting for the right time to do something. The right time is now, just do it!

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Learn from everyone and create your own style of Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu is “a personalized art form, as elegant and imaginative as Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ or as brash and unconventional as Banksy’s street art. Whichever style or combination you choose, it is your quest in a never-ending game of human chess”, so make it your own!

Break out of your shell and try to see things from a different point of view. There are many ways to do something in Jiu Jitsu and in life. Try them all and see what works for you. Make new friends with different outlooks on life and respect them for it. We don’t all have to agree to get along. Each person is unique and we can all learn and grow together. We are all connected!

As far as traveling goes, just do it as much as you can while you are able to. A little bit of research goes a long way. Ask people that have done something like you want to do in the past and learn from them.

Stop doing that job you hate, find something that you enjoy doing in life, and do that. It will be hard at first, but hey – that’s life! Life is too short to do shit you don’t like to do. Travel as often as you can and enjoy this life because you probably only live once.


Thank you to William Dorman – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured Camp Instructor: Christian Graugart – BJJ Globetrotters

Christian Graugart – BJJ Globetrotters

Belt: Black belt
Age: 40

Profession: Manager of a boutique travelling circus
Started training (year): 2000
City/country: Saint Barthélemy, French West Indies (originally from Copenhagen, Denmark)


Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

I guess I would say that BJJ Globetrotters is my biggest achievement. I have competed a bit—won some and lost some—but my focus or interest was never really Jiu Jitsu. It was always the other things that came along with it, such as making friends, seeing the world and having a good time. BJJ is a fantastic vehicle for that and BJJ Globetrotters is basically just a bunch of tools designed to make that vehicle even more efficient. In the same category, the academy I started in Copenhagen and ran for 15 years was another wonderful vehicle for making great things happen. I met so many wonderful people and made countless good memories from that place.



Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

All of them, except Maine 2016.

Which camp has been your favorite so far?

I do not have a favorite camp, I love them all. And no, you can not get me drunk enough to where I’ll admit one of them is my favorite. It’s not happening.


Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

It’s really hard to pinpoint anything. I’ve done more than 85 camps at this point and looking back at them, they all seem like one big blur. A mashup of memories, laughs, experiences, exploring, people, training and good times. I would say that my favorite story is the camps. I’ve lived a lifetime through them.

Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp?

Like most camp instructors ultimately conclude, I find that conceptual classes about fundamental mechanics are the best for camps. Often, we are teaching groups of 100-150 people at every skill level, so it’s important to do something that applies to as many people in the room as possible. I try to teach as little technique as I can and stick with principles, ideas and mechanics. Simple things that people can hopefully remember and apply, regardless of their level. I am at a point in my career where I don’t really “study” Jiu Jitsu anymore. I’ve been working to catch up with the technique “arms race” for many years in the past but at this point, I just really enjoy playing the game for fun and fitness; akin to kicking a ball around or doing a few tricks at the skatepark. While I still very much enjoy teaching and seeing the joy and value it brings—especially at the camps—I no longer feel that being an instructor is my main contribution to Jiu Jitsu. I am much more efficient in other areas and the young guns have long surpassed me in athletic and technical abilities anyway, so I’ve bowed out of the role as a coach and am leaving that to other people.


Anything else you want to add to your profile:

A big thanks to all the people who crash my holidays on a monthly basis, year-round!



Christian Graugart – BJJ Globetrotters instructor


End of an Era: Trying To Pick a Home as a Globetrotter and Failing

Dust Mop Jiu Jitsu: The Expat Files: Chapter Eight: Vermont  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu-Williston, Vermont

-On looking for a home as a globetrotter and not finding one

This is the Eighth and final chapter of what I’m calling the Expat Files. If you want to know more about what this project is, you can read more about it in the first article here.

I’m a bit of a youtube junkie. I love me a good explained video or a short doc about somebody doing something incredible with their lives. If you’re looking for a good one, there’s one called Two Years on a Bike. This Dutch guy, Martijn Doolaard, goes on an amazing bicycle journey from Alaska to Patagonia. The cinematography is amazing, the storytelling beautiful and you really feel like you are right there with him. But what struck me was the last part where he is so burned out. In North America he was so excited to meet people, go camping alone and soak up the adventure. But as soon as he finishes, he abruptly packs up his things and rushes back to the Netherlands. 

I identify with that. At the beginning of 2019, I had just arrived in Burlington, Vermont after a year and a half of being abroad. Even after arriving in the states, my wife and I were still living out of suitcases at my parents houses. The adventure was amazing spanning three continents and 7 Jiu Jitsu gyms between them. At this point I had lost my steam. I just wanted a home to live in and a place to train regularly. 

There were certain things I wanted to keep from our lifestyle in Korea. Of course BJJ was one of them. I needed to find my newest place to call home after Ulsan Fight Gym. The other major lifestyle improvement I knew I wanted to continue was riding a bike. As soon as I arrived in Ulsan, I rented one for the year and rode it almost every day. It honestly feels like the perfect way to travel. I knew I would be disappointed in myself if I went back to driving as my default.

Rachel and I could really only afford one car. Burlington was already covered in snow when we arrived on January 1, 2019. Sometimes the streets got so snowy that we had to park our car in the main garage downtown. But in Korea, I rode my bike every day to work and jiu jitsu. It added a sense of adventure to even the shortest trips. So while Rachel had the car, I got a mountain bike with metal studs for the ice.

With the car and the apartment, I needed to find my place to train. So I set my sights on Vermont BJJ. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much from the experience there except the realization that it couldn’t be the place for me. 

If you go there and you’re reading this, I hope you understand that this article isn’t here for me to needlessly pick on your gym. It’s to explain to my readers how I ruled out a gym from being the one. It’s not a lens I had to use when visiting other gyms in my travels, but I wasn’t looking for an interesting experience, I was looking for a home. 

If you haven’t seen his channel before, Icy Mike, a combat sports vlogger, once made a brilliant video about how to pick a martial art gym. He puts people into two main categories. The first are people that are there to compete at the highest level. The second is…everyone else. 

For the first folks, you find the place that competes, and wins, at the highest level. That tackles everything else. But for everyone else, there’s only three criteria.

  • It’s close to your house.

I packed my gi, and rode my heavy mountain bike to Vermont BJJ. From our place it’s about a 30 minute ride. Doing this in the snow is always tricky. The shoulders on the road get pretty narrow and drivers aren’t always the friendliest folks in the Northeast. It’s pretty easy to get overheated and dehydrated. As it turned out, the gym was closed by the time I got there so I went home. A few days later, I managed to get the car and make it back. All I could think about was how hard it would be to bike for an hour with a BJJ lesson in between. 

With the car, it only took fifteen minutes to get there. Still I knew that I wouldn’t always have access to it and needed a place closer by. 

  • You can afford it

I honestly don’t remember much about the lesson. That’s actually a good thing. I do remember thinking that it felt familiar enough for me to be interested in becoming a member. The instructor was nice, the training partners pretty chill. A lot of them reminded me of the folks at Boston BJJ. An older crowd for sure but not as rowdy as the folks at Grind, which I had tried the week before. 

At the end of the lesson, I had a good conversation with the instructor. He handed me a price sheet. It was the first time I experienced sticker shock in BJJ. 180 dollars a month would guarantee me two lessons a week. Any more and I was looking at spending 200 bucks. This place was way out of my price range.

In my article on Grind I talked about the tough rolls and how I wasn’t ready for them. I’ve spent enough time in the BJJ world to know that their tuition is not outside the norm. Outsiders tend to balk at the price, but it’s important to remember that every BJJ lesson is taught by someone who is providing a service. That’s a little different than just paying a rock climbing membership where nobody is instructing you. But again, I wasn’t in a position to pay that kind of tuition back in 2019. Nowadays, in Northampton, I pay something close to it. Physically and financially, I’m now in a different place. 

  • You like the guys there

The guys there were solid. But getting to know folks usually comes with time. I do have patience with the fact that BJJ practitioners aren’t always the most forthcoming with new people. The folks at Fairborn were uncommonly friendly but they only had a few people there. In most gyms there’s often an attitude akin to “I’ll learn your name once you stick around for more than two months.” Once you learn how much work is involved in being in this sport, you realize not everybody makes it past that point . 

1 out of 3 wasn’t enough for me to sign the contract. I left that day feeling like Martijn Doolaard almost getting to the destination. I just wanted the search to be over so I could get on with my life. 

It’s hard to predict what gyms will meet all three criteria. If you read my next article, you’ll find out. 

The Dust Mop Takeaway:


This is a strange article compared to the rest of the ones I’ve written. Again, if you are a member of Vermont BJJ, please know I’m not just trying to crap on your gym. I recommend you go to my home page to understand what this project is and why I’m doing it. 

But the main memory I have from this gym experience is how to understand when a gym is not the right fit for you. 


End of an Era:

Most globetrotters who write stories and make videos have a home gym that they leave for a period of time to go explore the world. I had the opposite experience, I spent three months traveling and training at different academies without any place to claim as mine. Towards the end, I wasn’t looking for adventure anymore. I was looking for a home.  

I didn’t stop traveling and training once I found it. But I was no longer a ronin with nobody checking on my progress. All the fun and freedom of floating around to different schools reminded me of what I lacked and needed: mentors and coaches that are invested in me. Vermont Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the last gym I visited as an expat. 

The next chapter will begin a new series about what it meant for me to approach training more seriously in a focused way. I would continue to travel to other schools. My wanderings were over, but my true journey was about to begin. 

Affiliated academy: Open Grounds Jiu-Jitsu Foundation, BJJ Philippines

BJJ Philippines


Where is the gym located?
Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines

How many people train there?

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
Yes, an average of 1 to 2 new members every month.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
White belt to purple belt.

When did the gym open?
January 2023

Some facts about you:

Name: Randy B. Gubguban
Age: 43
Belt: 4-stripe white
Profession: Sales Engineer
Years in BJJ: 3 years
Other martial arts: Filipino Martial Arts, Boxing
Currently living in: Angeles City, Philippines
Originally from: Ilagan, Isabela, Philippines

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
It’s a foundation formed with many friends in the BJJ community, having the goal of spreading and sharing the art for free. Especially for kids and women who are not financially able, but are committed and willing to learn.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
The coaches are from different teams or affiliations, so we’ve known each other for quite a long time. The students are mainly local young people.

Why do they train? 
To learn together and share the art for many.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and for BJJ Philippines specifically?
BJJ is not well known in our community – that’s why we formed the foundation to reach as many people as we can.


How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
As long as people have the opportunity to try it, BJJ will surely grow here.

What’s the best thing about your gym?
It’s free!

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
The place, the food, and the people.


Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit Open Grounds Jiu Jitsu Foundation, BJJ Philippines, you can contact them here.

Featured Traveller: MacKenzie King – BJJ Globetrotters

MacKenzie King - BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 27

Belt: Blue

Profession: It’s complicated

How many years in BJJ: 2 years

Other martial arts: Kickboxing

Where do you live: Queen Creek, Arizona, United States

Where are you from: Mesa, Arizona

Other fun or curious information you would like to share:

  • I coach the little kiddos at my gym!
  • I am starting a women’s athletic clothing line.
  • I have crowd surfed at every camp that was not in my home state (3/3) and would like to keep that streak going *cough cough.*

MacKenzie King – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
I initially did the November 2021 Arizona Camp. I loved everything about the experience. At the March 2022 Arizona Camp I met this super cool guy named TJ who pushed me to go to Heidelberg Camp (thanks, TJ). Before that, I really didn’t think it was that feasible for me to travel overseas. But I did it – and now here I am 6 camps in, ready to hit 10 by year’s end! It’s amazing to be able to get to train with so many new people that have so many unique styles.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
I just got back from the Caribbean February 2022 Camp. I can’t begin to explain how beautiful St Barths is. This camp is different from the training-packed camps I have attended. There was surfing, beach time, and a LOT of eating (okay, that last one was on me but if you follow my instagram you know I have an entire highlight reel devoted to #MacKsandHerSnacKs).

Upcoming I have Maine 2023, Beach Camp Estonia 2023, Summer Camp Heidelberg 2023, and, of course, Arizona Camp 2023. While in Europe for Estonia and Germany, I plan on staying there for 3+ weeks to attend both camps and visit people and places.

MacKenzie King – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
The people, seeing new places, and even the challenges of getting around somewhere you may not be familiar with. The memories that can’t be bottled up are worth the headaches of planes, trains and automobiles (but also I have met really cool people on the plane rides, so bonus talk time).

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
If you know me, you know I love making friends. Everywhere I go, I collect new stories and new experiences through my interactions. I love meeting fellow Globetrotters (you guys are like really, really cool) and it’s amazing to see my friendships in the community grow and change. I also love meeting the locals and random strangers while I’m out and about. This last camp, I met a man named Paulo, who spoke almost no English. His native tongue was Portuguese. I speak a decent amount of Spanish, but it wasn’t entirely helpful (he understood my Spanish more than I his Portuguese). But between a glass of wine, wild hand gestures and lots of laughs, an entire hour had passed before I knew it. I honestly can’t remember what we even talked about other than him visiting his family the next day, but it puts a smile on my face. This recent trip also landed me on a beach around two in the morning at a techno concert surrounded by locals. My legs were scratched up and almost everything hurt the next morning, but the crowd surfing (apparently I give off a “carry me over the crowd” vibe that I am perfectly happy with) made it all worth it.

Seeing new places is kind of a “well, duh”/given when travelling, but I can’t begin to explain the tranquillity you feel while looking at the clear blue waters of the Caribbean with the ocean mist splashing in your face and the sounds of laughter in your ears when your surrounded by like-minded people as you attempt to surf for the first time; or the smell of hops in a German bar with your shoes sticking to the ground from the (sadly) spilled beer as the music plays too loud for you to hear those around you but the slurring smiles let you know everyone is having the best time; or the moments when you’re alone staring at parts of a once-whole castle wondering what it looked like in its prime while the sun beats down a little warm but not uncomfortably so and you find the perfect tree to sit in contentedly while others move about and you write in your journal. It’s something you can’t replicate. But these images and feelings and sounds are burned into my brain.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
How willing people are to help. I cannot tell you how many times I have looked like a silly tourist having to ask directions because I am too stubborn to turn on my data and pay the $10 (?!) a day. I have only been met with smiles or, if there is a language barrier, confusion but still a willingness to help as I type out the name of where I am trying to go in my notes app or point to my desired destination on an insane map of 40 different colored bus lines that were faded by the sun and nearly impossible to distinguish. People want to help. I do not enjoy feeling like a silly tourist. But in order to get past it, I have to be willing to ask and learn, or really push through the discomfort. Why not both?

MacKenzie King – BJJ Globetrotters Camp in St. Barts

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
I am not but I need to be. Oh well. Always time to make more money. Never time to make more time.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Talk. Talk to people while you’re visiting places. I have never run into a time that I was wanting to make conversation and someone outright turned me down. The laughs and occasional confusion are worth it.

Stop. Stop and take the time to soak in everything around you. Even if it is just ten seconds of standing off to the side and watching people smiling and laughing or dancing to the music off beat. These ten second bits are what my brain holds on to.

Be silly. Be silly and do what you want. Life is too short to worry about what everyone else is thinking. I know it’s cliché, but it also holds true. We are often far too serious because we assume people will think we are weird. Let them. Be weird. Do fun stuff. Live a silly life.

I love you guys. Thank you for accepting me and all my weirdness and loudness and everything else-ness that has made me feel like I am “too much.” I love my silly life and I love that you’re in it.

Thank you to MacKenzie King – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured Camp Instructor: Kyle Sleeman – BJJ Globetrotters

Kyle Sleeman bjj

Kyle Sleeman – BJJ Globetrotters

Belt: Black belt
Age: 40

Profession: City worker and BJJ Instructor/Competitor
Started training (year): Started training martial artist in 1988.  Started grappling in 1999.         Started BJJ in 2005.
City/country: Live in Whitby Ontario, 25 min east of Toronto, Canada


Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

Achievements in 2022
-1st Place at London BJJ Open middle weight
-1st Place at London BJJ OPEN Absolute/open weight
-2nd Place IBJJF Toronto Open
-2nd Place IBJJF Chicago Open
Ace jiujitsu pro cup 2022 winner


Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

I have attended the past 4 Maine and Arizona camps.


Which camp has been your favorite so far?

Both camps are great and Each camp has their own qualities

Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

I have met so many amazing people from around the world that I get to travel and train with. So many great memories, each camp is a continuation from the last.


Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp?


I love teaching all jiujitsu but Takedowns and Guard passing classes are definitely my favorite.

But most importantly spreading kindness, love and passion for martial arts is my ultimate goal.


Anything else you want to add to your profile:

Come train with me at Kalsamirt Martial arts in bowmanville Ontario,  everyone always welcome.



Kyle Sleeman – BJJ Globetrotters instructor