Featured affiliated academy: JJK Fortress, BJJ Croatia

JJK Fortress, BJJ Croatia

Where is the gym located?
Slavonski Brod, Croatia. Eastern Croatia. The least popular part of the country. :)

How many people train there?
We have currently around 20 members, but mostly there is 7-10 guys on the mats each session.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
We just opened less than 2 months ago and got to 20 members with no marketing. I would say we had like 2+ new members each week coming in.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training in JJK Fortress, BJJ Croatia?
White till Purple. We already had black belts coming over to teach. Actually this week we have a two time ibjjf european champion and multiple ajp grand prix champion coming to visit us and spend 5 days of training with us.

When did the gym open?
We opened less than 2 months ago.

Some facts about you:

Name: Mateo Brekalo
Age: 34
Belt: Purple
Profession: iGaming. Not even sure what my exact role is in the company :)
Years in BJJ: 10
Other martial arts: Boxing, but very low level. And Taekwondo for two sessions when I was 6, but I found it stupid to wear a kimono. :) Now at 34 I only wear kimonos.
Currently living in: In my hometown, Slavonski Brod in Croatia.
Originally from: Slavonski Brod

Please tell us the story of how JJK Fortress, BJJ Croatia, came into existence
In 2020, my wife and I were supposed to travel to Brazil and live there for a year, but Covid cancelled our plans, so we bought a place from the savings in my hometown. As I didn’t have proper training, I had to drive 100km one way almost on a daily basis to get some training. And that was super exhausting. So I found a couple of guys who were interested in BJJ and I opened the place.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
Local guys, mostly white belts, but some of them love it so much already so they show huge improvement in just such a short time.

Why do they train?
I ask myself the same sometimes :D

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
Covering the rent and finding a facility that fits the needs of a BJJ gym.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
Sometimes I think there are things that can be done and it will change for the better, but my gut says it will be very hard. I trained in many places; and in Croatia the people are the least enthusiastic about training. I really hope I am wrong about it.

What’s the best thing about JJK Fortress, BJJ Croatia?
So much space for improvement, so every day and week we see a lot of improvement!

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
When it comes to natural beauty, Croatia is really amazing and beautiful. We have a couple of different climates in such a small country and more than 1000 islands, but unfortunately we got a bit unlucky since we got placed on the opposite side of the “popular” Croatia. But I can guarantee you the best local food possible here, and people willing to barbeque whenever they have a chance.

We do have a couple of interesting things to see, like our fortress (the one we named our gym after) built in the 18th century by the Austrian Empire to defend against the Ottoman Empire. We also have the biggest main square in Croatia even though we are 20 times smaller than the capital city of Zagreb. Also a beautiful long promenade next to the river Sava.


Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit JJK Fortress, BJJ Croatia, you can find them here.