How it all began

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

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

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

Home sweet home












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

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

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

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

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

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

Miserable vanlife times in 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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