The story of my trip around the world to train, teach and compete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and other grappling arts.


The amazing around-the-world burger project: Istanbul, Turkey

The burger in Istanbul was a two stripe white belt. I was really eager to spar, so in the heat of the moment, I almost promoted it to blue belt. Light weight with no competition experience. Buys lots of instructional DVDs online, but never watches them. They are on display in the living room for any curious friends that might come by of course.

Istanbul in 24 hours

Last time I talked to Burak about coming to Istanbul for a day, was back in the beginning of December. I emailed him yesterday, and luckily he didn’t forget that I was coming :) It is snowing a lot here, it almost feels like Moldova or Denmark.

I spend the day together with him and Ertan, who is a promising upcoming MMA fighter. Basically, I joined in on a typical day of being a full time professional fighter. This included classics such as playstation, working out in luxury fitness gym, eating rice with chicken, drinking coffee and training Jiu Jitsu. They are going all in on MMA and it seems like they have a really professional approach to it.

Their gym (Corvos) is brand new and super nice, even though the mat area is a little small. It is one of the best looking (and smelling) gyms I have been to so far (my own is better looking, of course ;)). I taught a class on guard passing, but had to skip the sparring. My knee is still not ready for that, but it is getting better day by day I think. Good group there and nice facilities. A few really high level guys in between. Too bad I couldn’t join :-/

Istanbul visit was short, but nice. Tomorrow, I am leaving for India. It will be five hectic days in Mumbai and Nashik, but I am looking forward to it :)

Snow in Istanbul tonight, 37 degrees in India tomorrow.

Climbing a mountain with a bad knee was a bad idea

…but the view from the top was worth it :)

The Turkish wrestlers

Today, I had the honor of watching a small wrestling class at the university. I met with the wrestling coach yesterday and he invited me to come train with them today. I was really bummed that I couldn’t do it because of my bad knee, but promised to come by and say hi.

Apparently, the same guys are also doing Turkish oil wrestling. It would have been SO cool to try that, what a perfect experience for my trip. It would have to wait unfortunately.

Their wrestling was very impressive. They are proud of what they do, and with good reason, I really hope I get the chance to train with some wrestlers another time on my trip (if you are wrestling anywhere in the world and reading this, please email me :)

The coach gave me a turkish national wrestling team singlet as a present. I was really honored, he must have worked hard to achieve that. It will definitely be put on the wall in my gym at home.

The amazing around-the-world burger project: North Cyprus

In North Cyprus, international companies like McDonalds and Burger King are not allowed to franchise. So they make a similar looking place with the same colors and a menu that assembles their normal one. They also change the names, so they are called “BigMac” and “Burger City”.

Since it was difficult to find an original Cyprus burger, I figured that the local Burger King knockoff would do.

The burger from Burger City was a three stripe white belt. It had trained for about a year and competed once. It had a good closed guard, but passing game was still lacking. It competed in lightweight with it’s two fat friends from school, Coke and Fries, cheering on the sideline. Blue belt is around the corner, but still takes some work to achieve!

Last training in Cyprus

Tonight was my last training in Cyprus. I promoted some of the guys (and girl :)) with stripes on their white belts. They are beginners and have no instructors, but really have a passion for learning and are working hard. I am looking forward to come back another time and I am sure they will be blue belt level then.

Since my knee still hurt, I skipped sparring myself. One day of doing nothing is always terrible for me, so I found a weight room in the University and did a workout there. It was full of machines and had virtually no free weights. There was a lot of people there, but I had the pull up bar, dip rack and barbells to myself luckily :) It was nice to do a workout, I really miss that from home. Also, I was reminded how lucky I am to have such good facilities and friends to train with there.

I hate this knee :-(

This morning in the shower, I took a step to the side and felt pain in my meniscus injury that I have been struggling with since two weeks before the trip.

I am sure it comes from sparring last night, where I rolled with every person on class. They were total beginners most of them and they went all in to try and beat me. Looking back it was probably a bad idea to do that, since they were really pushing and pulling my legs a lot, putting pressure on my knee. At one point, I was in mount with my feet grapewined and my partner kicked his legs out, twisting my knee. I think that was what probably annoyed my meniscus a bit. I should have put ice on it after training even though I didn’t feel anything. I guess I almost forgot about the knee problems for a while, but was certainly reminded today.

I will rest for 3-4 days and hopefully it will be good again. Crossing my fingers!!

The old Roman wrestling hall and bathhouse

Yesterday, I visited an abandoned sports hall, just like the Soviet one in Burlacu in Moldova. This one was just a bit more fancy and a bit older.

The ruins of a Roman bathhouse had revealed an enormous sports area, where wrestlers of ancient time would compete. It was surrounded by tall pillars and accompanied by a wast complex of bath and massage rooms. Here, the wrestlers would prepare themselves before the matches and the spectators could hang out and chat.

It was a really impressive structure and not hard to imagine, how beautiful it must have been. The walls had been all marble and a wooden ceiling had covered the many square meters of halls and baths. Remains of amazing paintings were on the walls and tall statues of ancient gods next to the walls.

Imagine having a gym like that! :)

The ghost town

In 1974, Cyprus was divided in two between the Cypriots and the Turks. Right in the border zone is the old Farmagusta city, which today is controlled by the UN. When the Turks came, the inhabitants of the city fled to the south, leaving everything behind. They assumed that they could come back a few days later. 27 years have passed since then, and the city is still completely empty. It is a no man’s land between the two political enemies.

When I heard about this first, I thought it was maybe a little village or something. I was pretty stunned when I saw that it was a enormous city, spanning a wide, sandy beach, that must be several kilometers wide. All the buildings you can see in the photos below are abandoned. It could be a big tourist magnet if it was reopened, but so far, it has been untouched for almost 30 years.

It was not allowed to take photos of the city. Guards are standing in watchtowers, blowing their whistles every time someone tries. I managed to play stupid tourist and get a few though ;)

First Cyprus trainings are in the books

This afternoon, I had our first training here in Farmagusta, Cyprus. Most of the guys were in school, so we were only a small group, which suited me fine.

AcademyCyprus is the first and, so far, only BJJ gym on the Island. Selman and his wife has started it without any instruction, but what they have been able to find on the internet. So the gym is really just taking it’s baby steps with the instructors being beginners themselves. It is interesting to be here and help them out a bit, sharing my experience both in regards of teaching and in how to build up a gym from bottom.

The island is an interesting place with an interesting history. We went for a bit of sightseeing today to the beach, ancient roman ruins of a wrestling hall / bathhouse (awesome, will post more about that later), a giant ghost town (scary!) and the (really) old town.

In the evening, we had a larger group. Most of them were beginners, some of them even had their first class there, so it was a little challenge to make everything work. We did lots of sparring (=I sparred with everyone, phew) in the end, and I think all the participants enjoyed that though.

Ah, the mediterranean life.

Goodbye Ankara, good evening Cyprus

I am now in the airport, waiting to fly to Cyprus. Ankara have been a really good experience for me, it was different than I expected, in a good way. Eren have taken really good care of me, and it has been a real pleasure to see a gym in it’s very early stage and be able to share some of my experiences on that field. I wish him and the guys the best for the project. I have had a lot of good experiences in Ankara, and is happy I decided to go there.

In Cyprus, it will be a similar story. They have a training group running with no help from any instructors from the outside. A few seminars and the internet is all. I am looking forward to meet them and hopefully help them a little bit with the project.

And also, the weather there should be a bit warmer. It is soon time to ship home my winter jacket!

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Ankara, Turkey

Finding a burger in Turkey was a little bit difficult. Mostly because all the other food was so good, that I didn’t feel like eating hamburgers. I had to stick to my project though and today, me and Eren went to a place someone had recommended to him.

Even before I got the burger, I was impressed by the awesome name of the restaurant. The burger itself had solid game. It was a blue belt one stripe. Still so new to BJJ, that wearing all the right brands of fight wear seems Ike one of the most important parts of training. It had a good overall game with a few signature moves it could pull off even on higher belts. These included special onions and some nice spicy sauce. Weight class wise it was a light heavyweight, tough to roll with. After sparring with this in class, you know you are going to just crash and sleep when you get back home on the couch.

Location:İç-Dış Hatlar Geliş,,Turkey

Today, I ate an intestine sandwich.

Like traveling, where I want to go strange/dangerous/unknown places, meet locals and stay far away from tourist areas, I don’t mind living life on the edge when it comes to trying new food. At least I’ll taste it and see how it is. So today I had an intestine sandwich. It was chopped up, fried intestines in a piece of bread.

I was a little scared at first when Eren told me about it, but I am glad I tried it, cause it tasted really good. I would definitely eat more intestine sandwiches if I could get them at home :D Unfortunately, it tasted so good that I had eaten it before I thought about taking a picture of it :)

More training with the unknown Turkish Machado brother

Did two trainings in Ankara today, then spend the rest of the day looking for postcards (failed) and eating good food :)

The group today was small, but I don’t mind. I think I could still have an influence on their game and hopefully inspire them a bit. In the evening I did a training session alone with Eren. It stuck me today, that he could totally pull off being a lost brother of the Machado family. A little work on the accent and he can fool anyone. We rolled for an hour or so and did a little physical training afterwards.

I miss doing all the workouts with my friends at home. I feel like I am quickly getting out of shape and loosing strength, but i guess that is the nature of a trip like this.

My knee has been feeling quite good. A little bit sore after the training yesterday, but almost nothing today. Rolling for an hour two days in a row with Eren, who is a 100 kg technical purple belt is the ultimate test for my knee, and it has passed so far :)

Food tonight, then a class tomorrow and then I head on to Cyprus!

Ankara Castle

On top of a hill in Ankara is the old city castle. The construction itself was interesting, but what captured my eye more, was the surrounding ancient city and the panoramic views of the city. In western Europe, a tourist attraction like this would be wiped clean of anything or anyone that is poor and dirty. This place seemed like it was exactly as it had been for centuries.

Kids playing in the narrow streets. Houses almost falling apart, but still with smoke coming out of the little chimneys, witnessing that someone still live in them. There was a distinct smell of firewood being burned to keep people warm behind the old walls.

Walking onto the castle building itself, there were no fences or anything to keep the tourists from falling down the 50-100 meters straight drop below. It was certainly not a place for anyone afraid of heights. The view over the city was incredible. The setting sun lit up a whole hillside of slum houses, revealing a huge area of poor peoples homes. Right next to it was a modern looking building complex. The contrast was pretty stunning.

Training in Ankara and best kebab ever

I arrived in Ankara last night. Eren, who is running the only BJJ gym in town, picked me up from the airport. He is a lone purple belt in a place, where BJJ hasn’t really picked up yet.

Today, we trained in the afternoon just him and I, and in the evening, we had a small class with a few guys from the gym. Eren is a big guy and has a solid game. The gym is nice and the guys training there have a good base, so I really think he can start something good here with time, work and patience. It is interesting for me to see a gym in it’s very beginning, and I am happy to be able to share some of my own experiences as gym owner with him to give him a little push in the right direction.

He showed me around town a bit. We went to the Ankara Castle, which was very cool. I will post some photos from there a little later. We also had, what was so far the best kebab I’ve ever had. Gotta get back there tomorrow I think :D The weather is a bit warmer than in Moldova. Don’t need my hoodie under the jacket here :)

So far Turkey has been great! Looking forward to more training tomorrow and also to visit both Cyprus and Istanbul next.