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

The amazing around-the-world burger project, SPECIAL EDITION: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This is a special edition of the amazing around-the-world burger project. Gathering experiences from all over the world, I yesterday cooked my very own, very special BJJ globetrotter burger for the guys in the house. Of course, it would not be fair for me to rate my own burgers, so today I have a guest editor on the show, none other than Jamal from Rio de Jamalgo. He just arrived in Rio, fresh off the boat, and is writing a blog about his stay here.

Here we go:

“As a Washington, DC native, I’ve had my fair share of good burgers.  Local favorites such as the amazing chain Five Guys and the new local hotspot Good Stuff have some delicious things on their menu.  Add in Shake Shack from NYC and you’ve got some stiff burger competition on the East Coast of the states.

Now Christian has been travelling the world, sampling burgers as he goes.  It sucks that the one he had in my neck of the woods didn’t compare to some of the favorites I’ve come to love.  The challenge, then, was to see if his skills in eating burgers would transfer to making them.

We fired up the charcoal from the previous nights BBQ and got to work.  The result was pretty damned good as I think some of the sausage and rib flavors from the previous night soaked up into the meat.  Throw in some fresh vegetables, some blue cheese (on mine anyways), some amazing avocado and a bit of bacon and you’ve got yourself some tasty stuff.  I think we said it was a solid purple.  The perfect lunch for my second day in Rio.”

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Medellin, Colombia.

This burger had a very interesting game consisting of such different styles as beef topgame, chicken bottomgame and an interesting fries guard. It was playing a lot of different cheese sweeps, but I felt it lacked a bit of vegetable fundamentals. A very solid and impressive game nonetheless. I promoted it to blue belt three stripes.

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Panama City, Panama.

The burger in Panama was a heavyweight. Not all lean and athletic, there was some laziness involved in the choice of that weight class too.

It had a strong base, but a few weird techniques in it’s game. Some of it was a little old school and too easy to defend.

Blue belt one stripe.

The amazing around-the-world burger project: California, USA.

Before I started rolling with this burger, I could tell, that it was something unique. It’s charisma, posture and aura was different from any other burger I have trained with around the world. We slapped hands and as soon as it grabbed my wrist, I could tell, that this was a very, very skilled burger. I tried for 15 minutes, but I simply couldn’t break it’s grip. I was amazed.

It’s base consisted of a unique one-pound bison meat foundation. Every single technique it possessed in it’s arsenal was solid, fundamental and drilled to death for years and years. It was a world class competitor who made the audience cheer at it’s entrance to the mat. I worked hard to submit it, but with it’s very experienced Parmesan fries coach on the sideline gave it great instructions and made it very difficult for me to even just score an advantage.

I have kept my belt standards high, maybe too high some would say, but I have all the time known that I would recognize a black belt the day I saw it. And here it was. The first black belt burger on the trip.

Bow to your sensei.

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

This burger had all the nice gear. It looked great in it’s fancy gi with all the cool patches. I had good game too, but there was just something about it that rubbed me the wrong way. I rated it blue belt four stripes.

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands.

This burger trained in a really cool gym. It was not the average gym with nothing on the walls but a photo of Helio, no this was decorated with all sorts of sweet pirate stuff.

Despite being a bit of a rebel (one might even call it a sort of pirate), it had a seriously good game. It caught me by surprise by pulling out a so far unseen “Chili con carne topgame”, that worked surprisingly well and was difficult to escape once ended there. It managed to pin me for several minutes, before I finally reversed position and submitted it.

I ranked it purple belt with two stripes – a very serious contender in the amazing around-the-world burger project!

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Florida, USA.

This burger had a solid, solid base. Impressive fundamentals and a lot of competition experience, coming from a country with a long tradition of burger-jitsu.

I really enjoyed rolling with it, and it gave me a hard time, but it had one thing in it’s game I didn’t like. The slice of inverted ham guard. Kind of a cocky move to pull off and it was it was showing off with it. High level player, but the overconfident cockiness of playing ham-guard kept it from being promoted to more than a purple belt.

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Virginia, USA.

Having learned from no instructors but only trained with a few friends with same lack of experience, this burger had some holes in it’s game. Physically pretty strong, but lack of fundamentals and a very unpolished technical repertoire, could only get it a white belt with three stripes.

The amazing around-the-world burger project: New York City, New York.

I got this burger recommended by a reader of my blog. It was training in a secret spot hidden inside the Parker Meridien hotel on Manhattan. A fancy hotel with an expensive looking lobby, hiding behind a curtain and secret entrance a sleazy, noisy and dirty burger gym.

The burger was selling itself well. It had a great story about how it fought it’s way out of poverty in the burger favelas and now ran a gym in a fancy hotel in New York. unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to the hype in my eyes. It was like going to a seminar with a big shot world champion and only learning self defense techniques against rape choke and grab-my-wrist attacks.

It had a great base and good balance. It only had a few techniques though and they were not really impressive. The mat fee was also really high, $8 for a single roll. And I had to stand in line for 30 minutes while trying to warm up.

A good opponent for me, but not world class as it pretended to be.

Blue belt three stripes!

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Honolulu, Hawaii.

The burger from Hawaii was competing out of “Teddy’s” gym. It had great base, many years of experience and a solid game based on fundamentals. Nothing fancy, but it worked.

I ranked it a purple belt!

The amazing around-the-world hamburger project: Tokyo, Japan.

I was excited about grappling this very special burger tonight. It’s style, known as the “Kobe Beef Style”, is known around the world.

It was a fluid, technical roll. Near perfect technique, relaxed, no ego. This burger was highly skilled with movement as sharp and precise as a samurai sword.

This was the first brown belt I have grappled with in the amazing around-the-world burger project. Well done, Japan!!

The amazing around-the-world hamburger project: Taitung, Taiwan

There were no BJJ burgers in Taitung. I asked around, and one place, I found someone who wanted to grapple with me. It had never trained BJJ, but came from a strange self invented Sambo/Judo/Combat Grappling background. Despite not knowing such basic BJJ positions as “beef” or “lettuce”, it handled itself very well in sparring. Surviving on strong base, good physique and natural athletic abilities, it actually gave me a pretty hard time on the mats.

I complimented it for it’s game, and even though it didn’t do BJJ specifically, I awarded it the rank of white belt four stripes. Almost cheating, but it was very impressive and the locals told me it was the only guy in town to grapple with.

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Boracay, Philippines.

In Boracay, I encountered yet another heavyweight. Who would have thought that I would roll with so many of those in Asia, a region notoriously known for their fast, technical lightweights.

Again, this burger was heavily relying on it’s weight, but still had some technical foundation. Since I had trained a lot during the day, I was exhausted and I almost ended up tapping out to this athletic blue belt two stripes. I pulled myself together and finished it with experience and good posture.

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Manila, Philippines

This burger was kind of a special event in the amazing around-the-world burger project. It’s gym, Burger Avenue, had issued an open challenge (Gracie style). If anyone could submit it within five minutes, they would get their mat fee back. Being a seasoned competitor on the burger scene, I took up the challenge.

I would say the burger was a blue belt three stripes. Had pretty good game, but it could be a little deceiving that it was a super heavyweight. It used it’s weight to it’s advantage, where it lacked technical knowledge. Even though I am a black belt burger athlete, this opponent gave me a hard time. The five minute time limit didn’t bother me, and even with an audience and referee, I was ice cold as I slowly worked my way to the submission. Set up the takedown and from there, I progressed the positional hierarchy methodically until I could sink in the submission 4:17 into the match.

I still had some cardio left, so I rolled with it’s training partner afterwards. It was a new blue belt with a very special signature move, “The Wasabi Noseattack”. Never seen that one before!

The headline of the newspaper of the day, which was lying in the burger bar, just made the whole experience seem very wrong in so many ways :D

Location:EDSA,Makati City,Philippines

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Bali, Indonesia

The burger in Bali was a total show off. It had just started training, but it was already wearing fight wear clothes all day every day. In school and at work, it would brag to it’s friends and colleagues about how bad ass it is and how many submissions it already knows.

In reality, it had NO game. Told everyone it was heavyweight because of all the bodybuilding it had done in the past, but it was at maximum 83 kilos. Terrible base, bad loser and just an annoying guy people only wanna roll with once. It might have deserved a stripe on the white belt from effort and time served, but based on personality alone, I didn’t feel like giving it anything.

Due to the nature of the amazing around-the-world burgers project, I had to finish rolling with this one, but my friends bailed after two minutes and went for Thai food instead.

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Singapore

The burger in Singapore (from “Berg”), was a purple belt with no stripes yet. Being naturally athletic, He was very competitive against any belt level, and proved difficult to handle, even for an experienced burger-grappler as myself. Mastering “the avocado” witness years of training and dedication to the sport.

In the gym he could probably go toe-to-toe with the french guy, but if they met in competition, he would lose due to lack of experience and maturity in his game.

Not bad, Singapore!

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Borneo, Malaysia.

I was rolling with two burgers in Borneo last night. Unfortunately, a “hip injury” kept me from enjoying the roll fully. In fact, I had to stop half ways to go and heal my injury. Here are the verdicts:

First one had trained for the street. A so called “street-burger”. It was all about defending rape chokes, bearhugs and wrist grabs, but in reality it never got much sparring done. This showed off under pressure, where it was greatly confused on what to do when I mounted it and went for the submission.

It didn’t have a belt, since it only “trained for the street”, but I graded it a white belt three stripes anyway.

First burger was bringing his friend to the gym that night. It was a richer kid, showing off a little bit. In reality though, it only had a few fancy moves to show off (such as “the apple slice”) and was lacking fundamentals. I felt like it would be a good idea if the two friends where following each other in training, so I graded it to a white belt three stripes as well.

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!

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

The amazing around-the-world hamburger project: Transnistria

“We don’t have hamburger in Transnistria”, Andrei said with a heavy Russian accent. Robert had met him through couch surfing a while back and stayed in his apartment. My mission seemed impossible.

As we walked up and down the main street, we passed by Lenin statues, tanks and war monuments, but no Transnistrian hamburger joints.

We ended up in “Andy’s Pizza”, which is a Moldovan chain of restaurants, so it doesn’t really count, but it was the best I could do. Hamburgers were never a big hit in the USSR, I guess.

Andy’s hamburger cost me around two dollars. It was a white belt in the light weight division. It knew a few sweeps, but still hadn’t pulled any submissions off in sparring. It was wearing a gi from traditional training and it looked a little awkward. Still much to learn for this beginner.

The amazing around-the-world burger project: Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

This was the closest I could get to a hamburger in Moldova. It really wasn’t a hamburger, but could’t find anything else.

This was a white belt one stripe. New in class, always asking to learn new submissions or “what should I do from here?” type of hamburger.

The amazing around-the-world hamburger project: Springtime, Bucharest, Romania.

I’ll make this hamburger review quick. Basically, it was close to impossible to find a real Romanian hamburger to review, but Springtime (a Romanian fast food chain), had one, and here is the verdict:

It was a white belt, one stripe. Feeling proud about it’s first stripe and eager to learn, but it’s game is limited to a few techniques and a bad shrimp. Easy to sweep and with no competition experience. Watching techniques on YouTube all day, but can’t pull off anything in sparring.

The beginning of the amazing around-the-world burger project

Tomorrow, I am leaving Montpellier to go to Bucharest in Romania. We decided to skip training tonight, since we were both really tired. Training every night since I left home has made me pretty sore, probably because I had a long (2-3 weeks) break from training before I left.

Instead, we went for burgers with some of Thomas friends. It was a really good burger. They talked a lot about that they were really big, but I am no noob when it comes to eating contests, so I challenged Thomas to order the biggest one for me he could. Even the waiter seemed impressed when he took the order. Needless to say, I finished it in style ;)

Thomas suggested, that as a side project for my trip, I should rate burgers from all over the world on my blog. Since I am losing weight fast when I travel (down to 76.9 this morning!), I thought that was a great idea.

The burger from Burger & Co in Montpellier, I will rate as a seasoned purple belt with three stripes. Good base, hard to sweep and and experienced competitor with some teaching experience.

On the way home, I found some pretty cool shop names. Who wants to be “Forever Seven”?