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


Goodbye, Ecuador!

I am now in the airport, waiting for my flight to Panama, from where I fly to Rio de Janeiro. My original plan was to go from Colombia directly to Brazil, but I heard good things about Ecuador and that was exactly what I found. Once again, I made some really good friends in a place, I knew nothing about. Another world, that I would never have found or experienced, if I just lived my life at home all the time.

I stayed one night in Juan’s place, where I feel very much at home. The level of BJJ here is extremely high, and I would recommend anyone to come here for training.

Thanks to all my new friends in Ecuador, hope to see you again soon :)

Great time in Galapagos, back in Guayaquil without “save the turtles” tshirts.

What a good time I had in the Galapagos. This was a specially interesting visit, because it was the first time, I went somewhere without using the internet to arrange things first. Mario, who I stayed with, doesn’t have internet in his house and didn’t know about my blog. I don’t think he has even seen it yet to this day. The connection to him was through people I met here in Ecuador, who recommended me to go visit him. I called him on the phone and asked if I could come two days later, and now I just returned to the mainland with so many experiences and new friendships in my backpack. All from a remote place somewhere far, far away, that I had never before thought I would go.

I realized something in Galapagos. I actually knew it already, but it was one of these things, you have to say out loud to really understand it. Yesterday, we met one of Mario’s friend on the street. We talked a little bit about my trip and I told him I was only on the island for three days. Most places I have travelled on this trip, I have visited 2-4 days, and each and every place, people always tell me I should have stayed longer, this guy included. He seemed so sad, that I didn’t stay long enough to see all the things there. I wish I could, but then I would have to skip other destinations with other adventure and people to meet. Galapagos is a very unique and historical place, far, far away from my home, with a lot of wildlife and nature to see. A place, you could easily spend weeks traveling around to explore. However, that didn’t really appeal to me. I was in one of the most amazing and beautiful places on the earth, and I didn’t care about seeing it, but only wanted to train and hang out with people there?

In Galapagos, I did not go on any boat trips around the islands, looking at birds and iguanas with hundreds of tourists, wearing hats, practical backpacks, binoculars and “save the turtles” t-shirts. I am sure they saw some beautiful things, but what I saw, was – in my opinion – much more interesting and valuable. I stayed in a small apartment with three other people, many blocks away from the main road with all the souvenir shops and daytour organizers. An area, where the people of the island live and the average tourists never get to see or experience. I got to know the real locals, experienced a little bit of their every day lives and met many people, who inspired me, changed me a little bit and who I now call my friends.

This is what happens to me everywhere I go. It was just so obvious in the Galapagos, since I had all this highly sought after tourist stuff right around the corner, and I didn’t bother go see it. I’ll check out the BBC documentary in full HD when I get home instead. Having to leaving beautiful places or giant turtles doesn’t bother me a bit. However, having to leave new friends, I don’t know if or when I will see again, is really difficult and it makes me very sad. And thinking about that yesterday, made me realize very clearly, why I travel: To experience people, not places.

Surfing with sharks and hangovers.

Last night, Mario was playing some nice reggae/bossa with his band in a local bar. It was a nice night and I was pretty tired today, but really wanted to go surfing, since I am leaving tomorrow.

Like Jiu Jitsu, there are some days, where things just don’t really work, and today was like that for me in the water. I had a smaller board than I have tried before and the current was brutal, pushing me back to shore in no time, so it was difficult to get out to the big waves.

Anyways, I caught one good wave on the small board and it was a really beautiful place. Lots of iguanas on the beach and big albatrosses flying right over my head while I was in the water. Sharks and giant sea turtles are keeping the surfers company, when they are sitting on the boards, waiting for the waves. The locals say, that the sharks don’t eat before 6 pm, which must be why the beach closes there. I didn’t know that sharks had watches, but I made sure to be out of the water by four, just to be safe ;)

Tomorrow morning, I am flying back to Guayaquil in the mainland and Monday, I (finally!) go to Brazil!

Lazy day with big turtles

My knee, and the rest of my body actually, needed a rest yesterday. After sleeping a good 11 hours in the hammock (bailed on the air mattress and turned out to be awesome to sleep in the hammock instead), I was keen to go surfing. The surf shop had lunch break until 3:00. At four they still hadn’t opened though, so I decided to postpone it till today.

Instead, I took a walk in the national park and looked at a pair of really big turtles.

Training in Galapagos, knee is so-so.

I am now officially a member of the very exclusive club of people who have taught BJJ in the Galapagos Islands. Member benefits includes things such as, but not limited to, paying $100 in entrance fee to an island, eating raw tuna and stumbling over ancient dinosaur-like creatures on the street daily.

Mario has a very little gym here, that he has been running for only four months. About ten students train there at the moment, many of them work as tour guides for the tourists in the national park. It is a very big job to start BJJ up from scratch in such a remote and isolated place like this, so I really take my hat off for Mario and what he is doing.

We had a small group tonight and I taught my secret sidemount escape, that I have been trying on every sparring partner I have had around the world :) I managed to roll a little bit despite my knee feeling a bit sore still. Unfortunately, I did a sweep on Mario and he landed on his arm, dislocating his elbow. It popped back in and I hope he will be fine again soon. He is drummer in a band that is playing tomorrow night, so that is a pretty bad injury actually.

Tomorrow, I’m going surfing. I can’t wait to get out there again, it haunts my mind 24/7 just like when I started with BJJ and wanted to learn something new all the time. Totally addicted.

Galapagos – another awesome destination in the books

I had never thought of going to the Galapagos. Despite being quite a map geek (I own a Google Earth 3D joystick), I actually wasn’t really sure where these islands were or what country they belong to. But anyways, today I found myself in the Galapagos islands, checking out the amazing nature. Walked a little trail to a cool cave thing and there are lots of interesting places to go see. I basically live right next to the national park with giant turtles, cacti and iguanas just waiting for me to come and hang out with them.

Time to explore the jungle, Darwin style!

Training in Predador, then party at only Irish pub in Ecuador.

Yesterday, Juan took me to another gym in the area called Predador. Pretty sweet name actually.

The people there were really nice and friendly. It was a big group of white and blue belts with two purple belts teaching. My knee didn’t feel too good, but I offered to teach a little bit and I managed to go some rounds of positional sparring with the guys before I had to stop.

There were a lot of kids in the class and I remembered, that when I have been injured at home, I just roll with the kids instead, so that’s what I did. Five rounds with awesome kids. Really good and fun rounds and it didn’t really affect my knee. Thanks to Predador for the hospitality :)

After class, I went over to Juan’s gym. Him and some of the students own an Irish pub on the second floor right above the gym. It is kind of strange to be in an Irish pub in Ecuador, but nevertheless that was were I found myself last night. It was a fun night with the guys from the gym and I didn’t get a lot of sleep before I had to go the airport to fly to Galapagos.

Second gym in one day, jinxed the injuries! Galapagos is next.

I went to Juan’s gym tonight (the guy I am staying with), even though I was pretty tired from getting up early to train this morning. I wanted to roll a little bit but in the first round, I felt some pain I my meniscus injury. I knew I shouldn’t have talked about not getting injured here on the blog today, it was totally jinxed.

I was asked to teach a little bit. It was a nice gym with lots of people. Forgot to take group picture of the first class with 30-40 people in it unfortunately.

I also got in touch with a guy who is running a gym in the Galapagos islands and he told me I was more than welcome at any time, so tomorrow morning, I will buy a ticket to go there – really excited about that!

Gym number 50 in Guayaquil, Ecuador! Now with party-injury.

Today, I reached quite a milestone on the trip, as I trained in gym number 50 since I left home february 21st.

I arrived here in Guayaquil last night and Juan picked me up in the airport. I went straight to bed, tired after a long day of traveling. Got up early this morning (that would be 8:30) and went to the gym. Juan’s car broke down on the way, so we were a little late.

I was really, really tired for training and didn’t have much energy for high pace rolls. It was a small gym with a handful of really high level guys, that sparred very hard with each other. I managed to survive a few rounds before I had to stop and rest. Didn’t have much in me this morning, but it was nice to get to the gym and do some work.

For some reason, I have been extremely lucky with injuries on this trip. I had expected to get a lot of them, but looking back I really haven’t had anything other than the knee problems, which were already there from home. I sprained a few fingers at the Worlds, which are hurting a lot, but doesn’t really count as fingers are always sprained when you train Jiu Jitsu. I did however get one party-injury the other day at a rooftop pool party in Colombia, where I managed to do a full cartoon style fall on the slippery floor by the pool (in front of tons of hot girls of course). Legs all the way in the air, landing right on my tailbone on a tile floor. Don’t remember if I did a correct breakfall. Playing guard really hurts, hope it will heal soon.

I am staying here in Ecuador until sunday. Now, I just need to figure out what to do and where to go here. I would really like to go surfing, hadn’t done it since Costa Rica and is eager to get in the water again soon, pulling off some impressive crashes in the waves.