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

Archive for April, 2011

No BJJ today, climbed 1100 steps and surfed instead.

I thought it would be a good idea to rest my body a little bit today, so I skipped BJJ training. Instead, I walked up Koko Head with Victor, a friend of Jonathan from Kauai Kimonos. He told me it was about 1000 steps, but not that half of them was at a 45 degree angle :D It was a seriously hard climb to the top, but cool view when we got there.

Later, I went surfing with Steve and his girlfriend at Waikiki beach. Beautiful spot. A little bit crowded, but clean water and nice, long waves. With a little coaching from surfing black belt Steve, I learned a lot. In my first attempt, I caught a wave for a looooong ride, definitely personal record. It was awesome! Standing up correctly and balancing on the board comes pretty natural to me now, can’t wait to get in the water again tomorrow.

Waikiki beach then open air training. Not bad day at all.

Today I was hanging out on the beach most of the day, just relaxing and getting things planned out for this visit. I also got a ticket for New York on Wednesday, so will stay here for a week total.

Went to train with Steve today, the guy I am staying with. They got a small group training on a few mats in an open air pavilion. Super nice little place, lots of fresh air and I actually got a tan from rolling there :D Good group, they were quite skilled despite only being four people basically.

Tomorrow, I will hike 1000 steps to top of Koko head, then surf for a few hours before training somewhere in one of the many of gyms here.

Aloha, Hawaii!

Arrived in Hawaii yesterday morning. Lea, a reader of my blog, was kind to pick me up and take me around town a bit. I only slept two hours in the flight and was badly jet lagged, so I was struggling to stay awake. Sitting at the beach, I was zoning out and almost fell asleep. In a moment of weakness and madness, I decided to go train in the afternoon at one of the local gyms, HMC. I was basically a zombie, but somehow managed to complete an entire class and rolled about five rounds. it was actually nice to move around a bit and forget about being sleepy. Rolling with the instructor, Leandro Nyza, I was – like everyone training BJJ repeatedly will – reminded, that no matter how much you train, there is always someone out there, who will completely kill you in sparring and make you look like a useless beginner. Gotta love it.

One of Lea’s friends, Steven, had offered that I could stay in his house. I fell asleep at 9:30 and slept for 12.5 hours. Today I feel better, getting pretty experienced at handling jet lag :) Right now I am sitting at Waikiki beach just relaxing. There is some training going on at 4:30 I think I’ll attend.

There seems to be many gyms on Oahu, so I might have my hands full here. I had considered going to maybe on or two other islands too, but maybe this is enough for one week. I’ll look at some tickets today and see what I can find out. Other than that, plan is to rent a board and spend most of the day surfing. The waves here look really good for a beginner like me :)

Everyone here are really friendly and helpful, can’t wait to see what this week will bring of exciting experiences!

How can an eight hour flight to Hawaii be boring

…when I can play Street Fighter II all the way, oh yeah E. Honda you are going down!!

Pray for Japan

I was wearing my “Pray for Japan” t-shirt yesterday, when walking around the city. On the back, it says “Never give up” in Japanese. I don’t know how many times, people on the street and in the train have stopped to thank me or take my picture. They don’t speak much english here, so when someone – almost with a tear in their eye – is trying their best to pronouce the words “thank you for coming” to a stranger on the street, it just reassures me, that making the decision to come to Japan, was the only right thing to do.

I too, was worried about coming here. But when I decided to do it and saw things with my own eyes, it was obvious, that there is nothing to fear. The only thing not normal in Tokyo, is that there are virtually no tourists and the city is darker than normal due to power saving. No one is afraid of radiation and the daily earthquakes are so subtle, that I didn’t feel a single one of them in a full week. I had actually been looking forward to be in an earthquake (natural disasters are one of my hobbies), but I always missed them. Yesterday in the gym, I was literally sitting completely still on the mat, talking to one of the girls in class, when she said “Did you feel that earthquake just now?”. I didn’t feel a thing! Then after, I get emails from friends at home watching the news asking if I am alright, because they heard there was another earthquake in Tokyo. I don’t believe in earthquakes anymore.

Japan has really swept my feet away, Judo-style. I am so extremely glad I came. Please, if you consider coming, do it. I promise you will not regret it.

Last training in Japan (for now).

Yesterday, I felt exhausted, dehydrated, overtrained, underslept and hung over. I almost fell asleep at 18:00 but said to myself that it was my last day and I had to go do some training.

There was a class at Paraestra I really wanted to join and I also had an invitation to Axis, but both were pretty far away and I had no energy to go anywhere really. Sakuraba’s gym (with the strange name of “Laughter 7”) were only a three minute walk from where I was staying, so I decided to go there to check it out. It was a nice, small gym. Looked very clean. About 5 people were doing a grappling class and I asked if I could join in. Unfortunately, Sakuraba himself wasn’t there and the mat fee was way above my budget for a single training, so I decided to walk back to AACC to see if anyone was rolling there after the striking class. Being as exhausted as I was, I am amazed that I managed to do half an hour of high intensity sparring with some of the pro fighters.

My body felt burned out, my knee injury hurt really bad, my face was bruised, but still, I felt better than ever. Training in Japan has been amazing, I hope to make it back one day and do more of it.

Going to Hawaii tomorrow!

I have a ticket for Hawaii tomorrow, arriving Thursday morning in Honolulu. I have no idea where to sleep, train or go, but I have gotten pretty confident along my trip, in the fact that things will magically work out by themselves and I should just lean back and enjoy the ride, so that’s what I intend to do :)


Tokyo evening

Paraestra and AACC training today.

What an amazing day of training I had today. First, I went with Aaron, an american reader of my blog who emailed me, to the afternoon class at Paraestra. The team has many gyms around town and the afternoon class is where the instructors from those usually meet for sparring. It was a small class, but almost everyone were black or brown belt. I had some amazing rounds of sparring, those guys are really, really good.

After a few hours, I had to leave to go to AACC for no-gi class with Abe-San, who I am staying with. He is a true master of wrestling, catch wrestling, MMA and BJJ, with a quite different style than what I am used to. It is very interesting to train with him and I suck in all the information I can get out of it. He caught me with a ridiculous number of leg locks and strange holds as we rolled. I was also watching the girls train, they have a very impressive team in AACC. Fans might recognize a few familiar faces in between in the photo.

I must say, that I am starting to feel really confident in my game. Rolling with all these different people around the world has improved my defense. I am being attacked with so many different styles that I am not used to and I can feel it is really improving my game.

Tuesday is my last full day in Tokyo before I leave for Hawaii. I need to do some sightseeing and also figure out where to train. I live really close to Sakuraba’s gym so might go there?

Places I like to hang out

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.

No-gi training at AACC. Wrestling class insane.

Yesterday, I went to a no-gi class at AACC. About 25 people were there and I had lots of good rolls with many good guys. Really getting to practice my Icelandic guillotine these days :)

On the other mat, Abe-San was running a wrestling class. It was super tough and had some seriously skilled guys there. Two hours of hardcore training, it was very inspiring to watch, will definitely take some things home from that for my own wrestling classes at home. I tried to concentrate about my own training, but couldn’t stop watching the other mat all the time :D


I have moved to Abe-San’s apartment, conveniently located right next to the AACC gym. He invited me to come see the DEEP 53 show. Japanese MMA has seen a quite significant decline since over the last five years, it is nowhere near the heights of the Pride days. DEEP is a small show where fighters are build up. There was some very good fights in between but also some pretty bad ones.

Lots of respect between the fighters!

An authentic Tokyo experience

…is meeting Bob Sapp on the street, eating kebabs.


Training with legend, missed two earthquakes and ate raw horse.

The first real MMA video I ever saw was “Choke” about Rickson Gracie fighting in Japan in 1995. One of the opponents were Yuki Nakai, the japanese Shooto champion. Being greatly outweighed by his opponents, and with sustaining a serious eye injury, he still managed to fight his way to the finals, where he ultimately was beaten by Rickson Gracie. His fighting spirit and courage won him a lot of fans world wide, including a young, danish teenage boy, who at that time just had found the interest for the exciting world of grappling and MMA.

He retired from MMA after that tournament and dedicated his time to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Yesterday, I visited his gym and had the honor of training with him and his team. It was a very cool experience, he was super nice and funny. Very interested in my trip.

I came at a technique class starting 6:30. There was only two other people there, so it was basically a private. We worked on some nice details on how to break the lockdown and pass halfguard. Good stuff I had never seen before.

Sparring started at 20:00 and went on till about midnight. People only showed up for the sparring really. About 25-30 people came and left during that period. The level was really high and everyone were super nice and friendly. I rolled with many black belts and brown belts. There were also some very game blue and purples. I ended up rolling for a few hours, before I called it a night.

After training, I felt so good. Endorphine rush like crazy. I can’t wait to do that again, what an experience!

When I got back, Ryan took me out for some super good and very interesting Japanese food. We had some strange stuff, my favorite being raw horse sushi :D

There has also been two earthquakes while I have been here. One was in the middle of the night, so I slept from that. The other one was on the way home from the gym, but I didn’t even notice it. The earthquakes now are very small, just like little shakes. I can’t in my wildest imagination see how these could harm me. Maybe if I stand naked under a bowl of acid, that balances on a rope and at the same time I am trying to sneak past a mad, hungry tiger, that is sleeping or something?


“What kind of camera and lens do you use?”

I get this question all the time on this trip, so I thought I would make a post about it instead of having to answer the same every time.

First of all, one must understand, that the camera itself does not produce a good photo. You can have the most expensive camera and fancy lens and still take absolute crap photos. What does produce good photos is the photographer, his eye for the composition, scene and his skills in postprocessing. It is like asking a painter of a pretty painting, what kind of brushes and paint he used, with the purpose of trying to paint something similar.

Enough arrogant photo nerd ranting, here is what I use:

– My “big” camera is the cheapest, entrylevel Canon SLR, model 1000D. The lens I use the most is my 8mm fisheye. It is all manual, all metal, produced in Belarus and cost around 200 dollars. Extremely bad quality, takes a lot of practice to get good shots out of. I also bring a 50mm f/1.8 for action shots and a 20-35 mm high quality lens, but I actually haven’t used them much yet and probably shouldn’t have brought them along.

– I also bring a $150 pocket camera, Canon Ixus 130. It takes very sharp photos and I use it quite a lot.

– For creative angles, I use a GorillaPod, which is a tripod with bendable legs.

Besides that, a good amount of specific camera settings, HDR and photoshop work is being done to get the result I had in mind, when I shot the photo.

All in all, the good shots are more a result of many years of practice, than what equipment is being used. Photography is something I really enjoy and have been doing it basically since I was a small kid, so that helps a lot I guess :)

Japan is awesome

Not many people were going to Tokyo today. The big airbus A330 was basically empty, I counted less than 20 passengers in total. I understand that people are scared to visit, but I am SO glad I decided to go here. I have only been here few hours this evening and is absolutely loving it.

First of all, there is no panic here. Everything is normal, no one is scared and the world is not about to go under. Radiation levels are safe right now, both in the air, water and food. The earthquake, which was the biggest in 500 years or so, only killed five people in a city of 35 million. Nothing is going to happen to me here. In fact, I have been exposed to more radiation during my flight here than I will be during my stay and was in way more danger driving for 18 hours in the mountains of Taipei, than I will be in a Tokyo earthquake.

I went straight from the airport to the training at AACC. We arrived pretty late, but still managed to roll for a good half hour. Really cool gym, great facilities and a nice vibe. Everyone was extremely friendly and I had lots of good rolls. Abe Ani, the owner of the gym, was very, very welcoming. He offered me to sleep in his house during my stay in Tokyo and also take me to DEEP on friday. I was super excited to hear that DEEP is on friday. When I planned my trip six months ago, I was trying to find some dates for the big MMA shows in asia, but it was too difficult. Here I arrive first night and find out I am just in time for one, it is going to be awesome!

Everyone seem very glad that I am here. Abe-san welcomed me in the gym and told me, he was happy to see that I came even though it was a hard time here.

Going to Japan was obviously the only right thing to do. I can’t wait to see what experiences this place will bring me.

Time to sleep!

Godzilla, here I come!

After much consideration, I have concluded, that I have to go to Japan, no matter the threat of radiation, earthquakes or sea monsters. I will be arriving in Tokyo this evening, excited to see what awaits me there.

Adventure is everywhere

Once again, I have visited a place, that I knew absolutely nothing about, and once again, it has been an amazing experience. Before I left, I couldn’t decide wether or not I should visit Taiwan on the way. Even just one day in Taipei seemed like it would take out valuable time from my tight schedule, and therefore wasn’t so attractive a thought. I ended up staying five days and I am bringing home priceless memories and experiences from this place.

In Taiwan, I met some very, very nice and friendly people, had great training, lived in a super cool house in the mountains, surfed on a stunningly beautiful and empty beach, went on roadtrip around a whole country and visited an engineering wonder of the world. I am so glad I didn’t skip this place.

I have come to the conclusion, that I cannot count out any places, no matter how little I know about them on beforehand and no matter how strange or dangerous they might seem from a distance. Adventure and amazing experiences can be found in every corner of the world, it seems. It is out there, just waiting to be discovered. I have to keep pushing myself to go places I normally wouldn’t go, to see what I can find there.

Training in Taitung garage-style gym & roadtrip to Taipei

Went to train in Taitung MMA, a small gym located in a garage style place. Very authentic, looked like something out of a Van Damme movie :D I rolled for an hour or so with everyone there, nice training!

I have probably pushed my knee a little too much. I started with two hours of skimboarding in Boracay, next day one hour of sparring in Taipei, next day one hour of sparring in Taitung judo gym and next day two hours of surfing, then one hour of sparring in the garage. I could really feel the pain in my meniscus when I went to sleep, so I skipped surfing yesterday in Taitung.

Me and Daniel drove back to Taipei on what was one of the most beautiful roads I have ever driven. Huge, green mountains and the ocean divided by a small coastal road, zigzagging through the landscape. Unfortunately, we slept a little much, so we only had about an hour of sunlight to enjoy the place, before it got dark. From there, it was about five hours of pitch black rally style driving through little mountain roads to get to Taipei. When we finally arrived, we had driven all the way around the country. Not really on purpose, but cool none the less :)

Surfing in Taiwan

We went surfing today. We were the only ones in the water, in fact on the entire beach. The scene was amazingly beautiful. So quiet out there. Clear, clean water and giant green mountain walls towering up right in front of us.

I caught many, many waves today, was really going well. Next surf stop will be Hawaii :)

Location:Section 1, ZhōngHuá Rd,Taitung City,Taiwan

Epic fail roadtrip to Taitung, pleasantly surprised by humongous Judo hall.

The roadtrip to Taitung was like fail pearls on a fail string. Everything seemed to go wrong. We thought we would drop off a microwave oven in a city on the way. And by on the way, I mean it resulted in a 7 hour detour around the island, since there was suddenly a mountain in the way we couldn’t cross. Only music in the radio was chinese love songs. We got to stay one night in Kaohsiung, a random city in the middle of nowhere. The hotel had spongebob teddybears. We tried to get into a nightclub with slippers, that failed. Then we bought black socks and put them over the slippers to simulate shoes. That failed too. After giving up on discussing with the bouncers in chinese, we eventually found a small bar, probably the weirdest we’ve ever been to. The owner was super excited to have visitors from abroad. He was a huge fan of Bon Jovi and WWE, and his daughter worked in the bar, dressed as a nurse. He told stories and served us japanese whiskey all night. Strangest night out in a long time.

Today, we drove the last part of the road to Taitung. We had been driving through mountain roads, small villages and fishing industrial areas, so we had no idea what to expect. What we found though, was the number one biggest and most impressive gym I have ever been in in my life. It was a HUGE judo gym, seriously, seriously awesome. About 20 people showed up for my class, including some really impressive judo players. We were surprised, to say the least, to find a gym like that in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.

We trained for two hours, then rolled for an hour before lifting weights a little bit. I might go back there and train with the judo team one of the days.

After training we went to an aboriginal restaurant (had no idea there were aboriginals here) and had some very interesting food with the guys from the gym.

Tomorrow it is time for surfing!!

The Asian version of me