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

Archive for June, 2011

Felt really bad today

Ok so I am officially sick. At least half of the guys in the house are affected by something these days, and I have been the lucky winner in the headache and fever lottery :(

I had planned some surfing and training today, but had to cancel. All I have pretty much done have been sitting on the couch, waiting to get better. Now it is 21:30 and I have given up, decided to go to bed and hope it will be better tomorrow.

It is really annoying to be sick and not able to do anything, but looking at the big perspective, this is the first time I have been sick on the trip (apart from the food poisoning in Borneo) and luckily it happens in a place, where I have lots of time other days to do stuff.

I am leaving here Monday, so the last few days is gong to be a little packed with things to do. I will do as much as my body allows me, but also have to be careful that I don’t burn out.

Goodnight zzz

Video from visit to Muay Thai project in the favela

Favela Fever

Last week, I was supposed to have gone to the little favela gym, but training was cancelled due to the holidays. I went today instead and brought a few guys from the house.

The gym is probably one of the smallest and simplest that I have come across (not counting BJJ Boracay). It is run by a very small black belt named Rioto, who welcomed us with open arms.

The gym was in a favela really near by. It was a very simple, concrete building with some old puzzle mats in a small room. Lots of noise from the little street outside, people shouting and motorcycles racing by on the sidewalks. Everyone in the gym was really, really nice and despite the language barrier, we managed to communicate well through simple english, portuguese and straight up Jiu Jitsu.

There were about 15-20 people on the small mat, and the training was really intense. For most of the guys there was no holding back on intensity, which I like sometimes, but the last two days, I have had a slight constant fever and headache, so it was really difficult for me to enjoy the rolls. I rolled a very good round with Rioto. It was really interesting to roll with such a small guy. We went nice and technical and despite the fever, aching muscles and headaches, I enjoyed that round. After training, when he stood up next to me taking our photo, I realized, just how much bigger I was than him, and I even feel small after having gone down to lightweight over the last year or so. His game was very impressive and I learned a lot from rolling with him. Once again, I would never have going to this place or met these great people without Jiu Jitsu. Another valuable experience and story in the backpack!

Please note that I am also running out of socks to wear. Sock sponsors wanted! LOL

Location:Estr. Sorimã,Rio de Janeiro,Brazil

Slow days in Rio

I am having some slow days here in Rio at the moment. Been feeling a little sick the last two days (first time on the trip, apart from the food poisoning) and in general, the pace here is just really slow. Not much is happening apart from training and relaxing. Have been going to the gym to roll a little with the guys from the house a few times. Tonight, I am going to train in a small gym in the favela and the rest of the week I plan to visit as many places as my energy level permits.

I finally found a place to rent surfboards, so will try and get in the water tomorrow morning. It seems a bit cold, but will be nice to try and ride these absolutely beautiful waves.

Location:R. Correia de Araújo,Rio de Janeiro,Brazil

Visiting Drive In’s, where kids who attend school, train for free.

Today, Dennis (the instructor from Gordo’s), had arranged for me to visit “Drive-In Jiu Jitsu”. The instructors nickname is Drive In, because he used to work in a drive-in. A few of the other guys from the house was convinced to join in on the trip.

It took about a good hour to get there in a super crammed bus that drove way too fast. I haven’t been feeling too good today, have a headache and sore throat, so it was pretty tough for me to do that bus trip. Never the less, it was totally worth it, since the experience I got from it, was very, very interesting.

Drive In, whose real name is Paulo Cezar Alves Pinheiro, is running a project for kids in a semi-favela kind of place. It was not a real slum, but it was definitely not a place with a lot (or any) tourists.

Getting a government funded place has not been possible, so now 35 kids train in a small, squatted room in an alley, that could be taken straight out of “Bloodsport”. Walking into a dark corridor next to a car mechanic, through the back room of a small, local restaurant with plastic furniture, past laundry hanging to dry, smell of food from kitchens, shouts and sound of tv shows from the small windows, the matted room is located almost in someone’s house. A few old bicycles and cases of empty Coca Cola bottles from the restaurant takes up most of the space in the alley. Outside of the door, about 40 pairs of flip flops have been taken off on the wet concrete floor. Some kids run by and a dog sticks it’s head out of a door and barks at me.

Lots of kids are on the mat, and the sparring is intense. There is not much laughing and playing around, this is serious business. It is a competition team, training seriously to win competitions and give the kids the chance to create a better future for themselves through sport. Drive In is not charging anything for the training. In return, the kids must every week show their attendance sheet from school. If they have attended school, they can train. If not, they get kicked off from the team.

The kids in the gym were amazing. I have a kids team at home, whose skills I really admire, but these were just on another level. Boys, that must have been 6 or 7 years old, rolled like they were good adult. They seemed really excited to have some rare visitors, and we got a chance to roll with a few of them.

They can’t afford to by kimonos themselves, and since they are affiliated with Gracie Barra, they have to use the expensive team approved kimonos. The solution to the problem is, that Drive In is buying them with money out of his own pocket and living in his sisters house to cut down living costs and afford to run the project. The biggest problem is funding all the tournaments, which can be very costly, so they are always looking for sponsors.

Later, the teen class was on. It was much smaller, and basically just rolling. I got some really good rolls in with some young guys, who impressed me very much. Drive In rolled for more than an hour with all of us, and he had a really interesting game. The most flexible person, I have ever rolled with. First time I have ever been caught in a crucifix from sidecontrol top LOL Very smooth and technical rolls I had with him.

It is exactly experiences like this I am looking for on my trip. Ofcourse, I like to train with world champions and high level guys, but what really interests me, is to experience how Jiu Jitsu can reach out into so many other levels of society and make a difference in people’s lives. Drive In took us for a walk through the neighborhood for some food later. I have been to many scary places on my trip, but every time with locals and I didn’t think twice about walking these dark murderscene streets today.

The easy and safest choice is to stay home on the couch, but the world is not always a dangerous place, and pushing one’s limits a little bit, can pay off with some really valuable and memorable experiences like this.

I highly admire Drive In’s work here, what an honor it was to visit his academy and meet the kids.

Location:Estr. Sorimã,Rio de Janeiro,Brazil

Gi’s for the kids in Moldova and Dominican Republic

I got an email from Robert in Moldova, who received the gi’s from the judo gym in Denmark:

“Thanks to everyone who pitched in and made this work. My wife and I are headed to Moldova tomorrow with two or three bags full of gis but I will still have to make at least another trip in August to get them all out there (and as I understand there are a couple more gis floating around Chisinau somewhere). I plan to buy some shelves this trip as well as take the Burlacu team to Chisinau and back for a friendly competition with the Chisinau team with the donated $285 courtesy of the Ronin Athletics.

So thanks again to Georgette, Mikkel, Christian, Jason and all your people for helping out. I will be sure to take pictures of the donated material “in action”. For now we don’t need any more gis though. I have asked Tudor at Absoluto BJJ here in Bucharest to ask his guys to dig all their extra karate/judo/bjj/tae kwon do/kung fu etc. belts out of their closets to add to our huge pile of gis in our living room, but that’s about all we need. So like I said, NO MORE GIS!!! And you guys are awesome.”

Since the kids in Moldova have enough gi’s, I am now redirecting any donations I hear about to the gym in Dominican Republic. First gi’s have just been shipped there by Gregory in the US, thanks!

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.”

Pool party!

All the guys staying in the house are pretty serious about training and goes to the gym 2-3 times every day. Yesterday, we did an exception and invited some friends over for an all-day barbecue/pool party in our garden. Lots of meat were consumed and only once was someone pushed in the pool with a phone in his pocket.

I have so much interesting training lined up next week, I can’t wait to get on the mats!

Tough start of the day!

This morning, I kind of woke up in bottom mount with a big, strong Brazilian black belt crushing my face so I couldn’t breathe. Basically, I had walked straight out of my bed when I opened my eyes and to the gym, where the open mat training was almost at it’s end. We just had time for a few tough rolls before it ended.

I wish I had woken up earlier, as there were about ten black belts on the mat rolling, but that will have to wait to another day. Lots of training going on here many times a day, so I will have my chance :)

The weather was really nice today so we all skipped afternoon training and went to the beach instead. We were sitting right next to a nice party camel playing party camel music.

Favela fail today

I was supposed to go train in the favela tonight, but due to a holiday, the training was cancelled. I rescheduled with the guys for tuesday instead. To make up for it, I went to Gordo’s gym, which is right around the corner, and did some no-gi training with the guys from the house. All the classes were cancelled because of the holiday.

I have a few interesting trainings lined up during my stay here. Next week I am going to “Drive-In” gym, then the favela gym and also hopefully do a day trip to a house in the jungle, that has an outdoor gym. Apart from a handful of other interesting gyms here I will go to, there are several social projects with kids in the favelas, that I would like to visit.

First training in Brazil

Just finished my first training here in Brazil. It was a special class, that Dennis Asche is teaching for all the people living in the Connection Rio house, so it was basically only foreigners there.

My body was really, really tired from traveling and climbing yesterday, but it was nice to get some training done. Dennis ran us through a number of nice drills, and then we did some rounds of sparring. He seems to be a really good teacher, and he’s got connections to everyone, so he is really helping me out with planning my time here.

The people staying in the house are obviously in really good shape, since all they do is train all day. It reminds me of the glorious days in the past (about four months ago), where I was also in good shape and had not yet tortured my body with traveling, to little sleep and too many cuba libres :D Hopefully, I can catch up a little bit while I am here, and I will definitely get back in my CrossFit gym, when I get home.

But nice to train again. The knee felt surprisingly good, in fact I kind of forgot about it till this evening. I am confident, that I can get through the training here in Brazil with no serious problems.

Tonight, I will eat a lot of meat, then sleep and be ready for rolling in the favela tomorrow evening. Maybe even go to the beach and rent a board?

Visiting Muay Thai gym in a favela

Last night, we went to a favela near by to visit a Muay Thai gym. Eduardo Pachu has been running “Tropa” for ten years, offering free training to all the kids in the area, who else wise don’t have many options in life.

There was a lot of kids in the class, and it was really inspiring to watch. Having trained with kids many places in the world, it is obvious to me, that the fire and enthusiasm they put into the training, is the same, no matter their social status or financial capabilities. This gym had less than 15 pairs of boxing gloves and only four pairs of thai mitts, and still, they managed to do a high intensity class for two hours. I spotted a lot of talent in the group, some really, really impressive young people with crisp technique and impressive power. I wished I had brought some training clothes, so I could jump in, but with my body being really tired after walking up that hill/mountain, it was probably for the best that I just rested.

This visit really made me think. Having the opportunity to help kids I have met around the world, through my blog, is something I will work more on and do more organized. I have an idea for how to do it and will hopefully realize it when I get home or maybe earlier, if I have the time. In the meantime, if you have some old equipment for BJJ or Muay Thai, that you don’t use, do not throw it out, I might need it soon ;)

After visiting the Muay Thai training, we went across the road to the smallest and simplest BJJ gym I have seen in my life. I talked to the guys and agreed to go train with them tomorrow night, which I am looking very much forward to. Photos and stories to come! :)

Video of me teaching in India

I just discovered that this was online on YouTube. I was in India back in march, with much shorter hair and less of a tan than now :D

Article in Jiu Jitsu Style magazine

One of the stories from my trip, that I haven’t written much about here on the blog, was my experiences with the team in the Dominican Republic. It was a very interesting story, that I promised Jiu Jitsu Style to save for their magazine, and it was just published today.

You can buy the magazine on or if you have an iPad then in the app store. Alternatively, you can wait for the BJJ globetrotter book to come out ;)

Arrived in Rio, climbed mountain first thing in morning.

If you have followed my blog for a while, you might remember, that in Hawaii, I was persuaded into climbing 1000+ steps up a “hill”, which was a little harder than I had anticipated.

I arrived in Connection Rio at five in the morning and got some sleep. Hywel Teague, and old friend I trained with in Manchester UK back in 2004, is currently working here, and asked if I wanted to go up the hill near by. I thought why not, and five hours later I am now back in the house LOL. Once again, it was a little harder and longer than I had imagined and my legs and knees took quite a beating. So much for a rest day! :D

Tomorrow, I am planning to go training somewhere. I have stayed away from training since Friday to rest my knee injury, so I really hope it will be fine tomorrow. Climbing a mountain didn’t help much though :)

Anyways, I am excited to finally be in Brazil and to see what experiences and adventures I will find here!

Location:Estr. Sorimã,Rio de Janeiro,Brazil

Anyone with recommendations for Brazil? :)

This blog post have been a long time under way. I am finally reaching Brazil, the birthplace of the sport I have traveled the world on for four months, trained for more than ten years and has been making a living of for six.

I don’t really have any plans for Brazil yet. I don’t know where to go or where to train, so I need your help! :)

I have a few options already, but I want to keep all possibilities open, so if anyone of you readers have connections or recommendations for where to go, train or what to do in Brazil, please email me or leave a comment on this post.

I would love to train as many places as possible, but I am also quite limited financially. This is the end of my trip and I am pretty much running out of money, so I can’t afford to pay a lot of money for training each place (just had to buy a $2000 one way ticket from Brazil to Europe today, oh shit that hurt :D). I prefer to wash the mats or perform a magic show or something for training, but I know things work differently in Brazil. Of course, every place I go will also get some exposure on my 2000-gringo-readers-a-day amazing BJJ blog if that helps anything.

Besides that, if anyone is in Brazil and want to meet up for training, surfing or maybe one (1) beer, feel free to contact me, I am up for anything.

I will be staying with my friends in Connection Rio, which is a really cool house for foreigners who are going to Rio for training. I don’t know for how long yet, maybe I will move around in Brazil a bit, maybe I will stay in Rio for two weeks before I head to Europe. Will look into that when I get there and have an overview of my options :)

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.

Thanks, Taastrup Judo Club!

A judo gym back in Denmark decided to do something to help out the kids I visited in Moldova and gathered two big boxes of gi’s to ship down there.

If you haven’t yet read the story of my visit to teach BJJ in a small village in the snowy Moldovan countryside, you can read it here. We have already had some gi’s shipped down there from a guy in the US and I did a fundraiser seminar in New York, that collected enough money to get some seminars and tournaments set up in the village.

If YOU want to help some fellow BJJ practitioners out, let me know. There are many people around the world, who loves this sport just as much as we do, but don’t have the financial possibilities to even buy a gi or a belt. Should you have anything lying around that you don’t use, please email me and I’ll let you know how you can help out. It is a very small effort, that can make a very big difference in someone else’s life.

We are all one!