I received my brown belt in Jiu Jitsu last month. I have been at Maven Jiu Jitsu since 2018. I took a year off to recover from surgery in 2019. In total, I have been doing Jitsu for over 12 year, give or take some time for inactivity, surgery rehabilitation, and laziness.
Whenever you switch academies or move, sometimes you have to start over. In my case, I had to learn the school’s system, ideology towards Jiu Jitsu and the instructors has to reevaluate my skills. My instructor has been a friend, mentor and Jiu Jitsu instructor during my time in Texas. He has been a pivotal role in my growth as a person, Jiu Jitsu practioner, student, and teacher.
What does the belt mean? It contains meaning if I give the belt meaning. Nothing changes currently in my journey. I want to grow, improve and help others with Jiu Jitsu. Hopefully I can still keep doing this martial until I’m an old man.
My top three things I was consistent with September was training Jiu Jitsu, learning Portuguese, and my school work. Training jiu jitsu is easy. It is something I really enjoy. Learning languages is also something that comes easy to for me. I keep a schedule and I try to stick with it. Every morning I wake up and learn Portuguese with Babel for 30 minutes. On Saturday and Sunday I review the words I learned for the week. I have a grammar book and verb conjugation book for reference. My classes that I feel that I’m strong in is Psychology and Math for teachers. The work is straight forward. Do the work, on time and get a grade. I’m weak in Chemistry and Statistics. I have to work harder on these subjects. Do I feel satisfied with this month? No, I can improve better.
My plan for October
Three things to improve. My level in Spanish has been stagnant. Even though I had seven italki lessons with my tutor this month. I suppose I have been keeping up with my speaking skills. There is still room to improve. I need to improve my comprehension. Chemistry and Statistics. I want to make these classes my strongest. I want to work on them everyday. Third. I lost my Covid weight. But I am still not at an optimal weight. I have to be more disciplined and go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier.
Inktober is this month. It is the month of October when artists try to draw everyday. They usually receive prompts(ideas) to draw for that day. I am never consistent with these. I tried to do it last year. This year I will try to draw more than last year.
My first BJJ Globetrotter Camp. When I first decided to travel around the world this was the first thing I booked, it was also one of the cheapest camps. All I had to do was travel to Copenhagen, lodging not included in price. I didn’t know what to expect for my first Jiu Jitsu camp. I kept my mind open and trained as much as my mind and body let me. At the end of the camp I gained many friends and invitations to different gyms all over Europe.
Some of my favorite tips from the Copenhagen Camp Information Guide by Daniel Bertina. Pace yourself, take notes and be social. Six days of 8-9 hours of Jiu Jitsu is a lot for anyone. I didn’t want to burn myself out so I went to open mat at least once a day and I attended an average of 2.5 classes. I would have liked to have attended more classes but it will just be a goal for next time. I took notes for the classes that I did attend. A tip that I will do next time is record myself doing the moves again in sequence with a partner to accompany the written notes. I should have been more social during the camp. This is one aspect that I did not take advantage until the end of the camp which was too late. Next time I will attend the welcome meeting/ Jiu Jitsu speed dating, dinners and a few drink afterwards. The trick is to have a right balance of socializing and rest for the next days training sessions/classes. As you can tell I’m already convinced that I will attend another camp. The next important question is which one?
A rolled with the original BJJ Globetrotter on the last day, Christian Graugart. Many years ago he went on a trip around the world to train Jiu Jitsu in as many different gyms as possible. It spawned into the friendly travel community we now know. He is not the first to make Jiu Jitsu camps but his BJJ Globetrotter brand has the most amount with 10 camps in different locales around the world. I felt honored to roll with him. He rolls like a black belt, relaxed and very composed against a lower belt, like myself. Although very playful and fun. A very approachable guy, it was interesting to pick his brain about the camps and his travels.
I trained everyday during the camp. I didn’t go to every class even though I wanted to. I socialized more on the last few nights. I should have went out more in the beginning especially for the Jiu Jitsu speed dating session to meet people. I should have recorded myself summarizing the techniques I just learned. A Gopro is good but my iTouch with a tripod would have been fine. I met people from all over the world and received many invitations from gyms and gave out just as many. I wonder when and where my next BJJ Globetrotter camp will be?
What was Prague like? It was beautiful and very picturesque. I had long term travel fatigue episode, I had coped with it. I tried out my first couch surfing experience. I’m glad I’m an older solo traveler, I can’t keep up with these young people. Meeting local people is my favorite part about traveling. I met up with a old friend from when I was in the Navy. Took a train out of Prague to Dresden. I will definitely love to come back and visit the city.
I came to Prague with over 100 days on the road. It is very tiring being a tourist. Some days you just want to go back home. Yes, even for the people living their dream there are bad days. After I had this thought of long term travel fatigue, I looked and there was already a blog post about it, here. I read this post after I recovered. What did I do to recover. I kept going, I pushed through. There are interesting places everywhere, you just have to keep looking. I went to the National Technical Museum in Prague, practically no tourists there. It was an inspiring to see different types of technology evolve with time. There is a photography exhibit, medical technology, film, architecture, appliances, printing presses and many more. Then I went to see the National Gallery. I enjoy looking at painting and modern art because I studied a little bit when I was in art school. It was really exciting to some famous artists that I admired. The title picture is a close up of a Alphonse Mucha. I love his decorative style and color palette. What got me out of the slump was to keep doing what I’m doing, keep working, keep searching, and keep exploring. Eventually it will pass. That’s advice if you need it. Please see the link above, that post is also good advice for any plateau.
You know when your friend would send you a postcard from Europe, Prague is a perfect card. Prague is located in central Europe as the capital city of the Czech Republic. It’s the fifth most visited city Europe. To say there were a lot of tourist is an understatement. When Richard Simcott, the polyglot superstar, studied here in the 90’s he described the Charles bridge as walking through a living radio when you turn the dial fast. So many people and so many languages you can hear maybe five or six walking through it. I didn’t have that exact experience, but I did hear a lot of English. Prague is beautiful but the amount of people detract from it. There are cool things to do you just have to look closer than the average tourist.
I managed to get some training amidst my slump. In fact, Jiu Jitsu is a really good way to get back into it. Exercise is good to way to move forward with a situation. I have now taken classes in Spanish, German, Czech and English. I wonder how many more languages I can learn Jiu Jitsu in. Honza Stach told me about Richard Andres at Penta BJJ. It’s great to meet people and that other people recommend. Richard spoke English very well and took time to show me certain details in English. He trained on and off in Minnesota. He is as technical as Honza said he was. I really enjoy that the network of Jiu Jitsu is just an interconnected network of people.
I met Jan through a mutual acquaintance. I was in Chile on a bike wine tour. A fellow, Matej from Slovakia, told me to check Czech Republic out and if I was going to Prague he might know someone to put me up. I didn’t think anything of it. I gave him my email address, usually nothing comes from these situations. Maybe because I’m American and people are flaky in America. I’m used to it. After a few weeks he emailed me some advice on Slovakia and Czech Republic. He gave me a contact for Prague. That is how I ended up on the Jan’s couch. It’s so great to hear the perspective of a local about their city. It’s honestly a priceless experience. I don’t think many tourists experience traveling this way. I learned a lot about the history and attitude of Czech People through Jan. He is one of the reason I want to return and really experience Czech Republic.
I extended my stay in Prague an extra day to see and old Navy buddy, Robbie. I was his LPO(Leading Petty Officer) in the department of ICU. He is now stationed in Japan.He has been traveling around Europe for about a week now. He showed me his itinerary and I managed move some things around and spend a day catching up. We went to pub crawl, urgh I thought. A bunch of other English speaking tourists. Not really my scene but nonetheless I had fun. I met some new people, I got lost, I found my friends and I had a great time. Normally I would shy away from stuff like that. The further I go along in Europe I will probably go on more drunken nights with big groups of strangers.
Overall a good time in Prague. Sometimes you feel down even in the most beautiful locations. Just keep going and learn from the experience. Keep your hobbies close so that you can feel normal even in a foreign country. It’s great to meet new friends and old friends all in the same city. Czech Republic left as space in my heart I will try to fill it some day.
My rundown of Brno, Czech Republic. It was my first Matsurfing experience. The overall level in Brno is young but promising. The hospitality of Jan “Honza” Stach amazes me. I took a private lesson for leg locks. I will like to return some day to train for a longer period. The feeling of a new city every week has itself turned into a routine, still a good routine. By the end of the week I gain new friends that were strangers at the beginning of the week. This has been a really memorable part of my journey.
If any one knows about long term travel from experience knows that it isn’t cheap, everything costs money. Europe is no exception. BJJ Globetrotters started a site called Matsurfing.org. It is like couchsurfing but with Jiu-Jitsu contacts. I booked Vienna and Bratislava months ago. Now I don’t have that much money. So I decided to give mat surfing a shot. An aspect of travel is pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. So I sent a few emails near my itinerary and Brno was the first to reply back. I plan to use it as much as I can for the rest of my journey. It was a great first experience with the site.
The overall level of Jiu-Jitsu in Brno is blooming. A very young scene in Brno at the current moment of 2017. A lot of white belts and a few higher belts instructing. That doesn’t mean to count them out of anything though. I met Michal, the instructor of Jungle BJJ Brno. He has beautiful school with a lot of hungry students. A very friendly guy, who took me to lunch after a training session. Although in general Brno Jiu-Jitsu level is low, Jan Stach at Fight Club Brno is doing tremendous things in the No-Gi realm. His beginning students have adapted his leg lock attacking style. They may not have heel hook or attempted a knee bar on me but their straight ankles are just as lethal. I’m eager to fast forward to see what five years will look like.
I arrived on a Monday and I needed a night to myself in a comfortable environment to write. I met up with Jan on Tuesday, training wasn’t scheduled for that day, but he introduced me to Jirka, a white belt who cross trains in different gyms, who took me to Jungle BJJ Brno. I trained five times that week. Jan told the other instructors about me, so they knew I would be sleeping in the gym. Jan was very helpful and available if I had any questions. There was a couch in the back room of the gym with blankets. There was also showers and toilette. A draw back was no Wifi. The gym was located right next a tram line that goes direct to the city center running every 5-10 minutes. There were 3-4 really good guys at Jan’s gym. I was schooled by the different approaches to Jiu-Jitsu.
“Teaching Jiu-Jitsu is like being a lighthouse keeper. It is a lonely job but you still have to go up there and turn on the light and be beacon for others to guide off of.” – Jan Stach, paraphrased
The No- Gi game at Fight Club Brno humbled me and my defensive skills. I normally can relax when someone gets my back but Jan and his students had implemented an arm trap system to secure the back. It’s a sequence that I haven’t seen before. Afterwards I asked Petr, a hulk of a Czech with gnarly Cauliflower ears, to teach me. I’m eager to also implement it into my game. I learned so many new techniques that opened my mind to the possibilities of Jiu-Jitsu even more. It think because of the school being primarily No-Gi. I asked for a private lesson in leg locks and Jan was happy to give it that Friday. I learned one version of his entries to his leg locking system. It is through circumstance and opportunity that I was able to train in Brno. I’m so grateful for passing through this city.
On my last day I traveled with Fight Club Brno to a competition in Slovakia. Jan, Michael, and Petr competed. I watched and recorded video. I didn’t want to compete because I didn’t want to risk getting injured, especially because my travel insurance doesn’t cover competition. Michael won two and lost in the Finals to an armbar from Jan. Petr took first place in his advanced division. Jan swept the division with submission victories. Afterwards I told him he needs better competition. Jan has only been training 4 years and competes almost every weekend. It is a testament to his teaching and his grappling style that he and his students placed in the competition.
Would I Matsurf again? Yes. I was able to meet with people and train more because I slept where I trained. The generosity of Jan and his love for Jiu-Jitsu is contagious. The only thing I can do is pay it forward. I’m excited for this pivotal time in Jan’s career and Jiu jitsu in Brno. It will be interesting to see after the scene in Brno when I return.
(I caught the last two minutes of the final. Jan’s transition were impressive.)
How to get to Brno: FlixBus from Bratislava or Vienna.
Gym Count: 13 visited in 2017
“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind, involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don’t know and trusting them with your life.” ― Paul Theroux
A summary of a week in Austria. I shaved my beard and started growing it again. I met some cool young travelers at my hostel. I trained at Roger Gracie Vienna. I met some cool Globetrotters that shared stories of the Globetrotter Camps. I ate some Schnitzel, drank some beer and attempted speaking German.
I trained at Roger Gracie Vienna with Orlando Neto. I trained six times there. We went over some techniques from sleeve grip from butterfly/sitting guard to a couple combinations. i.e arm bar, turnover. On another day we drilled a Fireman’s carry take down. Then open mat the last three sessions. The people there were really friendly, like most gyms. I enjoyed the diverse culture of the city, it showed very much in the gyms demographic. There were Germans, Italians, Brazilians, Croatians, South Africans, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and I probably left out a few. Most classes that were taught by Orlando were in English. I had a really good vibe from the gym.
I stayed at the Meininger hotel on Rembrandt street. It was a clean, modern hostel with wifi everywhere in the hotel. As a normal European hostel experience you meet many young travelers solo or in pairs. You exchange info and back stories. Solo travelers tend to flock together and go out together. That’s one of the best parts about traveling solo in Europe, there’s always people to go out with. There was Tina, a German on holiday, Chase, a Canadian doing Erasmus in France, Elie, a Frenchman traveling around Europe, Michelle, a Penn college student coming back from birthright from Israel and many more people. My life seems to gravitate towards being around a motley crew people. Or do I gravitate towards being around several different types of people that have distinct backgrounds than my own?
I met Ähn and Karla, German BJJ Globetrotter veterans, at the open mat at the gym. They showed me around parts of Vienna. We had several conversations about Jiu Jitsu. I rarely have these types of conversations outside of training, it was very enjoyable. They shared stories of all the camps they attended and funny stories that happened during the camps. I’ve never been to a Globetrotter camp. After meeting these two it gives me a great impression of the camp’s attendees. I hope the rest of the globetrotters I meet love to have fun, eat, and train. I can’t wait until the Copenhagen Camp.
A good part of being in the military that was easy was not really worrying how you style your hair. There were hair regulations and dress codes. It was easy to adhere to those rules. I’m out of the Navy now, traveling the world, unemployed with no hair regulations. I’ve had the same hair cut for the last four years and I was not allowed to grow a beard except when I was on Leave. I grew it for two and half months. No one would really understand this unless you were a male in the American Military. I decided to start over and cut it all off again. I’m searching for a balance.
Somewhere between Peru and Chile I decided to take a detour and visit my old home, Guam. I lived on Guam for 3 years when I was in the Navy. I look back on my time on Guam as my transformation into Adulthood. It was the first time I really was away from home. I lived by myself without room mates. I paid rent, utilities, cleaned my home, cooked my food, and solved my life problems on my own. There were many ups and downs that came with the experience which is why it feels like a home.
Guam is a small island in the Pacific Ocean. It is a United States Territory, like Puerto Rico. Citizens on Guam cannot vote during federal elections but they do have a delegate in the House of Representatives. The US military is the islands #1 employer. The bases cover 27% of the islands land mass. Most of the income comes from tourists that visit from Asian countries like Japan, China, and South Korea. Here is a video by Wendover productions for an overview.
It is very expensive to fly to Guam from the United States. The average round trip ticket is around $1000 USD. I was initially going to spend three weeks in South Korea. My thought process was that I can take a cheaper flight to visit Guam now than when I return to the States. So I took a detour and made some arrangements with some friends that were still on the island.
My friend, Jordan, and his wife, Emily, were hosting me during my stay. They live in Mangilao, Guam. They gave me my own room and bathroom. It was a luxury that I rarely had during my trip. Both of them were working during my stay but we caught up at night. Jordan even let me borrow his car while he was at work. Jordan worked during the day and Emily at night but she comes home at 8 to 9ish. At that time we would eat dinner and have catch up on life.
I visited my duty station, Naval Hospital Guam. I was a Hospital Corpsman at NH Guam for 3 years. One of the most frustrating jobs of my entire life. Though it helped shape the person I am today because of my experiences there. I ran into some old peers that were still there. It felt great to catch up but it didn’t feel good to listen to the consensus of low morale. It was a good reminder of why I left the Navy to travel the world. I know where their dissatisfaction comes from because I lived it. I hope they find their peace with the Navy. I compare the hospital visit felt like going back to your old high school, if your high school took care of sick and dying patients.
My friend told me it would be a good morale boost to be on American soil and be around friends. I didn’t realize until I left how true that statement was. The ability to speak English freely without thinking if the other person understood me was comfortable. I used to live on Guam, so when Jordan let me use his car, it felt like driving around my home town. I revisited my favorite restaurants McKrauts, Gabriels, Cafe Tu’re, Asu Smokehouse, and Pikas Cafe. I cooked risotto for Emily and Jordan as a kind of payment for hosting me. I’m so thankful to have friends on the other side of the world.
I trained Jiu Jitsu twice. I went to Vida once. It wasn’t too far from where I was staying. It had a good core of students. Some are MMA fighters on Guam. Every night was competition training for them. It was a good push. They waived the mat fee too. Then I trained at Spike 22 at Steel Athletics. I had to pay a $15 mat fee for that day. Only two people showed up for lunch open mat. Rohin was training for a MMA fight in July and Mike was there training with him. It was good training with heavy weights that just used technique, especially Rohin. Rohin could have crushed me, he looked over 250 lbs. It was a chill rolling session. Despite the $15 mat fee and the few people it was a good experience.
I went to see Gabe Baker, my coach when I trained at Carlson Gracie Guam. We had lunch at a Thai place next to the academy. It was getting renovated, new mats, so I couldn’t train at my old gym. Getting a one on one with my old coach was what I needed. It felt at times that I was stumbling through the dark with what I needed to work on. He gave me some guidance that was worth more than the two training sessions I had on the island. He had an interesting philosophy on the belt system. I’m grateful for the training I received on Guam and I thanked him for all that he taught me. I will visit Guam and Carlson Gracie Guam again some day.
“Purple belt is the longest belt, and is the belt most people quit at. A brown belt is just waiting for his black belt. “
I spent most of my time here. A exciting group of competition players. The higher colored belts put me through the ringer as soon as I first stepped on the mat the first night. Andres Perez is the head Black Belt and coach of Cohab. He spoke English to me and was very welcoming. I enjoyed the training environment and schedule. On average there are 3 classes a day with open mat sessions on Saturday and Sunday. I was able to train everyday when I wasn’t working at my hostel.
Gracie Jiu Jitsu in Valparaiso, Chile. This gym was about two blocks from my hostel. So it was very convenient. It was the first gym I visited when I recovered from my cold. The blonde haired purple belt, Nico, really put it on me when I was there. He was also preparing for competition the next day in Santiago. Samir was the Black Belt there. A friendly fellow and waived my mat fee. I would have trained more if their schedule was than three times a week.
Raul Valencia Cicero Costha- in Vina Del Mar.
There is a good training here. I trained here twice. It’s one of those places where the white belts get taught to bypass the opponents guards fast rather than play into it. I was x passed many times by white belts. I like to go easy on white belts until they start using strength. They train hard here, an hour of training after drilling. I enjoy that kind of training. I didn’t train that long at any other gym in Chile. Raul Valencia was the head instructor there, Brown Belt. Big Ups to Francisca Floras for showing me around my last day.
Andres Perez has a brother, that’s also a Black Belt, Fernando Perez. I went to visit him but he was out that day. I met Guillermo, purple belt, instructor. It was a small group with all white belts except Guillermo and I. Only white belts, but they were strong and quick. I had a white belt really tried to tap me with strength. He had good submissions on me but kept using his grip to pull, rather than adjusting position or abandon and try something else. Other than that it was a good time.
Here’s a good discussion questions. How do you roll when you travel? Hard or smooth? Do you give up position to lower belts?
I learned that I still don’t know anything about Jiu Jitsu. What I know is few drops in a water bucket. It’s never ending.
I finished Christian Graugart’s book this week while working reception at my hostel. One take away from the book is that it’s easy for me to be self conscious of my skills and compare myself to other purple belts around the world. By the end of my trip I will roll with over hundred different strangers from countries all over the world. It’s ridiculous to compare each other. We walk our own Camino, our on path.
I have to enjoy to process, the journey. With the example of the Camino. The most enjoyable part was the day of walking. The getting up early and packing your bag. The walk by yourself or with people. The evening meals with other pilgrims. Those are my favorite memories. When I got to Santiago, the final destination. I got this meh feeling. That’s it. I was just sad that it was over.
“If you’re an asshole when you start out and you’re an asshole when you get back,”- Yvon Chounard.
I spend most mornings going for a walk and exploring the city. I sit at a cafe and I write in my journal. It’s very meditative. I enjoy this slow pace of travel. I’m reading a lot more. I have time to really immerse myself here.
I trained last Friday at Gracie Jiu Jitsu on Pedro Montt. Which is the picture above. Samir was the Black Belt. He is very welcoming. First time back since my URI(Upper Respiratory Infection). I rolled mainly with Nico, a purple belt who is competing in a tournament the next day in Santiago. He submitted me many times, with many different submissions.