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.
A few days after the Copenhagen Camp I ended up in Porto, Portugal. I wondered what I would do when I got to Porto. From the start of my trip I knew my family was coming to Portugal. I had to decide what to do before I met them in Porto. My options were I would either walk another Camino from Porto to Santiago, hang out in Porto for a week, or…. wait for it. Go to a surf school.
Porto will be an unforgettable chapter in my trip. I learned to surf and met other beginners from all parts of the world. I trained Jiu Jitsu in the afternoon and nights after surfing. I drank and hung out with cool people whose couches I could use in the future. I was reunited with my family and I had old fashion family vacation.
I booked the camp when I was in Vienna after talking to Tina, from Leipzig post, who described her love for surfing. I thought that I should try it out. One should push themselves outside of their comfort zones. How else can you grow as a person? I found Surfivor on Google. A great place with very comfortable accommodations. Bruno and Albert are very good surf instructors. It seems they still have a lot of enthusiasm for it after many years. There were plenty of beginner students just trying it out. Most nights the students ate dinner together and drank together. This experience has made me really enjoy surfing. I will continue to surf in the future.
I get my recommendations where to train from the BJJ Globetrotter Facebook Group. I simply remember or search where people go to train on the forum. So far every place I’ve trained at has not disappointed me. I account that this is also a very open community that loves the sport and showing people their love for Jiu Jitsu.
Focus Jiu Jitsu in Porto, Portugal was one of the best places I’ve trained. Manuel Neto, the head instructor, was very friendly and welcoming. Focus has Jiu Jitsu three times a day Monday through Friday with one class on Saturday. The location of the gym is located inside a bigger gym/crossfit/MMA place about three blocks from the beach. I rented a bike and it took about 15 minutes from my hostel. A large amount of higher belts, one them just came back from Worlds and was awarded Black Belt. The facilities are clean, showers and a large mat space. The majority of population of Porto could speak English and the gym was no exception. I will definitely return to this place in the future.
My family visiting Porto before they attend a wedding in Lisbon was my favorite part. I love Jiu Jitsu and surfing, but I enjoy spending time with my family. It’s a good recharge from the months of travel I’ve been through. There were many times on my journey where I get homesick. I would call my sister and see how things are doing back home. I did this more on this 4 months of travel than my 7 years in the Navy. I took them to the restaurants that Tiago, the surf camp owner, recommended to me. They enjoyed the Francesinha, Restaurante Ababia do Porto and eating at the grilled fish street. We spent roughly two days in Porto together but I instilled them the love for Porto that I felt.
My plan is to come back for a month to Porto maybe next summer. The surfing, Jiu Jitsu, and the amazing Portuguese food are a few reasons why I will return. I’m already planning my return to Portugal. I want to continue surfing when I return to California so I will be better when I come back. The lifestyle is very similar to something I imagine myself I would be when I grow older.
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.
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.
It’s been five days having URI symptoms. I don’t feel like doing shit. I just want to stay in bed until I leave. I’ve been a connoisseur of tea and soup. I really enjoy Cuzco though. It’s just a shame I can’t shake this cold.
I got back from Machu Picchu and I went searching for Bunker Cuzco. I ran into Diego Yule. He runs Bunker with Nico Culrich. It was good to exchange Jiu Jitsu stories and have a local show me around. He showed me the Mercado de San Blas. Little things like showing a traveler a local market means a lot.
I trained three times. I’m proud of myself for training but feeling of being sick when I’m not training isn’t good. Some techniques Nico and Diego went over were an omoplata from spider and half guard/ knee shield. When I went to open mat we exchanged GI and NO GI. Diego was preparing for a No Gi tournament in May. We discussed how leg locks is now a system everybody needs to study. If not you will be behind the curve, especially as purple belts.
I met a Helene at the Open Mat on Saturday, a fellow BJJ Globetrotter. You can follow her blog. She has over 400 days on the road. She gave me some advice on traveling. She is truly an inspiration.
As a former US Navy Hospital Corpsman, I self diagnosed myself with acute URI (upper respiratory infection). (Note: self diagnosing yourself is a running joke in the medical field. Why? Nearly all patients google their symptoms and think they know what they have.) I have decided its viral and that I will just ride out the symptoms.
I fly to Lima then to Cuzco in a few hours. I hope the weather will be better for my symptoms.
Why do Jiu Jitsu anymore? This question is posed to those who have been doing Jiu Jitsu for a long time, especially for those blue or purple belts. I received my purple belt about three months ago after training on Guam for three years as a blue belt. I came off a physical therapy from an ACL reconstructed surgery. I tore my ACL from a failed throw by my training partner. It was a big blow to stop, receive surgery and recover from it then keep going with the potential to injure it again. I would contemplate the “what ifs” scenarios. I was gun shy at getting back on the mats.
“I don’t want to not live, because of my fear of what could happen.”
-Riding Giants, Laird Hamilton
Top 5 reason to keep going
5. Its a perishable skill. If you have ever taken a break from Jiu-Jitsu, say a month or two, you notice that you skills, timing, flexibility, muscle memory is slightly off. Though at my level now to get back to my ability now I think it just takes 2-3 weeks of consistent practice to attain my level of where I left off. The important concept of growing as a person is keeping consistent. I’ve been taking extended breaks for most of my jiu jitsu journey. What if I kept consistent with it? Instead of taking a break for a month or two. Go once a week. It would keep your skills better than not going at all.
“We are all growing or dying, there’s no in-between.” -Tony Robbins
4. It keeps you humble. That feeling of being exhausted from trying to defend yourself competently from the relentless attacks from your partners. Sometimes you will get tapped. Sometimes a lower belt will submit you. Sometimes you don’t have enough strength to defend anymore. That feeling of defeat is a sobering one. It stays with you. It is not a good feeling. It is only a good feeling when you return from it. Redeem yourself and go back on the mats and train.
3. The ability to express yourself. Self expression is an immensely powerful tool for rehabilitation, meditation, and therapy. It is an art form though some people may not see it as such but Jiu Jitsu has the potential to be a vehicle of expression of your emotion and state of mind. If you are stressed out or concerned about life, rest assured that you can be submitted many times until you cannot think about what ails you. You can also work through it and be in place of meditation and focus that all the things the weigh you down are outside and not on the mats.
“In combative form the art of expressing the human body…to me, ultimately martial arts means honestly expressing yourself. Now it is very difficult to do.” -Bruce Lee
2. Make it Fun. Honestly if it turns into an activity you dread to go to then there is no point to do it anymore. There are ways to entertain yourself. Make a game out of it. In Jiu Jistu University, Saulo advised to try playing someone else’s guard style. That’s like doing an impression of someone. Impressions are funny when they’re dead on, they’re even awful when done bad. But still it’s fun. Play another person’s game other than your own, someone unorthodox like Nino Schembri, Eddie Bravo, or Eduardo Telles. The list can go on. There are many different styles and I don’t think enough is written about the subject.
“Sometimes I even tell my students, “Today you are going to be Pe de Pano, you are going to be Shaolin, and you are going to be Marcelo Garcia-play like that.”
-Jiu Jitsu University
1. Grind. It is a term I really learned on Guam. It means to keep going despite all things. Come to class as often as you can and put your gi on. Train hard and you will feel it in you muscle and bones. You will be tired and exhausted from training and your life. I can remember times when I was driving home and just felt at one with my body and soul. You may not see the change or feel it but when you put that kind of time and effort into something over a long period it will show results physically, mentally and spiritually.
I was stationed on Guam from March 2012 to July 2015. I did not know much about Guam. I knew it was an island in the Pacific but other than that I was completely ignorant about Guam. I received orders from Guam a month after I failed out of dive school in Chicago. I put so much energy and time into preparing for that school. When I failed out it became it a dark time in my life. Imagine gambling 2 years worth of savings and losing it all in one hand of pitch and toss. It was a sobering feeling that I felt for much of my time on that island.
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
Guam is a tropical island in the western Pacific Ocean. It is 10 hours plus greenwich mean time, which means it is roughly a day ahead of American Stateside time. It is an American territory and the official languages are English and Chamorro. The island has a rich history of colonization and war. It has beautiful beaches that can rival the any. It has an average temperature of mid 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit with a mid 70s to low 80s humidity level. Typhoons are a common occurrence that came at least twice a year. It was an interesting place to spend my late 20s.
Well I arrived on Guam very depressed and disheartened because of the unforeseen detour in my career. When you get to a new place it takes awhile to adjust. The quicker you are at adjusting the better you are at handling time away from your family. You do so by creating routine, make new friends, learn new hobbies or continue old ones. I joined Carlson Gracie Guam because it was recommended by a friend who grew up in Guam and his former instructor ran that school. There were many Jiu Jitsu schools on Guam it was highlighted on an episode of Rolled Up, which I watched before I arrived there.
I was a blue belt at the time from my former school, Oceanside Jiu Jitsu. I worked hard by training 4 times a week and competing as often as I could. I took a break from Jiu jistu soon after I got my blue belt and I had to concentrate and preparing for dive school. Guam’s Jiu Jitsu rep preceded itself from the up and coming Jiu jitsu fighters born there like Mike Carbulido, John Meno and Mike Fowler visiting and teaching there for a stint. I knew Jiu jitsu training would be hard, but I really didn’t know how hard. In fact I was afraid of my blue belt actually being taken away. Which I have seen at my previous school when a black belt was given a purple belt. Being away from my family and starting a new job I started training jiu jitsu again as a way to combat my other feelings inside.
Jiu jitsu training on Guam is Monday through Thursday 6pm to roughly 730pm. Normal warm ups consisted of shrimps, arm drags, wrestling shots, and assorted calisthenics. Head coach, Gabe Baker, ran his gym like a military platoon preparing for war especially months before a tournament. Specific guard passing drills would continue in numerous repetitions before ending warm up and a water break. After warm up we would learn two or three moves, drill and practice them. At the end of class we would do specific position drills or continue with the moves we learned that day. More often than not there was no time during class for free rolling. If you wanted to free roll you had to do that after class. There were several people that stayed after for one or two rolls. Fairly normal when compared to most schools. I earned four stripes there.
The leadership was one the main characteristic that made this experience so intense. Gabe Baker’s main job was running that Jiu Jitsu school. He put his heart and soul into running it and making the best Jiu Jitsu fighters as he possibly could. His students are an excellent product of his exceptional coaching. Many other instructors on the island still did it as a hobby and they were pursuing different careers, who can blame them Jiu Jitsu is a difficult field to do professionally. Some schools instruction wasn’t as consistent than Carlson Gracie Guam. Gabe also was an excellent coach that listened to your problems not just on the mat but off. There were many times I confided in him with the issues going on in my life. During my tenure he expanded the kid’s program and knocked down the walls and doubled the school size. As tough as he was on me I will never forget my time at Carlson Gracie Guam.
My take away from the Jiu Jitsu experience. I’m now a Purple belt though I was not promoted by Gabe but I know he mentored me to get that level. Now I’m not afraid of getting my belt taken from me anymore because I’ve gone through so much pain, suffering, injury and cauliflower. I have this idea that if you took away your belt, muscle memory, and move inventory and all you have left is your white belt and experience from your jiu jitsu time. It would only be a matter of time until you get back you original rank. In fact I bet it would take a shorter time to reach the target belt rank. Why do I believe this to be so? I know what it took to get through those belt ranks. I have the basic knowledge of the moves and system Jiu Jitsu uses. My experience has shown me that it is possible and that I have attained it once before. Therefore I can do it again.
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
The island was an incredible place to find yourself. Although I am not an advocate of doing Jiu Jitsu all day everyday. There were other things in my life that suffered when I did that. I believe one needs balance but I know Jiu Jitsu will always be there. Despite all the heartache and frustration I had in other areas in my life when I left Jiu Jitsu whenever I came back to the gym everyone was always very welcoming. I wish to return one day.
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
There was a time on Guam when I memorized the poem If by Rudyard Kipling. To this day it still gives me hope. That stoic hope one needs to get through tough times. It was this poem and my experience on Guam that gives me hope and strength for another day.