how did you get started in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu? Were you doing other martial arts?
I started training in 1997 after training Judo and Boxing back in Germany.
When and how did you know you were hooked on BJJ? How long did it take?
I was intrigued right away since it challenged me in ways no Martial Arts had challenged me before. I tried several Martial Arts after moving to Canada in 1995 but Jiu-jitsu made me question everything I though I knew about Martial Arts.
Did you have a mentor early on that pushed you the right way?
No I didn’t, but I am grateful to every coach that taught me Jiu-jitsu from Team Megaton to Marcus Soares and I know that they did the best they could.
Your proudest moment?
I don’t think I have proud moments but I enjoy the moments when I am able to help my students to grow as Martial Artists on and off the mat.
The student you are proudest of?
You may be surprised by my answer but it were not the students that went on win belts or Championships but those students that didn’t think of themselves as Martial Artists and that found the warrior inside themselves win or loose.
How do people improve their lives with BJJ?
I believe that Martial Arts help our students to get out of their head and become more present. By simply training or sparring without thinking about anything else including winning or losing.
There is way to much thinking people do and not enough awareness, appreciation and simply people being themselves. As you grow as a Martial Artist you realize the importance of these skills.
How did you start WCBJJ?
Royce Gracie gave a seminar in Maple Ridge in 2005 and I went. By the end of the seminar Royce gave me a purple belt and the students that were there asked me to start the first BJJ club in Maple Ridge, which I did. Later I opened the first BJJ club in Port Coquitlam and in Burnaby and West Coast Martial Arts has been growing ever since.
What is the personal style in your training?
I see myself as a facilitator meaning that I try not to teach my personal style like most instructors do. I understand that every student has different abilities and needs and I try to respond to them the best I can.
Among all the Arts BJJ is probably more of a hardcore Martial Art since it is very physical and threatening to one’s ego. There is no space, there is no escaping and you need to face your fears without reservation. People who like to train BJJ can feel the power that rests in it…
What is the most important thing you want to imprint on your students?
The most important lesson I have for my students is to become a true Martial artist on and off the mat by practicing their courage every day and by committing themselves to give 100% in everything they do.
What does a student have to do to improve in BJJ?
The key to learning Jiu-jitsu is to understand that it is an art. It is individual, non-repeatable and unique in every moment so in order to learn it the student has to stop trying to think but instead trying to become present and simply feel and perceive what is happening and what is about to happen. Sounds deep, but so is BJJ.
What is the value today in belt rank? Do you think it is important?
Other than to let yourself other student know at what level you are it I would not try to take it too important. I had one student switch teams after training for years with us because he felt he deserved to be a purple belt when he was a four stripe blue belt and all I can say that he completely missed what it means to be a Martial Artist.
What must a student know or be able to demonstrate in order to be awarded stripes?
All the belt levels are individualistic in Jiu-jitsu. That means that an average students has to improve a certain amount while someone much more athletic has to prove much more to get the same promotions.
It has to be that way since an absolute measurement may prevent some student from ever achieving a black belt. That belt is a sign of mastering one single persons journey only.
What else should a good BJJ practitioner do besides train in the sport?
I recommend my students to apply the lessons of BJJ by never to giving in to the ego, looking at your short comings without judging themselves, simply to be yourself and be open to learning every day something new.
I used to have students in the past who could fight very well but they did not have the courage to look at their own lives even for a second. These guys may become good fighters but they never will become champions since being honest with yourself and dealing with your own shortcomings are signs of a true champion, winning or loosing.
What kind of person is attracted to BJJ, or what about BJJ attracts them to the sport?
Among all the Arts BJJ is probably more of a hardcore Martial Art since it is very physical and threatening to one’s ego. There is no space, there is no escaping and you need to face your fears without reservation. People who like to train BJJ can feel the power that rests in it since once you learn some techniques you know that you can look after yourself in a self defense situation. The drawback is that if you just teach Jiu-jitsu without educating students to also be Martial Artists, people with low self esteem will be also attracted to it since it gives the the false sense of power and control. This is why we monitor our students closely now to eliminate these kind of students that walk through life with an inflated ego, but actually really low self-esteem, which shows under pressure when they are giving up as soon as things get hard. When properly trained a BJJ students will be much better equipped than the average person in dealing with everyday stress and pressure from others and will have excellent will power to achieve whatever she/he sets it mind to.