BJJ Globetrotter by Christian Graugarrt

Headed to Copenhagen; Finally Read the Book

I like books.

When I travel to a new city, I always wind up popping into random bookstores I see along the road and look around. Even if the books are in another language and I can’t read a thing. It doesn’t matter. I still look through them.

I also take note of interesting books and add them to my Amazon Wishlist. To come back and read some day. The number of books on that list just keeps growing. And growing.

I will never read all of them. Lots of interesting books.

I don’t really carry physical copies of books around with me anymore. Its a lot easier to just carry a Kindle. 50 books in my pocket.

One of those books is ‘The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotter’ by Christian Graugart. It had been on my Wishlist ever since Masa first told me about Christian and his trip well over a year and half ago. Before I even knew much about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).

BJJ Globetrotter by Christian Graugarrt

This one

But, I never bought it. I thought I had. I looked through my Kindle, but it wasn’t there.

I had read a few travel memoirs before and the idea of traveling and training at various Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms was interesting to me.

In fact, I even started doing it myself. I started training BJJ in September 2013 when I was in Taiwan. Since then I’ve trained in 10 different gyms in 7 different countries.

I joined Graugart’s BJJ Globetrotters team when I first heard about it, and I’ve even used it to find places to train at while I travel.

But, I still hadn’t read his book. It just sat there on my Wishlist: one of those things “I really should read one of these days” along with the many other books on that list. They pile up like documentaries in a Netflix queue.

Flight ticket frustrations and change of plans

Last month, after a couple of weeks of surviving solely on espresso shots and Pastels de Nata, and in between blowing up eggs in the hostel’s microwave (true story), I got paid for a project and decided to sit down and figure out my travel plans. I could buy my flight tickets and finally get back to Texas for the holidays, after two and a half years of not stepping foot in my home state.

Pastel de Nata

Everyday in Portugal

My original plan was to go from Portugal to Ireland, spend about a month in Dublin working and training BJJ and then fly back to Austin. The reason I had this plan was because I thought the flights from Dublin to Austin were fairly inexpensive.

They weren’t.

All the prices that were being shown were lies. Completely untrue. No matter the flight aggregate site: Momondo, Skyscanner, Kayak. They were all lying to me about the price of this ticket. It looked fairly inexpensive, but every time I went to buy it, it jumped up 250 Euro (about $300) from the advertised price. I eventually figured out why. The airline was pushing half the price of a roundtrip ticket to these aggregate sites, rather than the true price of a one-way. So, the prices that were being shown were prices that didn’t actually exist. I’m not paying this much. I refuse.

I start looking for cheaper alternatives. I still wanted to get to Texas for the holidays, but now I didn’t know how. It took almost a whole day of searching and playing around with alternative routes, but then I stumbled on fairly cheap flights being offered by Norwegian Airlines.

Extended layovers: one of my favorite travel tricks

Whenever I find a certain airline offering a good price on a route I usually look into doing an extended layover in the country they are based in, just so I can see another place. This is how I visited Seoul (Korean airline flight from Shanghai to Singapore), Dubai (Air Emirates flight from Singapore to London), and even Dublin the first time in 2012 (cheapest route from UK to Boston).

So, now I’m looking at Air Norwegian flights. Do I want to spend a few days in Norway? In December?

It sounds cold. And dark. Only a couple of hours of daylight. I don’t even have a good winter coat. I had one when I lived in Boston, but I left it in the US when I bought that one way ticket for Singapore. No winter coats are needed by the equator.

Then, another thought occurred to me: all of Scandinavia is pretty much the same, maybe the flights would also be cheap if I did a layover in Sweden, Finland, or Denmark, instead of Norway?

Yep, they were.

Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway

Thanks Google

I’ve gotten a lot better with world geography over the past few years as I’ve traveled, but I still knew nothing about Scandinavia. After a quick brush up familiarizing myself with the major cities there, I was reminded that Oslo is in Norway, Helsinki is in Finland, Stockholm is in Sweden, and Copenhagen is in Denmark.

Copenhagen? Oh, that’s where the BJJ Globetrotters guy has his gym.

Now, I had an idea. No. Now I had a plan.

I booked the flights and emailed Christian. He told me I picked good dates and invited me to his Christmas party. Traditional Danish Christmas food on deck.

I should probably read his book before I get there.

It’s been on my reading list for awhile. So, I bought it and read it while I was traveling around Ireland (and training BJJ at academies around Ireland).

The book inspired me

It inspired me to keep training. It inspired to me to keep traveling.

But, mostly, it inspired me to start writing again (Hence, the blog is back)

I knew about the hospitality of BJJ guys around the world, having experienced a bit of it myself while traveling. But, its always interesting to see someone else’s take on his own travel experiences. It was really interesting to see Christian reflect on his trip and how it shaped his life thinking even after returning home.

Overall, I just like to hear other people’s stories and experiences, and this book had plenty of that.

It’s a book that should inspire you. Whether you train BJJ or not. You can still take on the world. And win.

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Mentioned in the post:

‘The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotter: The true story about a frantic, 140 day long, around-the-world trip to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ‘ by Christian Graugart.

From Groundhogs Day to Constant Flux; And 2014 Resolutions

In October, I was a robot.

I was focused on building two new habits: training BJJ, and studying Mandarin Chinese. While continuing to read everyday.

I did all three of them… almost everyday in October.

I was settled in Taipei, and I was grinding. Day in. Day out. The same thing.

Every day is the same day

Every day is the same day

Then, November came and everything changed.

November started off with a visa run out of Taipei: one week in Bangkok and one week in Manila.

Quick backstory on Bangkok, because I think it’s funny:

In November 2012, I was in Malaysia with plans to head up to Bangkok by train. I paid for an apartment in Bangkok for two weeks and had everything planned. Then, at the last minute, I cancelled the trip, saying “two weeks in Bangkok isn’t enough. I’ll have to go back there early next year when I can spend more time there.” And, I flew straight to Tokyo. Of course… I never made it to Bangkok in early 2013. Actually, it took a whole year before I finally made it there: November again. 2013. This time, I only spent one week there.

Funny how things change.

Bangkok

Bangkok, November 2013

Anyway, back on topic.

In addition to the two-week trip to start off November, work picked up, and I started an online course at HarvardX on the history of China.

Now, plenty of more things occupied my time.

Needless to say, in the first two weeks of November, I didn’t study Chinese or make it to BJJ at all. (I did still read everyday though – that’s easy to do while traveling)

I even took my gi with me, with plans to hit a BJJ gym in Manila. But, I never made it out there. Too busy.

Funny how things change.

Now, I’ve been back in Taipei for about a month, and I’ve been trying to get back to habits of Mandarin and BJJ daily. The Mandarin I’ve done well with. BJJ has been more difficult, with both the additional work schedule and I’ve encountered a nagging shoulder injury all month. It’s been annoying.

Because, of the shoulder injury, I’ve added a new daily habit into the mix: 10 minutes of Yoga every morning. It’s actually really helped my nagging shoulder and neck problems. But, I’m still not 100%.

Actually, the Yoga habit was one I started in Tokyo, but fell out of touch with once I moved back to Taipei.

I think its a good one to have, so it’s back in the mix.

Also, I’ve decided to drop reading as a daily habit in favor of studying more Chinese. (i.e.: read Chinese textbooks on the MRT to practice reading Chinese characters, rather than reading books in English).

So, I definitely won’t hit the 30 books in 6 months target.

So, right now the three habits I’m trying to do daily are: Yoga, BJJ, and studying Mandarin.

Add in work and social activities, and my time is well accounted for.

Yet, I’m still trying to do more.

There’s a couple more habits on my radar:

    • I want to beef up my consulting grind a bit, so I need to get on that, and I think the first step to get back into consulting mode is to get back to practicing case interviews: hypothesizing, synthesizing and drilling down on client’s issues in a very timely manner. Therefore, I want to get into the habit of practicing case interviews on a daily basis again. This was a habit I had over a year ago: when I lived in Singapore I would practice cases on Skype everyday until I was good enough to run rings around the Ivy league students, but now, I’m rusty again. So, I need to get back into this habit. I think it’s just something that will help me overall in my business career.

 

    • In order to take steps to get to the next level in Mandarin, I need to really start doing language exchanges daily. These are troublesome, because they take so much time: generally two hours. One hour to speak English, one hour to speak your target language. But, I did this in Japan and it did wonders for my Japanese conversational ability – a mark I’m still fairly far off in Mandarin. Also, I’ve had more trouble finding good language exchange partners in Taipei, I tend to run into two kinds of language exchange partners: the ones who just want to just teach you random vocabulary words in Mandarin (which is not helpful at all, because a language is so much more than vocabulary) or girls who are just looking for foreign boyfriends and use language exchange as a means to find one. In this respect, I really miss Tokyo – the Japanese took their language exchange efforts seriously.

 

    • Also, I want to beef up the work out regimen. I would like to get back into the weight room and start to slowly pick up Muy Thai. My ideas for this are to basically start off with a training split of BJJ 6 days a week, Muy Thai 1 (yeah, I said, slowly – and my focus is still much more leaned to BJJ). Also, my goals for the weight room would to just get back to building strength: I wouldn’t do too much here, just a Starting Strength sort of program, focused really around bench press, dead lifts, and squats – maybe 3 days a week.

These habits are just goals right now, and nothing I’m putting much effort to building right away, but rather I’d like to add them in slowly. Maybe, one habit a month? Or something along those lines.

No New Year’s Resolutions or anything like that, because I don’t do such things. I’m more focused on building habits slowly, and changing things and adjusting always and as needed.

Cheers!

Have a good 2014 folks.

happy_new_year_2014_266948

On Day One, I Got My Ass Kicked

Not really.

I didn’t really do anything.

But, I didn’t know anything. So, I probably looked awful. Or at least I looked like the guy who didn’t know what he was doing.

But, I don’t care.

It was wonderful.

I quoted Nick on this before – when I wrote my “slapped by reality” post. I’ll drop the exact same quote in again here:

“Our local (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) club had an horrific churn rate as new guys would come in to class and not come back. It was easy to know who would stick around – the unassuming guys who had come to learn. It was equally easy to predict the first day dropouts. They’d be wearing some tough guy clothes, perhaps insisting on wearing a coloured belt they’d picked up in a sports centre grading mill. They’d certainly have a stiff pride about them. Then one of our scrawny blue belts would wipe the mat with them. The ego death was simply too much to take. Their buffer had been overrun and their self-image could not take the real-world evidence that they simply weren’t as tough as they thought they were.”

That’s right. In case you didn’t figure it out yet – I decided to get into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Partly inspired by Nick’s and Masa’s assessments that training BJJ has given them discipline that has carried over into other ventures of their life.

Partly inspired by the inspiration of two of my best friends from my previous career Texas who are both heavily into BJJ nowadays. They’ve both gotten into much better shape than our days of sitting around an office all day and then heading to a happy hour to pound beers.

That applies to me as well. I was quite fat back then. In the worst shape of my life. At the age of 23.

I plan to keep it that way. I’ll never be that overweight again. I never have been since. And I never will be. Ever again.

The age of 23 – most people’s physical peak, is/will be my trough.

Anyway, back on topic.

Adding In New Habits Each Month

Who else inspired me?  Oh yeah, the other bloggers – Niall  has posted a lot about functional fitness : i.e.: being a man and not training for your “figure” or how you look in the mirror, but training for a functional skill set. In that sense – any martial art applies here. Any form of sports training really. Looking good should be a side benefit, not the main focus.

Niall also recently talked about focus, and how his current focus is on business and training (for him it was training Krav Manga while in Hong Kong).

And, Maneesh recently wrote about habits. He talks about building one new habit a month, and reinforcing last month’s habit.

What was my habit in August?  Practicing Mandarin.

If there was one thing I did everyday during the month of August, it was practicing Mandarin. Mostly pronunciation.

Damn tones pairs. Tricky bastards.

So – now what? I’ll follow Maneesh’s idea here. In September, I’ll reinforce last month’s habit – so I’ll continue to practice Mandarin everyday.

And then I’ll add something new.

But what?

Fitness was an easy place to look. I’ve been itching to get back into the gym. I haven’t worked out seriously in quite a long time. I did P90x a bit back when I was living in London, and then in Tokyo – I joined a gym. But, I half-assed it. I didn’t have a solid plan, so I just went to the gym to go.

The last time I really had a solid workout program was when I lived in Boston. And that seems so long ago.

So, when I got back to Taipei, I considered getting back in the gym. I considered joining a gym and getting a personal trainer and getting back on the weights.

Then, I had a change of heart.

Why? Well, I guess partly due to the inspiration of those mentioned above: AJ, David, Nick, Masa and their love of BJJ.

Oh, and I remember another friend of mine back in Texas ranting about how the Gracie’s were the best fighters ever and no other fighting style can beat BJJ and when you look at mixed martial arts, anybody who’s anybody has solid knowledge of at least one good grappling discipline.

There’s also one other big reason for

Choosing Sports Training over Weightlifting.

There’s the social aspect of it.

Training with and against other people – you make friends. It’s a social sport, even though it’s an individual sport. That’s only natural.

I’m a very social person – I ranked as an ENTP last time I took the Myers-Briggs and that E is very telling. I talked to the counselor at UT (where I took the Myers-Briggs) and her notion of extrovert was very important to me and stuck with me, “somebody who gets energy from other people”. When her and I talked about that I recalled when I worked as a trader – a job mostly full of introverts – and I just always had to get up from my computer and walk around and talk to people. Mostly the other extroverts. The same guys mentioned above – who are coincidentally all into BJJ now.

So, I need people in my life. I need social activity. If I were to spend all of my time writing, reading, and working on the internet – I would go insane.

Weightlifting is too easy to do individually. You show up to the gym with headphones in and lift. For that reason, it’s too boring. I have enough individual things going on in my life. I need something that requires constant interaction with other people.

Preferably something besides drinking, which is just too easy to fall into as a main social activity. That winds up being costly: time-wise and money-wise. Health-wise as well. Losing whole days to hangovers sucks. Getting drunk and hooking up with random girls is fun, but I’ve done enough of that in recent years. I need something more productive to focus on.

So, I guess these recollections hit me and I remembered Masa knew of solid place to train here in Taipei, so I hit him up and sent me the info of the gym.

I hit up my boys in Texas too to get their thoughts on BJJ and getting started in it.

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is: Getting Started & Getting Dedicated

I popped over to the gym.

Then came the next day to sit in on a class. The only idiot in the class without a gi.

I bought a 6-month membership.

6 moths? For a couple of reasons:

  1. Well, I’ve decided to settle down and stay in Taipei for at least the next 6 months (this inspired more by my quest to speak Mandarin than anything else. But, also because I quite like it here.)
  2. You get a discount for signing up for 6 months rather than doing month-to-month.
  3. And – the biggest reason is: I’ve been down this road before. Not with BJJ, but with boxing. I got all hype and into boxing and joined a boxing gym. Went 3 times a week for a month – was sore as hell at work everyday the next day. But, then when the month ended, I didn’t renew the membership. Why? “Too expensive” and “I didn’t have the money”. Playing basketball was cheaper. I was going to come back and re-join the boxing gym again when I had the funds to do so. But… I never did.

I’m determined to not make the same mistake with BJJ. This one needs a longer commitment.

DSC_0238

Time to Work

The Many Faces of Success: Japanese Vagabond – Fighter and Freelancer

“We think of success as only measured by your money. / But, money never lasts. / In fact, it’s only last / on the list of impactful things you can ask for / …So, with that – we need us a plan…” – Wale, The Perfect Plan

Welcome to The Many Faces of Success Interview Series: a reoccurring interview series focusing on success in many forms. From entrepreneurs to writers, to travelers who are just living the life they want to live…in this interview series I sit down with people who are living and defining their own success on their own terms, people who I find inspiring, and whose stories I find interesting enough to share here.

In today’s post I sit down with fellow traveler and blogger, Masafumi Matsumoto. Masa is originally from Japan, but has been travelling and living abroad for over a year now, mainly in Southeast Asia. His blog at MasafumiMatsumoto.com is a place where he shares his writings: “writings on life and love.” He describes himself as “a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter, vagabond, translator, copywriter, lover of life and beauty, and curious learner.”

I caught up with him while we were both staying in Taipei and he was willing to be the “guinea pig” in the Many Faces of Success Interview Series.

 

Masafumi Matsumoto

Masafumi Matsumoto

Here is his story:

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William: You’ve been traveling for awhile now. What initially inspired you to leave Japan and live on the road?

Masa: That’s a tough question actually. Somehow I was interested in living this kind of lifestyle. If I think about it, when I was a high school student one of my teachers asked me what I was going to do when I finish University. I was planning to study Philosophy. That was in 2001, so about 12 years ago. I hadn’t heard of digital nomads or anything like that, and I don’t think there were many then. But, when he asked me that question, I thought that maybe in 10 years or so the internet will be much more available. So, maybe I will be able to work from anywhere and maybe I will be a writer or something.

So I had a kind of vision, but I didn’t take it seriously really.

I think my first real inspiration was Chris Guillebeau when he published his free ebook, A Brief Guide to World Domination. I think it was 2007, 2008 maybe. I got to know about about Chris and what he was doing and it made me realize that that kind of lifestyle was a real possibility  There’s someone doing it!

So, I think Chris was my first real inspiration to make this kind of lifestyle happen. I think it was also around the time when Tim Ferriss published his book, The 4 Hour Workweek.

Ok. So you mention in 2001 you thought about it, then in 2007 you heard about Chris and that’s when you really got inspired. What where you doing between that time?

Well, I was in Australia. Thats where I went to University. Around that time I was trying to become a freelance translator. I mean that was the only thing I knew I could freelance and make money and I knew I was at least okay with my translation skills.

You got into translation because you were bilingual?

Yes. To be honest, I didnt think much about other possibilties, like copywriting for example.

Right now I’m starting my own copywriting service. I think I have a very good background for it, and once I got started, and got a little experience I could see that I would actually be quite good at copywriting. And I actually do enjoy copywriting a little more than translation.

Yeah, I guess copywriting allows you to be a little more creative, allows you to tell a story through your copy…

Yeah, and of course being a freelance translator gives you flexibility and freedom without the pressure of time. Well, that’s not always the case sometimes you have a tight deadline and you have to submit before the deadline. So you have irregular work hours.

How long have you been doing translation?

Almost 4 years now.

Ok. And, how long have you been traveling and living on the road?

I started traveling extensively since February last year. But I did a “mini-travel” for one month in 2011. So, I think that was a good test for whether I could support myself with translation and live this lifestyle.

So you’ve been doing freelance translation to support yourself and now you’re doing copywriting as well. Is there anything else you’ve tried along the way? Any other ventures to make income you attempted while you’ve been traveling?

Not really. Well, I kind of did. I tried to some affiliate marketing and those kinds of things. But, I guess the thing is I wasn’t really intersted in – well, I was interested in making money to support myself – but I wasn’t interested in selling someone else’s products that way.

It’s not as exciting as copywriting or even translation. I mean some poeple are interested in affiliate marketing and these kinds of things – but for me, not so much.

Now, I know another thing you are very passionate about is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Do you train in every city you stay in while you travel?

Yes, that is the case. And, I know I mentioned Chris Guillebeau as an inspiration earlier, but another inspiration when I started travelling was Christian Graugart. He wrote a blog called BJJ Globetrotter, and when I saw that I thought it would pretty cool to incorporate into my travel and lifestyle as well. Because Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is something I have practiced for 11 years now.

Ok, yeah I have heard a lot of good things about martial arts and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in particular. How do you think BJJ has affected your approach to life and affected your thought process?

Well, I think it’s really helped actually. It’s given me the discipline of working on one skill and one particular thing over and over, every single day in order to be good at it. And, I think this applies to other skills as well, and is something I have used for other skills. I have currently been working on copywriting and I handwrite ads by hand, every day, in order to build the skill. So, it’s similar I think.

Also, the point of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is you want to be calm. Completely calm and execute effortlessly while your opponent struggles. And I think it helps to apply this to life as well. You want reach the point in your skills where you are calm and things are effortless.

Yeah, that’s a really good point. That’s something I’ve noticed a lot and something I agree with a lot as well: working hard on your skills daily until you reach the point where its simple and effortless. I can see how Brazilian Jiu Jistu would help with that. It makes perfect sense. Anyway, let’s change gears a bit and talk a bit about your writing. You write your own blog. How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing my blog since the beginning of 2010. I started it on January 1, 2010 actually. That’s my birthday. And when I started writing I did a 12 week course – a course I got from a book I read, called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a really good book actually and her premise is that you can rediscover your creativity in 12 weeks.

So, I did that, and I kept doing what she calls The Morning Pages, which is every morning after you wake up, you handwrite 3 pages of uninhibited thought. You just write for 3 pages. I did that for awhile. Not the whole time that I’ve been writing the blog, because I stopped doing it, but I’ve recently started doing it again.

Ok. So it sounds like you have a pretty good morning routine going now. You wake up everyday, handwrite 3 pages of uninhibited thought, then you handwrite copy…

Yeah, and actually, that is how I learned English as well. I mean I went to English school, but when I really improved my English, I did it by handwriting English everyday and saying what I was writing out loud. It really helped me get familiar with language and internalize the grammar and structure, ways of saying things.

And, now you write a blog in English. So what is that like: writing in your second language? Do you ever find it difficult, seeing as its not your native tongue?

Actually, I find that when I write I express myself better in English. Well, you know I went to University in Australia and I studied Philosophy  so I had to write a lot papers. I’m at a point now where I’ve been writing in English for a long time, many years. So, I can express myself better when writing English versus Japanese. I never really write Japanese actually. Only when I email my mother or something like that.

Okay. So what about speaking? Do you find it easier to express yourself when speaking in English as well?

Well, yeah, in a way. Because when I speak Japanese, I have a Japanese mind. So, I have to think about who I’m speaking with and whether I have to be very polite. Not that I’m not polite when I speak English, but its different.

Yeah, that makes sense. So, I’m curious what are your future plans? Where is this all going?

Well, I plan to continue traveling. And, I plan to be great at copywriting.

As far as travel plans, well, I’m going to Philippines soon to compete in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament. After that, I’m traveling to Europe. I’m flying to Sweden and then I plan to go to Poland, and start my own “Euro Trip” from Poland. I haven’t been to Europe yet, so I am pretty excited.

Yeah, that sounds good. Sounds like an exciting trip. Well, you have done a bit of traveling, what was your favorite place so far?

Favorite place? Oh, that’s a hard one. Cambodia was quite impressive. But as far as living? I have to say Taipei has been really good to me. Obviously when I’m travelling one of the most important things to me is that there is good Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training where I go and Taipei has been really good in that respect and there is a lot to do here as well. Yeah, Taipei has been good.

 

Taipei. Photo by: William Peregoy.

Taipei. (Photo by: William Peregoy.)

 

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For more on Masa, please check out his blog at MasafumiMatsumoto.com

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