"I built my own place from one principle and one principle only: treat every single person who walks through the door as your potential next best friend."
Christian Graugart is living the dream. Our dream, anyway. Through his blog, and the help of several hospitable members of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community, he orchestrated an epic 90-thousand-kilometer trip around the world in 2011. Graugart visited 56 gyms across 24 countries during his journey and recounted his adventures in the book The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotter: The True Story of a Frantic, 140 Day Long Journey Around-The-World Trip to Train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Since then, he has earned his black belt from Robson Barbosa, won the London Open in 2012 and hosts over ten camps a year for 1,500+ participants under the BJJ Globetrotters banner.
Here at Grappler Mag, we are huge Graugart supporters. The parallels in our goals and his accomplishments are eerily similar. We share the wanderlust coursing through his veins. That he met and became long-term pals with friend-of-the-mag Dan”Imal” Reid on his trip seven years ago and agreed to an interview via email at his behest is truly serendipitous. His responses are the epilogue to his book lost between pages stuck together. They are the hidden vignette after the credits in The Avengers. They are the answers to our fan mail.
Grappler Mag: What prompted your move to the Caribbean? What has it been like training there?
Christian Graugart: I have lived in Saint Barth for close to two years at this point and still love it. After a round-the-world trip to train Jiu-Jitsu back in 2011, I wrote a book about my experiences. Someone from the island read it and invited me to come teach since they were basically just a small group of 5-10 white belts with no instructor. I flew over for a few weeks and ended up making a lot of good friends and coming back every year. At one point, I had worked on cutting down my possessions in life, including selling my academy through 15 years, and when I randomly was offered an apartment on the island, it was a fairly easy decision to give it a shot and move there. Never really looked back since.
GM: What sort of plans do you have for your return to Europe?
CG: I don’t really have any plans. Will definitely return one day, but as long as I’m able to keep myself in a position where it is not necessary to have any plans for anything, then I’m gonna stay with that.
GM: What are your goals for the immediate future?
CG: I have no plans. I’m not sure where I will live, what I will do or how BJJ Globetrotters will look in the next 6-12 months. I have a rough idea, but I’m really just going with the flow.
GM: The main idea for this issue is inspiration to follow your dreams, would you say your visit to Moldova still ranks as the most inspiring experience from your travels? Has there been another instance since then where you've felt that same emotion? What are your lasting memories of Moldova?
CG: I’m not sure. I think that many times where I have put myself out of my comfort zone and in a place that I did not expect to ever go, that has given me some amazing experiences and memories. I think there’s a universal formula for a “Time of Your Life” experience and one of the big ingredients is hardship. Anything you did that’s easy won’t be as memorable as something that took a real effort. Going to train with poor kids in Moldova was in many ways not easy, but it hasn’t been a unique experience for me - I get that same feeling on a regular basis in my life often, because I refuse to do things that are easy.
GM: How has starting a family/ fatherhood in general impacted your perspective or philosophies on training and traveling?
CG: Not really, I pretty much do the same thing now. Of course, logistically, it’s a bit more challenging to live a life of traveling and adventure when you have two children, but it’s not impossible. It’s a matter of direction and priorities.
GM: The Taiwan chapter of the BJJ Globetrotter featuring Dan was by far one of the more interesting and hilarious parts of the book (along with the epic shit during the storm in Jamaica). Obviously Danimal BJJ is a Globetrotter-affiliated gym, how would you describe your relationship with Dan?
CG: I haven’t seen him for a while, but I’m looking forward to catch up with him at our Zen Camp in Poland in little under two months. He is one of the many people that I connected very well with on my round-the-world trip and who is still in my life in one way or another. When traveling to all these unlikely places, I quickly realized that no matter where I showed up - even completely random locations I had never heard about before - great friendships and experiences was awaiting me there, as long as I kept an open mind towards every person I met. I had just arrived in Taiwan, exhausted late at night, when Dan messaged me after having seen my post on some Asian BJJ forum. He picked me up the next morning and we pretty much instantly went on a road trip around the entire island of Taiwan, training in several different places and running into some seriously strange situations. I’m sure we have a lot of adventures awaiting us together in the future.
GM: What was the inspiration behind the Globetrotter of the Year Award?
CG: Honestly, I think it was just a random idea that popped up at some point; perhaps someone suggested it. There was not a lot of thought behind it. I usually write down anything between 5-10 ideas every day and often randomly pick which ones I’ll move on; this was one of them. I’ve started teaching a workshop at the camps called “Create Something” on my approach to getting ideas and making them happen, which has been a very interesting process for me. At some point I might publish something about that and I’m sure it’ll then all make sense how the award came about in my head.
GM: What advice or tips would you have for someone looking to open a gym? What are some early common obstacles? Any tips on overcoming a language barrier?
CG: I built my own place from one principle and one principle only: treat every single person who walks through the door as your potential next best friend. I know that’s not for everyone, but it’s worked for me in many, many projects I’ve done.
There’s no language barrier if you just learn the language.
GM: What is your favorite surf spot? Or can you narrow it down to a few places?
CG: Seven years after my first ever surf lesson, I still consider myself a complete beginner. Maybe a brand new blue belt on a really good day. So I don’t really have a favorite spot. Probably where I go in Saint Barth but only because it’s such a pretty place to start the day and only a few minutes from my house.
GM: What would you say has been the most difficult place to travel to but was ultimately worth the trouble?
CG: Planet Earth. Might change that to the moon within a decade or two.
Visit www.BJJglobetrotters.com for more information.