Thursday, January 12, 2017

Kunta Kinte, Castles, and the 2017 Europeans


“The answer is to let go and move with the chaos that presents itself to you- from within it, you will find endless opportunities that elude most people”

I was training with Kunta Kinte’s father in New York when it occurred to me that I could hustle my way to the 2017 Europeans in Lisbon, Portugal.

 I’ve spent the last 5 months in a transitory hell trying to find pieces of sanity in between D.C., Virginia, New York, and Philly. It only seems natural that I would escape this chaos by booking my first ever trip to Europe.

If I could make it to New York. I could make it to Portugal. Right?
and if I was going to Europeans, why not compete?


The 2017 IBJJF Europeans is historically one of the biggest jiu jitsu competitions there is with the exception of IBJJF Worlds. I say historically because now the growing number of super fights, sub only events and the rise of competing federations like ADCC are slowly beginning to cloud the once omnipotent presence of IBJJF’s point based tournaments. There's going to be a lot of people from around all over Europe and the U.S. there to compete so it should be an interesting week. Normally this is the kind of competition you spend months training for but I'm just kind of going with the flow.

When you drink and philosophize about jiu jitsu. 

So, like I said, I was training with Kunta Kinte’s father in New York when it occurred to me that I could actually make it happen. I was in the city to work the IBJJF New York Pro with FloGrappling and I stopped by Fabio Clemente's gym to interview his daughter, Vedha Toscano and a lot of time World Champion, Dominyka Obelentye (I think I can finally spell it without looking it up!) for an article with Digitsu. Both of those endeavors were financially gratifying but due to the fact that its about time to file taxes I'm just going to insert a commercial break instead of actually explaining how I'm financing my trip...

Mr. Kinte's insight on training jiu-jitsu
You can find Kunta Kinte's father (aka Babs Olusanmokun)  teaching at Jiu Jitsu For the People 
in New York

And then pick up back here.

So, I'm getting to Portugal the same way that I got to New York with the added bonus of actually getting to compete. I might not be able winning double gold like Vedha and Dominyka had done at the BJJ Pro, but at least I will have half the European jiu-jitsu community there to console me if I don't win. More importantly, Fabricio and Moicano would be there from the social project. Terere and I have spent the last couple of months raising money to get these two to Europeans. We raised over a thousand dollars and with the help of some sponsors and companies like I Ain’t No Saint Tattoo Studios (in England), Fightland Vice (with the favela jiu-jitsu articles, and Tatame we were actually able to make this happen.

"Your opinion of yourself becomes your reality. If you have all these doubts, then no one will believe in you and everything will go wrong. If you think the opposite, the opposite will happen. It's that simple." 

Never. Never in the constant turmoil of my daily life would I have thought that I would compete in Europeans. I mean, it's Europe. That's far, so far it seems almost impossible. And, of course, I have shit to do here, important shit. I lost my license last month and still haven't replaced it and my winter jacket doesn't even zipper. I could, maybe/should invest in a better coat before traversing a whole ocean, but that would have been using fear as an excuse to turn down a free trip to Europe.

The next step on the path to living the dream was to tell at least 3 people. Most ideas sound good in your heads but when they are actually articulated by other people. When your crazy ass ideas that you think about after one too many beers are actually manifested, not as unsubstantiated ideas, but as facts, it becomes more tangible.If everyone else thinks that you can or you are, then you either start to do or be or you're going to look like an idiot. This method worked for me when I was planning on moving to Brazil, and trust me, the first time I heard coach Issac say it in front of the entire class, I was no longer able to hide behind poles and try to avoid rolling. Once other people started asking me about the trip, I had no other choice but to get my shit together and go to Europe because trying to explain to all those people why I was NOT in Portugal would be worse than any apprehension I had about actually going. So yeah, I fly out on Saturday. Hopefully, I'll win a medal, see a lot of friends, get to visit some castles, and eat some good food.

The whole favela will be watching Moicano and Fabricio compete next Saturday. O bicho vai pegar. It's about to be LIIT.

and I'll be mat side

with my new camera.

= )

Fabricio at Brazilian Nationals in 2015. Moicano, Moleza, Fabricio, and I took a bus down to Sao Paulo. It was the first trip outside of Rio that the project sponsored with food, registration, and transportation all paid for from donations sent to TKP. Watching Fabricio eat his victory acai after winning gold for the first time (after many attempts) is definitely something I'll never forget. Fabricio has changed a lot in the three years that I've known him, he's an amazing teacher, a great friend, and a father of 3 beautiful children. 

Last year the project sponsored Moicano to travel 
to San Diego to compete in IBJJF PanKids
It was a long, stressful, crazy, amazing, humbling, 

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