Bosnia’s first BJJ black belt, Arvin Widder on using judo in BJJ, and the BJJ scene in the region

1. Hi Arvin, can you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about your journey in Jiu-Jitsu and Judo? (Your background, who you trained under, who did you train with in Brazil and the states(famous fighters) and your main achievements etc..)

OOOOSSSSSSS!! My name is Arvin Timon Widder, I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia. I started judo training at 12 years old along with Shotokan Karate and I soon realized that I was better suited to grappling sports, so I blindly started judo training in Judo club Zeljeznicar. 3 months later, I went on my first judo competition (Judo open, BiH) and I lost the first first fight 10-0, and to a choke, which then to me an unknown technique. For the first time I fell asleep on the mat and I was unable to even see what actually happened. Thankfully, my first competition bad experience increased my interest in the ground techniques, so I wanted to learn how to overcome the fastest and best opponent on the ground. My coach at the time was Velic Nihad from whom I learned throwing techniques, and along with that I learned and ground techniques
from coach Sasa Jankovic (later Yugoslavia coach of women’s judo team). In my career I was many times judo champion of Bosnia, I was gold medalist of an international tournament in Zagreb (and 3 times second), second place in the international tournament “Nagaoka” in Ljubljana. In the Yugoslavian championships in Bitola (Macedonia) 2/3 position, the state championship ( Yugoslavia) in Belgrade, 2nd place, I was a member of the Yugoslavian national judo team, I participated in the former Yugoslavia judo league in the category 71 kg and under … After the war in Bosnia, I was state champion and national team member of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the category 78 kg. I ended my judo career ingloriously with a meniscus injury at a international tournament in Split, in 1997.

2. How did you meet Sensei Edson Carvalho? (tell us about your relationship etc)

With Edson Carvalho at his academy in New Jersey

I loved watching the first UFCs, and jiu-jitsu’s superiority over other martial arts. This is what motivated me to open my first BJJ club in Bosnia. The club was founded in 1998 at the urging of my friend Fred from America. In the beginning we practiced a combination of judo and jiu-jitsu, or more precisely – kosen judo. Two years later, again thanks to Fred, I went to the U.S. (New Jersey) in the club where he was then practicing BJJ: Team Edson Carvalho. Sensei Edson was a great Bjj athlete and coach, a master of judo and a 5th degree black belt in BJJ. In this city he already had two clubs as well as 1 in New York (Manhathan). We quickly became close friends, given the similarity in our approach of BJJ and its association with judo. Upon his return to Sarajevo, I continued with the club and with Bjj in a somewhat different approach to jiu-jitsu as a sport, thanks to Sensei Edson. In 2001., I went back to the U.S., and trained with Sensei Edson, and actually started to understand the concept of BJJ as a whole (stand up, ground game). In 2003, we organized the first BJJ seminar (gi and no gi) in Sarajevo, with Sensei Edson, who promoted me to BJJ black belt, thus becoming the first Bjj black belt in Bosnia and after Jovan Žerjal (Serbia) the second in the territory of former Yugoslavia. Several years later, at the invitation of the coach BJJ Donji Miholjac, Croatia, I became a visiting coach in a local club, and afterwards at the club in Osijek, as well as in Djakovo, which also became part of the Edson Carvalho Team. In Bosnia, my students in Tuzla and Buzim also formed their own clubs, and so for the time being in BiH there are three clubs that are part of Team Edson Carvalho and where I am a visiting coach. In 2009 I went to Team Edson Carvalho in Brazil (Salvador). I competed in the BJJ Panemerican Games in El Salvador, and won two gold medals in the seniors category in the to 86.7 kg divison and in the ablsolute category.

3.Coming from a Judo background, how would you describe your style of BJJ? (your personal style and teaching style)

Carvalho team world convention

My judo background is of course affected my style of fighting and teaching BJJ. Judo + Bjj is the ideal combination! For example, there are many masters of Judo and BJJ like Ronaldo Souza Jacare, Rodrigo Minotauro. In my, and other clubs of Team Edson Carvalho, we train BJJ in different stages, in training we practice 30% of stand-up techniques and 70% of ground floor techniques. I try, through my training of students to demonstrate the usefulness and effectiveness in fighting standing. I also think that learning ground techniques takes less time than learning throwing techniques ! BJJ fights start standing position and end (in most cases) on the ground. Since it is slower and more difficult to learn throwing techniques, for my older students (over 30 years), I try to teach them first of takedown techniques, as a way to ease the transition to the ground. I think I pulled out of judo what is best for BJJ. I also think that many BJJ teachers are at disadvantage, and so are competitors when they do not know at least the basics of judo throws, because, as I said, “fight begins from the stand-up, but they end on the ground”, or how Sensei Edson says: “Would you like to fight like a monkey or like a man? The judo and BJJ should not be deprived of one of the segments, which is very important to become a complete fighter: the first is the ground, and the other – throws!

 4. Please tell us about your academies in Bosnia (what you plan to achieve there) and also about your most successful students (competition wise)

Arvin’s academy in Sarajevo

My goal in Bosnia and Herzegovina and anywhere in the world, where we create the opportunity to teach BJJ, is the popularization! BJJ is a smart, useful and healthy martial art and sport. Unfortunately, I only started BJJ in my 36th year, ie 14 years ago, and I was unable to participate in numerous competitions. My primary goal, which I had before, when I founded the club, was to create or help create new successful BJJ competitors. Sport without competition doesn’t exist! I think I have succeeded, in Bosnia, and in clubs in Croatia.

5. As the first Bosnian BJJ black belt, what is your opinion of the BJJ scene in Bosnia and also of the region? (Ex Yugoslavia) 

In Bosnia, unfortunately, BJJ is not as popular. Throughout the country there are only 5 or 6 clubs, which are part of different BJJ teams. Unlike the neighboring countries of former Yugoslavia, in Bosnia BJJ is unfortunately among the last. I don’t know the real reasons for this un-popularity, but I know that “Japanese jiu-jitsu”, Shotokan karate, and tae kwon do – are on the top of the popularity of martial arts in BiH. I guess that Bosnians are less fond of “gentle way” to solve the fight with an opponent. As I said, BJJ Clubs in neighboring countries are above Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the best team in the region in my opinion is Žerjal Team from Serbia (Belgrade).

6. What are your bjj plans for 2012 (for you and your team)

Edson Carvalho and Jacare Souza

My plan for 2012: is to organize the first Open BJJ competition in Bosnia and organize a BJJ seminar, which will be lead by Sensei Edson Carvalho and Jacare Souza. It would help popularize BJJ in BiH. We also intend to take a few athletes on Bjj competition in neighboring countries (Croatia, Serbia). I have plans to hold a seminar in Turkey (Izmir), and we will participate in a Carvalho Team convention in Sweden … We may also participate in the European BJJ Championships.

 7. Your top 3 favorite BJJ players: 

There are a lot of BJJ competitors who I would like to list as “top 3”, but if it is limited to only three, the first I put Jacare, 2nd place, Marcelo Garcia and 3rd place Ricardo Delariva

8.Your top 3 favorite MMA fighters:

It is difficult to single out only 3 ,however, the most complete is George St Pierre, my favorite is Minotauro (and Wanderlei Silva), and the best – Anderson Silva. Brazil: the rest of the world – 10:0

 9. Your top 3 favorite Judokas:Best Judokas: 

1 Yamashita 2 Koga 3 Hirata, … all of course, from Japan!

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