“BJJ NO-MAD” is a documentary series about two martial artists – a cinematographer and a traveller, who are searching for the way of the warrior around the world starring BJJ black belt and traveler Dimitrios Tsitos and the CEO of BAG OF BONES VIDEOS, cinematographer and a blue belt Mihail Kunchev.
Dimitrios Tsitos: For the past ten years he traveled around the world, visiting 60 countries, not staying more than 6 months in each.
He has competed BJJ in every continent and country that has jiu-jitsu tournaments.
Mihail Kunchev is a cinematographer, who was a producer for some of the biggest reality shows in his country for the past twelve years.
BJJ blue belt under Robert Drysdale.
CEO of martial arts video studio BAG OF BONES FULL CONTACT VIDEOS, which was the official videography partner of ADCC European trials this year.
On the 10th of January 2015, a few days from now, they will be releasing their very first episode entitled “First rule of Fight club”. If you haven’t yet, check out their pilot episode and like their Facebook page to follow their journey and catch up the releases.
Check out BJJ NO-MAD website: WWW.BJJNOMAD.NET
and like their Facebook page FACEBOOK/BJJNOMAD
Dimitrios and Mihail talked to BJJ Eastern Europe about their project:
1. Hi Mihail and Dimitrios, can you please introduce yourself to the BJJ Community of
Dimitrios: My name is Dimitrios Tsitos, 34 from Athens- Greece, 1st degree black belt under
Draculino. The academy where I started my training in 2002-03 is Gracie Barra Greece, but the
last 10 years I have been training, teaching and competing all over the world.
As of today my travels have brought me to over 70 countries. The last year and a half I am based
in United Arab Emirates.
As far as competitions are concerned I medaled in some international competition: Europeans,
World Pro, Pan-Asians, Brasileiro, South-American, Pan-Pacifics, to name a few, but my biggest
accomplishment is being one of the most ugly black belts globally.
Mihail: My name is Mihail Kunchev, 31 from Bulgaria. I’m a cinematographer and a blue belt
under Robert Drysdale and compete when I don’t shoot, because most of the times my studio is
hired (or I’m blackmailed by my teammates) to film the tournament.
I’ve been producer/director for some of the biggest TV shows in my country since I was 18-
years-old and from 2102 I’m trying to use my skills to promote the martial arts philosophy with
my video studio BAG OF BONES FULL CONTACT VIDEOS.
Last thing I did was the official highlight for the ADCC European trials 2014 .
2.How did you discover BJJ and how did you start training? Tell us briefly about your BJJ
Dimitrios: I was a hyper energetic as a kid so my parents put me into swimming. At my late
teens I wanted to find something more “aggressive” so I started martial arts. Few years later on a
vacation in Brazil I discovered BJJ and stick to that since then. (If you want to know more in
details you can check the interview I gave to BJJEE 3 years ago):
Part 1 and Part 2 .
Mihail: I’ve been raised in a family with a lot of warriors in it – air force pilots, fighters from the
World wars, rebellions from the anti-Ottoman wars, awarded with medals of honor, also judoka
medalists and wrestlers, so I was really the black sheep when I decided to become a journalist
At the age of 26 I was already this fat hipster, talking four languages and working for the big
television, being totally unhappy no matter the “bright” future in front of me. Then I found out some UFC videos, got super exited and started jogging, because I was scared that if I show up in
the dojo with my 90kg everyone would laugh at me.
I was so motivated by Royce Gracie interviews/fights that I ran about 15km every single day and
dropped 20kg for a month. Then went to my first BJJ class and never went back.
3. How did the BJJ No Mad project came about and how did you guys connect?
Dimitrios: Throughout my travels I always took videos and pictures. I also had in the back of
my mind the idea to edit the material from each place I visit and put them online, named as BJJ
Nomad. But the critical point was back in 2012 where I worked for few months in Bulgaria.
There I met Mihail and showed him the videos and pictures and asked for his opinion.
He said that with a face like this and even worst with material like that, nobody will ever be
interested on what I have done.
Mihail: Hahaha, yeah. Actually Dimitrios was about to fight in the biggest MMA tournament
here and I had to make his video. We talked about his idea and he thought it would be super
interesting to just drop 1 000 000 videos from everywhere he went and that would be a great
show. But to have a good show, you have to very carefully make a good story lines.
So I decided to use this idea for the fight card video. I’ve put pictures from his travels and
instead of explaining how he will punch the other fighter in the face next, for the whole video we
did an interview about the philosophy of the martial arts traveler. I guess that was the prototype
of the BJJ NO-MAD documentary.
It took me some time to collect some cash and decide to quit my job and try making full length
films in this direction.
Dimitrios: After lots of brainstorming we decided to work together on this project because we
believe that combining our strengths will bring us an awesome result.
So, I put my “expertise” on martial arts and traveling (usually cheap or free), I use my network
around the world (friends and academies I have visited in the past) and selecting the locations
and activities (most of the places we feature in our episodes I have been there at least once
before). Mihail on the other hand is doing the “dirty job” which is the creative work. He came up
with the overall concept of the show and with the idea of naming the show “BJJ No-Mad”
instead of BJJ Nomad.
Mihail: Actually my wife has to take the credit about the name, because she told me I have to be
“mad” to quit my job for a whole year and go “down” from producer/director position to a
traveling cinematographer. So it popped-up in my mind. BJJ NO-MAD. Also both of us, me and Dimitrios, are totally different as people, mentality and approach to the
martial arts, but we share the same message – in this cold and moneycentric world, people have
to search for their own way of happiness. Going 100% after the money will give you miserable
life. And people who give up the “American dream” (in our case European) and change it with
their own dream of happiness are often considered “mad”.
The original idea of Dimitrios was to have a documentary about his travels, but being a
storyteller all my life I proposed to have a film not only about his adventures, but also about the
incredible life stories of the local fighters and boom – we had the concept done.
I’ve been filming across all Europe and Mexico and I came up with this idea that it’s not about
going somewhere. It’s about who and what will you meet there to help you understand the world
and yourself better. So as a director and producer of this film I’m trying to stick to this direction
and I’m sure BJJ NO-MAD will not only meet you with interesting places and people, but will
give some “brain food” and ideas to think about.
4. Dimitrios was already used to the BJJ Nomad lifestyle but for you Mihail, how did your
family and friends react when you decided to quit your job, and embark on this adventure?
How was this project funded?
Mihail: Well, everyone in my family thought I’m mad. That’s where the name came from.
And my bosses – these guys just think I just went nuts. I remember when they asked me if I was
really fighting in bloody no-holds barred underground cage fights, when I mentioned that I was
training for the national BJJ open hahah
Now they think I fight to death in every country I go. Crazy. No matter how carefully you
explain that martial arts gave you peace from the everyday pressure of the job – the people who
haven’t tried it will always think you’re a blood-sucking thug, even if you do tae kwon do. It’s
Dimitrios: Just to add here that since Mihail started the BJJ No-Mad lifestyle I started a family
myself. Maybe in the future I stick to becoming a family man and Mihail the BJJ No-Mad.
Mihail: Yeah, but I can never afford to have a surgery for that world class real-BJJ-nomad-nose
he has, since we fund everything by ourselves. We decided to have some partners who donated
us gear we can use or sell to support our journey, but it covers like 5-6% of our costs. But that
doesn’t really matter at the moment.
At the very first minute of this we did our math and decided to sacrifice the money for the first
two seasons and we are happy with it. If we manage to have money for more – good, we’re
having hell of a good time while filming and traveling, so everything is good.
5. What countries are covered in the first season and what have you planned for season 2?
Mihail: At first we planned to have two different seasons – Balkans and Arabia, since the first is
our birthplace and the second Dimitrios’ job place, but then, as usual when you travel, plans
changed. So we merged the two seasons into one and will have at least 8 episodes in the season
which includes also one secret and super fun location outside both regions, but we will announce
Dimitrios: For season #2 we have plans for 5 episodes in Scandinavia and 5 more episodes in
South East Asia. If the show has good feedback and support and people want to see more of our
travels we are planning a third season with even more exotic locations; but I will stop here
because I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
6. What are some of the most memorable moments from your trips?
Dimitrios: I have been to most of the places we feature in our episodes in the past, so my most
memorable moment from our trips is connected with people and not with locations. Specifically,
working with a perfectionist, creative, eccentric, super not-tanned and funny looking TV and
media person like Mihail is my highlight! As I told him when we first started collaborating I am
a white belt in anything related to TV and media, so he should not treat me like a professional
because it is like trying to teach a white belt Berimbolo.
Mihail: As I said, I think the most important thing is not where you go but who will you meet.
Our first season is full of super interesting life stories. In the first episode there is this future
Walstreet prospect guy who decided to quit his corporate career and become a capoeira
instructor on an exotic island. In the second we have an UFC fighter who experienced a true
Gods miracle in his life that made him cry for the first time in 20 years. Also a sambo world
champion who was stabbed in the heart and took a taxi to the hospital by himself. He almost died
7 times – was in a coma for three months. Then, in an year, returned to Bellator and won four
fights in a row… Some of the stories were really amazing and I’m happy I have the chance to tell
them in our film.
7. What are some dream BJJ destinations that you would love to go to?
Dimitrios: The only destination that has developed BJJ and I haven’t visited so far is Angola in
West Africa. But if we consider that BJJ is one of the most developing sports around the world
and will sooner or later be in every country in the world I have to say that I could think of around
130 dream destinations- countries for myself.
Mihail: I really would love to visit my three all-time favorite fighters in their academies – Caio
Terra, Galvao and Terere, but unfortunately it will be a disaster, because if I train I will regret for
the rest of my life I didn’t film them. And If I film them – that I haven’t trained. I’ve been there
with Royce Gracie and Cavaca, but I guess everyone has some problems in his life hahah.
Did you guys compete during any of these trips?
Dimitrios: I did a local competition in Indonesia while on a pre-production trip in South East
Asia and few tournaments in UAE. Fortunately my schedule does not evolve around competing;
I compete only if a competition connects with the rest of our travel and my work plans and only
if there are no waves to surf. (Surfing is another great passion of mine).
Mihail: I’m competing everyday with Dimitrios. He might be a black belt in BJJ, but I’m black
belt in talking, so we argue everyday about martial arts and life in general. I’ve filmed some of it.
Sometimes I’m even asking myself how can we be so different, but I guess that kind of dialogue
is helpful. If you talk only to like-minded people, you’ll end up delusional about the real life or at
least about the life of the different cultures and life styles in the world and I consider that
knowledge very important and helpful.
9. What can we expect to see on this season?
Dimitrios: I am not sure myself because Mihail is editing everything so it all depends on him… I
mean I am not even sure if I will be in the episodes or he will use his special effects skills and
put someone else instead of me in the episodes!
Mihail: Well, if you watched our pilot, you already got the vibe. We have fun, train, travel and
at the same time have time to talk about serious stuff too. I’m sure you will feel a part of our
journey too, so check us out -our first episode will be out on January, 10th on BJJNOMAD.NET.
11. If you want to thank somebody or sponsors, feel free
Dimitrios: Thanks to our families and our friends that are our first supporters and also to our
regional communication partners, such as BJJ Scandinavia, BJJ Eastern Europe, BJJ Asia,
Fighting Lifestyle UAE.
Mihail: Yep. And huge THANK YOU to our partners from GRIPS ATHLETICS, 5.11 Tactical and
SUBGUARDS, who decided to support us without contracts and even a real proof we’re about to
actually shoot something. All of these companies decided to help us without any business
demands or shit. True budo followers. Oss!
12. Thanks Guys and all the best
Dimitrios: Thanks for the time!
Mihail: Thank you for asking only 100 euro for this interview haha. You’re a man of honor! Also I
hope you’ll keep your promise to dance a traditional Serbian choreography in front of the
camera, when we visit you for our Serbian episode!
Also, ninjas, if you like what we do, find us on facebook.com/bjjnomad Oss!