Interview with BJJ globetrotter, BJJ black belt Dimitris Tsitos from Greece who has competed/trained/lived in 6 continents. Part 2

DimitriDimi4s in Brazil

You can find part 1 of the interview here

Dimitris fighting MMA in Sout Africa

4. What countries left you the best impressions (BJJ wise and lifestyle)

I don’t want to be cliché or biased so my answer will not be Brazil, as most people would say or Greece, since it’s my home or even Bulgaria that I am located now! The country that left me the best impressions both BJJ wise and lifestyle is Thailand. BJJ is still developing there, but there is good education as far as fighting is concerned since Muay Thai is the king of their sports. There are 3-4 black belts already based and teaching around the country, while most practitioners are eager to learn and improve, having great attitude towards learning and towards their instructors. Also most academies work with each other to promote the development of the sport. The lifestyle is also great at the “Land of the Thousand Smiles”; a very precise description of the country. Thai people are patient, friendly and warm-hearted. Most of them don’t try to take advantage of you simply because you are a foreigner. Also they have a whole different perspective on what is important or not in life and they are usually happy and content despite the poor conditions many of them live. Conditions that the average westerner cannot even imagine; whatsoever live in. Needless to say that the country itself is very safe and beautiful with great landscapes and beaches, the food is amazing, the party scene unreal and I get to train Thai-boxing with some of the best guys around!

5. How does moving around so much benefit progress in BJJ?

Moving so much definitely benefits my progress as a BJJ professor but limits my improvement as a competitive athlete. Despite that, my mind set is the following: “Work with the material you have”. For instance if the material is white and blue belts I will try to improve my game by giving up positions and working my way out. In a setting like that I get lot of motivation to teach well, because a good student will eventually become a good training partner plus I improve a lot as a coach, which is my main income nowadays. On the other hand if the material is many great athletes and lots of higher belts, then my progress as an athlete is much bigger and faster through tough sparring but in a setting like that I got less business opportunities. Bottom line is that it all comes down to what you want to achieve in your career. If you want to become a world champion you should definitely have to choose a different lifestyle from mine, giving more focus to the quality and intensity of your BJJ training.

Another problem that comes from moving around is that I constantly have to adjust to new places, climates and cultures. From all these travelling other challenges arise too such as the difficulty to keep a proper and balanced nutrition since many of those places don’t have western markets or food labels and menus in English. Thankfully unlike most people I am very adjustable and see these difficulties as part of the experience. Lastly no matter if I just teach, do a training camp or travel without training BJJ I always do things that help my development as a sportsman. The most important thing is keeping my body in good shape; I don’t drink alcohol and soft drinks, I don’t smoke and I rarely eat red meat, fried and junk food. I also train a lot of low intensity-high duration cardio; including long distance sea kayak; where I have done quite a few multi-day trips back home, surfing, stand-up paddling, cycling, hiking, swimming etc.

6. You will be staying for 6 months in Sofia, Bulgaria teaching BJJ at Real Pain academy and their affiliates. What can you tell about the BJJ scene in Bulgaria.

Dimitris at Real Pain BJJ academy in Bulgaria

It is my first week here so I cannot really comment about the BJJ scene in Bulgaria as a total. As far as Real Pain Sofia, http://realpain-mma.com/  is concerned I have just a few blue training and the rest are white belts BUT there is will to learn, people train a lot and hard and have great attitude compared with many of the other places I have been. The classes are really packed with 25-35 people and we train daily; Monday- Saturday!

Also don’t forget that the country has a great tradition in strong sports (wrestling, weight lifting, boxing, judo, sambo etc) plus Bulgarians have a good body-type and mentality when it comes to contact sports. All the above make me confident that BJJ will become very big here too and I am glad that I have this opportunity to push this development as the only resident black belt in the country at the moment!

7. How often do you get to train with your original academy Gracie Barra Greece?

Whenever I am at Greece for vacation I try to go there as much as I can. The level in Gracie Barra Greece is world-class; the space itself is huge. The last year or so besides Cristos and Aris there is another BJJ Black Belt teaching permanently there, his name is Alberto Mina, 10-0 in MMA! In total there are around 50 colored belts at the team and in any given session we have all colors on the mat and around 30 people on the average training in each class! So whenever I am at Athens I try to take advantage of this quality plus I have many friends there that we need to catch up. On the average I train 2-4 weeks each year there.

8. Who are famous fighters that you have trained/ competed with?

To name a few, I have competed against John Olav Einemo, Roberto Satoshi Da Souza, Rodrigo Caporal, Dan Simmler, Ralph Go. When it comes to training partners since I have lived in Brazil for 6 months I have trained with lots of monsters. Names do not matter; what matters are the high intensity of sparring and the beatings I take every time I train there by regular people that are not famous in the BJJ society; simply because they don’t compete internationally. Actually some of them have never compete, but their level is unbelievable because of all these years of tough sparring.

9. How would you describe your BJJ game and your teaching style.

Dimitris with the other black belts at Gracie Barra Greece

For my teaching style: I believe I am professional and fun. I focus a lot on basics, which I consider one of the most important elements of becoming good in BJJ. Because of my educational background on physical Education, Sport marketing and Psychology I base my teachings on science rather than instinct.

When it comes to my game I rely a lot on my good cardio, which is a remaining of my swimming career. In competition or training I start patiently and avoid explosive movements that will make me tired fast. As far as techniques are concerned I mostly use basics. Last but not least I always push for submissions; which I think are the essence of the game and the only way to prove that you are better. Triangle is one of my best submissions. In my opinion a win by points might have been a loss if there was no time limit and vice versa. You can check some of my fights at: http://www.youtube.com/user/grbutterflier

10. Now that you are going to be based in Bulgaria, do you plan to visit neighboring countries like Romania, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia etc..?

Sure, BJJ and travelling are some of my biggest passions and I try to combine them whether it is for competing, training and teaching seminars. I will be more than glad to visit neighboring countries as long as there is good attitude towards where I come from, and will to learn and/or exchange knowledge! If anyone is interested can contact me on: grbutterflier@hotmail.com

11. What have planned for 2012 in terms of competitions for you and your team in Bulgaria?

It is going to be pretty busy calendar. Most of my Bulgarian students love to compete; so do I. Some of them will go at the Abu-Dhabi pro Finals on the 12th-14th April. This is a high caliber event that I want to participate at least once in my career, but I can’t do it this year because of my teaching schedule. We also plan to travel and compete at regional tournaments too. For myself, there is a chance to fight MMA in Sofia on September. Plus I am negotiating with EFC Africa, the biggest MMA event of Africa for a 4 fight contract starting end 2012; but nothing is sure yet. Also I would like to get Bulgarian fighters to compete at Greece and will love to have some Greek fighters in Bulgaria in one of our events. As far as our competitions are concerned, check the Real Pain Sofia calendar (http://realpain-mma.com/). We have No-Gi and Gi events, Pro and amateur MMA nights & training camps including one with Cavaca.

Dimitri thanks for everything and all the best in 2012, and hopefully see you soon!

Thanks for the time, keep up the good and informative work through your site and hopefully see you around in Sofia, Belgrade or anywhere else!