Thomas “Mastwo” oyarzun is a 1/2 Chilean 1/2 Scottish BJJ player that grew up in Switzerland. He is one of the top brown belts on the planet with medals at all the most prestigious competitions worlwide.
1. Thomas, can you please introduce yourself to the BJJ Community of Eastern Europe?
My name is Thomas Oyarzun. I am 27 years old. I was born in Geneva Switzerland and raised by a Chilean father and Scottish mother. I am a brown belt and train at Alliance Geneva. I am Absolute brown/black belt Swiss champion; IBJJF Miami Open champion; bronze medalist at the IBJJF World Championship; bronze medalist at the IBJJF No-Gi PanAms Championship
2. What’s your Jiu-Jitsu story?
The whole story started when I was studying architecture in Aberdeen, Scotland around 2008. I had been there for 2 years and didn’t know many people, but kept strong contact with my family and friends back home, and talked with them regularly through the means of Internet and phone calls. I remember once talking with my friends and they mentioned having started this new martial art called Jiu-Jitsu. We all already knew more or less about it as we were all adepts of MMA and the unforgettable PRIDE match ups such as Minotauro Nogueira vs Bob Sapp. My friends told me to give BJJ a try if I found a school in Scotland. I did find a school, went there once and never again! I wasn’t really fond of either the place or the teaching… As soon as I came back to Switzerland for holiday breaks I would spend time with my friends. I took 1 or 2 classes with them or started sparring on the floor at home. I didn’t know anything about Jiu-Jitsu back then but it seemed second nature and I really loved the whole concept of the sport! When I went back to Scotland to continue my studies, I felt really down. For some reason I kept on thinking about Jiu-Jitsu… I really wanted to go back home and train! So at the end of my 2nd year in Aberdeen I had decided to continue my studies in Lausanne, Switzerland, where I could be closer to BJJ. I trained everyday and tried to compete as much as I could everywhere in Europe to grow fast in the sport. After good results, I got my purple belt in a little less than 2 years. By that time I had already traveled to Brazil and fell even more in love the BJJ culture. I stayed in Natal with Ricardo “Pezao” Oliveira, a black belt I had met when he came to train with us in Geneva. I started building a special bond with him and always thought his Jiu-Jitsu was amazing to watch. He liked to explain that playing Jiu-Jitsu should be seen as two artists collaborating in a painting in which the movements and techniques are the masterpieces of the Art.
Ricardo would structure the small gatherings, show us techniques and train us as a private team. We are still quite a small team at the moment as we are struggling to find facilities to train regularly during the week. But Karim and I usually train everyday in our really small dojo at the back of Karim’s house. The conditions are horrible in winter but nothing stops us from drilling, sparring and learning more about the art.
3. At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to dedicate your life to Jiu-jitsu?
It was in the summer of 2012 that I decided to dedicate my life to Jiu-Jitsu. I had been working for a little less than 2 years in an architect’s office about an hour away from training. My days were everlasting! I would wake up early, travel to work (45min by train), sit in front of a desk all day while being constantly distracted by the techniques and moves I had learned or attempted the night before at training. When I finished work, I would take the train back to town and go straight to my friend’s house where I usually left my Gi and we either trained there or, according to which day of the week it was, we would go to our official training gym. Training would sometime last forever and we would finish really late. Exhaustion gradually set in fuelled by lack of sleep and the long journey back and forth to work. I finally took a very difficult decision: I would interrupt my training as an architect and pursue with my true passion, Jiu-Jitsu.
4. Please tell us about the History of BJJ in Switzerland. How is the current BJJ scene and how do you see it developing in the next few years?
It seems BJJ has been in Switzerland for quite some time. Mestre Romero Jacare Calvacante recently told me he was there maybe 15-20 years ago to give seminars, so it was around already then. That being said, I don’t exactly know when Jiu-Jitsu arrived in Switzerland but I know it has been there for years. But over the last few years it has taken on a whole new dimension! People know about the sport and a lot of teams are growing in Switzerland. I think there are about 5-6 different teams in Geneva alone, and Geneva is a really small city. MMA events are being organized here and big MMA names come to visit or fight, which is excellent for our small country. A lot of competitions are organized in Switzerland. They are attended by people from all over Europe and the rest of the world because they know the level of Swiss events is high and they have a good reputation. I think BJJ, just like in the rest of the world, will never stop growing here – a lot of new kids in the Swiss scene are making a name for themselves, which I think is great!
5. Please tell us about your experience training in USA and other countries (who did you train with, what didyou learn etc….)?
I love BJJ because it takes you to so many new places and you discover new cultures, new friends as well as new ways of training. I believe you can build a really strong game and mental awareness just by traveling for BJJ. I have trained and travelled in places such as Brazil with Mestre Fabio Gurgel and Mestre Fernando Tererê; in Chile with local academies; in Abu Dhabi with all the top athletes from all over the world; in many European countries and just recently in the USA.
I decided to go to USA after quitting my job and saving a little money. I made my first stop in New York where I trained with my good friend Francisco “Sinistro” Iturralde. The level in New York is very high! I really loved training there with top brown belts such as Sinistro and David Bass. I stayed with Sinistro for a whole month and we trained every day, either in Alliance NYC with Fabio Clemente and Babs, or in Queens where Sinistro gave class. I then stayed for more or less a month in Orlando with Bruno Malfacine. It was one of the best moments of my whole trip. Living with such a nice guy with an amazing BJJ was simply exceptional. Plus I got to train with my friend Pedro Torres, an outstanding brown belt I had met in Abu Dhabi. I had been in Los Angeles at Cobrinha’s before and unfortunately didn’t find the time to go there this time while I was at the World No-Gi, but I got to see the whole team at the event which was cool. Then I went to Atlanta and stayed with Jonathan “Macarao” Thomas. I train there at Alliance headquarters with Mestre Romero “Jacare” Calvacante and Lucas Lepri . It was an amazing experience! I really recommend it to everyone, if you have the chance to travel for BJJ, just do it!
6. Please tell us about your academy Alliance Geneva.
My team Alliance Geneva is like my family. Our teacher Ricardo “Pezao” Oliveira, who is a student of Fernando Augusto Tererê, has an amazing BJJ. It is really smooth and beautiful to watch. He is very technical and unorthodox in his movements. If anyone wants to come and visit us they are more than welcome, just contact me on our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/AllianceGE
7. What are BJJ players that you admire, and why?
The BJJ players I admire the most are guys I mainly know and have trained with. For instance, my teacher Ricardo Pezao, his Jiu-Jitsu is sensational and will always amaze me. And of course, Mestre Tererê. To me he is the definition of modern Jiu-Jitsu – the number of moves he has innovated make him the legend he has become. Bruno Malfacine: he is a great guy and his teaching is phenomenal. He has taught me so many details and hopefully one day I will master them the way he does! Lucas Lepri: if I were to describe Lucas Lepri’s Jiu-Jitsu I would simply have to say that he makes any graded belt feel like a white belt (laugh)!
I have also always been a fan of Cobrinha as well as Michael Langhi for being such mind-taking guard players.
8. You are a frequent competitor who travels a lot to compete. Why do you like to compete so much?
Competing is so thrilling! It gives this incredible feeling of having to surpass yourself. It is you against you! All the learning and training you have gone through are put into some kind of personal examination. The feeling of winning is just so addictive that you want to feel it all the time! But even losing in a competition teaches you about yourself, your mistakes and what you need to work on, so you also learn from losing. I guess it is right when they say: “even when losing you come out a winner”. In a nutshell, I love competing because win or lose you will always learn and you learn more efficiently than by simply training at your academy. The best athletes in your academy are usually those who compete a lot, it is a fact.
9. You recently were involved in Lloyd Irvin’s brown belt Kumite. What were your impressions from training at TLI and their facilities and team mentality?
This was just a crazy experience! I had a lot of fun and got to meet a lot of good Jiu-Jitsu players and make great new friends! At first I didn’t really know what to expect. But once you are caught up in the life style and the training these guys go through, you come to realize that it is just Jiu-Jitsu! We are all connected through and have our similarities through the acknowledgment of Jiu-Jitsu. Their mentality is as tough as their training and I respect that a lot. I lived in their house for a week. They called it “the Jungle” – and, believe me, it was as wild as a jungle! There were mats everywhere, which easily led to random sparring all the time! Overall, they are really fun guys. I would like to thank Lloyd Irvin for giving me the opportunity to live this one-of-a-kind experience.
10. How would you describe your style of Jiu-Jitsu?
My friends call me Mastwo (as in mas-2). They took my name, Thomas, and inverted the syllables (Mastho). I guess it describes my style well. I like to play the inverted guard game and get my opponent lost in my legs. I like to think of my style as being more modern than traditional. I prefer a fluid, flexible and experimental game rather than a strict, stiff and regular game. You can check and like my page on facebook where I will be posting some of my techniques every once in a while:
11. What is next for you and your team in 2013?
2012 wasn’t the best of years in terms of the BJJ competition scene but it definitely was in terms of life-changing experience! I learnt a lot from taking this decision of living the Jiu-Jitsu life style and I know 2013 will be a good year! I’m focusing on all the main events of the year: Europeans, Pan-Ams, Abu Dhabi (trials and main event), World championship, Brazilian Championship and maybe even Asian Open. If anybody wants to help me out feel free to contact me on facebook. OSS
12. Thanks Thomas and all the best!
Thank you very much for this interview, www.www.bjjee.com You guys rock!
Thank you to everyone who has helped me these past months, Sinistro, Bruno, Pedrito, Macarao, Lucas, Jacare, my family, my team and friends. Keep on Rolling!