University Professor at Day, BJJ Player at Night: Meet Macedonia’s Martin Mihajlov

1. Hi Martin can you please introduce yourself to our readers 

Hello BJJ Eastern Europe readers, Martin Mihajlov here from Skopje, Macedonia. I’m almost 3 BJJ years old and I’m training at Carlos Maia BJJ Macedonia.

In parallel, I’m an assistant professor at the Faculty of Economics with a PhD in Information Technology & Science. I’ve been active in the world of scientific research and education for the past 10 years, I guess slightly more than BJJ.

2. How did you first hear about Jiu-Jitsu and how did you first start training?

Didn’t everyone learn about Brazilian jiu-jitsu from watching PRIDE and/or UFC?
Same here. I started watching PRIDE in the early 2000’s and it was the first time I saw the miracle of ground fighting. It was fluent and logical and it instantly sparked something in my brain.

I searched for this “magical” sport in Macedonia, but at that time the only thing available was a JKD gym that incorporated some YouTube-grappling in the training sessions. Obviously, I tried doing this for a while, but it just didn’t feel right for me.

Luckily, I was doing my doctorate thesis in Ljubljana, Slovenia and this is where my BJJ journey started. I met Master Carlos Maia from whom I learned to appreciate the true beauty of this Brazilian art. Few classes later, and I was hooked. I had to constantly travel back and forth between countries, but it was totally worth it.

3. You are also a University professor. How are you able to combine two things as different as jiu-jitsu and education?

I’m very passionate about both. This yin-yang polarization brings an intrinsic dynamic into my life. I’m the same person at the university, on the mats and on the street. I love my students, as they always keep me on my toes and inspire me to be a better teacher and a better person. On the other hand, I love Brazilian jiu-jitsu as it is a way of life I thoroughly enjoy.

So I guess it is the ideal combination.

4. Please tell us about the BJJ scene in Macedonia? How did it start, who are the main players, where do you see it going etc.

Carlos Maia visiting his Macedonian students

The BJJ scene in Macedonia is still in its infant stage. What is little known is that BJJ was first brought to Macedonia a few years back by Johnny Garcia, a student of Andre Galvao. The scene itself had a proper kick off after a visit by Robert Naumoski from Australia and the formation of Roots BJJ in December 2010. Ten months later we had Carlos Maia BJJ on the scene to push BJJ in a completely new direction. Now there are two more schools preparing to join the herd: Checkmat and Garcia BJJ so we are up for very interesting times.

We have no main players. Unfortunately, I’m still the sole competitor at the blue belt level, but hopefully this will change really soon. So far, competitors who have competed at the white belt level and deserve recognition for their success are: Aleksandar Jovanovski & Marko Ilievski from Carlos Maia BJJ who have won the first gold and the first IBJJF medal for Macedonia, and Risto Janev from Roots who was the most active and the most successful white-belt competitor which recently got promoted to blue.

5. Please tell us about your BJJ academy. What do you do differently than others?

We don’t live from BJJ, we live for BJJ. Thus, we have had the opportunity to create a unique BJJ home. This creates a very positive and hospitable environment which is quite enjoyable for our students. The core of the academy consists of five “dreamers” that enthusiastically manage different aspects of running-things-smoothly. Regular students have four 2-hour sessions per week while competitors get 2 sessions more. And there is never an excuse to close the doors of the gym; we stay open all summer, all winter and through all the holidays.

Our key characteristic however is that we globetrot a lot. We really go out of our way to travel around and visit different schools and train with different masters. For us it is the only way to truly expand our BJJ views. I would actually like to use this opportunity to thank everybody who has ever hosted me or one of our students at their gym: Zerjal & Lutador from Serbia, Twisted and Real Pain from Bulgaria, Gracie Barra Austria, Jungle BJJ from Czech Republic, Gracie Barra Paris, Roger Gracie Academy and Arlans Siqueira BJJ from UK, Saigon BJJ from Vietnam and of course Carlos Maia BJJ central in Slovenia.

6. How would you describe your style of Jiu-Jitsu? How about your teaching style?

My jiu-jitsu style? Hmmm… I guess I will describe it as aggressively calm.
In the gym I like playing around with different guards, but I always come back to the basics. Competitions are a completely different story.

As for teaching style, well back in 1996 in my 3rd year of high school in Santa Rosa, California I enrolled in a physics class. The professor, Mr. Kuschner, walked into the classroom, climbed high on the teacher’s desk, walked over the edge, fell to the floor and announced: “Today we are going to learn about gravity”. Where I came from, teachers never climbed or jumped from desks as a teaching example, so I was in awe. This is how I wanted to be taught as a student. Now that the roles are reversed this is the approach I try to take. I have not yet had the inspiration to climb and jump, but I like to use unorthodox examples to relate the topic to the class.

7. What does your instructor Carlos Maia represent to you?

A great Master, a highly respectable teacher, and an admirable friend.

8. What is next for you and your team in 2013?

We have to wrap up 2012 first, and the next few weeks are going to be very busy. The BJJ road has just brought us back from London IBJJF Open and English Open and it takes us to three more competitions (Hungary, Slovenia and Bulgaria) and two BJJ seminars (Luiz Palhares and Leo Neves) before we can catch our breath and celebrate the holidays.

Then we kick off 2013 with the first Macedonian participation at the Europeans. After that, it’s a whole new journey.

9. Thank you Martin for taking time to answer our questions. All the best. OSSS!

Thank you for the opportunity. But more importantly thank you for BJJ Eastern Europe. It is truly a remarkable and creative project which through your hard work and dedication is turning out to be a quite relevant BJJ source world-wide.

Instead of a farewell, let me bid a quick shout out to all BJJ enthusiasts:
“If you are ever in the area know that you always have a BJJ home at Carlos Maia BJJ Macedonia. Just contact us and we’ll sort you out :)”