“Life Has No Replay Button”. Dimitrios Tsitos is not just a black belt but a triathlete, lifeguard, surfer and the original BJJ Nomad. I managed to catch up with him on his return to Bangkok where he will be residing for the next few months.
Firstly I would like to start by asking why the BJJ Nomad show ended so abruptly. This was the most popular question I received. You have quite a large fan base.
A: Hello to everyone. The answer has to be clash of backgrounds. Me and my business partner in this project; Mihail, were two very different characters. I am a Nomad with military background and a professional sportsman that was never involved with media before meeting Mihail so I could not really understand how things in showbiz industry work. Mihail is a professional in media that had never traveled and was never involved to anything regarding sports and fitness before meeting me and could not really understand how things in these industries work. So we had some conflicts that could not be resolved thus the project ended although we have some un-aired material for couple.
What were the successes or failures of the show, BJJ Nomad?
A: The main successes of the show was that we delivered something very high quality with low budget and under extreme tight time schedules. The main failures of the show was that it’s not as successful as we expected in terms of raw numbers and of course that it didn’t reach its maximum potential.
Yes we had great feedback and almost none negative, meaning we didn’t have any “haters”, which is rare today. But due to the difficult topics, death-religion-politics-etc we could not connect with the mass of people in the BJJ lifestyle. We all know that most people following social media and BJJ want to see something more light and easy-going and dynamic.
Also in today’s fast pace digital world, numbers are what matter in social platforms and we lacked the numbers that would help us grow further. At that time, around 2015, I had a great job at UAE so a commercial failure of the project didn’t really affect me, while Mihail was struggling to make means end so to connect these facts with question #1 I believe that he slowly disconnected himself from the BJJ NO-MAD to pursue something that would help him have income and support himself and his family. But to be fair, you have to ask him about these things to get his opinions too.
As someone with a background in economics, I am curious about the business angle of the project. Was it meant to be a for-profit venture?
A: Well, you already know better than me that almost nothing today is non-profit. One way or another in any project you seek financial rewards at least to get the return of your investment. Anyhow, just to clarify. The BJJ NO-MAD was strictly a 2 man project funded by me and based loosely on my nomad lifestyle and produced by Mihail. I was paying all travel expenses (excluding a meal in Istanbul and a car ride from Romania to Bulgaria) and I was doing all the travel and most network arrangements while Mihail was doing all the creative work (filming editing pre and post production etc).
So I spent directly some good 1000’s of $ for the trips and he ‘spent’ indirectly some good 1000’s of $ in work hours and creative work that he wasn’t getting paid for. The main goal was not to bring money but exposure which we could later use. As I said in answer #2 numbers mean money in social media platforms. We failed to reach the point we could make money because the numbers were low so a combination of all brought an end to the show.
A cliché but what’s your favorite country and why? Your stated Thailand in a previous interview. Is this still the case?
A: The question is indeed cliché but I forgive you because you are becoming more original with your last questions. Thailand is still on top and I don’t see that changing anytime. I have a 6 factors “method” to define if a country-place is good to live in. These are: safety- security, food, entertainment options, weather, health and education options, and cost of life vs income opportunities.
Thailand is pretty safe, has amazing food, lots of options for fun (surfing, Thai boxing, parties, hiking, sightseeing, etc), weather is warm year round (I hate cold), there are great hospitals and schools (as long as you can afford them) and lastly as a sports coach I can make good money while cost of life is still low.
Did you ever make it to Angola? BJJ has actually blown up there in recent years.
A: Not yet but I was planning to go few times in the past. Actually I have been to quite few other surrounding countries. I was in South Africa for 3 months and in Namibia for few days in 2012 and did couple visits to Zambia and Botswana in 2016-2017 and always wanted to visit Angola but something always happened and my plans failed. I know it is an interesting place with troubled modern history; and history is something that fascinates me. Also I hear Angolan girls are beautiful; this is another thing that fascinates. And lastly yes BJJ is blooming there; a 3rd thing that fascinates me but not as much as the previous!
Injuries, injuries, injuries. I want to train all the time but sadly the inevitable sprains, tears and ruptures happen. What are your tips to maintain longevity in this sport?
A: – My main tip, which is the only sensible tip is to go ask a specialist; a doctor, a kinesiologist, a physiotherapist, an updated S&C coach, a nutritionist, and above all any Gracie family member. These are the people that can safely answer this question.
Though not all people have the financial ability to consult specialists thus the 2nd resort is to ask experienced people in the field, which usually are black belts but unfortunately often give dangerous tips. My tips are simple:
– Listen to your body
– Don’t over train
– Eat, rest, sleep, rehab and hydrate
If your goal is to become a Mundial Champion forget the first two. High level sports require sacrifices. But if you want to have a long career with little injuries follow the first 3 tips. But to train all the time and stay injury-free is like communism; great as an idea but unrealistic.
The human body is like a machine; actually it is the most perfect machine. But as with any machine the more mileage you put on it and the less you take care of it the more damages it brings back.
Having had a successful start to your MMA career, why did you stop?
A: You don’t call a 2 wins- 1 loss record a successful start but I understand you are a purple belt that wants to ‘kiss ass’ of a black belt; so the comment is expected. Truth is that I fought MMA for the experience and because in a way it legitimize you even more as a Martial Artist and coach and athlete.
I still enjoy to train-teach MMA, I fought in some nice, smaller but professional events in 3 different continents just to test myself and loved the experience. The sport has risks and combined with the commitment it requires to succeed; for me was never an option or priority!
What is your greatest lesson learnt in life? This could be either on or off the mats.
A: I know I sound myself cliché now but YOLO; You Only Live Once. My version is: “Life Has No Replay Button”. Unfortunately this is a lesson I learned the hard way in the past through some dramas. So nowadays my goal is to enjoy life to the maximum, and try enjoy every single day and have fun in positive and healthy way for me, those around me and the nature. Along the way I try to contribute as much as I can anywhere I can.
We hear this all the time, ‘Jiu Jitsu saved my life’. Is this applicable to you?
A: Not at all. Jiu-Jitsu helped improve the quality of my life and maybe take me to some places I would not have gone without it but this is it. In my humble opinion the only cases that Jiu-Jitsu can save lives are the following: If you were a drug addict and Jiu-Jitsu help you clean up, if you were unemployed and Jiu-Jitsu gave you a career and last but not least if you ended up winning a life or death street fight using Jiu-Jitsu.
Fortunately I was not in any of the above situations and hope I will not be in the future. No doubt there are many benefits in Jiu-Jitsu; both physical and mental but the same benefits or even more can come by practicing other sports too. Jiu-Jitsu saved my life is a promotional quote that is so over used that is comical. Practicing sports in a healthy and controlled way save lives.
What was the worst encounter or experience you had while you were travelling?
A: I had so far one “near death experience” with an equally “crazy” friend of mine. Some of my senior BJJ students in Bangkok met him in 2010 in a party they organized. At that party these students started burning their pubic hair in a restaurant to honor us (you know who you are, but this is another story).
Anyhow whenever I travel with this guy there is always some crazy incidents. So in 2012 we did a long trip over Peru and Bolivia. We hiked, surfed, did sightseeing, ate and slept wherever we could find. We even took overnight buses that they scanned our fingertips before departing. We found that weird but then we learned that this is a standard procedure because many buses fell off the mountains and this is the only way the authorities could identify the bodies.
One day we decided to climb a 6200 meter mountain just outside La Paz in Bolivia. We had zero experience in alpine climbing, zero equipment and we barely had time to acclimatize in this altitude. Despite that we found some lunatic local to lead us up to that summit. We stock up with coca leaves that helps fight the altitude sickness took whatever gear he gave us and started the climb. Long story short we ended up stuck on the mountain with the weather and visibility getting worst, extremely fatigued with slight frostbites and hallucinations. My friend was trying to find a taxi back to the base camp and both of us thought we will die. Fortunately the guide was so used to this environment that not only lead us down but did it with a smile and without even looking tired or worried. Another lesson learned the hard way; respect the nature and know your limits.
What’s the most dangerous place you have ever been to? Besides the ladyboy bars of Nana.
A: I have been to few dangerous countries and cities. For example I spent quite some time in Kingston, Jamaica a city that has one of the highest homicide rates in the world and went to several cities in Mexico that also share the same statistic. In any case nothing happened so I was either lucky or those statistics are misleading.
Also I was in some Jeep Safari in Swaziland and a huge elephant started charging at the Jeep, with an erected penis. The driver later told us that this was a territorial display from the beast. Thankfully he was aware of this behavior and backed out on time the jeep. All of these stories can be found in my Instagram dimitrios_tsitos_bjj so make sure to follow.
As a role model and inspiration for those wishing to pursue the jiu jitsu lifestyle, what advice can you provide?
Nice to hear I am a role model & inspiration. Generally I avoid giving advice because I don’t want someone following my advice and messing his life up. At the end of the day what worked for me might not work for someone else.
If there is one thing that is very important and helped me a lot all these years was to be diverse as a person. Don’t focus too much on become great in one area; try instead to become as good as you can to many. Do not neglect your formal education, but also try to get as much informal you can.
Learn to speak as many languages, practice many sports, go to new places, learn skills, exit your comfort zone, study generic topics, learn survival methods, invest for when old, try different works, help others and not hurt the environment and the list goes on.
A: What are your goals within jiu jitsu going forward? Is the nomad in you satiated? Any plans to settle down, open an academy, and share your knowledge?
My only Jiu-Jitsu related goal is to teach as much as I can and have fun training as much as my body can take. For the first goal I focus at more isolated places and developing countries; such as Madagascar where we already set up with some local friends some charity Jiu-Jitsu projects. The nomad in me is not satiated.
The sport will be as always a vehicle to travel to new, old and always challenging destinations. I do not have any plans to open my own academy nor interested to be involved in creating any affiliation in the next 3 years. These things require commitment to a place which I still don’t have.
What is your immediate plan? Let’s say the next few months?
A: South East Asia is my next plan. Starting from 22nd or 23rd October I will be in the region. It will be the first time after my relocation from Asia in 2011 that I will return to stay for few months at least. I was here 3 or 4 times the last 7 years but for 1 or 2 weeks at the time. Now I will be based in Bangkok where always I will teach at EMAC and want to thank Kru Niti for always being so welcoming and professional.
I also want to visit Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia and spent at least 1-2 weeks in each country. If anyone is interested for an experienced guest black belt and/or seminars contact me also in Instagram: dimitrios_tsitos_bjj, (hope you have done that already).
Also not so immediate plan; in the next 1-2 years I am planning a huge and unique project that mixes Jiu-Jitsu, traveling, charity and sports. When the details are set it will be announced and hopefully will be supported by the community.
Probably the most important question, which country has the best girls in the world?
A: All countries have good girls. I cannot answer specifically which has the best. I can tell you though which girls are the best. Those that bring no drama and are not shy to show a guy that they like him. I don’t get to meet often such girls though!
And finally, how did you react the first time you realized you brought home a ladyboy in Bangkok?
-A: I just said: “Damn this penis is bigger than mine”. And it was not in Bangkok but in Phuket. Seriously now; what question was that? I am a black belt and by default all black belts are supreme human beings. We don’t do ladyboys, we are loyal as dogs, don’t do drugs, anabolics, alcohol, cheat, steal, swear, lie, fart, burp and always carry ourselves around with respect, humility and class, sleep with 1 eye open and say Osssss at least once every hour! Basically we don’t do what regular people do as we have no flaws!
Thanks for taking the time to read my interview. I hope to see old and new friends in one of the places I am about to visit. Also, finally I am getting more active with my online presence in social media where I upload new and old pictures of my adventures, so follow me at Instagram: dimitrios_tsitos_bjj (3rd time mentioned, it is worth it, or else if you train under 3 years I will find you & smash you)