Vic Dorfman is a brown belt under Olavo Abreu, Asian Open gold medalist, online entrepreneur and digital nomad based between Bali and Phuket. We first crossed paths years ago while we were both training at Phuket Top Team and I recently managed to catch up with him and garner some insight on how he is living the BJJ lifestyle.


1- “Let’s start with a bit of background, how did you end up in Thailand?”

I got laid off from my job in the US and decided, somewhat impulsively, to absquatulate to Thailand. I’d never been to Thailand before and arrived with no definite aim, no plan to achieve it, and no resources to finance it.

6 years later, I’m still here.

2- “Your jits story. Did it save your life?”

In a way, yes… It saved me from a life without jits!

I started training 8 years ago in San Francisco with Denny Prokopos (Eddie Bravo’s first black belt) at 10th planet, to whom I owe – along with my training partners there – a brobdingnagian debt of gratitude for such a positive initial impression of grappling.

Since then I’ve traveled around and trained / competed with lots of really talented people and instructors. But it wasn’t until I came to Phuket Top Team here in Thailand and started training with professor Olavo Abreu and coach Eric Uresk that I really felt at home in a gym.

It would be a tall order indeed to enumerate all of the ways in which jits has improved my life. It would seem like an exaggeration to the uninitiated but I can’t think of anything in my life that hasn’t improved as a result of training jiu jitsu!

It gives you confidence, patience, problem-solving skills, grit, toughness, perseverance, discipline, consistency, humility, respect, aggressiveness, competitiveness and lots of other useful qualities.

Basically it helps make you into a more self-actualized person.

3- “Living the dream, training full time on island paradise. A lot of people would consider this aspirational.”

In fact, you give up as much as you gain when you eschew the conventional script to go live “the dream”.

For example, I sometimes find myself thinking about how life might have been had I stayed in my hometown, married my high school sweetheart, become a professional of some kind, had kids, owned a home; went to ball games, and all the rest of it.

I have friends back home – fiercely intelligent, and in their own way, rebellious people – who are nevertheless happier’n pigs in slop with the preordained arrangement. Now in my thirties, I no longer view that kind of life with knee jerk cynicism.

In their turn, perhaps these same friend are wondering whether they themselves hadn’t gone down the wrong path; stuck in tedious domestic drudgeries, tethered by children and jobs and mortgages; looking wistfully to me as a source of vicarious adventure, irretrievably forsaken.

What I’m saying is, what’s aspirational to one is quotidian to another. And there are many “the dreams” ™.

But make no mistake, when I spend a perfect sunny day in Phuket training, swimming at the beach, hanging with my friends, eating a great meal, and cruising around the island on my motorbike, catching stunning views of the shimmering sea between the breaks in lush jungle canopy, I feel so immensely, incredibly happy.

4- “What are your plans for future?”

The mid-range plan is to go live in Japan, learn to speak Japanese fluently, and of course train.

Long term, I’ll probably wind up back in Thailand. I imagine myself some 40 years hence, living in Phuket, juiced to the gills; just a badass old man, a collection of injuries and “back in the day” stories, with a 19 year old girlfriend, still getting after it on the mat and showing those young fools coming up what Carlson Gracie jiu jitsu is all about.

5- “Your thoughts on Asia.”

I’m mostly based in Thailand so I’ll just comment on that.

There’s plenty of frustration to deal with but to me the trade-offs are worth it.

For instance, being able to drive around all day with no shirt, on a motorbike with no helmet in sunny Phuket is such a stupidly simple and amazing freedom that everybody should have. But you can’t do that in a lot of places because you don’t have a license, you don’t have a helmet, you don’t have a shirt, you don’t have insurance, and on and on the red tape goes.

Here you feel free in a real and immediate way and not merely in the abstract. Whereas back in the States the same things that make it run relatively well are also the things that drive you crazy and make you claustrophobic.

I do miss things on the intellectual front, however, like going to the symphony, the generally more intelligent conversations you’ll encounter, and other various snobby predilections that are difficult to indulge in Southeast Asia.

So I’ve determined that the ideal arrangement is to rotate 6 months on, 6 months off between Asia (a sort of hedonistic, exotic playground) and Europe or the US (for professional and cultural / artistic growth).

6- “What would you consider an optimum training and nutrition plan.”

This is a very individual question.

For me optimum training usually looks like this:

– 3-5 days per week of jits
– wrestling twice per week
– private lesson 1x/week with the best teacher you can find / afford
– 3 days a week of low rep powerlifting / kettlebell type training
– stretching and mobility work
– breathing exercises (wim hof, triangular / rectangular breathing, breath of fire)

This is *optimal* but in practice it’s pretty damn hard to honor this kind of schedule, especially if you have any obligations outside of just training.

For nutrition I try to stick with an organic, Paleo-ish diet and I order a lot of food from Paleo Robbie so I don’t have to think about preparing food or going out to get it. I also order a lot of supplements from iHerb because you can’t get a lot of them here.

7- “Asian girls or western girls and why?”

I would say both have their pros and cons.

In a hook a hookup scenario it’s basically all about that primal attraction. And in that context I tend to find the Southeast Asian and Slavic phenotype’s most appealing.

In a serious relationship situation you’re looking primarily at a girl’s character and how you might fit together long term. In this respect I think it’s universally hard to find someone you see eye-to-eye with, no matter where they’re from.

8- “Living in Phuket, I have to ask what your thoughts on PED’s in jits are”

I think they’re great if used intelligently and I think they should be freely allowed in competition and completely legal.

The problem in Phuket is that a lot of dudes come here, walk into the pharmacy, load up on gear, and then start injecting willy nilly. That’s so incredibly stupid and dangerous.

On the other hand, as you get older I see no reason to blithely accept the “inevitability” of becoming an old, useless and decrepit shell of a man. That’s where an intelligent regimen of steroids – and not in supra-physiological doses, mind you – can ensure an amazing quality of life well into old age.

vic dorfman bjj

9- “What do you consider the most important lesson learnt in life, either on or off the mats “

Life is fragile, life is short, and it can be snuffed out at any time. So make sure you’re doing what you really want to do. Don’t wait. The last thing you want to do before you croak is to be answering a goddamn email.

10- “And finally, how did you react the first time you realised you brought home a ladyboy in Bangkok?”

I was in Manila a few years ago for the Pan Asians and I was staying at that big ol’ mega apartment complex near the Mall of Asia. You know the one with the 3 swimming pools on the ground floor?

Anyway, I met this chick on Skout and she agreed to come up to my place. She sashayed through the door wearing sunglasses and a kind of homely looking moo-moo that obscured her figure. Her jaw line was also a bit more angular than your average pinay. And her girly voice sounded forced and unnatural, like the squawk of a middle school oboe player practicing high notes he can’t quite hit yet.

So I asked, “are you a ladyboy?” She responded in the affirmative. So I politely asked her to leave and she left without a fuss.

I’d heard stories of ladyboys pulling all sorts of crazy stunts, stabbing fools, drugging dudes, stealing from them, etc. Luckily nothing like that happened. And that’s the closest I’ve come to a ladyboy surprise.

For more information on what Vic is up to these days, check out his website:

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