We're all familiar with the cookie-cutter, plain vanilla-type BJJ interview of athletes and other folks in our sport. We find them to oftentimes be exceptionally boring, and we usually avoid reading them. We don't do boring, so we decided to turn the traditional text Q & A on its head a bit and make the process a little more fun (and way less serious). We're doing a series of DSTRYR/SG-style text interviews with people in the BJJ biz, from entrepreneurs to athletes to coaches to artists.
We call it the Grappler's Interrogatories (the "GIs") (which is kind of lawyer joke that I'm sure you totally get and appreciate). Here's how it works: There are 11 questions; they will essentially be the same for anyone who participates in the GIs. We believe they will allow us to peer in to the very soul of the participant. Either that, or they'll produce some truly odd and mildly humorous responses. We win either way!
Months ago, I got a email from an enthusiastic gentlemen named Kiril Stirbu, the purveyor of a small BJJ/fight t-shirt brand out of Moldova (a former Soviet republic with which most of us are completely unfamiliar) called Brutal Tshirt. You probably aren't familiar with them; they are small and not too well known. They do make some pretty cool t-shirts (which we'll be giving away this week, so stay tuned). What's even cooler is that these guys are rockin' their own BJJ apparel company in a country that has almost no BJJ. And, we think that's a story worth telling.
So, here's Case No 001Please read and get to know these guys. And, be ready to hear about a scoring some free shirts from Brutal Tshirt very soon.
1. How did you get your start in BJJ?
There are not so many BJJ academies in Moldova. Speaking straight, there are none at all. So, my BJJ started with going into traditional jiu jitsu and watching YouTube. Initially not too many of my jiu jitsu friends shared my interest to this exotic (for Moldova) martial art.
But everything changed after Christian Graugart (Copenhagen, Denmark) started his BJJ Globetrotter project. Before going to Japan, Brazil and USA, he visited Moldova and we were lucky to organize the first BJJ seminar ever in Moldova. My teammates were impressed, and so BJJ started in Moldova and in my life on regular basis.
2. How did Brutal TShirt get its start?
First of my creations was amateur black and white t-shirt, I made it in November 2010 in 30 pieces and gifted them all to my jitz-fellows.
In 2011, after Christian’s visit we organized first Newadza tournament in Chisinau. A friend of mine, Ion Vartic (Bushinkai Jiu Jitsu black belt) and I, created another jiu jitsu t-shirt for this event, with some degree of commercial success. So, this was another step.
Later, in August of 2011, we met another the amazingly talented artist, Max Pahov, aka Braga76, who became our third business partner. Then we created our first kick-ass design – "SAKUisFUN." That was our third step, and it was successful.
We launched our first collection over the following few months and the business started.
3. How has your experience in BJJ influenced your approach to Brutal TShirt as a business?
“Stay cool and keep rolling” – that is what jiu jitsu taught me. I am just a beginner and my ground game is far from good, and possibly I will never see black belt on my hips, but that is what I understand in training, working, business and overcoming life's obstacles: When you keep calm and do right things in right way, you will have right result, it’s just matter of time. Even when your environment goes totally crazy and even when it seems to you that your opponent is too big and too strong, you have to stay cool and keep doing right things.
4. Do you have any advice for someone who has a business idea in a niche market like yours?
Tons of them, heh. But the main is to remember the following: Don’t even think about trying to snatch my pie. Man, I’m serious.
No, I am not serious. Seriously, it's this: get an idea. I am not talking about business plan of where you will produce and what will be your prime cost and income rate. I mean some kind of philosophy (BrutalTshirsophy): “Do I have what to say to my customers? Do I have an ideology to be shared? What would I say and what would I share with them?” It must be something important for you, something you really love (or really hate). After you have formulated your idea, then start looking for like-minded persons: some of them will become your partners, investors and employees, and the rest will be your loyal customers. And your business will start working!
5. Favorite BJJ Fighter of All Time?
Marcelo Garcia, of course. For me he is the most complete illustration of how technique defeats size and athleticism. That is true jiu jitsu essence for me.
6. Closed Guard, Open Guard or Fancy Guard?
It depends: fancy guards and berimbolos when I am rolling with newcomers, open guard and tomahawk sweep (or scissor sweep) when I am rolling with my mat mates, and closed guard and "pray to the Lord" when I am rolling with somebody of higher class.
7. Fauxhawk, Mohawk, Mullet or Fabio?
Damn, Destroyer, nice try, but I am a regular reader of DSTRYRsg, that is why I know rules: Only hardcore! Only true Mohawk!
8. Fight/Board Shorts, Vale Tudo Shorts, or Spats (i.e., tights)?
Is it some kind of test? I hope I will pass it. Board Shorts is my answer. I’ve seen a lot of famous MMA fighters, who look pretty cool in their Vale Tudo shorts, but I’m afraid that in my orthodox country people could get me wrong, so Board shorts – my choice. Also my Gluteus Maximus is not athletic enough yet for tights.
9. Triangle, RNC, Armbar or Other? If other than triangle, please explain.
Honestly I prefer sweeping. I just started my way in jiu jitsu and now I am working on positions more than on submissions. That is why scissor sweep is my favorite weapon now. I accept, my game is not so spectacular, but I have an excuse.
10. What Animal Best Defines You as a Grappler (e.g., I am like a snail. I am slow and get smashed a lot)? Note: Answering with Fictional Animals (e.g., Unicorns, Sasquatch) Not Permitted.
Of course, I would love to see myself like a boa or octopus – staying calm and waiting for opponent’s mistake, and then smashing him off. But the truth is that my sensei is seeing me mostly as a turtle on the back – lying helpless and moving my hands and legs randomly. But remember please that one day Brer Turtle defeated Brer Rabbit!
11. Favorite Gracie? If other than Rickson, please explain.