While scouting for young BJJ talents across Scandinavia and Europe, we came across a young guy from the Netherlands who currently trains in Brasil and recently won gold at IBJJF No-GI open in Sao Paulo (Brasil) in the purple bet division, so we had to find out more. Daniel currently lives in Brasil where he trains under Gabriel Rollo and Thiago Abreu but has also co-founded an academy in Rotterdam called Erasmus BJJ. In this interview Daniel shares his BJJ journey, lifestyle in Brazil and goals for the upcoming year. Good luck to Daniel in his future endeavors!
1. Please introduce yourself to the BJJ community of Scandinavia
My name is Daniel de Groot, I’m with team Checkmat, training at The House FC in Santos, Brazil at the moment, but back home I train at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy Amsterdam and with my students at Erasmus BJJ. I just got promoted to purple belt by Gabriel Rollo and Thiago Abreu. My coaches in Europe are Manxinha from London Fight Factory and Kiren and Remo from BJJAA. My biggest titles so far are winning the IBJJF Sao Paulo Open (nogi), winning NAGA Germany at expert level and getting gold in my weight and second in the absolute at the Dutch Abu Dhabi Pro trials.
2. What is you BJJ story
Me and my friends were big into MMA, and I was a lazy teenager not practicing any sports, so I decided to give MMA a try. Found a gym nearby and started training. It turned out that it was more no-gi grappling than MMA, which was actually a plus for me. I did that for a few months, but every time people from the BJJ class came in to train with us they kicked my ass, so eventually I made the switch and bought a pyjama.
The team I was with back then was very focused on the self-defense aspect of jiu jitsu, and after competing in a few tournaments I knew that I needed to find a team with the same goals in mind. I contacted my friend Kiren, who was dominating the Dutch scene at the time (and still is) and asked if I could join their team in Amsterdam, about 1,5 hours of travel from my hometown, Rotterdam. I was welcomed with open arms and from that moment on I traveled to Amsterdam 2-3 times per week to train with Checkmat Amsterdam
Around that same time me and a friend decided it would be a good idea to use the dojo at the university we were studying at to train some jiu jitsu. We talked with the people in charge and in exchange for teaching classes we could use the dojo whenever we wanted. Starting out with only a few people on the mats with zero experience, this university team is now one of the bigger teams in the city and I’ve got some very talented students that are starting to win tournaments here and there.
For about 2 years now I’ve been making jiu jitsu a priority. I still study and work on the side, but my main focus is on training and teaching jiu jitsu. I’ve been travelling to Brazil to train with Gabriel Rollo and Thiago Abreu, who have had a huge impact on my game, and I compete as often as possible.
3. You just participated in the IBJJF Sao Paulo Open, take us through the event
So this was my first tournament as a purple belt and I didn’t expect too much from it. In the gi I barely won my first fight and I got demolished in the second fight. I felt pretty down but the Nogi division was still to come. The first fight started of good, I got into my footlock position, felt some pops, but then the guy escaped and we rolled out of bounds. I looked at my coach Thiago Abreu and he told me “His head is very low, pull guard again and go for the neck”. I did exactly that and got the guillotine finish.
Second fight I went for the neck again, pulled to closed guard and finished him as well. Then my teammate from the other side of the bracket came up to me and asked if I wanted to close out with him. I did and brought home my first IBJJF gold and my first gold as a purple belt.
4. You won several titles, what has been your toughest tournament so far?
I loved fighting Europeans this year, I submitted my first three opponents but unfortunately got stopped in the quarter finals by 2 points difference. Hoping to hit the podium this year. My best performance was probably at a local tournament in Brazil two years ago, I had four extremely tough fights but I managed to win against some of the toughest guys of the area.
5. In your opinion, What makes the Netherlands one of the best BJJ scenes in Europe?
Honestly, right now I don’t think it is. We have some very good, elite competitors, but as a country we can learn a lot from the Scandinavian countries, the UK and Poland. I think we have the potential to be a dominant force in Europe though. If more gyms start having classes every day and kids classes become available I’m sure we can dominate the scene. Dutch people are hard workers and if there were more opportunities to train more they would. I hope to contribute to creating an environment like this to grow the jiu jitsu here.
6. What is your daily routine and training regime?
I’m currently in Brazil training at The House, and day has about 3 sessions, 2 if I’m very tired. I start with nogi from 11 to 12. Then gi from 12 to 14. I rest and study a bit of jiu jitsu and come back for the 19.30 class that lasts for 1,5 hours. Saturday and Sunday I rest. The training has a lot of positional sparring and normal sparring.
Back home it’s a bit different. I train twice a day, jiu jitsu or strength training in the morning, and jiu jitsu at night. Saturday I also train 2 hours, but Sunday I rest. About 2 jiu jitsu sessions of the week are nogi. Between trainingsessions I study for university and on Sundays I work.
7. Tell us about your academy?
As I mentioned before, Erasmus BJJ started out just to have a space to train. Currently we have 2 training sessions a week and 3 drill and spar sessions. The friend I started it with is very busy with his business so I’m currently the sole leader of the team. I’ve got some very talented and hard working students, each with their own specialties so I learn a lot from just training with them.
Another great thing about the academy is that the University we are located in is very international, so we’ve had high level guys from all over the world come train with us for a semester or sometimes longer. Brazil, Peru, Germany, Malaysia, Czech Republic, Spain, Sweden, China… the list goes on. Very cool to train with and learn from people with a totally different background.
8. Favourite submission
Tough question, I like a lot of different submissions. I’d have to go for the footlock though, that one has helped me through a lot of tough opponents
9. What’s next for you in 2017/2018?
My main goals will be the ADCC trials and the Europeans, both gi and nogi.
10. Thanks! and feel free to send a message to the BJJ Scandinavia
Thanks a lot for giving me a chance to share a bit about my jiu jitsu journey! I want to give a shout-out to my coaches, teammates and students for helping me develop my game and of course to my sponsor FUJI Europe for making sure I’m winning competitions in style. Ossss