Thursday, September 10, 2015

1st Day Training BJJ at Team Quest Thailand with Professor Bruno Carvalho

I've been heavily focused on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu these past few months but have been mainly doing open mat at the college as it's 2 minutes from my house. But this week I decided to drive over to Team Quest and check out their Tuesday night Gi BJJ class that is technique focused.

The classes are now lead by Professor Bruno Carvalho who is a 3rd degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt originally from Brazil. Here are my first impressions on the BJJ program at Team Quest Thailand and the training with Bruno.

The Facilities:

The gym is no longer brand new as I remember it but still a great place to roll. Just make sure you bring your own Gi as they don't have a selection of loaners.

Black, White or Blue? Just don't' bring camo.

The Class:

It's hard to say as I've only been to one session so far, but it seemed like a decent mix of regulars and beginners who have been there for just a few weeks or less.

The biggest benefit of training down in Southern California or Phuket would be having a ton of training partners to roll with. Right now Chiang Mai's scene isn't big enough to be consistent, but it's growing and by having a legit Jiu-Jitsu program at Team Quest now it's going to attract more and more students.

Professor Bruno Carvalho Teaching After Class

Professor Bruno Carvalho:

Even before I went to class, I already knew the the new trainer would be good to work with. I knew that he was a legit black belt originally from Brazil, and he's had a lot a ton of BJJ competition experience as well as 25 MMA fights, but that doesn't always means they are a good teacher or patient with new students.

 I happened to skype with my buddy Nicolas Gregoriades, another great black belt and as soon as I mentioned Team Quest, he immediately said that Bruno was super legit and that I would enjoy the class. Here's a highlight reel of Bruno's MMA fights, definitely worth watching. 

What really impressed me about Bruno was how patient he was even with the total beginners and when I was just not getting a technique he was teaching. 

I was also really glad to see that he would roll with students after class during the sparring sessions, and after 5 minutes rolling with him and being completely outclassed, I was reminded how big of a skill difference there is between me rolling with other white, blue and even purple belts at the university open mat club and rolling with a legit black belt. It was a humbling experience and was glad he went gentle on me as either way, his experience and skill showed me how much I still have to learn.

But what impressed me the most and really cemented how legit Bruno really is was after class after he took of his Gi and everyone was ready to go home. Two students, stayed around to practice one of the techniques they had learned in class, and instead of getting on with his day, Bruno was more than happy to jump back onto the mat to help them. 

Overall 1st Thoughts:

If I was coming to Chiang Mai for the first time, or if I lived closer to Team Quest, I'd go there as my default BJJ gym. With their great new black belt, and open mat sessions on weekends, it's definitely worth the membership.

I'd really like to see the BJJ scene grow even more in Chiang Mai as it's my favorite city in Thailand and much more affordable and livable than Phuket. We'll see how fast the scene will grow to a point where there are multiple training partners for all size people and belt levels, but so my experience has been positive enough for me to recommend it, and I'll be going back to Team Quest for their Thursday class tonight.

If you want to check out their schedule, pricing, and find out more info, you can go to Team Quest Thailand's website here.

See you on the mats!

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

BJJ in Chiang Mai: 3 Month Update on my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Journey

I can't believe that I've been back on the mats for 3 months now after taking a 2 year break from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. A huge part of getting back on the mats is in thanks to my good friend Chris Lioe who is a purple belt from Orange County, California.

Team Quest has been making a huge push to get more people doing BJJ in Chiang Mai and even started offering two open mat days a week that are completely free even for non-members. I think it's awesome they are letting people use their mats without a fee as well as offering classes taught by a legit black belt. There's also the BJJ Club at Chiang Mai University which has been growing in popularity. Here's my three month update on my personal journey, recovering from an injury and thoughts on the growing sport here in Thailand.

Chiang Mai vs. Phuket for BJJ

I'd love to say Chiang Mai is better for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu simply because I prefer living here over Phuket, but that would be a untrue. There are so many more gyms and rolling partners down south at Phuket Top Team, Team Quest, and the new AKA Thailand.

If you're looking for the best Jiu-Jitsu program in Thailand, it would still have to be the program at Phuket Top Team with Olavo Abreu, a 4th degree Carlson Gracie Black belt. However, if you're looking to live in Chiang Mai for the overall better quality of life, lower cost of living, and access to the digital nomad community then be happy we have a growing scene here as well and bring your gi!

Phuket is the winner for best BJJ programs
Chiang Mai is the winner for best overall quality of living

Taken at Phuket Top Team a few years ago

Team Quest Thailand

A great facility with a Professor Bruno Carvalho a 3rd degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt leading the classes now. They also have open mat rolling sessions on both Saturday and Sunday which is completely free even for non-members.

At only 250 baht ($7us) per drop in class or 2,000 baht ($57us) per month for unlimited BJJ classes it's a heck of a lot cheaper than training in Phuket which charges an unbelievable 10,000 baht ($285us) a month. If you're wondering why BJJ is 3x the price in Thailand as it is back home, it's because people back home do it as a hobby a few days a week while at a fight camp, you're training 6+ times a week and really getting your money's worth.

Either way, with Team Quest now lowering their unlimited BJJ class prices coming to Chiang Mai combined with it's lower cost of living is a no brainer if you're on a budget.

BJJ Class at Team Quest Thailand in Chiang Mai

My 3 Month BJJ Update

Ever since my buddy Chris moved from California to Chiang Mai and convinced me to buy a gi, I've been super dedicated to rolling again. My grappling cardio went from 0 to a respectable 8 in just a few weeks and because of my background in wrestling, MMA and Muay Thai and the fact that I'm a lot bigger and stronger than most guys, i've been able to hang against some of the blue and purple belts which has inspired confidence.

I mainly train at the Chiang Mai University mats but solely because it's 2 minutes from my apartment in Chiang Mai and I'm currently more interested in open mat than learning new techniques but if I was coming here for an actual fight camp or to up my jiu-jitsu game I would have gotten an apartment by Team Quest and just trained their full time instead.

Instead of going to technique classes or trying to piece together techniques myself, I started following Nic Gregoriades' BJJ Building Blocks program online instead which is a 52-week online course that you can do from anywhere. I originally planned to follow the videos week by week, but then found myself watching 3 or 4 at a time right before class so I could try out the techniques that day. So far i'm only 1/4th of the way into the course but can already highly recommend it.

At Chiang Mai University's BJJ Club

Overcoming the Injury 

My grappling cardio was getting insanely good, my tech was improving every week and I started being able to be a danger even to purple and blue belts that were smaller than me while being able to submit fellow white belts my size.

But then...I got hurt. The stupid thing was, it wasn't even during rolling, but afterwards while stretching. I still believe it's healthy to stretch, but over stretching, especially when the mats are slippery from you dripping with sweat can be dangerous. I was doing a neck stretch I learned when I used to wrestle in high school and slipped forward on my shaved head and heard a loud popping noise in my spinal cord. It was a scary moment, but luckily I was completely fine with the exception of not being able to put any pressure on my neck without it being sore. I'm pretty sure I had tore some of the supporting ligaments or supporting muscle.

I iced it and let it rest a few days before testing it again, but every time I put the slightly pressure on my neck, I could feel it wasn't quite right. As much as I loved my progress in BJJ, I didn't want to risk further injury so I marked a date on my calendar for an entire month and didn't even consider rolling again until then.  In retrospect I should have continued my online training to learn technique, but I was so disappointed in myself for doing something so stupid that I didn't open it once. Luckily, I forced myself to go to the gym, do pull ups, strength and conditioning, hikes and even went to the university once to sprint on their track.

Pool side in Chiang Mai on the weekend with Chris

Back in Action

As of this week I'm back in action and back on the mats. So far after two days of rolling, my cardio is still suffering but I'm back on track and my grip strength feels like it is completely unused to what I'm trying to do, but it's an incredible feeling to back.

If you're still thinking about whether or not you should come to Chiang Mai to do jiu-jitsu, I'd say go for it and bring your gi. The Muay Thai scene up here has always been fantastic with Team Quest, KC Muay Thai and Santai all being great gyms but now BJJ is also growing. If you do plan on coming to Thailand to train, make sure you read my book 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap as it'll save you a ton of money and give you an idea on how to navigate life out here when you arrive. 

By the way, big thanks to Chris Lioe for helping lead the BJJ revolution here in Chiang Mai and for being a great rolling partner. Happy birthday buddy!

Hope to see you all out in Chiang Mai and on the mats.

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Buying a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gi in Chiang Mai, Thailand

It's been a few weeks since I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu here in Chiang Mai again and have really need enjoying it. Even though I've always prefered no-gi while traveling as it was easier, the guys that train over at Chiang Mai University almost all train in Gi's so I figured it was worth the investment.  The problem is, where would you get one?

Basically there are 3 options in Chiang Mai, I'll go over the pros and cons of each in this post.

In Store:

Look for it in stores. Unfortunately, even at the biggest sport stores in Chiang Mai, they only have Judo Gis which might be tempting as they are a lot cheaper and are still strong enough for BJJ, but don't get it. The reason why Judo Gi's aren't good for BJJ is because of their cut and collars.

By having huge easy to grab sleeves and easy to grab collars, you'll make it too easy for your opponent to control you, as well as make it dangerous for your partner to get their fingers or toes caught in your gi.


On Amazon most companies don't ship to Thailand, but if you look around enough, you'll find some that do such a Fuji. If you are willing to wait 2 weeks, and pay for the shipping + customs charges, you can get a Gi starting at $150.

Saturday Gi Class at Chiang Mai University

Team Quest:

Where I ended up buying my Gi is Team Quest Thailand near the airport.  They only had a few sizes left when I went, so I'd call them ahead of time to make sure they have yours but I was lucky that they had an A3 which is my size since I'm 5'10.5" and around 210-215lbs.

The price was 3,200 baht which is $100US and very reasonable for a high quality Gi that reminded my purple belt friend of an unbranded Shoyoroll. I've been washing it in cold water and air drying it on my balcony and it has only shrunk by a tiny bit but fits me perfectly.

The Shop at Team Quest Thailand
I'm getting ready to head to another session today, but if you're in Chiang Mai or planning on coming, definitely get yourself a Gi so you can come roll. I'd bring your Gi with you as I talked about in my previous post as it's a lot easier to get one back home but either way see you on the mats at Team Quest or at CMU.

Someone mentioned that the Muay Thai and MMA gear shop in the Night Bazaar also sells Gi's and has name brands such sas Grips. Unfortunately their website doesn't work but it might be worth checking out.


Also see: BJJ is Back in Chiang Mai
My other blog:


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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

BJJ is BACK in Chiang Mai: Bring Your Gi to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!

It's been awhile since I've been actively training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu here in Chiang Mai, but guess what, I'm back! For the longest time, if you wanted to do BJJ in Thailand, you'd have to go to Bangkok or Phuket, but recently Chiang Mai has been developing the reputation of having a growing jiu-jitsu scene and I have a feeling it's just going to get bigger and bigger.

Two years ago, when a friend asked me if they should bring their Gi with them to Chiang Mai, I told them not to bother.  Even Black Belt legends like Nicolas Gregoriades would leave their kimonos at home when coming to Chiang Mai, but last week my buddy Chris who is a purple belt based in S. California asked if he should bring his Gi with him from the states, and the answer is finally YES.

That's me and my buddy Chris on the right!

Who's Here?

There are some legit blue and purple belts and even a couple black belts in Chiang Mai now. My buddy Chris Lioe who has been a purple belt for 2 years has recently moved to CM and will be training regularly.

Bruno Carvalho is the resident Black Belt at Team Quest here in Chiang Mai.

Roger Gracie's First Black Belt, Nicolas Gregoriades comes back and forth and spends a decent amount of time living and training in Chiang Mai.

BK Kesler is a Brown Belt based out of Gym Bangarang a bit outside the city but trains regularly at Team Quest.

Also there are a bunch of regulars and visitors who come through Chiang Mai on a regular basis, adding to the mix.  Who's here changes quite often, but there seems to always be a few really good guys to roll with now that BJJ is back in Chiang Mai.

Where to Roll?

There are two main places to train BJJ in Chiang Mai. The first is the only official and structured place to do it which is Team Quest Thailand located near the Airport Plaza in Chiang Mai.

Prices start at 4,000 baht ($133US) per month for unlimited MMA/BJJ classes and open mat sessions. They also sell basic Gi's at TQ but I would bring your own from home if you have one.  They have three Gi classes a week as well as a few No-Gi classes that's more geared towards MMA.  

CMU BJJ Club: 

There is also a BJJ Club at the local university. At last night's open mat session there were two purple belts on the matt with the rest of us white belts and beginners making it interesting and fun to both watch and learn. The training here is on the same mats at the University's Judo club and is pretty much free to attend.

However it's non-structured and geared more towards local college students and beginners.  Since it isn't an official class, think of it more as bonus mat time if you're in town.

Last night's open matt at CM University

If you're a fan of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I can finally say that you should bring your Gi with your to Chiang Mai. Sure it's a bit hot here, but at least your Gi will air dry quickly after training sessions. =)

If you're looking for structure and training, I would 100% signup for a month at Team Quest and check them out. But if you're just looking for some mat time it's good to know that the BJJ Club at CMU is an option.

2016 Update: 

A new gym just opened a few months ago here in Chiang Mai and it's quickly replaced CMU as the go to place to roll. They have free open mat every Saturday and Sunday and great classes during the week in a brand new facility.

Check out the new Chiang Mai Fight Fit for the newest brazilian jiu-jitsu school in Thailand. They have a ton of rental gi's, a consistent amount of rolling partners and is overall a great BJJ club. They also offer Muay Thai and MMA classes but I only go for the Jiu-Jitsu. 

Here's their current schedule: 

Personally I've been training at Chiang Mai Fight Fit but mainly because it's close to my apartment in Nimmanheim. If I lived closer to the airport, old city or Hangdong I'd also train at Team Quest as they have a world class black belt there. 

Wherever you end up training, hope to see you guys on the mat!

Author of 12 Weeks in Thailand: A Must Read if you're coming to Thailand to train!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pro Muay Thai Fighter Germain Yeap Pretends to be a Fake Nerd and beats up men.

Bet these Muay Thai trainers didn't expect this nerdy girl to kick their ass in the ring!  
Female Muay Thai champion pretends to be a nerd and takes the phrase 'fight like a girl' to a whole new level.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

7 Muay Thai Gym & Beach Resort - Guest Review

Hey guys, I'm happy to share a guest review of the new 7 Muay Thai Gym in Rayong, which is only a two and a half hour drive outside of Bangkok. It's near Pattaya which is a bit of a wild area, but since it's in the next city over,  you should be able to have both the convenience of being near Bangkok without the craziness of neighboring Pattaya.

This review is from Gery Bavetta a Muay Thai fighter from Italy:

My name is Gery Bavetta, and I am a Muay Thai professional fighter and this year for the first time I have been at the new camp ‘7 Muay Thai’ just a few month after they opened.
My two month at the camp were very positive, because I felt at home and also because everything is organized seriously.


Even if the area is very quiet, a few steps from the camp there is a small supermarket open 24h, other than that after 9 PM the area doesn’t offer much, this is a flaw for who loves night life, but for me that I love Muay Thai, is an advantage. Being only 1 hour taxi ride from Pattaya, it can be decided to go there for some leisure.

Food and Services:
The camp has in program to offer Italian food and a massage service (already available on request) and I heard about a Yoga center and other things that I don’t know if they will do but I think they should.
The gym has a few strong professional Thai fighters but they should be more present and train every day to help fighters like me grow in level.
Near the gym there is a very good and cheap Thai restaurant which offers the camp’s guests a very convenient package.
At walking distance there’s a most often deserted beach, but since I had to train hard, I rarely went to the beach because after 2-3 hours of training even a 10 minute walk is scary.

Video of 7 Muay Thai Gym:

The camp has just opened and a part of it is still being built, but it is working under all aspects and day by day I saw small changes, this is positive because it means they are always trying to improve.
Other Gyms:

I think this kind of camp is a benchmark for Farangs, because unlike other gyms I have trained at (Sitsongpeenong, Luk Barn Yai,ecc) at 7 Muay Thai, other than training, Muay Thai theory and ring strategy is discussed, as well as scoring system and many other small things about fighting in Thailand that normally Thais don’t waste time saying as they are only interested in the Farang’s money.
I’m sure this gym will improve its flaws because I know there are serious people inside who work day and night and put their souls in it. Also, being the camp associated to the Muay Farang agency, who trains at 7 Muay Thai and wants to fight, has always the best fighting chances, so I think 1 or 2 years from now it will be a reference and important camp.

You can check out the gym at:

Gery Bavetta's Pro Muay Thai Fight
From Johnny:

I haven't personally been to 7 Muay Thai Gym as I'm based in Chiang Mai now and haven't been training much since last year, but it sounds like a great new gym to check out especially if you want to be near Bangkok/Pattaya but still far enough out of the cities to focus on your training.

If you're coming to Thailand to train Muay Thai, make sure you read my book 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap before you do. It'll save you a ton of money and give you a good idea of what life is like doing a fight camp.

Find the book at 

Warm Regards,


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Help Build a Muay Thai Gym in Issan: Fight the Poverty!

I first heard of the poor rural province of Issan when I was living in Phuket and jokingly asked, "Why are all the trainers from Issan?" It turns out that growing up in the poverty, the main ways to escape are through Muay Thai or unsavory occupations.

When I heard that we could all chip in and help support this community, I knew I had to get involved. I interviewed Muay Thai fighter and advocate of the new gym Frances Wattanaya and asked why she decided to help build this new gym, what it's so important for kids to compete in Muay Thai and how it can literally save their lives.

I asked Frances more about Issan, here's what she said:
Our village is located in Nakhonratchisma Province in Northeast Thailand.  The area, more commonly referred to as Isaan, is by far the most under developed area of Thailand.  It is plagued by poverty, and low quality education.

With this systematic suppression endorsed by the Thai Government, it is hard for even the brightest of individuals to break free from this kind of isolation.

Aside from farming there are occasional labours job in the village.  If you are from a good family you have chance to get a government job at one of the schools or hospitals near by.  These jobs are difficult to get; in addition to having access to post-secondary education, you must have someone in your family who is already working within the government sign for you.  Nepotism is a big problem in Thailand, only further isolating the lower classes.

There is nothing to do here.  The schools are poorly funded and offer just the bare minimum in education and extracurricular activities.  For many years locals in the Muay Thai community talked about building a gym here, but it is just never happened because of the lack of investment.

A simple carpet is the only ring they know 
It may seem crazy and almost immoral for young kids to be learning to fight, and even competing, but in Thailand, it's part of their culture, heritage and is their national sport. It's akin to Brazilians learning to play soccer and having football be their escape from poverty. 
Frances: Our focus remains the kids and local youth.  They are the most marginalized and need it the most.  What we are hoping with this gym is that we can create a balance between developing fighters, and offering after school actives for kids.  The community has really come together to show their support.  Everyday people stop by to watch, help clean up, or bring food.  It gives the adults something else to do, something that is fun and exciting.  Others come to use the exercise equipment, like the free weights or the sit-up benches.  Overall, the gym enlists a sense of pride amounts the villagers whether they are directly involved in it or not.  

What the reality of poverty is for these kids now?

Farmers in the area don't register their incomes; instead wealth is measured how many bags of rice are harvested.  The farmers here rely solely on the rain fall for their crops, making it a very precarious career. Rice farming is incredibly arduous, but for today's current generation, also very expensive.  Rice prices are kept low while farming costs are inflated.  Furthermore, there aren't other options in the village so, many people leave to work menial labour jobs in Bangkok.  In turn, kids are left behind with their grandparents who are only able to offer minimal care due to their own poor health from the back breaking labour they have endured for generations.  

Families in Isaan have now become dependant on relatives sending money home, putting a lot of pressure on those in the capital.  Minimum wage in Thailand is approximately $10 per day with no benefits.  

*That's around $1US an hour, sometimes people get paid even less. 

The escape begins with having a place to go and something to do.

The good news is there is hope, and for the cost of us skipping one night of drinks, you can help build a real Muay Thai gym where kids need it the most, and make a difference. I donated, and you can too. Here's how you can help.

How will my contribution can help and what it will go towards?

Frances: The reason we started the gofundme campaign is that Boom and I are not set up financially to build a gym.  We need to have the full cost of construction up front to get started.  Our goal with the campaign is to raise enough money to put a roof over these kids' heads and provide them with a ring needed for training.  However, your contribution is doing so much more: it is providing them with a safe space to participate in a structured activity, it is giving them a chance to get away from poverty, and a method in which they can improve the livelihoods of their families.  Whether the kids make it to the big time or not is irrelevant, we are giving them the chance to dream!

Without running shoes, kids in Issan run in $1 sandals

I was really interested in France's story and asked her to share a bit of her story with us:
Frances: I started training Muay Thai out of Pride Gym in Trail, B.C when I was 14 years old.  My trainer Glen Kalesniko encouraged me to go to Thailand and when I was 17 I was given a scholarship by Arjan Suchart to train Muay Thai at his gym in Northern Thailand.  After working construction for a little over a year I booked a ticket to go in 2006.  I was taken to a Muay Thai street gym in Bangkok, affiliated with Sor. Thanikul, and fell in love with the gym and the community there.  

Needless to say, didn't make it to Northern Thailand. From there I fought in Bangkok for a year before moving to Isaan with my husband Boom, whom I met at the gym.  I fought all over Isaan, farmed rice with the family, and lived in the village before realizing there was nothing there for us.  My husband came back to Canada with me so could attend university.  During that time I had my daughter, and now the we are back living in Isaan.  Being able to live both in Thailand and Canada really made Boom and I aware that we in a position of privilege; we can help these kids and that is why we are doing it!

Boom and I would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of support we have received and are continuing to receive.  Every donation, regardless of the amount, is making a difference.  We promise to develop this gym with the kids best interests at heart, and to take care of them as if they were our own.

Support the campaign:

Also check out their Photo Auction on eBay to Raise Money for the Gym.

Thanks for the support and please share this post with your friends!