At Open Source Jiu-Jitsu, we have a collaborative approach to training that aims to be inclusive, accessible and free from BJJ politics.
The name of our program is based on the concept of open source software. As with an open source framework, our approach to training is available to anyone. From there, they are free to examine, modify and enhance the original idea. We don’t adhere to any one master, affiliation, sensei or what essentially amounts to “closed source software.” Instead, we strive to empower and encourage our coaches and teammates to constantly improve on the existing model, using ideas, concepts, techniques and approaches from various other schools of thought.
We believe that BJJ should not be the privilege of just an elite, small group of people. Rather, it is important that BJJ is accessible to everybody, regardless of their financial situation. Many of the classes at Open Source Jiu-Jitsu utilize a pay-what-you-want and/or pay-as-you-go model. This puts the student in a position to assess the value of the services we provide and determine how much the class is worth or how much they are able to contribute. In addition to this option, we frequently offer work-trade options for people of all skill levels.
APPROACH TO INSTRUCTION
We believe that the skill of teaching and the ability to perform in Jiu-Jitsu are two very separate entities. Therefore, we actively seek out those who have a demonstrable ability to teach, coach and otherwise inspire our students to continue to create better versions of themselves. We welcome guest instructors who are skilled at teaching from all points on the BJJ spectrum, including sport BJJ, self-defense, gi, no-gi and everything in between.
While we respect the role that traditional affiliations have taken in the development of BJJ over the greater part of the last century, we also believe that affiliations aren’t for everybody. We decided not to affiliate with any club or affiliation for a number of reasons. Firstly, we felt that our gym would be more welcoming to everybody from all walks of life if we were less exclusive. We welcome grapplers from all backgrounds and affiliations to train and work with us. Secondly, affiliations, in many cases, come with a number of strings attached. By not being part of an affiliation, we don’t pay any affiliation fees so we’re able to pass the savings along to our students. We also are able to exercise the freedom to wear any gi, patch, or uniform that we want for training or competition. Lastly, not being affiliated allows us a great deal of freedom to create something very new and unique, and to involve and empower others to be a part of the process.
We decided to integrate the iconic Tiananmen Square “tank man” image into our logo for a few major reasons. The image itself is very powerful and is primarily meant to inspire and empower - one small, unheroic-looking man stands alone, stopping a line of tanks in their tracks. We also draw connections between the imagery and BJJ. Jiu-Jitsu is commonly advertised as an art where the smaller fighter can beat a stronger adversary, and while it’s definitely easier said than done, it’s been our experience that most smaller jiujiteiros are consistently able to beat larger, stronger, untrained opponents. Not only does the image tell a story about physical strength, it also says a lot about inner strength. Since we occupy somewhat of a unique place within the greater BJJ community - in that we are unaffiliated and have an innovative and sometimes unconventional approach to training and the larger BJJ world - there can be some backlash. The tank man logo helps to remind us that we can and should continue to stand up and do what we believe in, no matter how intimidating the pressure is to do otherwise.
We believe that training BJJ offers humanity a unique time and place where one can effectively “escape” the toils and problems of daily life and engage in a common hobby on neutral ground. Whether you’ve had a bad day at work, you’re sick of battling the trolls on social media, or just need to make some more authentic social connections in your life, there’s nothing like getting on the mats for some much-needed therapy. We’re happy to boast a very diverse group of grapplers at our gym and we love providing the opportunity for dozens of people of all different backgrounds and walks of life to enjoy the benefits of training BJJ.
Open Source Jiu-Jitsu is the accumulated result of years and years of experiences that Amanda and I have had throughout our lives, both in the Jiu-Jitsu world and in “real” life.
I began my BJJ journey as an ex-wrestler looking for something to do after my competitive wrestling career ended back in 2002. In early 2004 I cautiously took my first steps into the world of BJJ and never looked back. I was training at a gym in Detroit run by Saulo Ribeiro, a brown belt at the time. Saulo and Xande Ribeiro took turns driving up to Detroit from Toledo, Ohio to teach class and I trained with them until I left for the Peace Corps in summer 2005.
My Peace Corps assignment was teaching health education in a small village in the middle of nowhere in Moldova, a country many people haven’t even heard of. When I first learned that I’d be heading to a former Soviet bloc country, I had fantasies about training Sambo, wrestling or Judo with ex members of the KGB and engaging in something of a grappling cultural exchange.
Much to my chagrin, the village I had been assigned to had no Sambo, wrestling, Judo or even mats. I was able to raise some funds to buy some very basic tatami mats, and I assembled a dedicated team of scrappy teenage boys, thus starting the first BJJ team in Moldova. While this specific program isn’t running anymore (I’d like to think that it’s just a hiatus) one of my students went on to earn his BJJ black belt a few years back and is now the first resident BJJ black belt in the nation of Moldova, where he owns and runs two academies today. If you’re interested, you can read more about that here.
Probably the most important discovery I made while in the Peace Corps was meeting my future wife and business partner, Amanda. We moved in together after our service and eventually tied the knot when we moved back out to Eastern Europe, this time Romania, in 2010. We continued to work together with the fledgling Moldova BJJ scene, helping to put on seminars, run tournaments and even got a little “BJJ famous” when we hosted Christian Gruagart of BJJ Globetrotters on his famous around-the-world BJJ extravaganza in 2011. In retrospect, it was inspiring watching the very small BJJ scene develop both in Romania and in Moldova.
Throughout my BJJ journey, I had some wonderful experiences introducing BJJ to new people as well as training at a multitude of different gyms abroad and in the USA, never really being able to call one of them my “home” gym. To me, each personality, style, and training environment was extremely valuable in the development of my own personal approach to BJJ as a hobby, a lifestyle, and now a profession. I would not be where I am today if I had only been involved with one gym, one instructor or one affiliation, and I don’t think that I’m that unique in that regard… but maybe I am?
At one point in time or the other, I have considered the following gyms as my home gym, and I’ll forever be indebted to my teachers, coaches and training partners who have contributed to my incredibly enriching development as a grappler:
2004: University of Michigan Grappling Club - Ann Arbor, MI, USA
2005: Ribeiro BJJ - Detroit, MI, USA
2006: Burlacu BJJ - Burlacu, Moldova
2007-8: Gustavo Machado BJJ - Virginia Beach, VA, USA
2010-12: Absoluto BJJ - Bucharest, Romania
2012-14: Agon BJJ - Bucharest, Romania
2014-15: Carlos Diego Ferreira BJJ - Pharr, TX, USA
2016: Gunnison BJJ - Gunnison, CO, USA
2017-Present: Open Source BJJ - Asheville, NC, USA
Many people ask us what brought us to Asheville. After about ten years of traveling and moving around, Amanda and I decided that we had accumulated enough experience to pursue our dream of owning and running our own business. We set out on an adventure to set up an unaffiliated BJJ gym and some sort of hospitality business, all in the same place that we lived. Asheville had welcoming people and a funky piece of property that fit the bill. While it was a little bit more than we wanted, we set up our gym, our campground and our growing BJJ intentional community on what we affectionately refer to as “The Compound.”