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MMA Travelogues: “A Fighter’s Heart” & “The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Globetrotter”

MMA Travelogues: “A Fighter’s Heart” & “The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Globetrotter”

So MMA fans, we all know the promoters out there like to keep you busy but… surprise! It looks like you’ve earned some time off for good behavior. Yes, even in this current glut, we’ve got ourselves a slow weekend for MMA action coming up.

So, maybe it’s a good time to kick back with a good summer read for that warm sunny day which we’ll all (hopefully) enjoy.

No sunny day for you? Maybe you’re thinking of traveling? No problem. There’s a growing genre of martial arts books focusing on travel.

Today, I’ll look at two, one of the first and one of the latest:

A Fighter’s Heart by Sam Sheridan (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007): This is kind of the granddaddy of MMA travelogues, and still the most popular. Sheridan travels an epic journey through the fighting world from the late 90’s to the mid 2000’s: training at Fairtex Muay Thai camp in Bangkok under the late Apidej Sit-Hirun, sparring alongside Andre Ward at Virgil Hunter’s Bay Area boxing gym, enduring a fight camp at Pat Militech’s then-dominant MMA academy in Iowa, donning a gi to take the mats at Brazilian Top Team, and more. He competes several times, but it’s mostly all about Sheridan testing his own heart and trying to understand every insight about the fight game(s) along the way.

It spans several years. In one highlight, Sheridan spends several weeks in Japan as Brazilian Top Team prepares for a bout during PRIDE’s heyday, offering a rare inside glimpse at those wild days. Fighters like Murilo Bustamante speak openly about controversies of the day, including steroid use. His excursions into the worlds of movie fight scenes and dog fighting aren’t as engaging.

“A Fighter’s Heart” is nicely written and definitely worth a read for anyone, but any MMA fan should really love it. I feel like the prose of Sheridan’s later books is slicker and more focused than here (his Disaster Diaries, in particular, is light years ahead) but the unique nature of the subject matter – the combination of diverse styles and settings, with Sheridan’s matching enthusiasm for each — puts it over the top.

BJJ Globetrotter by Christian Graugart (Shogun HQ Publishing, 2012) is the story of a Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor from Denmark who fulfills what he calls his “dream of doing something great with life” with a world tour of jiu-jitsu academies: across Europe and into Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas – all in one 140-day trip.

Graugart is a popular figure in many Brazilian jiu-jitsu circles. Instead of a competitive focus (even an inward one like Sam Sheridan’s), Graugart sees jiu-jitsu as “an engine to live the life I want” and a great way to bring people together. His blog, and the book that developed from it, was well received last year.

He has a fun approach to the sport, but as a book? I’m sorry to report I didn’t enjoy “BJJ Globetrotter” as much as I’d hoped. Graugart’s visits are so brief he rarely offers much insight. That leaves the training, which is actually not described with any great gusto.

Graugart is very likeable at times, as in the entries which detail his family background or when he describes helping jiu-jitsu struggle to take hold in a developing country. Other times, he’s not: at one point he passes by another traveler reading a book, and “waxes poetic” about the day people will read his.

So, should you be one of them? “BJJ Globetrotter” offers some fun times, but I’d only recommend it to someone already focused on jiu-jitsu and looking for alternate perspectives on it. Your average fan, or even your average jiu-jitsu artist, can probably pass.


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