I'm pretty pumped to share with you a super in-depth interview with the President of Yolo BJJ, Eric York.
GiReviews: Tell us a bit about your background with martial arts.
Eric York: I stated training in Shorin Ryu Karate in my early twenties but it just didn’t stick. It, honestly just wasn’t challenging, but one thing I did learn was the RNC (albeit, not with great detail) in one of our basic self defense classes.
About five years later I was attacked at my vehicle late one night when leaving work. I was able to duck under a swing and get behind my attacker and apply the RNC. The next day (this was back in mmmmm…maybe 1996?) a coworker who was training some submission grappling heard the story and asked me to come train with them.
I was hooked immediately.
I knew nothing compared to these guys, and they didn’t know much either…we would just order videos off the internet and try to learn moves and such…. Then, after about 6 months. training I tore out my rotator cuff and quit doing any sports. Ten years later, a good insurance policy under my belt, and a rotator repair surgery and I was back on the mats.
That was 6 years ago and I haven’t stopped since…
GR: With the online BJJ/MMA marketplace becoming increasingly saturated, what made you want to start YoloBJJ?
EY: Well…that’s the big story, I guess. Honestly, I didn’t know anything about the “saturation” of the market at that time. I mean, I had only ever bought like 4 gis at that point and they were all Gameness.
I had heard of Shoyoroll, of course, but could never understand why someone would pay so much for a Kimono. That was before I heard that you had to buy into a “club” to get a chance at one.
No, starting YoloBJJ came from a life-choice to follow the path that BJJ was laying out for me.
About three years ago, My wife and I realised that we weren’t really living our lives the way we wanted to, or the way we had always said we would. Sure, we had a lot of money, good careers, big house, nice cars, hot tub, blah blah…but we, literally spent about one hour per day together and, even though we would spend our time dreaming about travelling the world, we only ever took that “Two-Week” vacation because, you know…work wouldn’t approve it or, we didn’t want our work to pile up while we were gone, etc…..
One day we had a long conversation about how we really wanted to spend the rest of our lives: She wanted to travel the world and I wanted to train Jiu-Jitsu. But how would we pay for it? Along with selling off everything we owned, I decided that if I had to make money, I should make it in doing BJJ so with the money I made selling all my stuff I started YoloBJJ. The named seemed pretty apt!
GR: What do you feel makes YoloBJJ different from every other BJJ brand out there right now?
EY: Honestly, YoloBJJ is about doing the absolute best for yourself with what you have and are able to do. That means a lot of things really but, in terms of YoloBJJ it means that Jiu-Jitsu Kimonos are made for you to do JIU-JITSU in! Not to hang in closets, or stack in boxes or put in a picture frame.
Use it, work it out, stress it, stretch it, pull it. Get choked with it. There are several brands out there that are PURPOSELY trying to convince people into believing that it is valuable and worthwhile to spend $200 + dollars on a “Premium” Kimono.
Meanwhile…people sacrifice their days to sit at a desk or crawl under a car or climb steel girders or stand over a hot fryer all to make money which could, or maybe should go towards bringing them more “LIFE” but instead ends up spent on a “LIMITED EDITION” Kimono. Let me tell everyone out there: There is no such thing as a limited edition kimono. Advertisers have learned that “Limited Edition” means Increased Unit Sales Value, which simply means they can raise the price. It’s just taking more away from you without giving you anymore than a kimono to train in.
After being in the business for a couple years and studying the market I realized that I could make gis of BETTER quality than these “Ltd. Editions” and sell them at MUCH more reasonable prices.
I truly believe that this gives WAY more back to the Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.
“You wanna wear premium gear and still be able to afford that private session, or maybe that vacation to Mexico”? Then buy a YoloBJJ kimono! You will see…better than most gis that cost twice as much.
GR: On your site, you talk a bit about the concept of travel and chasing adventure. What does it mean to you both in your design, and in life?
You know…eventually, everyone of us will have to NOT take that “favorite” choke opening and try something different. Something that, maybe, we just aren’t that good at or that we are afraid won’t work. We HAVE to and we MUST if we want to grow as Jiu-jitsu artists. Life is the same. If we never look outside of where we are (our city, our state, our country…whatever) we stunt our growth as human, thinking beings. Travel can open up an entirely NEW world to your way of seeing life. There is no question!!
It reminds me of the first time I was really exposed to a good, working, inverted guard game…I was like…”What the Hell?! This is amazing”, I never would have thought this could work or that it could be worthwhile!!! Life is the same, and travelling is that new guard! The World is an amazing place! If you don’t see it now, then when? When you are retired and living on a fixed income? When you are retired at 72? That’s cool too, I guess, but rock climbing up to that 15 meter cliff jump is going to be pretty tough carrying a catheter bag! Or those surf lessons in Bali – where will you put the wheelchair? Society has us convinced that life is working our 40 hours (50 hours these days) and taking one or two weeks for yourself each year. But Jiu-jitsu teaches us otherwise! It yearns for us to seek out new ways of doing things, new experiences…oh, and it reminds us that failing is just a simple part of the process, don’t sweat it J.
As far as the design of our kimonos: it is not quite so complicated J I try to bring attractive, artistic designs into our kimonos that the practitioner can relate to easily and that just plain look good! Kimonos like the Bella Copa (releasing in June) with images of Brasil and Christo Redentor reminiscent of my time in Rio de Janeiro and the GOTM model (Get On The Mat) with design-work that Wai-Qi (GO) strategists will recognize and our upcoming Voyager “Travel Kimono” with…well, a travel motif J
In short, Jiu-Jitsu teaches us to get out of our comfort zone. I simply realized that this meant more than just on the mat, that Jiu-Jitsu was telling me something about life: Get out of your comfort zone now, before the match is over!!!
GR: If there's anything else you'd like to share about YoloBJJ, please do!
Honestly, I have probably run my mouth too much already J I just want to help everyone to have the best life possible, on and off the mat. We have gone to great lengths to make the finest kimonos available to anyone, we continue to expand our collections from our first line of Competition kimonos to, now 5 different lines from Comp Kimonos, to superlight summer weight, to ultra-light travel and even premium kids kimonos as well as our new beginners model and even no-gi short and long sleeve rashguards and fight shorts. We have also continued to expand our fittings having added A1L, A2L sizes last year and now A2H models this year. And we are continuing to improve our product line with new offerings designed to both improve your jiu-jitsu AND your overall life experience. I am really so excited I almost can’t wait! OSS and “good training”
Check out everything that Yolo BJJ has to offer over on their website.