• Hey Erdem, can you please introduce yourself. How did you start bjj and when did your jiu jitsu journey begin?

Hello everyone .:)

My name is Erdem Gencer. I was born and raised in Izmir, Turkey. I have a  degree in environmental engineering and have been training martial arts for around 12 years. I’ve been teaching/ competing, bjj and mma since 7 years now.

I started doing Jiu Jitsu back in 2011 when it was my last 3 months of university studies in Istanbul. There was a time that the group of people I was training kickboxing with were out of town and I found out there is something called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 🙂 So I gave it a try. 

After 2 weeks I was hooked! And I was almost sure that I would do it for a long time.

I’ve tried karate, taekwondo, kickboxing and kung fu before, but bjj was different, it was so real and answering and open to any kind of questioning. So it caught me right away 🙂

Then I moved to my home town Izmir and there was no legit bjj at the time, so I wanted to create a team at least to have some training partners for myself, but it was not so easy since I was only a 3 months old white belt 🙂 

I decided to move to Italy for a year because of my studies. There I trained regularly for a year, when I was back to izmir this time I was more prepared to create a team in my town.

Then a lot of suffering came. I call it discovering America again 🙂 Travelling to learn more, watching videos 7 hours a day, spending a lot of money abroad for tournaments since we didn’t have any.. I quit my job in engineering as soon as I started to earn a bit of money from my teaching. So since 2014 I’m just doing my dream job.

  • Can you share with us what were your biggest influencers during your growth in BJJ and who helped you during your journey?

I think the biggest influencer was my love for Jiu Jitsu and no matter what, I was gonna train it  and be better at it.

I got help from a lot of valuable people.

Burak Değer Biçer from Corvos Istanbul  helped me. At the very beginning of my journey  trying to create a team, he opened his network to me so I had the chance to train with the best bjj guys in Turkey back at the time, by travelling to Istanbul.

Matteo Piran from Tribe Bjj Pavia opened his great gym for me to train when I was there ( 2013). Actually, it was the longest time period when ı was training properly under daily guidance of a coach as a lower belt getting smashed everyday. 🙂

And of course there are a lot of other coaches and training partners that opened my eyes at some point during my journey.

  • Tell us more about the BJJ scene in Turkey? How popular is jiu jitsu now, can you compare it to when you started? What about the future of bjj in Turkey?

Well, when I started there were just a few points only in Istanbul where you can train this art.

Now there are a lot of teams in Turkey and it is much more popular. Last year we had an ADCC competition and I know AJP is also coming to Istanbul right after covid situation. So since we have competitions now it should grow faster than before.

  • You are organizing a pretty interesting camp in a very secluded and exotic location. Can you tell us more about Unique Camp.

Yes it is a thing that excites me a lot. 

I’ve been organizing it since 2015. Last year we organized a camp just to get all bjj teams in Turkey under one roof and it was a great success and besides that each year we are  trying to bring a big name such as Robert Drysdale. This year we couldn’t make it happen because of COVİD but next year Robert will be at the camp again for sure. At the time I am training under him so it is also a great chance for me to get together with him. He is by far the best coach I learned from in person.

The camp is in a great historical spot and it is like a bjj temple so the vibe is great there 

Everyone is welcome to join us in the 2021 edition.

  • What is your favorite position? What about submission? 

Favorite position is to half guard both bottom and top. Submission is probably a triangle.

  • What do you do in your free time, what else do you love to do except BJJ? What does bjj lifestyle mean to you?

I like to read, play musical instruments, go in the mountains for camping… things like that.

This lifestyle is like trying to reach your own perfection and you know you will never reach it. So you just enjoy the journey, meet great people and learn from them during the journey and share what you have. 

  • Can you give any advice for our readers?  Any tip that can help people on the mat or real life.

Sure, I think the mat and life are all the same 🙂

Try to stay real, honest to yourself and be open minded. Don’t be a fan of any move, anybody  or any idea. Try to focus on ‘what is the reason for me doing that move, reaction, attitude etc. Believe me it will save your valuable time both in life and mats.