Hello Marko, can you please introduce yourself.
Hey gang, my name is Marko Papuckovski, I’m a Jiu Jitsu Brown Belt under Prof. Robert Naumoski in Sydney, Australia. I’m a nutritionist by ‘trade’ and spend most of my time training Jiu Jitsu, working with clients, reading, writing and eating.
How did you find out about BJJ?
I began my Martial Arts journey with Kyokushin Karate in Skopje, Macedonia. When my family and I migrated to Australia, my father wanted me to continue my Martial Arts training. So, I was naturally attracted to Prof. Robert Naumoski due to our similar background. He’s a respected figure in the Macedonian community, so, luckily BJJ just happened to be the martial art he taught.
Who influenced you the most in developing your BJJ game?
That’s an extremely tough question. I like to take away the best attributes from each of my instructors, so I’ll do a little break down:
Robert Naumoski – Rob taught me the basics and helped develop my top game pressure. When everything goes wrong and I feel that I am losing the momentum in a match, I can always go back to the sharp fundamentals that Rob taught me and find my way to top position. I like to think of this as my insurance policy.
Wil Cunningham – Wil had a huge influence on my game during blue and purple belt. He helped develop my scrambles and transitions. He said something to me that always stuck, “keep moving until you get the position you want, and then you can rest.” I like to think of Wil’s influence as a trick card in my back pocket, whenever I’m fighting a top pressure player, I know that I can create scrambles and find my way to an advantageous position.
Firas Zahabi – last but not least, I’ve spent roughly 6 months now training under Firas Zahabi. Each class is like a seminar and I leave training with my mind blow. I’ve always had a strong positional game but struggled to finish submissions. I remember one time I won a match 64 to 0… it sounds impressive but really I should have been able to finish a submission at least 5 times. Firas teaches a top game system that relentlessly hunts for submissions, you never feel safe and you never get a chance to rest. I feel that he has really helped complete my game and sharpen my finishing ability from every position. Exactly what I needed at this stage of my Jiu Jitsu development.
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Tell us all about “your nutritions needs”?
Your Nutrition Needs is a project that’s really close to my heart. I’ve always been extremely passionate about the role food plays in our lives, especially as athletes. I have a degree in nutrition and worked in the industry for the last 6 years – most of my experience comes from working in the integrative medical industry in Australia and treating disorders such as Chron’s Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and other autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s, Celiac Disease and Psoriasis.
At the moment I run two separate protocols, one of them specialising in treating gut disorders and the other helping athletes, specifically fighters who need to make weight divisions while performing at their best.
You would be surprised how many people out there are frustrated, walking around bloated, feeling lethargic and holding on to excess body fat because their body is inflamed. I love helping these people reclaim their vitality and start living life to their full potential.
Do you have some special diet or habits that helps you to improve your life and BJJ?
Each individual is different and not everything works for everybody, so, I have some very specific habits that work for me and may not work for everybody else. However, as a general rule, here are some things that I see most lacking in BJJ athletes: Sleep. This is absolutely vital and I am a firm believer that sufficient sleep is the ultimate
Sleep. This is absolutely vital and I am a firm believer that sufficient sleep is the ultimate performance enhancer. Not only does it allow your body to recover, but also your brain – and building skill has a lot to do with the mind/body connection. It’s all about programming movement patterns into your brain so that your body can execute them under times of pressure without any lag. If you’re not sleeping enough, you will have a hard time remembering and executing techniques, not to mention your lack of recovery and not being able to cope with high training volume.
Water, salt and minerals. Most athletes are walking around chronically dehydrated, they take very little notice of how much water and salt goes into their body. Remember, water follows salt. This means that you need to have sufficient sodium intake in order to be hydrated. And yes, I know salt gets a bad rap because of high blood pressure but here’s how that mechanism works: salt pulls more water into your blood, making it more hydrated and therefore thicker in consistency – so, it requires more pressure to be transported around the body, resulting in higher blood pressure. Other vital nutrients that are depleted during BJJ are minerals like magnesium, potassium and zinc to name a few. I recommend athletes to supplement with minerals on a daily basis and the dosage is dependant on multiple factors and is usually tailored to the individual after we examine their unique needs. This is something I focus on in my Your Nutrition Needs protocols.
Calories and nutrient density. A lot of BJJ athletes fall into the trap of eating like a body builder, or even worse a figure competitor! They choose the low calorie alternatives over real whole foods. This is a huge mistake. Over time you will find yourself in a chronic nutrient and calorie deficit which WILL affect your performance. Your nervous system will suffer, you will not recover adequately, and you will be forced to take time off the mats while your body tries to play catch up. Remember, you are a performance athlete and you need to fuel yourself like one.
Do you travel a lot, if so where did you get the biggest BJJ experience?
I would call myself an amateur when it comes to travel. I have travelled quite a bit but I’m definitely not brave enough to do the BJJ Globetrotters backpacking type of experience. Here are some notable BJJ academies that I have visited:
Absolute MMA, Melbourne, Australia.
Varberg MMA, Varberg, Sweden.
Yamasaki Academy, Götenburg, Sweden.
Mjölnir, Reykjavik, Iceland.
Marcelo Garcia Jiu Jitsu, New York, USA.
Renzo Gracie Academy, New York, USA.
Kron Gracie Jiu Jitsu, Los Angeles, USA.
Tristar Gym, Montreal, Canada.
I can’t pick one of these as a favourite but I enjoyed Mjölnir a lot! The people were super hospitable and Iceland is stunningly beautiful. Gunnar Nelson, Axel and the rest of the team are building killers in the land of fire and ice, they all had very smooth transitions and great back control.
The Blue Basement in New York is of course an amazing learning experience and John Danaher’s classes are always exceptional.
However, I have definitely spent the most time and gotten the most value from Tristar Gym in Montreal. Learning from Firas Zahabi and George St Pierre on a weekly basis is priceless, not to mention the rest of the coaches and training partners who are all amazing. If you want to learn from the best, experience a beautiful city, and not spend a fortune, Tristar in Montreal is the place for you.
How do you see BJJ in Australia in the next 5 years?
Jiu Jitsu in Australia has been exponentially growing for a while now. We have the awesome Lachlan Giles and Craig Jones down in Melbourne always developing and leading the growth and Sydney is not far behind with good quality gyms opening up all the time. I think in the near future Australia will be one of the more competitive countries on the international scene, with more tournaments coming our way and nothing but beautiful weather, great beaches and lot’s of Jiu Jitsu, we have the perfect formula.
What else you love to do in your free time? What means BJJ lifestyle for you?
I don’t necessarily have much free time and when I do I try to fill it with something productive. I enjoy cooking, eating and spending time with people I love. I like to eat out and experience new places and flavours, especially when accompanied by my awesome girlfriend who has a never ending list of new places that we ‘need to try’.
BJJ lifestyle is ultimately about self improvement. I find that Jiu Jitsu translates into all other aspects of life and you tend to treat work, relationships, family, finances etc. in a very similar fashion to your Jiu Jitsu development. After years of training, you become accustomed to problem solving and tackling obstacles head on, mostly because you have no other choice.
What is your advice for our readers and BJJ practitioners?
In the words of the great George St Pierre, ‘do a little bit, a lot, not a a lot, a little bit.’ In other words, consistency beats intensity. This is true in BJJ development, health, business, personal relationships, and any other aspect of life.
Develop good habits, repeat them every day, and over time you will notice significan improvements. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t be either.