Interview with Guillaume Huni: the black belt behind BJJ Eastern Europe

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If you train Jiu Jitsu and surf the web, there are big chances you know BJJ Eastern Europe.com (www.bjjee.com and on Facebook). This is probably one of the best websites today, which shares everything related to BJJ. Although it focuses on Eastern Europe, it covers pretty much any place that has BJJ. We met with the man behind BJJ Eastern Europe, Black Belt Guillaume Huni who was super nice to answer all our questions. Guillaume is a true citizen of the world being half-French and half Filipino and having lived in different countries, including Serbia where he is residing today. Guillaume talked to us about his BJJ story, the evolution of BJJ Eastern Europe.com and about the BJJ scenes in Europe, Scandinavia and the rest of the world. Thanks again to Guillaume! We really enjoyed doing this interview, so we hope you guys like it too!

1. Please introduce yourself to the BJJ community of Scandinavia
Hey guys and girls from Scandinavia! My name is Guillaume Huni, 34 years old. I’m half French, half Filipino and live in Belgrade, Serbia with my Serbian wife. I consider myself a citizen of the world. I spent my childhood in the Philippines, France and the UK. As a working professional, I spent time in Spain, Morocco, France, Egypt, Romania and Serbia. This multinational background has made me realize one thing: We are all one. I’m the owner and editor of the BJJ news and community website BJJ Eastern Europe (www.bjjee.com). My academy is Kimura BJJ Academy in Belgrade, Serbia. My daytime job is marketing director/ head of enrollment at Belgrade Metropolitan University and at night, I take off my suit, put on my gi, and roll lol. I’m a black belt since last year and am always trying to improve and learn.

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2. What is your BJJ story and how did you end up in Serbia?
My Jiu-Jitsu story is a long roller coaster ride so I’ll just summarize. I started training BJJ in Paris in 2001 (I had been following it since UFC 1, but couldn’t find a proper school teaching it). It was love at first sight and from that day on, I was hooked and trained everyday. Spent some time in Brazil around 2002. I got my blue and purple belts from Orla Jr and Hugo Fevrier (Alliance France). Moved to Serbia for good, there was no Alliance in Serbia so I trained under my long time friend Jovan Zerjal and got my brown and black belts from Jovan. Competed a lot everywhere, all around Europe, in Brazil, Asia. Won some, lost some and always learned a lot. Basically been living the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle since 2001, and loving it. It’s changed my life 360 degrees for the better and I met so many awesome people that are some of my closest friends nowadays. BJJ geek for life!

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3. BJJ Eastern Europe is one of the most popular BJJ website nowadays, how did you get started and how do you explain its popularity?
BJJ Eastern Europe started off as a blog, back in February 2012. I loved to write and was a proper BJJ geek but didn’t know much about web design so teamed up with my Danish team mate and friend Marcus Buur and he really helped in making the site look good. The idea of BJJEE was to unite all the clubs in the Central Eastern Europe region and talk about our instructors, academies and competitors. We wanted to get the word out that we had great Jiu-Jitsu here. It grew really fast, and now in 2014 we’re a website giving news, interviews, competition calendar, academy database, gear reviews and we have a really active Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Brazilian.Jiu.jitsu.Eastern.Europe). There is so much talent in this region and the atmosphere between clubs is really good. I always love going to our local competitions and seeing and chatting with old friends from all over the region. The great thing about BJJ is that it brings down ethnic, religious, cultural barriers. There is still a lot of ethnic tension in the region where I live: the Balkans but you don’t feel this in our BJJ community. It’s like BJJ is a global brotherhood (and sisterhood). This is one of the reasons why I think BJJ is so special, it connects people.

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4. You are a marketing director (at a Serbian University), website editor and Black belt teaching classes, how do you manage your time and what is a typical day for you?
Oh man, it’s tough. The thing is with me at the moment, I’m at the point in my life where my priorities are shifting. My wife and I are expecting our first child in May and I’ll need to sacrifice some aspects of my personal life. Up until now I was training BJJ from 5 to 7 days a week, lifting weights during my lunch break at work and was really focused on competition. I was never going out on weekends with friends, as I was too tired from training and wanted to rest. All this training for competition really drains your energy and focus for all the other important things of your life like family, career and friends. So I’ve decided to put competition on the shelf for a while and refocus on what really matters most: family and career. I still train minimum 3 times a week but the interesting thing is that I’m so much more relaxed in training and am actually enjoying it more now. I’ll still compete but maybe just 2 times a year for the big events, just not 6 times like before.

5. There are many talented BJJ fighters coming out of EE. In your opinion what sets BJJ in Eastern Europe a part?
Eastern Europeans are naturally tough and strong as hell. I’ve trained all over the world and this region has a lot of athletic people. They also have an iron will. It must be from the fact that life isn’t always easy here. You compare that with some of the richer countries where guys are training in top class conditions. Here we often train in bad conditions and the cold weather also makes you tough.

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6. What do you think about other European BJJ scenes like Scandinavia, Western and southern Europe?
Scandinavia is a really strong scene. I’ve faced a lot of Swedes, Norwegians and Finns in competitions and also trained with some Finns in Brazil. Tough and technical. The US seems to be where it’s at in terms of growth of BJJ at the moment. I’ve got so many friends in California and they tell me how fast the sport is growing there. I sometimes feel a bit jealous because over here in Eastern Europe, BJJ is still a ‘niche’ sport in some ways. Poland is a big BJJ market though. There are something like 80 black belts there. For Western Europe, BJJ is growing really well too. But yeah for sure the strongest scenes for BJJ in Europe would have to be (in no particular order) Scandinavia, UK, France, Poland, Spain and Portugal.

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7. How do you see BJJ developing in Europe in comparison to the US and Brazil?
Well it’s growing but we are still way behind Brazil and Europe. Just by looking at visitors to our website BJJEE.com, even though we cover all of Europe, there are so many North and South American visitors. Just from looking at that, it seems like the whole European BJJ market is like 2 times smaller than the whole US market.

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8. You recently fought Damir Salina (Checkmat, Zadar) at the BJJ East European 2014, but the fight did not go your way, what happened?
I was preparing for that superfight for 3 months. Training everyday and lifting a lot of weights. The whole training process was a lot of fun and seeing the evolution in my game was great. I ended losing, got caught by a clock choke by Damir. It’s part of the game. It sucks to lose but only those that don’t compete, don’t lose.

9. What is next for you in 2014?
Training a lot, but taking a break for competition, helping the guys at the academy improve, awaiting the birth of our daughter, working hard at my job and keep and on promoting BJJ in Central-Eastern Europe.

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10. Thank you and please feel free to send a message.
Thank you for the interview my friend. Keep up the great work with BJJ Scandinavia. All the best! Follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Brazilian.Jiu.jitsu.Eastern.Europe) and Twitter https://twitter.com/BJJEasternEurop ! OSSSS