I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s been a company by the name of Grappler Athletics/The League of Extraordinary Gentleman slowly making waves around the scene with their designs of cute little grapplers, mustached scholars who wear monocles, and have top and Bowler Derby hats adorning their heads.
We wanted to know about these fellows, do they themselves wear derby hats and monocles? Do they resemble Mr. Peanut? Are they sophisticated gentlemen? Extraordinary perhaps?
We got to sit down with David White, the main owner behind the mustachios…let’s see what we uncovered…
Tell us a little bit about yourself? Where in Australia are you from, where do you train, how long have you trained?
I grew up in Sydney, Australia. My formal education is in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine and I still remain active in private practice and academic work. My hobbies have always revolved around the martial arts (it’s how I got into Chinese Medicine). I have been training and teaching martial arts for over 22 years. I currently train at VT1 Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Sydney’s North under the Resnekov brothers.
What got you into BJJ?
My interest in BJJ was spawned in 1996 as I got deeper into MMA. From 1999 to 2003 I studied a variety of styles, had a few amateur MMA fights and went from there. I have studied more traditional martial arts (Baguazhang and others) for over 10 years and then in 2010 I fell in love with BJJ all over again. I have immense respect for BJJ as an art and as a formidable fighting style.
How is the BJJ in Oz?
The quality of BJJ in Australia is growing rapidly. More and more you will see Australian BJJ and MMA competitors on the international scene. The natural athletic nature of Australians allows for both quality coaches and quality competitors. I feel the BJJ culture blends quite well with the laid-back Australian way.
I know the more famous gyms are Checkmat and Juggs, what other schools are there that are good for both competitors and the “hobbyist”?
There are now a number of schools opening up around Australia. I would say in Sydney specifically VT1, SPMA, and some of the Roots gyms are the best for the both of those categories. I personally decided on VT1 due to the atmosphere both on and off the mats. It is a close-knit brotherhood there, a family. I know many enthusiasts feel the same way about their gyms and it is great. That is what really draws me to BJJ, not just the martial efficacy but also the culture of those that embrace it as a lifestyle.
How did The League come about, what made you want to start the company?
Within the VT1 brethen we have a very close group of grapplers. The League of Extraordinary Grapplers is originally a name I came up with for our group (originally comprised of over 20 people) as a bit of fun. At that time I had started with the ideas of Grappler Athletics and as a group many said I should start with the LEG. The owner of Page 29 Design, Adam Bruce, came up with the original logo and I ran with it.
If you could have one sandwich, bologna or turkey, what would you choose and why?
Haha, you couldn’t have chosen two more American style sandwiches could you?
Well I am from America haha
I will have to give you my educated guess based on my travels to the USA. Every year I spend time in Portland, Oregon, where I have many friends there in both Chinese medicine and BJJ. I had an incredible Turkey sandwich at a bar there – so Turkey. I am a huge burger fan and a good Turkey burger in the USA is always on my list.
What was the influence in the mustachios who represent the League?
I take it you’re a big fan of Pugilism art?
Well the original influence came from both the name of the group and the fact that I often rock a large, waxed mustache. I have always been a fan of the old school gentleman, the craftsmen, and what constitutes tradition. BJJ has it’s own unique tradition and I think the LEG men and woman (yes, we have the ladies apparel coming soon) embrace that well.
Speaking of designs, the Page 29 design of Choose your Grappler was a big change in the usual BJJ merchandise we’re used to seeing. What made you want to go the design route of pardon the term, cute, instead of rawwwrrrrr BJJ or the traditional pictures of the founders of BJJ/competitors?
The MiniGi design was originated by Page 29 Design as a bit of fun. A few custom ones were made, many of the “characters” from our own gym were created. We thought it would be a great idea for a tee and possibly some patches in the future. There was no intentional diversion from the norm in BJJ and MMA apparel just a fun design that men, women and children who are involved in the art could get behind.
Speaking of Choose your Grappler, which one would you be?
Well, and I’m sure my training partners will have a good chuckle, the Crusher. At 6’4 and 235lbs I am one of the larger guys on the mats.
How did you get hooked up with Page29?
It is owned and operated by one of my training partners and friends Adam Bruce.
How do you feel about the Affliction style of design?
For me personally that style is too messy and too aggressive. It is a style suited to the 1990’s MMA enthusiast. My style is that of Scramble, CTRL, Reversal and the like. I understand why companies like Affliction and TapOut still have a fan base but it’s just not for me.
You being in Australia, what are the main challenges in selling to a US market?
Shipping! That has been the biggest hurdle. Only recently have I managed to drop the prices of shipping to better suit our US clients.
Do you sell more in the US or your homeland?
Naturally when I started more sales were from the East Coast of Australia. Now it seems the largest amount of sales are from the West Coast of the USA. We are looking at having someone there as a representative (and to of course eliminate shipping costs) sometime this year,
You’re in the process of transforming The League of Extraordinary Grapplers into Grappler Athletics, why the change?
Well it’s not a transformation. Grappler Athletics is the brand and the League of Extraordinary Grapplers is a division of that brand. Initially, however, the facebook group was the League and now, yes, I am trying to steer traffic more towards the Grappler Athletics page.
Will The League still be around?
The League is not going anywhere! In fact, the League will be expanding. This year will see a number of athletes from the USA and Australia come on board as part of our sponsored athletes. Within the next few weeks you will see the “Grapplers League” on our website as a means of promoting and helping up and coming BJJ and MMA competitors. We also wish to showcase a number of designers and general enthusiast within this martial art culture. On top of that we will have a few more LEG based tees, patches and possibly a Gi (but that’s on the hush).
We’re already in February, what can we expect from both Grappler Athletics & The League for the rest of 2014?
These years are moving faster and faster. Within the coming months we will be releasing a number of new tees. Some fun designs, some for training and some simple, neat designs under the GA brand. We are aiming to have shorts, rashies, and training tees, a number of patches and possibly even a Gi done this year. With luck we will have a base in the USA where people can order their gear from.
If you could describe your company, and it’s mission statement in three words…what would you say?
Live the art.
(It’s our motto)
Any last words for the readers?
Quite simply that as a company we are in it for the love and passion of the culture that surrounds the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Our goal is to simply add to the enjoyment of those within this culture by providing quality gear and service, and helping those who wish to pursue BJJ and MMA as a profession. -FIN