16 – Justin Sidelle: The Lifestyle Of Running A Martial Arts Business In The Tropics
Sun, surf and martial arts? Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Justin Sidelle shares the laid back lifestyle running their martial arts business.
IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:
- Justin’s martial arts journey that inspired him to travel the world
- How a healthy environment motivates martial arts training and how it affects your performance
- The importance of “word of mouth” and social media in boosting your martial arts school’s exposure
- Having a martial arts holiday in Bali, Indonesia vs Thailand
- Giving back to the community and making a difference
- And more
*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.
And on top of that, being in such an environment that's that healthy and that welcoming, your training goes through the roof. You perform better, you learn better, you learn faster.
Hi, this is George Fourie from martialartsmedia.com and welcome to the Martial Arts Media business podcast, episode number 16. Today, I cross international waters – again. Well, it's not really international for us so much, because it's just Bali, and Bali and Perth, that's about a three and half hour flight, but I'm speaking to Justin Sidelle. And Justin Sidelle is the head coach at Bali MMA, the head jiu-jitsu coach at Bali MMA. Now, if you recall episode 13, I had Jess Fraser on, from the Australian Girls in GI and she mentioned that Bali MMA is her home gym, although she jet-sets and travels around the world. So I wanted to get in touch with Justin and just have a chat with him about his lifestyle: living in Bali, being able to train jiu-jitsu, which he loves and living in the tropics and just living an awesome lifestyle and living a very laid back life and doing a lot of good things within the Bali community.
But first, just a quick update, more a notification, if you're not aware of it, depending of course on where you listen to this podcast, if you listen to it on your iPhone or through your Android type device like a Samsung or so forth, or on the website. If you listen to it on the website, you might have noticed it, but we give away a martial art business plan for online media for martial arts business owners and it's basically a plan for the online media side of things.
It's looking at the different components of digital marketing for your martial arts school, so what you need to basically cover all the elements. There's a lot of information out there, you've got to do this on Facebook, and you've got to do this on Google and you've got to have SEO, but this is kind of giving you a holistic view of all the components that you need to have a prosperous martial arts school, but not only that, to make sure that you're not single point sensitive.
Let's say Facebook fell off the map today: can your business still sustain and can you still market? Do you still have ways and means to actually get in touch with your people? So it's just looking at things from a holistic point of view and all the elements that you need to cover. It's on the website, you can download it on martialartsmedia.com, or if you go directly to the link, it's martialartsmedia.com/plan. Download it, check it out. That will put you on our email database and we'll also send out weekly updates from when we release this podcast and such.
That's just it from me. I want to get into the podcast now. I've got to tell you as well, this was always going to be a problem: talking to someone in Bali, I knew the internet wasn't going to be the best, we ended up talking on the phone and there was a bit of a delay, which kind of overlapped a few times. All in all, the interview is awesome, you're going to get a lot of value from this and it might even spark you, light a fire under you to go take a nice tropical holiday with some awesome martial arts training. So, without further ado, please welcome to the show – Justin Sidelle.
GEORGE: Alright, good day everyone. Today I have with me a guest from Indonesia, from Bali to be exact. Well, I guess rather saying, based in Indonesia, but actually an American gentleman. His name is Justin Sidelle and how I was introduced to Justin was through Jess Fraser from Australian girls in GI, who I had on the podcast episode 13 and she mentioned that Justin is her head coach and her home training grounds, if you want to call it that way is the Bali MMA. Welcome to the call Justin.
JUSTIN: Thanks George, thanks for having me.
GEORGE: Alright, awesome. So I guess we should start right at the beginning and we're going to ask of course how an American ended up in Bali, but – who is Justin Sidelle?
JUSTIN: That's a good question, man. Who you are as a person never stops changing, right? So it's hard to answer that question I think for a lot of people. I was somebody who was out traveling. I was traveling through Asia and I got a good job opportunity thrown my way and I was first in Thailand, so I worked in Thailand for a while and then I met the Leone brothers and Donny and they wanted to come out to Bali and open a gym out here, so I kind of followed them out here and we opened Bali MMA.
GEORGE: Alright, cool. How long ago was that, how long did you start traveling that you went over to Thailand?
JUSTIN: I've been out of the States now for three years. So a year in Thailand and now two years in Bali.
GEORGE: What was the big motivation for going? I know there's a lot of motivation to set up in Bali, but what was the idea behind setting up Bali MMA?
JUSTIN: I think it was a passion for, I still look at the guys I came here with, I still look at Andrew and Anthony and Donny and a big passion for them was surfing. They all wanted to come out here and surf and that was something I was interested in getting involved with. Definitely, the Asian lifestyle, living in the tropics, is something that I think attracted all of us for wanting to come here.
Just that training lifestyle and the destination, that's just kind of so inspiring and makes you want more for yourself and more on where you're at in the world. It was just the perfect place to open a gym really, and there was nothing really out here like this already. We were the first really professional gym that set up. So it's kind of cool, we're working our way up towards being a world class destination gym and I think we've done that. Then you continue pushing forward to really keep up with our competition.
GEORGE: With not having the competition and you were the first there, what was your primary goal? Were you thinking, OK, we're going to set something up for Indonesians as such or Bali, being such a hot travel destination, was it more a goal of being a place where people can train on a holiday, or were you going for that expat market for people that are living in Bali and trying to accommodate for them?
JUSTIN: That's a good question. I think initially our goal was to be a destination gym. Because before we were in Phuket and Phuket was a much more transient place, we had a lot more tourists coming in and out. That much said, we don't have that here in Bali, we just find that there are more expats and locals here that are interested in training, which we didn't have as much in Thailand.
So I think what we figured out quickly was that we were going to be able to cater to both. So I have my core group of guys that are either part of our professional fight team or live here in Bali that train with me daily and then I also have handfuls of tourists coming through every week, if it's even just for a drop in class or just two months of a hard training camp, or maybe just 6 months to a year, just to give their life a new start. I get all of that, it's a great environment.
GEORGE: So the majority of people who train there, what styles are you coaching and is it mostly adults or do you have kids programs as well?
JUSTIN: Oh yeah, adults and kids both. We're really multifaceted, we have a professional MMA team that I coach for their jiu-jitsu, so my approach to them has to be a little different, right? My concern with them is not only them having a pristine jiu-jitsu technique, but also that they're safe in a fight, so for them, I kind of structure their jiu-jitsu a little differently, so I know they're going to go in there, they're going to be safe in a fight, they can handle themselves well and they're looking to finish.
So I have a different mindset for my pros than I do for my hobbyists. My hobbyists, depending on whether they're competing in jiu-jitsu, I need to give them tools so they're going to work in that style and that environment. My hobbyists, I tend to steer towards more self-defense. Again, kind of like that mixture between MMA and sports jiu-jitsu that has to be taught to them. So I really try to cater it to my students and who's there. Kid's programs, we have a couple.
We have our main kid's program here that's taught by Andrew Leone – fantastic kid's coach, he's really hands on, he's funny. He knows how to get the kids rolled up and having a good time, he does a great job with our kid's program here. I helped him, I established that with him, we built that together, it's a ton of fun. And then we do a program called Jalang, with a green school. Jalang it means “to wonder” in Indonesian. They come out once a semester for six weeks and we teach them jiu-jitsu and boxing and wrestling as well. We do it separately, so it's not straight MMA, but we teach all the components to them.
GEORGE: What a variation there! How do you cater for international clients, and people coming through on holiday? How do you get the word out and how do you get the marketing out in a place like Bali?
JUSTIN: A little bit of it is word of mouth, a lot of it is through social media. There tends to be, what we're finding is that there's a community of people that want to go on holiday and do something healthy for themselves. They just don't want to go partying the whole time, so a lot of people are choosing to do things, like go to an MMA camp, in a destination like Bali, so they can go and get the holiday they want, but train on the side, eat healthy, live a clean lifestyle while they're here and then go back to the real world.
So a lot of it is just networking, people who come through, they go home, they tell people from their gym, and then next time, they come and bring friends – it’s just people who like to travel already. And then a lot of it is people that have come back, that have trained with us before, so maybe they pass through. When we were training together in Thailand and in Bali, so now they're coming over here to check out what we're doing over here. And then, we just establish those relationships and people keep coming back.
GEORGE: I can see you have quite a few, I know Tiffany Van Soest, that's also the home training facility for her.
JUSTIN: She's my neighbor, she's right next door.
GEORGE: Oh, cool. So does that help a lot with marketing, having someone like that on board, and big names, how does that influence it?
JUSTIN: Oh, absolutely! She's such a big influence on the team here, the energy she brings into the room. It says a lot about her skill set, she can walk into a room full of MMA fighters and they all just shut up and listen to whatever she has to say, so it’s a technical striker. All that input is really great and having high-level competitors like that in the gym pushes everyone else to raise the bar on themselves and train harder. Having world class athletes that we do, that come in regularly makes a big difference in the energy of the gym.
GEORGE: Going back, I want to know a bit more about you. Alright, you come from America, you started traveling and so forth – let's just actually take a step back from all this and let's start with your career, where did you start in martial arts?
JUSTIN: I started doing traditional martial arts as a kid and then when I got a little bit older, I got involved with Brazilian jiu-jitsu. So I in 2005 I started jiu-jitsu and I fell in love with it right away, I knew that's what I wanted to practice and that's what I wanted to do. So I just kept cutting the fat around things in my life that wouldn't let me train and it was actually after I did, in 2010, I was still training probably three or four days a week in jiu-jitsu and competing actively, I competed in IBJJF, really great jiu-jitsu tournaments. Jiu-jitsu just becomes such a Mecca in California, you could go to California and train, it’s just always tough competition, great guys to train with.
So anyway, in 2010, I went to Thailand for the first time and got the taste of training full time, I went to Tiger Muay Thai, and did like three weeks there and it blew my mind. On my way back, I ended up getting a job offer from the gym I was training at the time, with Dave Camarillo, so I ended up at that point in my life, switching from, I was working in restaurants and bars and grocery stores and stuff like that, to training jiu-jitsu full time. And so I trained and taught with Dave for the next four years, I've probably been a brown belt for maybe like a year and then I left to do some traveling in Thailand and south east Asia and I ended up doing work with Olavo Abreu. And so I took that and stayed there and got my black belt from Olavo Abreu and then came to Bali.
GEORGE: That's got to be the ultimate lifestyle for you, living in Bali, being able to train every day, quite a laid back lifestyle?
JUSTIN: Oh, for sure! It's great man, I wake up every day, go get breakfast on a beach, drive my motorbike around through rice paddies, all that good stuff, and you go to the gym and you train – I love my team, I love everyone there, the atmosphere of the gym is so great. I thought about this a while ago: when you show up to work at least 30 minutes early every day, for no reason other than to be there, you like your job. You know what I mean? When you're getting out of bed early just to go to work, you really like your job. I'm just so happy to be at the gym and training with my team, it’s been great man, it’s a great lifestyle.
GEORGE: How big is the gym? How many students do you have coming in and out? Regulars, versus the people that just come by for holiday training and camps and so forth?
JUSTIN: It's hard to say, cause it’s kind of seasonal, but it’s unpredictable. When we have people coming in slow all day. So I'd say when it’s slow, I can just – jiu-jitsu is what I've got the best idea of, right? So when it’s slow, I have ten people in my class, when it’s busy I have close to thirty. So it kind of depends on the time of the year and how many people are coming in. I can get a really even mix and now, since I've been down here for a while, I have people who come and train with me for longer.
I'll use Jess as an example, she loves training with us, so she'll come up for months. And then I have Jess with me for four months, and that's great. And then, she feels like a local, she feels like family to me, she's been here so many times for long stints. But then, there's the tourists coming in and out and then the people living here. Whenever someone leaves, someone else comes in, you know what I mean? The door is never wholly shut, we've always got people in the gym.
GEORGE: So let's say, a place like Australia, if I look at Perth: Perth is probably, I wouldn't say it takes the majority of Bali, because Bali is a big place, but I know that it's the number one vacation destination, just because, I mean, it's a three and a half hour flight, it's cheap for us.
JUSTIN: Oh, it's so close to you guys.
GEORGE: Yeah, driving down south or getting on the plane to Bali is kind of the same thing for us, except Bali is a whole different country, so it’s very popular for multiple reasons. But also, there's so many people that come from here and then they go to Thailand, they go do things like Tiger Muay Thai and Sinbi and go train in those destinations. What would you say to people to consider Bali MMA as an option beyond the other alternatives, like there is in Thailand and so forth?
JUSTIN: Again, it’s something that you should just experience. I've been fortunate enough, I've trained at Tiger Muay Thai with a top team and I've trained at some of the smaller gyms in Phuket and then I've been here. it’s just such a different experience, it’s a different vibe. There's a lot of similarities too, they're all great gyms to train at, you've just got to shop around and see these other destinations. I think training at these gyms is a bonus to the place you're in too. I always wanted to go to Thailand, training at first was almost as a bonus, it was something to sweeten the deal.
The vibe in Bali is just so different, it's something you really have got to come in and experience and see just how warm and welcoming everyone is. One of the things people talk about are the dogs, we have all these gym dogs at the front of the gym and they're super friendly and nice. You walk up in this cafe area and you're greeted by these super friendly dogs. The people at the cafe are super friendly. They're all international so they're really welcoming and excited to meet new people. Then you go inside and everyone's very welcoming again – everyone's ready to lend a hand, answering the questions you have, super supportive people that just make you want to stay.
And I think that's the thing most of why people come, they get that overwhelming sensation of feeling so welcome that they should stay here and they feel at home. And they are the people that want to come back and keep training with us. I think that's something that's definitely worth experiencing, it's the camaraderie that we all carry here, it's very strong and we make people feel very welcome when they come here to train. And on top of that, being in such an environment that's that healthy and that welcoming, your training goes through the roof. You perform better, you learn better, you learn faster. So the level in the room is very high. And because everyone's taking care of themselves and working so hard, people get a lot better here really quickly. Again, you've got to come try it.
GEORGE: From what you're saying, because I've been to Bali multiple times, That whole relaXed and laid back culture, it sounds like you've really embraced that and I can actually visualize how you would experience that within your gym and just have a really awesome holiday, but get all this great knowledge and value from all the expert coaches and trainers out here.
JUSTIN: Right. And it's a really good place for people to go who are traveling alone too. When I first started traveling in Asia, I didn't have many connections, but the connections I had were through martial arts. So the great way to go out and meet some people who are doing the same thing you are, if you're traveling and you train, definitely go stop by a gym, it's a really good way of meeting some local people and it will give you a better experience of the place you're seeing and visiting. It's something I took on very early on in my traveling and it's something I do even when I'm still traveling, I always bring my GI with me, I'm always ready to go train at a gym. It's just a great way to meet people.
GEORGE: Ok. You mentioned earlier, briefly, that you also have fight shows and tournaments and things within Bali. Can you elaborate a bit more on that?
JUSTIN: We have something called Canggu fight night. We just had one for Halloween that was really successful, we do kickboxing smokers, people then come out and watch, the boxing and kickboxing. We just put on a really good show, a good time for them. If you follow us on Facebook, you can see there're some videos that we recently put up. And again, it's that vibe that makes it so different. I've been to a lot of Muay Thai fights and MMA shows and stuff like that.
The vibe really affects how good of a time the people watching are having. And everyone here is just so easygoing and laid back, it makes the fight truly fun and people are just genuinely having a good time and I think when the fighters are having a good time, so are the fans watching. It gets everyone to kind of open up, put on a good show and fight hard. Our next one's going to be, I think the second week of December, so if you guys are thinking about coming to Bali, definitely try to be here for Canggu fight night.
GEORGE: OK. And where about in Bali do you host that?
JUSTIN: We're based in Canggu.
GEORGE: OK, that's where all the awesome surf spots are.
JUSTIN: Right, yeah. We've got some good surf spots here. Canggu is an interesting place, it's kind of where hipsters meet hippies, it's very unique. Again, if you're looking for having a healthy holiday, it's a really great place for it, because there're so much health conscious restaurants close to the gym, and just again, the environment here is really great. There's a ton of rice fields everywhere and we're close to three beaches with great waves. It's a good time.
GEORGE: Oh yeah, definitely. Alright, awesome. And then, one more thing I want to ask you before we start wrapping it up: you also mentioned your involvement with one of the orphanages there?
JUSTIN: Yeah, we've done some work for the orphanage called Jodie O'Shea. People usually go in and work with the kids a little bit and then a bunch of the other guys from the fight team come out too, pretty much all the fight teams and then Subba brothers come out quite a bit. It's a good time, it's just kind of something we started doing because we wanted to give back. I've been trying to get a program up and running with them to be a continuous thing, but it's difficult, they're pretty far away from us and with the traffic and everything, it's a little difficult. We just try to do stuff where we can give back to the community. If it's doing free women's self-defense seminars, or working with kids locally here. I think it's something really good we can do to help share our passions.
GEORGE: Justin, it's been awesome chatting to you and I know I'll definitely make a trip to Bali to come and see you guys sometimes. For anybody that wants to come and visit you guys and make a trip to Bali, what should they be doing? What would be the process to get in touch with you guys?
JUSTIN: Either on Facebook or our website, balimma.com. Any questions you have, don't be shy to ask. You can message us directly, but it's better to go through the site. People will message me all the time, asking me questions about coming out to train – please, please don't be shy to do so. If you guys want to come out, train, see Bali, just explore, it's a great place to do it. So Bali MMA, check us out on Facebook or our website.
GEORGE: Justin, it's been great chatting to you and I hope to see you on the sunny side soon.
JUSTIN: Absolutely, thanks, George.
GEORGE: And there you have it. Thank you, Justin and I'm sure that might have sparked some ideas for you, to go and train. Awesome trainers in Bali and a great lifestyle. And if you've been to Bali or if you haven't been, Changu, where they are situated, is a really, really cool part of Bali and there are nice surf spots. What I like about it is, it’s because I don't surf that often as I used to, the surf spots are, it’s kind of from the beach, so there're not long extensive paddles, but it's reef breaks that are in easy access from the beach, and there's nice little restaurants and it’s sort of out of the main hustle and bustle from Bali. And of course, they've got an awesome gym in there, Bali MMA, so great place to have a holiday.
Thanks again for listening, thanks for tuning in. I do want to ask a bit of a favor: if you could head over to iTunes and really help us, we're really trying to get the rankings up for the show. The more people vote on the show, the better we get listed in the iTunes library or directory if you want to call it that. So if you do want to do us a big favor, and if you've gotten value out of this show, please head over to iTunes. You can just go to martialartsmedia.com/iTunes, that will take you there and just leave us a review. Five-star reviews are what helps us get the good ranking, but an honest review would be much appreciated.
And that's it. Awesome guest on board again next week – I will chat to you soon, have a good week. Cheers!
*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.