Interview With Heythem Najji (Passionate BJJ Blogger)

    Meet Heythem Najji, a passionate BJJ blogger and psychology graduate who frequently travels around the world to train at different BJJ gyms. In this interview, he tells us more about what inspired him to start blogging, how he came across Submission Shark, and what BJJ topics he looks forward to covering in the future. Get ready to be inspired by Heythem's love for writing and BJJ!

    So, without further ado, let's jump into the conversation with Heythem Najji.

    Submission Shark Community Interview

    Heythem BJJ Profile Pic

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heythemnaji/?hl=de

    Website: https://heythemnaji.com/blog

    Full Name: Heythem Naji

    Age: 25

    Belt Colour: White

    Professor: Rey (10th Planet Jiu Jitsu NYC)

    Short Term Goals: Get my Blue Belt

    How long have you been doing jiu-jitsu for?

    I have been doing BJJ for 1.5 years now.

    Where do you train out of?

    That’s complicated. I started training in Luxembourg. Then I went to train in Germany.

    Then, I traveled around and trained at different BJJ Gyms in Ethiopia and Uganda. I just got back from training in NYC at 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu.

    Now, I’m training out of Trier, Germany.

    In early 2024, I’ll visit my country of origin, Iraq, and train BJJ with some ADCC competitors.

    Do you prefer gi or no-gi?

    I prefer No-Gi. I started with Gi, but after a couple of No-Gi classes, I liked it more. That’s why I went and trained at 10th Planet.

    Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?

    I’ve had some amazing instructors. What influenced me with my instructors wasn’t what they said to me but how they carried themselves. They have this humbleness and patience about them. They treat everybody the same and don’t care where you are from or what you do.

    I could feel that all they wanted to do was to teach me this beautiful art.

    Their dedication and drive inspired me. They taught me the importance of being humble and patient. I implemented that when I started my own business.

    What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?

    Consistency

    You will soon notice that the path to mastery in Jiu-Jitsu takes a long time. Only the ones who are committed and keep showing up will learn this art. And this applies to everything you start. Without staying disciplined and consistent, you won’t reach your goals.

    I feel safe

    BJJ makes me feel safe. It’s perfect for a guy like me who’s not the tallest or the strongest. When I’m out, I feel more relaxed. That’s not just good for staying safe; it changes how I show up in the world. Feeling secure helps me be more of the person I want to be.

    BJJ benefited me so much in so many areas, I wrote a whole post about it: https://heythemnaji.com/benefits-of-brazilian-jiu-jitsu

    How often do you train?

    In NYC, I trained every day, sometimes twice a day.

    At the moment, I’m training 2-3 times a week. I’m dealing with tennis elbows – once I get this under control, I’ll start training 4-6 times a week.

    What made you want to start training?

    I came from an MMA background. We trained only a little Jiu-Jitsu. But I liked it. Then I went to a proper BJJ Gym and got submitted left and right.

    I was shocked at how helpless I was on the ground. I thought because of my wrestling, I could hang with them. But I was wrong.

    I felt a huge lack of abilities and wanted to fill this gap. Then, I started to focus solely on BJJ.

    Do you plan on training your whole life?

    Yes definitely. Jiu-Jitsu became a non-negotiable in my life. It’s the perfect martial art when you look at longevity. But I was overtraining sometimes, which led to injuries. So, I need to get that under control.

    What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?

    Jiu Jitsu is engaging. It’s hard to do; there’s always something new to learn, and you constantly test your skills against others.

    We humans love that. Our positive emotions come from working toward and seeing progress toward a goal. And that’s a given in BJJ, you’re always pursuing something.

    We love it because it’s so challenging and rewarding.

    What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?

    I have transformed my body since I started MMA. But I made a big shift after my first BJJ tournament. This tournament made me live like an athlete. I began eating clean, training, and working out - I lost a lot of weight and gained muscle since I started.

    Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?

    Oh big time. Sometimes, I feel so stressed and nervous from sitting behind the desk all day. Then I go to Jiu Jitsu, and afterward, I feel calm and relaxed.

    It’s a great outlet, and it’s engaging for the mind. I have more confidence and less anxiety in my daily life.

    If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?

    Yes. I wasn’t listening to my body. I was going to practice even when I was injured. That led me to have a chronic tennis elbow injury. If I had just waited it out and skipped practice for 2 weeks, I’d be way more ahead regarding my BJJ skills.

    Now, I put a lot of emphasis on not getting injured. It’s essential to stay healthy when you want to progress in BJJ.

    What’s your advice for someone who’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?

    Just go. I know it’s scary and weird at first, but give it time. Go to all the different Gyms in the area and then decide which one you want to go for.

    Try it for 1 month and then evaluate whether you like it.

    Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?

    Easy. I want to get better and compete. That’s all I want. That’s where my focus is and will be.

    What’s your favorite move?

    I come from a wrestling background, so I often have the advantage in the beginning. I learned how to take somebody down and land in side control.

    From there, I like to mount, separate the arms, and do an Americana. If that doesn’t work because they turn, I take the back and do an RNC. It’s my favorite sequence and has also worked against higher belts…

    If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?

    I’d probably focus more on striking - getting my head punched in is not fun. So I’m very happy to be with Jiu-Jitsu, where it’s much safer.

    Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?

    It’s already on the way. Many people want to train BJJ now.

    Mainstream would mean that BJJ athletes can stay in the sport and make their money there instead of needing to transition to MMA to make money.

    And I like that. I’d love to see BJJ at the Olympics.

    When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?

    Jiu Jitsu practice is less structured than other martial arts. Jiu-Jitsu has so many techniques that sometimes you do a drill without knowing what it’s good for. But it’ll all fall in place eventually.

    In my experience, other martial arts are more straightforward. BJJ is something you need to be patient with. You need to trust that you get better by showing up, even when you don’t feel like you’re getting better.

    What has been the most memorable moment you've had on the mats so far?

    My first BJJ tournament. I was never the guy filled with confidence. More often than not, I was filled with doubt, thinking that others were better than me.

    Then I started winning. Winning at a tournament with people who had more Jiu-Jitsu experience than me at that time was a huge confidence boost for me. It changed how I showed up in the Gym.

    What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?

    I believe most of us live blindly. We don’t think for ourselves and follow the crowd. And this makes us depressed. I was there, and I felt like I was breaking out.

    Now I know how good breaking out feels and want to help others do the same.

    Was there a difficult moment in your life where jiu-jitsu helped you get through it? If so, please explain.

    When I first moved to NYC, I was living with toxic flat mates. I left the place and had to move out. I was new in NYC, so I didn’t know anybody. But 10th Planet saved me. I went there every day, made friends, and it became my home. These guys saved me.

    heythem naji.com 10th-planet-jiu-jitsu-in-nyc

    How did Submission Shark capture your attention, and what makes you want to write for this community?

    I came across Submission Shark recently when I was looking for Rash Guards. I think their brand is unique, and they have a great purpose.

    I started chatting with Nathan, the owner of Submission Shark, and he seems genuine and truly committed to the art of BJJ. So I wanted to be a part of that.

    Where can people learn more about you?

    I’m a Psychologist and blogger, writing about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on my site: heythemnaji.com. There, I share my whole journey with BJJ – my experiences, the different gyms I visited, the gear I wore, and much more.

    What made you want to start blogging about BJJ?

    I love to write. I have been writing for a while. When I started BJJ, there was nothing else I could think of. I was watching instructionals all day. So then I thought of how I could combine it. So I started my own blog. And it has been amazing – I love what I’m doing, and there’s so much to write about.

    What BJJ topics are you excited to cover in the future?

    I have been to so many Gyms around the world. I want to share my experiences with each of them. I want to be a Guide to everybody who is in a new city and is looking for a good Gym.

    Finding a good Gym is important, and I want to help my readers find those.

    Heythem BJJ Blog in Ethopia

    Related Article: How To Find The Perfect BJJ Gym For You

    When the journey is over, how would you like to be remembered?

    Passionate, driven, and kind.


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