This jiu jitsu interview features Austin Haedicke, a highly knowledgeable nutrition coach and mental health counselor. Austin is a dedicated BJJ practitioner that earned his purple belt at the Integrity BJJ and Fitness in Carrollton, GA.
We discuss the importance of nutrition for BJJ athletes and go into depth about the benefits of specific foods. You’ll also learn how jiu jitsu helps with his own mental health and other life changing benefits this martial arts has to offer. By the end of this insightful article you will have a great understanding of nutritional wellness as well as receive some interesting perspectives about the sport.
Full Name: Austin Haedicke
Belt Colour: Purple
Professor: Dave Schumacher / Ranieri Paiva
Short Term Goals: I'd like to compete at least two more times in 2021, and develop my nogi and leglock game.
How long have you been training jiu jitsu for?
I've had about four years of consistent training. I was doing BJJ, Boxing, and MMA for about three years before some major life changes lead me to rock climbing, so I had almost six years off from combat sports before coming back about 2 years ago.
When I came back I was 31 and around Christmas time had been re-evaluating my hobbies and interests. I had been pretty successful at climbing and was kind of at a crossroads where I needed to decide if I wanted to be really good at that or start fighting again.
I decided I couldn't let BJJ go.
Where do you train jiu jitsu out of?
My home academy is Integrity BJJ and Fitness in Carrollton, GA. Our affiliate academy is Tribe BJJ in Marietta, GA. I love cross training, so when things aren't in lock down I like getting out to open mats at other gyms as well.
Do you prefer training in the gi or no-gi?
I love both. I have a wrestling background, but love having the tools and options of the gi available. Over the last year I've gotten fairly interested in the leg game so I wish I trained a little more no-gi to develop more specific grips, attacks, and defenses for that.
Truthfully, I try to keep my game pretty similar for both, though I'm not going to ignore the obvious tools that become available with a gi.
Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?
For sure. I made an Instagram post recently talking about how I've had several coaches who have been great mentors and are great men off the mat as well. I also noted that that is not the relationship I have with everyone I've trained with.
I think as an instructor you need to build that kind of community and as a student you need to seek out a mentor who matches the music you want to dance to. Jiu Jitsu is far too long of an endeavor to think you're just going to bite your lip and hold your breath for the next ten years learning from someone you don't have a bond with.
What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?
Breathe and move. If I can control my breath and regulate my emotions, I can make it through the situation. That doesn't mean denying my experience, it means suspending it.
Also, almost everything in life is easier after you've been punched in the face, or choked unconscious -- and not by your friends in the training room. There's a catharsis that happens there and not anywhere else. The ability to manage physical and emotional stress becomes second nature.
Maybe most of all, if you want to grow, you have to be willing to fail. That's really easy to say, but on the mats you have to put your money where your mouth is. There's no lying and no hiding.
You're either willing to fail (and learn) or you're not. Those insecurities and idiosyncrasies are played out in our lives every day; we just get let off the hook most of the time by our friends, family, and colleagues.
How often do you train jiu jitsu?
Last summer I was very fortuante to be working 3 x 12 hour shifts. Obviously I couldn't train on my work days, but I trained twice per day on the other four days for a total of 8-10 hours / week; plus another 2 hours / week of strength and conditioning, striking, or somthing fun and active (hiking, climbing, playing with the dog, etc...).
For the past few months though, I've been branching out into private practice and working two full time jobs, so I try to get to the gym whenever I can and be as hyper-focused and detail oriented as I can. With the decreased gym time, I try to record and drill techniques a little after each class so I can watch them again when I'm not able to get to the gym.
What made you want to start training BJJ?
It was 2010 and I had just graduated college. I was 5'7" and 204 lbs. I have a broad frame so I didn't look particularly fat, but contrast that with my very lean 165-170 now. I had graduated with honors, but I also partied really, really hard.
So, I decided things had to change. I was still very wrestler-minded then, so the next closest thing I could think of was MMA. I was at one of two very desperate times in my life then so training and mopping mats to pay my dues really set the stage for enmeshing combat sports in my life.
Do you plan on training your whole life?
I can't imagine ever stopping.
What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?
It is, by its very nature, infinite.
There is an answer to every answer, and there always will be. If your psyche can handle that, the not knowing and unknown, it's a very intoxicating rabbit hole to go down.
There are so many psycho-social and physical benefits as well that people don't really realize all they're getting from jiu jitsu, so unconsciously we're even more "addicted" to the process because of all the physical and mental benefits we're reaping -- whether we're conscious of them or not.
What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?
As I said earlier, when I started I was 204 lbs. Without changing my diet at all I lost about 20 lbs. The rest came through very diligent nutritional practices. I would definitely say that jiu jitsu has kept my physically strong and in decent cardiovascular shape. I tend to drill easy (and attentively) and roll hard. I can only imagine being bored to tears in a commercial fitness gym.
If you're going to develop your fitness, why not learn a practical skill (like self defense), or tap into those "addicting" properties we just mentioned for something positive in your life?
"In addiction recovery, they say sometimes we trade one for another, trading alcohol and pills for BJJ seems like the best possible deal I could ever get." ~ Jessica G.
(Check out her full interview after you read this one)
There have been some injuries along the way, but I look at my peers in their early 30s and there's a pretty notable difference between the fitness level of combat sports athletes.
Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?
For sure. My day job is as a mental health counselor so I can see many dividends being paid regarding stress management. I also think the mats are a place where we can let the "uglier" parts of ourselves hang out and no one really cares.
There might still be consequences, but there's no judgment attached to it. If your life is a train wreck and you blow up at someone at the office, you might get fired. If you lose your temper during a roll, you might get a submission put on fast and hard, but after that it's done.
You're allowed to be imperfect on the mat. You're allowed to mess up and to be an emotional hot mess sometimes. Society wants us to present something very different.
If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?
I don't think so actually.
Some of my training partners who were blue belts with me are now brown and black belts so I joke that I'm still trying to make up for lost time. The serious side of that is that while the time was lost (from the mats), it certainly wasn't wasted. There are many great lessons the mountains have taught me just as the mats have.
The only change I can think of is to not take myself so seriously. It's perfectly fine to be super intense and train really hard, but there's a lot of awesome things happening in life all around you that you may be missing if you're too focused on any one in particular.
Before I moved to Georgia, my Muay Thai / MMA coach in Illinois (who knew I wasn't sure if I would keep training because there weren't many gyms in the area at that time) said; "It's alright Austin, there are lots of other important things in life besides fighting. You just happen to be really good at it."
What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?
There are two great movie lines that I often reference. From Fight Club, "How much do you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?"; and from The Matrix II, "You don't really know a man until you fight him."
Those might sound cliche, but they're true. You don't really know anything about yourself until you're tested, in fact, I'd go as far as to say until you're broken. That's when your real character shows. Everyone has a different reason for starting or staying in jiu jitsu.
For the general person thinking about walking into a gym for the first time I'd say; the decision to start BJJ might be the highest return on investment in every facet of your life that you ever make, you can always walk right back out if you get a bad vibe, but regret is a mother f* to live with.
Do you have any aspirations in jiu jitsu?
I would definitely like to start competing more regularly. I could see a potential run at Master Worlds or Pans down the line. Although, right now I'm focused on getting my health coaching business off the ground. Fighters are notoriously stubborn. That's alright, it allows us to do all these incredible things with our bodies.
It also makes us really slow to accept new things and nutritional advice is no exception to this -- especially when the US as a whole has been steeped in nutritional misinformation for the last 50-70 years.
I have also tossed around the idea with some colleagues of mine to open a martial arts / mental health outreach center for youth, but that would be several years down the line.
What’s your favourite move?
V for Vendetta, hands down.... Followed by The Breakfast Club and Fight Club in no particular order.
BJJ move not movies haha
Straight ankle lock from anywhere.
If you didn’t discover jiu jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?
In Chattanooga, TN wrestling pebbles and sewing up hard trad lines!
Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?
That's an interesting question, because rock climbing is going through the same existential crisis right now. I definitely resonate with the old school "soul sport" nature of both climbing and fighting (boxing and BJJ) and have competed in all three of them.
The fear that the sport will get "watered down" is legitimate, you're already seeing that. As jiu jitsu gets more popular and becomes a household name, academies are going to have to adapt to a household customer -- less garage-and-grind and #everydayporrada. With that said, there will always be a place for the later. I don't think you can kill that. If you do, you have truly lost something integral to the sport.
I accept there will always be rule manipulations and "sporterized" ways of doing things, but skateboarding and the X-Games haven't killed surfing. Rock climbing in The Olympics isn't stopping you from taking a trip to the backcountry. So, I say bring it.
"The more people enriching their lives through jiu jitsu, the better. We all know you have to take it and make it your own at some point anyway."
Have any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential?
I hope I haven't already reached my full potential! But yes, my training partners have definitely helped. I like to take a mental inventory of who is maybe good at this guard or that submission, or is difficult for me to pass and I know exactly who to roll with when I want to work on one of those things.
What I remember more is the motivational component.
It really sticks out to me when an upper belt would take, even a few minutes to say they noticed me improving at something, or genuinely explain how they struggled with some component of my game.
That stuff really adds up and it's super important early on or when you feel like you're at a plateau and getting crushed all the time.
When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu jitsu that you had trouble getting?
It's funny answering this as a purple belt because I feel like my answers are the same as when I was a white belt: breaking grips, posture, leading with my head, etc. Beyond that, being willing to fail is a huge hurdle that some people never cross and it really limits their growth (on and off the mat).
I think having a scope for the pace of progress was something I struggled with early on; like expecting promotions sooner than I got them -- especially as a white belt. I didn't really understand that everyone's on a separate journey and that it doesn't (or shouldn't) have anything to do with who beats who in the training room or who brings home the most medals. It's about demonstrating change in addition to comprehension and prowess.
If you could roll with any BJJ practitioner, dead or alive, who would it be?
I have to pick just one! Garry Tonon would probably be on the top of the list. Josh Hinger, Marcelo, and Lucas Leite would be up there too. Those are all games / styles I've watched a lot of film on and admire.
If you had to describe Jiu-Jitsu to someone that's never heard of it before in under 5 words, what would those words be?
Pajama submission wrestling strangling friends.
What has been the most memorable moment you've had on the mats so far?
It's tough to pick one, there have been several. One that certainly sticks out is the process of starting training again. As I mentioned, I was a two-stripe blue belt who hadn't trained in over 5 years and was looking for a new gym in Atlanta -- not exactly a city with shoddy BJJ.
I hadn't had that much anxiety when I started training in the first place! At the time I posted a picture on Instagram commenting how "the bravest thing you may ever do is start again."
Recently I posted the same sentiment after making it to the semi-finals of a cash prize tournament where the average age in the semi-finals (without me) was a decade younger.
What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?
People who know me personally know that I'm not one to sugar coat things... ever. At the same time, the biggest hurdle in overcoming my own trauma was letting myself grieve my losses and developing compassion for the suffering and challenges I'd overcome.
Many people in crisis believe that the world or a deity is punishing them. I think the more stark realization is that the world simply doesn't care. It will go on whether you exist or not. So, the only question left is, what now?
I want people to keep asking "what now" and not be enslaved by their suffering and circumstances. When I earned my Eagle Scout, my aunt gave me a framed motivational poster that says "...a leader doesn't choose to be one. He becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent."
Was there a difficult moment in your life where jiu jitsu helped you get through it? If so, please explain.
I mentioned that when I started training, that was one of two really desperate times in my life. I was a recent college graduate, but had to move back in with my parents after living on my own for two years and there was a lot of tension there.
On top of that I didn't have a job and my student loan payments had started. There were literally days when I would donate plasma in the morning and show up to roll at night with the bandage still on my arm.
My family didn't understand, fighting was the only thing keeping me sane at the time. Life is complicated. The "rules of engagement" in a ring or cage are simple.
How Important is it for BJJ athletes to have access to organic grass-fed and grass-finished meat?
We have to be very clear in this discussion; there are some (minor) biochemical / nutritional benefits to grass-finished beef if you're really looking to optimize your micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) levels.
However, that's a very finely tuned mechanism. It won't make a damn bit of difference if you haven't taken care of some much larger, foundational building blocks first. In any case, one of the biggest benefits of pasture-raised meat is animal welfare. In the case of regenerative agriculture we also get into ecological ethics.
"Those things may or may not be important to BJJ athletes in particular, but we all have to share this planet and its ultimately finite resources."
It's also important to consider that you're not only "what you eat", but what you eat eats. So, it doesn't make a lot of sense to avoid grains to reduce inflammation, but turn around and eat grain fed pork/chicken/beef/eggs.
There can be a big price increase when switching to more ethically raised animals -- which, the US is one of the only countries in the world where this is the case -- so, nutritionally you would get a lot of bang-for-your-buck by experimenting with beef organs (or organ supplements) if finances are an issue.
The same ethical considerations above still hold true. Ethically, or nutritionally, remember that you don't have to go "all in''; it's probably been a five year process for me to get to a place financially where I was willing and able to fully commit to 90-100% regeneratively raised animal products.
How can BJJ hobbyists benefit from supplements?
First, it's important to note that supplements are just that, a supplement. They're not a replacement for real, whole, food. In general, what you're paying for in supplements is (mostly branding, and) convenience. This isn't a bad thing, it's just worth noting that there are plenty of sketchy salesmen in vitamin stores who are willing to sell you anything.
Sometimes convenience is worth the price tag. For example, an electrolyte powder is about 2-3x as concentrated as a commercial sports drink and a fraction of the cost. Yes, you can get electrolytes from whole food, but the rate that you sweat in combat sports is unfathomable by most people.
In the case of beef organs, some people don't like the taste (though they're aware of the benefits) or can't get them delivered in their area. In this case, supplements can be a great addition to their already healthy diet.
"Specific for BJJ athletes though, electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and chloride) would be the biggest thing in my opinion."
A distant second would be creatine or protein powder; neither of which should be a concern if you're getting adequate animal-based protein -- again though, convenience may play a role.
Most pre-workouts are a combination of amino-acids, caffeine, and B-vitamins; all of which (except caffeine) are readily available in red meat. Again though, you may not want to roll on a full stomach. In any case, consult a nutrition coach though, not a salesman -- their titles believe their motivations.
What Is Kombat Kitchen Nutrition Coaching and how can people connect with you further?
Kombat Kitchen is a nutrition coaching program aimed at helping athletes improve their mental and metabolic health through nutrition so they can perform better in competition and relieve stress and anxiety in their lives.
Coaching sessions can be booked from my Instagram page (@savagezen) and I have several discount codes for organic beef, beef organ supplements, and electrolyte supplements on my website (http://thekombatkitchen.com).
We also have a group on Telegram that is free to join and features early release and exclusive content. To join, download the Telegram app of iOS or Android and join the Kombat Kitchen group (https://t.me/kombatkitchen).
What would you like to say to everyone that has supported you on your journey?
A thousand thank you's would never be enough. The only justice I can hope to do is pay it forward and share what I've learned as a fighter and a human with those around me.
When the journey is over, how would you like to be remembered?
I think I want to be remembered as a tenacious lover and fighter. I want people to know that you can be a "peaceful warrior"; having a willingness (not to be confused with an eagerness) for ruthless violence if needed and simultaneously an emphatic commitment to compassion for yourself and others. I want people to remember that my life is my philosophy. I'll gladly take a few stories and a journey over a happy ending.
Show your support for Austin Haedicke (Kombat Kitchen) even further by using his special code: SAVAGEZEN for 10% off your entire Submission Shark Order.
Searching for more BJJ articles?
This BJJ brown belt explains 4 most crucial areas where you need structure as an athlete. When you are finished with that article, feel free to check out this jiu jitsu interview with with Eric Falstrault where we provide you strength and conditioning information to help you improve your martial arts abilities even further. Learn how to enter the flow state in your training with these three articles to optimize your experience on the mats.