"It's a slippery slope. If you start to have that mental conversation with yourself and you start to bargain. If you start to allow that conversation, that (inner) voice will win in the end" - MathijsMathijs is the oldest of the 3 brothers and Thijmen, 6 years younger is the "baby" brother. As you would expect growing up in a house full of testosterone there was penty of competition and playful fighting and roughhousing going on. Today, sitting here as grown men, ego and competition are put aside; and what is left, clear for all to see, is a genuine pride and desire to see someone you care about be the best version of themselves. The brotherly pride is very evident as Mathijs talks about himself and his own personal skill level vs. Thijmen’s and his potential. “For me it was never an option to be on world level, I’m not that good. Honestly. For Thijmen I think he’s been struggling with that choice between going to competitions and becoming a top notch competitor or choosing to develop teaching skills and start investing in owning a gym” – Mathijs The main thing that strikes you when they talk, is their calm and thoughtful demeanour. They both have it and it's refreshing to see because it becomes very evident in their approach to training and teaching.
“Train smarter. How are you spending your time? If you make the same mistake 10 times, you’re not progressing a lot. You can make it 3 times and then think about what’s actually happening and adjust.” - ThijmenBeing thoughtful when it comes to training and coaching doesn't come easy to most. Especially if the teacher is incredibly talented. “A lot of people are very talented and if you’re talented things come very naturally and usually you’re not that good of a teacher because, you explain something to someone- just do it, because that’s what you do. – Thijmen This is a very interesting point, you see it a lot in many sports, where the best players don't necessarily make the best coaches, managers or evaluators of talent e.g Maradona, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan to name a few. It's this trait that makes the duo quite rare. Albeit not with the same lofty all-time great status, nevertheless they are two high level practitioners who possess the ability, and patience to teach and educate others on how to improve.
“I’ve always been very clumsy. I might be good on the mat but I trip 2 times on the way out. Because of that I’ve faced and made all the mistakes you can make, and that’s why I understand most of peoples struggles with techniques so I compensate that by trying to find more efficient ways to train.” - ThijmenThis experience has led them to adopt a cerebral approach to their training and teaching. One that has a foundation in technique and mental strength as opposed to focusing on purely physical strength.
“technique is the multiplier of your strength. A lot of strong guys come in and they get destroyed by small girls, smaller guys, and weak people.” - ThijmenSo does that mean there's no point going to the gym and moving that iron? "Obviously if you have equal skill level the fitness does matter, especially at the highest level. The competition is so close that your fitness does matter" - Thijmen "Even if you’re strong but your technique is shit then you will still easily be overcome by a small person" -Mathijs Clearly on the same page and in lock step, in a way that only blood relatives can be, it's very clear that they have a keen self awareness of their own and each others strengths, and do a fantastic job of catering to those strengths. Mathijs is better standing up and is working on a black belt in judo, and Thijmen is better on the ground so focuses on teaching all aspects of the ground game. “There is a focus on ground work in jiu-jitsu. We start standing up and we throw but then a lot of people disregard and neglect that part of the game. We want to be a gym where we respect that part of martial arts” -Mathijs
IRON SHARPENS IRONThe fight game is competitive and constantly changing, therefore a constant update of knowledge is key. “We’ve both been very good at studying ourselves, studying other people’s fight moves and researching stuff, and we’ve never really researched the same thing. One person would research one area and then teach the other” - Mathijs . One dimensional and fixed mindset are 2 traits you will not associate with these two. A strong work ethic coupled with a clear but varied way of thinking has lead to a duo of well rounded and versatile fighters. “You don’t want specialised fighters, you want specialised teachers” -Mathijs So what's next? Lofty goals of owning a one stop destination where they train the best fighters that is also a cool place to hang out. Picture the results of what would happen if a dojo and beach bar had a baby...that's what they're shooting for, and personally I couldn't be more here for it. Ultimately though, the biggest goal and a fundamental way of achieving the bigger target is to maintain health.
“Staying healthy. It’s very hard to stay healthy and train a lot. I think all high level athletes struggle with this. For every Ronaldinho there’s 200 guys just as good with a torn knee because you have to push the limit but not go over it.” - ThijmenThere's an old adage in sports that "Dumb will get you beat". That definitely does not apply here. These 2 brothers are high IQ practitioners and they stay winning because of it.