BJJ WITHOUT BORDER ’16, by Ibrahima “Brams” Samba

Ibrahima Samba, aka Brams is a Brazilian Jiu jitsu (BJJ) Black belt from Brazilian top Team Canada under  Fabio Holanda, who in 2016 became a BJJ instructor for the National Army of the United Arab Emirate.  A French and Senegalese national, Brams lived in Montreal when he began contributing to the LionHeart Initiative in Dakar, Senegal as a BJJ purple belt in early 2014.

After Brams pioneering efforts to develop BJJ in Dakar in 2014, he returned in January 2016 for a month to continue my work, armed with a better curriculum, instructional videos, and more advanced drills. Later making the curriculum and instructional videos available to the more advanced BJJ practitioners in Dakar upon his departure. In 2016, he observed a notable evolution, but still felt the skills were somewhat rudimentary and needed refinement in order to sharpen techniques. In this vein, the BJJ without Borders ’16 project focused mainly on the experienced students Brams had worked with two year earlier. He also observed indications of a local BJJ culture taking root; however, it was largely due to LionHeart contributors traveling to Senegal to teach and share their passion for the sport. Consequently, he strongly felt this endeavor needed a long term strategy with planning and consistency to avoid rushing the development of BJJ in Senegal.

By 2016 in spite of limited means, local BJJ practitioners pitched in money to rent a mat room where they collectively trained. Although the gym was simple, it met their basic need and provided a locale where everyone could train together and helped develop a core group of loyal BJJ guys. Overcoming tensions with other schools and local martial arts “politics”, this core group continued to train and grow. These dedicated BJJ guys included motivated white belts, newly promoted blue belts, and a few purple belts who were eager to share their experience. It should be recognized that Senegal is a place with a strong martial arts and sport culture, where locals train in judo, karate, kung fu, sumo, wrestling, boxing, capoeira, and many others. Brams believed that to ensure the success and growth of BJJ in Senegal, practitioners needed better structure and the eventual support of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), as well as continued efforts to offer seminars and organize tournaments. His hope still is to someday soon an official BJJ team, sustained efforts to organize tournaments, a local federation under the IBJJF, high-level promotions, and eventually local partitioners competing on the international scene.

On his own initiative back in January 2014, Brams had began what would be later known as “BJJ without Borders”.  Shortly after he began teaching in Dakar, the LionHeart Initiative contacted him and proposed a partnership, which has since endured and led to the substantial growth in BJJ in Dakar. For several months in 2014, Brams taught every day, developed a solid curriculum, and used a sustainable “train-the-trainer” approach. His strategy to identify a core group of BJJ practitioners, gave them a solid base, and enough knowledge to create a sustainable long-term solution to grow BJJ in Senegal and paid huge dividends. Brams’ contributions and his collaboration with the LionHeart Initiative were directly responsible for the first blue belt promotions in Senegal. During his initial LionHeart project, he received substantial support from the Senegal Judo Federation and prominent Judo figures, such as Master Alassane Thioube, without whom he could not have succeeded.