Off the Mat with a Bjj Black Belt: Dennis Asche

This week we feature Dennis Asche who is perhaps best known as the owner and originator of the Bjj Hostel in Rio de Janeiro where thousands of bjj guys have lived their bjj dreams to stay and train jiu-jitsu in Brazil.

Dennis is a Gordo Jiu-jitsu black belt and was one of the first Americans to go live in Rio de Janeiro and learn jiu-jitsu at the source and live in the bjj’ers paradise.

“There is no secret to building yourself into a good competitor or practitioner of jiu-jitsu. It comes down to will to achieve and the drive that goes hand in hand with that will.”

Dennis Asche


Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you tell us how and why you got started in bjj?

Dennis Asche: As many jiujiteiros from my generation (those who began in the 90’s) what inspired me to seek out Brazilian Jiu-jitsu was the UFC and effectiveness of the art in combat. At the age of 15-16 I was an assistant karate instructor and had been told about this incredible new event called the UFC.

Excitedly the instructors gathered around a small TV fed by a VCR in our office to witness in amazement as Royce Gracie submitted all in his path to take the grand prize of UFC 1.

Immediately I wanted to learn jiu-jitsu, or at least how to defend against someone proficient at it, with the goal of becoming a complete and well rounded martial artist.

The small coastal town of Newport, Oregon where I lived at the time did not have a jiu-jitsu academy (and to my knowledge still does not). My best friend and training partner Brett Garlock had the same interest and at five years my senior was already planning a move to Southern California to train in Sifu Paul Vunak’s Progressive Fighting Systems, which incorporated jiu-jitsu into it’s teachings (Sifu Paul was a student of Rickson Gracie).

Brett made the move and encouraged me to get down there myself and after turning 18 I did.

In the greater Los Angeles area I trained under PFS instructor Patrick Lachman who later introduced me to Jean Jacques Machado, where he trained jiu-jitsu but it wasn’t until 1997-98 that I really began to appreciate training with the kimono.

After returning to my home state of Oregon, I met JT Taylor at NWMA in Eugene, Oregon during a training session in 1997. We where both from Central Oregon and would soon meet again shortly after, back on our home turf.

In 1998 JT had just returned from Seattle, WA where he had gone seeking a deeper understanding of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Professor Marcello Alonso.

There in Central Oregon JT and I spent countless hours training and sharpening our skills on the mat. Although I was ranked to blue belt by Professor Marcello after winning a BJJ tournament in Tacoma, WA and he is in fact a very technical, great professor my actual training sessions with him where few and far between with his academy in another state.

It was the time training with my good friend JT that developed my jiu-jitsu during those years.

In 2001 as an active competitor, I lost a decision in an MMA fight to Benji Raddach in front of my home crowd.

At that point it was apparent that in order for me to advance to the level I had set forth to attain, seeking the knowledge was what had to be done. Only a few weeks later I set off hitch hiking nearly 1000 miles with $10 in my pocket on a path lead me back to Southern California where I would live at the Muay Thai Academy in North Hollywood.

It was there at MTA that I met Josh Lazy, a fellow Muay Thai student who introduced me to Professor John Machado, the youngest of the Machado brothers. In 2001, Professor John had recently opened an academy on the Miracle Mile in the Wilshire district of LA. I still remember my first training session on that small mat. Feeling the need to prove myself as worthy to wear the blue belt tied around my waist, I took it to all of his students (who where most white with a couple of blue belts) knee riding, foot locking and arm-baring every one of them into submission. That was when Professor John stepped out onto the mat and began to crush the life out of me in what was to be the first of many humbling experiences and a long lasting relationship of student and professor.

After some time Professor John Machado took me under his wing as a student, leading me to the path of becoming a better practitioner and a better man. Those years in LA taught me much about jiu-jitsu as well as life. In particular how little it takes to be happy while doing what you are committed to and believe in.

Months into my time in LA, I landed in a store front (thank you to Ron G. who sponsored me) that was to become my home for more than a year. I had nothing in terms of material belongings but I did not need anything to be fulfilled in life. All it took to put a smile on my face was knowing that the next training session was a short time away.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Who have been the biggest influences on your jiu-jitsu and what did you learn from each of your professors? Professor John Machado has had the biggest effect on my life.

When I began training with him he helped me to take the right path in both martial arts and life. While training with John Machado he took me into his academy and under his wing, bringing out the best I have.

From the same era of training in Los Angeles, Renato Magno, Rigan and Jean Jacques Machado where all very inspirational and helped me along the path that brought me here today.

In Rio de Janeiro, influence came from Professor Roberto Correa.

Dennis Asche: Just as important as my professors are the many training partners, students and opponents I have interacted with over the years.

Although these professors and athletes are not a part of my daily training Mario Sperry, Rafael dos Anjos, Robson Moura, Mestre Sylvio Behring, Marcio Laudier and Marcello Alonso, among a number of others.

Jiu-jitsu Times: What is the place of jiu-jitsu in your life?

Dennis Asche: Jiu-jitsu is the foundation; it is what gives positivity, strength and confidence on a daily basis. The art suave is an integral part of my life, regardless of whether or not my day is spent on the mat.

At this point in life I am a jiu-jitsu professor teaching classes at CR BJJ Hostel and soon full time in Bend, Oregon beginning this Spring ’16, after opening the Connection Rio Academy.

With a little push I may also be back onto the competition scene after returning to the United States.

This goes without mentioning my regular involvement in jiu-jitsu projects such as founding and operating the world’s first BJJ Hostel, Connection Rio; as well as regularly working with jiu-jitsu media.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you give some advice for students of jiu-jitsu that worked for you in your training? (a principle or training practice, motivational quote, tips on passing the guard etc.)

Dennis Asche: There is no secret to building yourself into a good competitor or practitioner of jiu-jitsu. It comes down to will to achieve and the drive that goes hand in hand with that will.

Good work ethic is essential, as the more effort put forth into jiu-jitsu the more it gives back. Build a good core of basic techniques and sharpen them with a consistent habit of training and stick to it.  

Believe in yourself, have faith in your abilities and stay focused on your goals.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you talk about your philosophy of Brazilian jiu-jitsu – training and life? (What do you try to teach to your students about the role of jiu-jitsu in their lives?)

Dennis Asche: Jiu-jitsu provides an opportunity to understand being “in the moment”.

Once a practitioner grasps this concept it can and should be applied to all aspects of life.

I believe in applying oneself whole heartedly to whatever the task at hand through focus, determination and being in the moment.

To the full extent of my abilities I work to bring out the best in all of my students.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Who is your favorite bjj fighter?

Dennis Asche: It is difficult to narrow down my favorite jiu-jitsu fighter.

Roger Gracie is my all time favorite for simplicity and effectiveness of his game through the application of pure jiu-jitsu basics at the highest level of competition.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you tell us something interesting about yourself that most Jiu-jitsu Times readers would not know?

Dennis Asche: For those reading that began training after 2005, my generation of jiujiteiros had an experience that was quite different in terms of acquiring techniques, access to training and competitions.

There was no YouTube to see the latest techniques or watch championship matches on; the number of black belts outside of Brazil was still at a minimal number; and access to academies was not easy to come by.

For that reason I made many sacrifices, including the move to another state, then another country following my dreams in search of knowledge.

Many take for granted the access provided online and in daily life with academies spreading to the furthest reaches of our world.

Be thankful for what jiu-jitsu has become and that the art suave is available most anywhere to anyone today.

With that the Connection Rio Academy will open this Spring ’16 in Bend, Oregon and I intend to bring back the knowledge attained here in the cradle of BJJ over more than a decade’s time.

My goal is to bringing together the community and put Central Oregon on the map as a place to be for training jiu-jitsu.

Dennis A. Asche

Video: BJJ triangle-armbar submission, good for vs big guys


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