TechNACITY Presents: MIND GAMES. Finding new ways to combat the stigma of mental illness

Jiu-jitsu has the remarkable ability to bring out the best in its practitioners, regardless of whatever physical or mental challenges they face.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to compete in Nova Scotia, a 5-hour flight from my home.  Unfortunately in the week leading up to the tournament, a local jiujiteiro and MMA fighter, Cody Glode, committed suicide.  At the beginning of the trip, I was picked up from the airport by his coach, Dan Vanderlans.

Soon after the trip, Dan decided to pour some of his emotions into a project he felt would help address the stigma of mental illness through grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.  This project is called TechNACITY, and it is a truly special brand that is being built for the purpose of spreading awareness and helping bring the community together to address issues that plague so many of us.

I had an opportunity to chat a bit with Dan about TechNACITY, its conception, what it means to him and his goals for it.

For Dan, the struggle with mental illness is as personal as it gets.

“I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 21.  I was a convict, an addict, and now a diagnosed lunatic. My life spiraled out of control over the next five years until I hit rock bottom. My sister’s new husband was opening a BJJ school and I fell in love.  BJJ helps me learn to think through problems, to persist, to not quit.  It gives me confidence, a community, and a sense of safety when I am anxious. When I am down, it lifts me up.  I still have very dark chapters, yet God-willing, the chapter will always end with me back at BJJ class.”

I was interested to learn what TechNACITY actually means.

“When I started BJJ my coach had learned directly from the Gracie family. He emphasized the secret of BJJ. He stated that technique is everything.  I believed him. He was right to a degree.  Yet at tournaments I noted that some guys with lesser technique could do quite well on tenacity: something I lacked at the time. I was used to quitting if I couldn’t win on technique alone. If I was down on points, I looked down on myself and often conceded the win.  In time I recognized that tenacity was missing. I developed it by competing in every local tournament for about 5 years.  I began to develop techNACITY. 

By definition technique is skillful execution of artistic performance or scientific procedure (Oxford). By definition tenacity is firm grips; persistence; quality of continuing to exist (Oxford). Together a beautiful new word emerges that means the ART of EXISTENCE; the science of sustenance skill and will; the performance in persistence.  It doesn’t mean we win everything. It means we never quit. I always respected the guys that would compete and lose as much as they won, if not more. They just keep grinding away. They refuse to stop existing. This is the Art of Existence.

I have always been open about my crippling depression, bouts of suicidal recklessness, addiction to crack, and even my psychosis, which landed me in all sorts of places from jail to detox to the psych ward.  Today I have a master’s degree in psychology.  I have been given a second chance by God.  Cody’s death was heartbreaking.  He was my best friend and poster boy for techNACITY. What he did was the complete opposite of technacity. Even if he had laid in bed for 20 years, this would have been better than ceasing to exist.  He defied the Art of Existence.  Of course, he was sick and I love him dearly and he is still and always will be the poster boy for techNACITY.  Through his legacy, I have chosen to fight as hard as I can to never let anyone leave the world like this again”

As a first effort, Dan is using the techNACITY brand name to put on a tournament called “Mind Games.”

“My goal for Mind Games is to kick stigma’s ass.  More than just a submission – rendered unconscious and broken!  We are giving awards to fighters who share their battle with illness.  We are raising money for a youth centre for youth with illness.  We, as a BJJ community, are too brave to hide in stigma’s shadow!  This is stigma-submission-fire. Cody was hurt by the stigma.”

While I struggle with my own personal demons and issues, I am fortunate enough to not know first hand what precisely “stigma” means.  I have seen the organization Submit the Stigma become a strong force in the jiu jitsu community, and have done some work with people who experience mental illness.  I was interested to learn what precisely “stigma” means.

“’Stigma” is judgment. It is an attitude of judgment.  Discrimination on the other hand is a harmful action carried about by the cruel judgment.  Often times, help is available. HOPE is always a reality.  Yet fear of others’ judgment often keeps people from coming forward.  People are afraid of being labeled crazy or violent or weird.  Even worse, losing their job. Thus we hope to change people’s minds before we can change their actions. Hence the emphasis on stigma. The thought of stigma haunts me when I am depressed. ‘What will people think?’  ‘I have to hide or wear a mask’ ‘people don’t get me’ etc…  Discrimination is just as real, of course, yet we are looking at opening people’s eyes to the reality of the mental illness lurking behind the masks of those afraid to be real.”

The potential of TechNACITY and Mind Games is huge. To the best of my knowledge no other similar tournament or brand really exists in the jiu-jitsu community.  I was interested to learn a bit about Dan’s vision for the brand as far as logistics, how many tournaments he wants to hold, and how far he wants to expand it.

“TechNACITY is a brand: website and a beautiful gi coming soon with some unique features coming soon. It is a BJJ line but also has a very obvious mental health undertone. TechNACITY is about NOT quitting and NOT always winning.  I wanted to hold this upcoming event to honor Cody, to say “Enough is enough people;stand up to stigma.” I have always been very open about my illness.  Not everyone can. I get that, but a lot of people can and they are afraid.  I am, too, so we will do it together on June 18. 


We have 16 competitors. Weigh-ins the night of.  We will divide them into the 8 lightest and 8 heaviest – 145lbs to 320lbs; 1,2,3 for each bracket; and then two winners also fight for absolute.  We are doing 7-minute rounds with EBI style overtime.  No gi.   Also, two women in a super fight. 

One event per year. This one only or even better.  I would sponsor an event. Cat Clarke of Submission Series Pro was my mentor on event planning. As for the gi – great price first and foremost – and as always small enough to value every customer! I only want to release something relevant or different. This is my new design. Note that you will only see the tecNAZ and techNACITY (tecNAZ is Portuguese for techNACITY tecnica tenaz) on sleeves when you raise your hand for a medal.”

Dan had the following shout-outs:

“Special thanks to Cat Clarke, the BJJ community as a whole for its braveness, and though I do not know Erin at all from #submitthestigma, I definetly support their cause. And a huge shout-out to one of the coolest guys in the industry and VHTS 3 years in a row.”

For more information about TechNACITY and Mind Games visit these links:

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio ( and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo ( NottaRookie, YM ( discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap ( discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards ( discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


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