Unity in Dakar '17
The rise of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Africa
By KOA Team
A small Northern Virginia Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) crew led by Professor Kelly Grissom, KOA returned to Senegal for its fourth trip, and what could be their last venture into Africa. In March 2017, KOA Team offered free seminars and led BJJ training classes to further develop Jiu Jitsu in Dakar.
KOA Team participated in the first LionHeart event in 2013 hoping to improve lives by sharing Jiu Jitsu and helping start a BJJ sub-culture where one really did not exist before. It worked!!!...there is now a small but growing BJJ movement in Senegal, which KOA Team had a hand in helping along; however, Kelly often says the LionHeart friends they made in Senegal actually inspired and changed KOA Team members in more ways than they could have ever impacted them.
KOA Team believes every BJJ team can find great personal growth and reward through the LionHeart experience, as they truly have, while also helping BJJ grow in Africa through the process.
I do not have the words to explain how the LionHeart Initiative has changed us, our jiu jitsu, our team, and our lives. We hope other teams and jiu jitsu followers have the opportunity to experience Jiu Jitsu in West Africa while it is still in its infancy, but there is a part of us that guards this life changing experience jealously - Kelly Grissom
In November 2013, Kelly undertook a bold adventure to West Africa with group of young BJJ blue belts to support the LionHeart Initiative's efforts to introduce BJJ as a foundational component of mixed martial arts, which it aimed to develop as a way to create opportunities for African athletes. This first LionHeart project was coined Rollin' in Dakar. KOA Team subsequently returned to Senegal in 2014 and 2016, respectively for Steadfast in Dakar and Tuff in Dakar. Rollin' in Dakar '13 and Tuff in Dakar '16 included seminars, exhibitions, and cross-training in local traditional wrestling, all captured in a docu-film produced by MMA maverick filmmaker Genghis Con.