Vacation hot spots, world-class instruction, and forged friendships are the essential ingredients creating the ideal BJJ Retreat experience. Training with a prospective team and showcasing one’s grit in competition has become a part of a grappler’s repetitive routine. Expanding the martial arts adventure, BJJ Retreats offer a memorable experience for its participants. Branching off into his new role as a Retreat host, MMA veteran Jeff Curran’s “Big Frog BJJ Retreat” has garnered mass popularity in its short three-year inception, as the retreat’s profound effect keeps seasoned retreaters returning and greet newcomers curious of the hype.
MYMMANEWS got the opportunity to speak with Curran, as he gives us the inside scoop of the creation, purpose, and future of The Big Frog BJJ Retreat.
What inspired the creation of The Big Frog BJJ Retreat?
Jeff Curran: “Great Question. Well, I always had a desire to put together a training vacation for my team/students that can help increase team unity and friendships. But, when I was invited to be a guest instructor alongside Master Pedro Sauer on Grapplers Escape Cruise back in 2016, it dawned on me I need to do something similar to this on land. I need to make it an experience for people who ultimately rarely get to travel and let alone, train at the same time. So, I began making some plans to test the process at a small hotel way up in Northern Wisconsin in the middle of the winter. No nearby airport, nothing to do outside but freeze. It was a hit. We had 50 people for that one. I give lots of credit to Kathryn at Grapplers Escape because she puts together an amazing experience for her guests. Master Sauer also puts together amazing Brazil camps, and they all are great. Not everyone gets that kind of time and money to take off to leave the country. That’s where I come in.”
Business owner, Instructor, family man; you have many job roles to juggle. In the midst of these duties, how were you able to construct time in creating the event?
Jeff Curran: “If you trace back to the beginning of my academy, I had been coaching, managing, competing in BJJ, fighting MMA, promoting MMA and being a husband. Later the kids come and add it to the list. So, I am no stranger to juggling a lot on my plate at once. However, these days I have shaved off a lot of that. My business is very stable, and I don’t manage fighters anymore, my MMA fight team is very small and manageable compared to the past larger stables of guys, I don’t fight MMA anymore, etc. So, it comes naturally. As an MMA promoter to approximately 35 shows (3-4/year), I learned a lot about making deals with venues and handling the process.”
The event location has been the most significant change over the years, starting in the Midwest to the last two retreats taking place in Florida. Can touch on how the locations are decided for the BJJ Retreat?
Jeff Curran: “My Northwood Retreats is where it all began. My friend hooked up a venue for free and cheap rooms for the guests. It made sense to keep it risk-free at first, save some money to buy my mats and trailer so I can travel with them to the future venues. My ultimate goal was to get to Florida. I love Florida. It has a place in my heart forever. My brother spread my Dad’s ashes in the ocean off the Gulf coast down in Long Key where we used to camp with my Dad when we were kids. My dad passed when I was 18 years old and missed him since. After being in Cocoa Beach for a Vacation with my family a few years back, even before the cruise, I attended; I said to my wife “I can run a camp here for sure.” She agreed. We have been to Mercer, Wisconsin twice, Cocoa Beach Florida, Daytona Beach Florida and next stop gets us even closer to my Dad as we land on the Gulf coast in Beautiful Clearwater Beach, Florida. My decisions where to look and where to go come down to me determining what my guests would enjoy, availability during the third week of February, right before Spring Break kicks off.”
The biggest eye catcher that pops one’s interest to attend is the affordable pricing. Naturally separating yourself from other Jiu-jitsu retreat promotions in this sector, how important does pricing assist in garnering a big attendance?
Jeff Curran: “I am a believer that Jiu-Jitsu shouldn’t be so expensive and difficult to afford. If you have the money, there are incredible opportunities to travel and train, experience parts of the world. But, if you don’t have the money, then you are left out. I was asked to help bring students to the grapplers escape cruise I was teaching on and I didn’t have a single person interested. In our part of the world (Midwest), we live a little simpler, especially my small town and those surrounding my area. I know some people travel all the time, spending God knows how much money and that is awesome. But I want to mingle with people who are more on my page…live on the same planet as me in a sense. So, I decided to focus my attention on building this thing up so we can keep the cost below let’s say $300. So far we haven’t been any higher than $225, and we have been as low as $175. The Goal is to spread my rendition of Jiu-Jitsu that has been passed down to me from Master Sauer and forged in my competitive experiences over the past 27 years. The more the better!!!”
Is this retreat open to all affiliations?
Jeff Curran: “100% Open to ALL Teams. We average 15-20 different teams represented at each event. I come from an old school “Tribal” mentality to protect what is ours, to hold our team separate from others. Over the years, I take more and more the approach of accepting that this is one world, the Jiu-Jitsu World and in an event like this there is no politics, no “MY TEAM” “YOUR TEAM” present. We all get to fly our flags and proud of where we are from and who we represent, but we all get to do it with respect to others and make some friends for life. I am a HUGE believer in loyalty and team mentality. Loyalty to each other daily, loyalty to mine or your professor/master is without a doubt the foundation of family in the circle, but we can all be martial artists and share time on the mat. It is empowering to people. I am also happy that a large percentage of the guests are my personal team as well as Master Sauer/PSJJA team members that never get to meet. So that means a lot to me.”
Describe a typical day for a participant attending the Big Frog Retreat?
Jeff Curran: “The typical day, well, each day is somewhat different, but what we do is run a technical class followed by open mat then everyone is free to do as they please. They can go to the beaches, pools, eat, keep training, etc. We also have a Yoga upgrade option for those who want to do pre and post-training Yoga for BJJ with Joey Diehl. This last Retreat had the best schedule yet. We had two long sessions Thursday, two on Friday, an extended Saturday morning and Sunday morning, leaving plenty of time for Fun in the Sun or Family time. I organize a group dinner every Saturday at my events, this gives time for everyone to hang together and bring their friends or family that is traveling with them. My dinner reservation for the last retreat was for 84 people. I hope that number doubles.”
Analyzing participant’s feedback, what is the most prominent takeaway individuals have walked away with that made the retreat experience memorable?
Jeff Curran: “I would say just being able to train and vacation at the same time. I know so many people who never been to the Ocean, and now they have been twice. I feel this is the trip for people who don’t want to leave home without keeping their training a focus. A normal vacation is fun and always needed, but in my life and my lifestyle, I never leave home without Jiu-Jitsu.”
As in any line of work, improvements and an ambition to become better are always present. Already making successful strides, what are your future goals in making Big Frog Retreat even better?
Jeff Curran: “Man, you have no idea. My mind is working non-stop to improve. For starters MORE and MORE MATS. It was perfect this last one, but I want more space for everyone, and I plan to grow exponentially.”
What inspires you to continue hosting Big Frog Retreats?
Jeff Curran: “My biggest inspiration is I really feel, and have been told, that my retreats have changed people’s lives. They see things differently. Met someone that impacted them experienced a memory they will never forget, learned some awesome Jiu-Jitsu that will improve their game, and most importantly; the people, the friendships, and the Jiu-Jitsu.”
Any finals thoughts before we close this interview?
Jeff Curran: “If anyone has any questions I would love to field those directly for you. Please follow my personal Instagram at @bigfrogbjj and the event one as well @bjj_retreats Thank You for your support in Jiu-Jitsu and MMA. Keep on Fighting!!!”