Out of the ‘Land of Giants’, comes a young warrior who stands alongside some of the greats of Norway who have already carved their names into the historical stones of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu greatness. Even Gordon ‘The King’ Ryan is impressed with this young warrior’s talents.
That sounds ok for an introduction to a movie, but what we’re really talking about here is yet another young and super talented European Jiu-Jitsu athlete, already making a huge headway at lightning speed on the international circuit. He joins other greats from his home country of Norway who have achieved success at the highest levels on the world stage, whilst remembering as well that Norway’s population sits at only 5.3 million people.
Some may remember him from Polaris and some of you may even already have his Digital DVD from BJJFanatics.com. It’s is my great pleasure to introduce Mr. Tarikoplata, Tarik Hopstock….
Ian: Firstly tell us your name, age and where you’re from, and what part of town?
Ian: Where do you currently train and under who?
Tarik: So three years ago I moved to Bergen (a city on the west coast of Norway) with my girlfriend to study physical education. While in Bergen I’ve been training under Andre “Fievel” Porto de Carvalho (black belt under Teta).
Ian: Were you a good kid at school?
Tarik: Depends on what subject, haha… I could’ve paid more attention in class. P. E was always my favorite. Luckily in college, it’s mostly about subjects that I like and want to learn about.
Ian: When and how did you first get into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Was there anything before?
Tarik: While I was currently training judo at the time a friend of mine introduced me to jiu-jitsu by inviting me to a kid’s class with professor Teta. I felt right at home and I was motivated to train jiu-jitsu day in and day out. Slowly I started attending the adult classes for more training.
Ian: I know you would have wanted golds, but even so I think all of us were overwhelmingly impressed with your performances at the 2019 IBJJF Worlds. How did it feel taking podiums in both your weight-division and the absolutes?
Tarik: Thanks! Well, I am always happy if I know that I did my best. The semifinal in my weight division was a close fight that went to referee decision, which had me feeling a little bit bitter about not fighting it differently. At the same time, these are the fights that help me see my tactical mistakes and helps me improve in the long run. As for the open weight, I was happy with my performance as I felt like I did my very best. It’s a different feeling like I’ve got nothing to lose.
Ian: You are part of a growing list of big names that continue to showcase Norway’s huge talent on the world circuit, names such as Tommy Langaker and Espen Mathiesen. How does it feel being part of that circle?
Tarik: It’s a pleasure to be able to represent a small country like Norway in a sport where the competitions are mostly dominated by Brazilians and Americans. We are lucky to have hard-working talents like Tommy and Espen which brings the level up. Contrary to a lot of gyms we choose to train with each other, instead of traveling overseas for elite training partners. There are of course many more athletes to mention in the Norwegian jiu-jitsu scene. Frontline Academy’s HQ in Oslo usually has 4-7 black belts on the mat in a class.
Ian: What is Norway’s secret and what are perhaps other European countries missing out on?
Tarik: I believe it’s the focus and the methodology to the training that’s different. We have a very “quality over quantity” approach, whereas I feel most people will tell you to train hard every day of the week. There is no doubt that the resources and people around us make this possible, in a way we are lucky to have the opportunity. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the time and effort people put into my training.
Ian: Are you close to any of the big names across Norway/Scandinavia? If so, what is it like training with them?
Tarik: Well, it’s hard to define big names, as it is likely that we are more famous outside Norway. I do have a lot of successful training partners like; Jack Hermansson (ranked 6th in the UFC middleweight), Alexander Rio “Minhoca” and Hussein Abbas-Zade (Àbu-Dhabi World Pro Champions), Jason Shields (Master World Champion). The list goes on… haha.
Ian: Who is your toughest training partner?
Tarik: Daily it’s professor “Fievel”, but I try to travel back to Oslo when I can to roll with the HQ squad or south to Hagesund for some training with the Wulfing House guys. There’s too many names on that list, including those I’ve mentioned before.
Ian: What has been your most memorable moment in jiu-jitsu so far?
Tarik: It’s hard to say exactly which moment was the most memorable, but I always seem to remember the good times with the team, traveling together for competitions and hanging out. I do cherish the memories of my fights, but it’s the fact that I get to share it with my friends that makes them so memorable.
Ian: What’s one of the things you find most frustrating with BJJ, can be anything?
Tarik: I think it’s the complexity and the never-ending process of learning that frustrates most people, but again that’s what made me stay in the sport. The most frustrating as a competitor is the number of athletes using tainted supplements to cheat.
Ian: Who would you say are your top 3 in the world of jiu-jitsu, can be past and present? And why?
– Marcelo Garcia
– Ricardo Liborio
– Fernando “Terere” Augusto
These are not only legends on the mat, but also off the mat. Even if they’ve retired from competing, these influential people are having a positive effect on the sport and its community until this day.
Ian: What’s it like having Professor Rios as a coach?
Tarik: He has been teaching jiu-jitsu for so many years and it seems like his repertoire of techniques and concepts are endless. He always has an answer or maybe four different ones “depending on the context”. Professor Rios treats his academy like his family, and it shows in the way his students do the same for others who come in that door.
Ian: Has there been anyone else who has helped you a lot with your progress, can also be outside of your club, for example, could be friends or family supporting you?
Tarik: I am always grateful to have so many amazing people helping me chase my dreams. Rios was the guy who took care of me and Alexander while we were juveniles. Then there was Renato Tavares, Morten Josephson, Trond Saksenvik, Devi Ahuja and lower belts (at that time) like Eirin, Joachim, Thomas, Carl-Johan, Joseph, Martin, Emir, Alex Rasch who had a great part in my technical progression.
When I started to compete as a blue belt I got my first sponsorship with Rios Gear and that’s how I first met Fievel. Later on, I was lucky to meet Jason Shields who sponsored me through Voss Chiropractic Clinic and later on founded Go-Rillaz (online instructionals for strength & conditioning, and mental training for BJJ).
Last but not least my amazing girlfriend Jill who’s been supporting me through thick and thin. Including sewing on sponsor patches the day before I leave for a competition. And I am so happy that she enjoys jiu-jitsu as much as me.
Ian: How do you find competition? Do you get nervous?
Tarik: Competitions will always make you somewhat nervous, but the way you respond may be different from time to time. I can be feeling sleepy or too on edge, but it’s when I find the balance that I perform best.
Ian: How do you compete with those nerves? And what advice would you give other competitors to calming those nerves?
Tarik: Everyone’s thought patterns are unique and there isn’t any simple fix for everyone. Thought, there are theories and different approaches that help you explore what works best for you. The most common factor is self-doubt and it’s hard to perform if you don’t believe in yourself.
Ian: At what age did you start competing?
Tarik: I started competing two months after I started training, this was when I was 15 years old.
Ian: Did you always do well in competition? If not, then when did it start working for you?
Tarik: Well, in my first competition I got armbarred after a minute into my first fight. So no haha, it happened gradually.
Ian: Can you remember your toughest match/matches to-date and why it was so tough?
Tarik: There’s a lot of tough matches, the most recent would be the semifinal against Erich Munis. Before that, my matches with Victor Hugo, Jonnatas Gracie, Lucas Gualberto and Kaynan Duarte.
Ian: You obviously have a strong competition team, which is great, how do you guys structure that training to ensure you stay healthy and recover well?
Tarik: I mainly structure my own training to fit with the academy’s schedule, so that all my S&C sessions are on the lightest jiu-jitsu days. Also it has to fit well with my school schedule.
Ian: Asides from yourself of course… Who are some other European athletes to watch out for on the competition circuit that perhaps the wider audience doesn’t know about yet?
Tarik: Alexander Rio, Kjetil Lydvo, Hussein Abbas-Zade, Hakim Mazari, Hama Balisany, Erling Stolt-Nielsen, Christer Alfheim, Sander Bringeland, Emme Bringeland, Julia Wiebe and probably a ton more…
Ian: We all know you created the famous ‘Tarikoplata? Is this now your favorite sub, or do you have another favorite?
Tarik: Well, I definitely love using the submission, but I’ve started to take a liking to a broad variety of submissions like; toeholds, kneebars, footlocks, darce, RNC.
Ian: I know you’ve probably answered a million times, but how did this submission manifest itself? Was it something you just did or you worked on until you began applying it?
Tarik: It started with how I struggled to pull people’s arms out from the top kimura position. This was around late 2014 (…) I was trying to solve the [kimura] problem with some of my teammates. A lot of the times I would try to almost deadlift the arm out or just go back to the Darce choke. My thought was that there had to be some technical way to advance with attacking the arm. After some trial and error, I ended up passing the leg over my partner’s hips. But this was not the end product, my training partner believed the move was too risky to pull in competition and made me place it on a shelf for some time. Later I started to recognize the position from the bottom and successfully applied it to my game. We didn’t even call it Tarikoplata until I had gotten it numerous times in competitions.
Ian: Do you devote a lot of time to drilling as well as sparring? What ratio would you say you drill: spar?
Tarik: Depends on the training period, whether it’s before a competition or not. But for specific technical development, it’s mainly resistance drilling or “live drilling”.
Ian: When everything is back to normal will we see you in more big events such as Polaris? Do you have any more plans to do ADCC/sub-only-style competitions?
Tarik: Yes. I will be more than happy to show up at as many events as I can.
Ian: Have you ever had a serious injury, if so what and how did you recover from that?
Tarik: I’ve had a severe shoulder displacement which had me doing rehab training for almost 2 years until it felt good again. Another injury was my ankle that was sprained twice in two competitions with 3 months in between. Which took a while to recover both strength wise and mobility.
Ian: Have you ever had to overcome any other adversities in your life, can be none jiu-jitsu related? How did you overcome that?
Tarik: I’ve had my fair share of family problems, but without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Ian: How do you prepare for your competitions? Do you have any strength and conditioning programs in place?
Tarik: Depending on the week I would change up the intensity and exercises. But this is what a week with three sessions would normally look like. Each session would take me between 45 – 90 minutes.
Ian: Do you teach at your school and do you teach a lot of seminars?
Tarik: I do teach all the NoGi classes at Frontline Academy Bergen, otherwise I am traveling around for seminars.
Ian: How is your diet? Do you watch what you eat, especially nearing competition time?
Tarik: I usually don’t have to be careful as I am around my weight category, but for certain competitions, I’ll have to go down some kilos. Depending on how much kg, I’ll have to plan further ahead with my calorie intake. As for the daily regimen, I’ll just make sure to eat healthy food in a broad variety.
Ian: Is there any other advice you want to give to athletes/hobbyists that want to improve their jiu-jitsu beyond mat-time… perhaps something your professor said to you that stuck?
Tarik: It is completely normal to stagnate at some point and sometimes you’re making progress, but it is hard to see when everyone is growing beside you. Teta has always made it clear that everyone blooms at their own pace and everyone has different outlying factors that will determine how much space jiu-jitsu will take in their lives. Have fun and do it for the right reasons, that’s what will have you lasting for years!
Ian: What is your favorite food?
Tarik: Fried rice or Sushi.
Ian: What is your least favorite food?
Tarik: Pretzel sticks.
Ian: What are your next plans for jiu-jitsu, and will we see any more instructionals on BJJ Fanatics or elsewhere?
Tarik: Currently I am writing my bachelor thesis and waiting out this crisis. As for the future, I am thinking of making more instructionals about other topics and concepts like frames and fighting bigger opponents.
Ian: Any shout-outs to sponsors or anyone else you’d like to mention or thank?
Tarik: Big thanks to my sponsors for making this journey possible.
Thanks to @sumo_restaurant for delicious Asian fusion food and support! Best fried rice ever!
Thanks to @riosgear for durable and stylish gis, rash guards, shorts, and apparel! Their lightweight gis are perfect when traveling with only hand luggage.
Thanks to @frukthagens for all the acai I could ever dream of, as well as a lot of natural and healthy products!
Thanks to @gorillazupgrade for the support! Go-rillaz is an instructional platform where you can learn about mental training and physical preparation for jiu-jitsu. Right now, they’re having a 50% sale where 25% goes to supporting an academy through these corona crises!
Thanks to @nutraminonorge for supplying me with all the supplements I need as an athlete! I love their “indulge” protein bars and “heat” caffeine sportsdrinks!
Finally, thanks to @maggieleft for always making sure I have professional content to post on my social media!
Once again we are moved by someone’s personal story and I think we will be all be really inspired and motivated from Tarik’s story.
We are very fortunate to have these athletes/professionals give their personal accounts and be willing to share so much information with us. I think sometimes we have to remember how young some of these athletes are and how far they have come in such a short space of time.
Thank you Tarik and we wish you greatest success in the very near future and look forward to watching you achieve your dreams.
Stay tuned for the next mystery athlete/professional to speak with us…