Patrick Bittan : « It has never happened before ! »

BJJ : Netflix came to film at the Bittan Academy

Netflix Patrick Bittan

The American movie maker Amar Singh Kaleka, a 2 times Emmy Awards winner, chose the Bittan Academy to host one episode of his documentary series produced by Netflix, « BJJ for Change ».

A proud and an acknowledgment for French pioneer Patrick Bittan, one the 1st BJJ black belt in Europe. For the occasion, he organized a big 4 days seminar with great champions such as Roberto Drysdale and Braulio Estima. Great Master Flavio Behring, 9th Dan also appeared. An unforgettable event !


By Ludovic Mauchien


When he was a teenager, he dreamt of becoming a BJJ black belt. He left France and went to live one year in the US, to train under the guidance of Mister Rickson Gracie himself. In 1999, he was the 1st Frenchman and one of the 1st European to get the precious sesame. He received it from Flavio Behring, a former Helio Gracie student.

As a black belt, he dreamt of being acknowledged by the BJJ family. He was twice vice-world champion (2003 and 2005) and, by then, the 1st Frenchman to win a medal in the black belt category.

Since, he has been working all-around to develop his art. Today, Patrick Bittan is a 4th Dan. His academy has some schools in many different countries. And, in France alone, he has more than 1000 students.

From October 19th to 22nd, he hosted in his lair the Indian American movie maker, Amar Singh Kaleka, 2 times Emmy awarded for « Jacob’s Turn » in 2010 and « Esperanza » in 2014. He came directly from Los Angles with his team to film one episode of the documentary series produced by Netflix, « BJJ for Change » (the world).


« An achievement of my life »

The Parisian stage is one of the ten scheduled throughout the planet. The same concept will be applied for each of them : 3 well-known experts/champions give a seminar. For the occasion, Roberto Drysdale, Braulio Estima and… Patrick Bittan were concerned, with, as a special guest, Flavio Behring.

On the program : intensive classes, a visit to GIGN, the French SWAP (where Patrick Bittan used to work for more than 10 years), trainings on the roof of a boat navigating on the Seine River throughout Paris, and then, on the Trocadero forecourt… and champagne on Champs-Elysees ! Some unforgettable moments !


It’s awesome to host a Netflix production at the Bittan Academy. How did that happen ?

Last year, I was invited with Rodolfo Vieira, Cyborg and Abraham Marte to participate to a big seminar in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. Amar Singh Kaleka, an American movie director, was there with his team to film the 1st episode of « BJJ for Change », which will be broadcast on Netflix. We just clicked.

2 months after, Amar contacted to offer me a proposal. He wanted to film in my Academy, in Paris because he lad liked my performance there. He considered that I was representative of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu developments, of the way we could change throughout BJJ. We studied the project wand we succeeded in making it ! It’s like an achievement of my life.


« Estima-Behring, an incredible meeting »

It was the opportunity to have 2 big stars of BJJ, Braulio Estima and Robert Drysdale, in seminar in France. It was quite cool, wasn’t it !…

Concerning this documentary series, the production has chosen a coachs’ team around the world. They had selected around 15 experts, Braulio Estima, Cyborg, Rodolfo Vieira, Robert Drysdale, myself… I am the only Frenchman to appear in this list. I think I am also the only European. I am very proud of this.

In each episode, 3 coaches are supposed to participate. In Paris it was decided that it would be Braulio Estima, Robert Drysdale and myself. Moreover, I invited my master, Flavio Behring, to come half a day. He is the one who awarded me my black belt in 2001. The meeting between Braulio Estima and Master Flavio Behring was incredible !


Why ?

Nowadays, the old and the new Jiu Jitsu have been strongly competing. The old one, it’s Rickson Gracie who shows us self defense techniques, who demonstrates that Jiu Jitsu is an art created for self defense. Today, in championships, you see youngsters making more flying techniques which have nothing to do with self defense.

Flavio Behring, who is one of the 1st Helio Gracie’s black belt, showed us the original idea of his teacher : a Jiu Jitsu made for self defense. He showed us some upright techniques. And Braulio followed up by showing us the way those were used nowadays. He demonstrated the Jiu Jitsu developments. It was an incredible meeting and discussion !


« GIGN, boat on the Seine River… »

Have you ever met Braulio Estima before ?

We know each other since 1999. At that time, I was fighting under Rickson Gracie’s flag. I belonged, with Christian Derval, at the Rickson Gracie Academy. We represented it in France.

I was living in Los Angeles. I was fighting for Rickson’s team. He sent me, with some 30 other fighters, to fight in Miami, at the Panamerican Games. I won 5 rounds and I lost in the ½ final. In final, I would have fought against… Braulio Estima, who finally won the competition. We both were on the same podium. It was fun to meet again for this film. It’s even incredible !


You set the bar very high to host Netflix : filming on the Seine River, on the Champs Elysees, at the Trocadero, visit to the GIGN…

I will quote the director’s words, who told me : « I think what we made is too early for France”. I asked him why. He answered : “People don’t realize what we are doing. We are already in the future ».

Thus, it had to be magnificent. It’s a documentary for Netflix ! Moreover, we represented France. Netflix is the n°1 now. In the States, they have overcome HBO.

The production wanted several things. To make such a documentary is almost like making a Hollywood movie. We had to show Paris. We had to live some unique, extraordinary highlights. The question wasn’t how many people would we get in seminar. We had to refuse participants. Because we had to be between 22 and 34 maximum for the film.


« Adidas did really play the game »

Did you have some sponsors ?

Yes, of course. Adidas among others. They did really play the game. They told us that they wanted to be part of this story. They understood the stake of it. They understood it was an incredible event. It has never happened before ! They offered a kimono to each participant on the 1st day.