George Birkadze: An Unlikely Fighter

Many martial artists, BJJ and jiu-jitsu practicioners have a day job.  Only a few make a living out of practicing their art. Meet George Birkadze, an avid martial artist who practices and teaches MMA fighting, grappling and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.  His day job is not what one can expect from such a tough BJJ guy.  George is a world famous ballet dancer, instructor and choreographer.  Martial arts helped him to survive tough teen years in Moscow where local bullies taunted him for being a dancer. Over the years this fighting hobby became something more—a life-long passion.

In a recent interview George opened up about his life in Georgia (a country in the Caucasus Region, former part of the Soviet Union).  As a young boy George started taking ballet lessons because he dreamed of traveling around the world.  In those years becoming a famous artist was the only way a USSR citizen would be allowed to travel anywhere outside of the Soviet Block.  When he was 15 years old, George received an invitation to study at prestigious Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia. While living in Moscow he encountered the bullies and started practicing Karate and Judo.  Around the same time he met and became friends with Feodor Emelyanenko, who later became one of the greatest MMA fighters in the world.

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[social][/social]At the age of 18 George was forced to interrupt his promising dancing career and enlist in the Soviet Army for a mandatory 2-year service.   He served in the Special Forces Division where he perfected his skills in all martial arts like jiu-jitsu used by the army at that time.  The young soldier especially liked Jiujitsu because in his words, it was a [bjj][/bjj]“smooth” way of disarming the attackers without getting too aggressive or violent.  His flexibility gained by being a dancer allowed him to escape the most complicated leg locks.  Surprisingly, George says that ballet is much tougher on the body than any of the martial arts disciplines he had ever encountered.  He says he never had a serious injury in any of the MMA fights, but ballet practice has caused him a lot of grief. Hours of daily dancing can play mean tricks on overused joints and a dancer never knows which body part would give out and when.

After his discharge from the Army, George returned to dancing at Moscow Bolshoi Theatre.  Later he joined the exclusive cast of Kremlin Ballet and traveled the world just as he dreamed in his childhood.  When the Soviet Union fell apart, George decided to leave Russia because of increased tensions between Russia and his home country, Georgia. He spent many years teaching choreography and dancing in Portugal, France and Spain. There he also found good friends and great trainers, like Robin Gracie, in local martial arts communities.

Currently George resides in US and works with Boston Ballet, Sarasota Ballet and Rhode Island Ballet.  He is a black belt in Kyokushinkai Karate, a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, two time medalist of South Bay Open competition and a Head Coach of MMA and Grappling at A.M.A.C. in Belmont, MA.  This incredible adventure started with a young boy dreaming an impossible dream.  Now he is living it.

Interview by Jeff Nolasco

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