A look behind the scenes with Chrissy Biehler VP of Ground Fighter Grappling Gear and how you can get yourself get yourself a Gi you can be proud of...
Hi Chrissy thanks for your time today, first things first, how and when did Ground Fighter get started?
We (Garrett and Chrissy Ford) founded Ground Fighter in 2009 in Dallas, TX. We’ve traveled all over the US growing this company and have lived in multiple states since we’ve started, but we’re now back in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We were tired of never having any grappling gear or apparel that matched our style and passion for the sport. That combined with a long conversation about how “if money was no object, what would you want to do” on a road trip from Texas to Oregon. From there ideas started rolling in, and we began making unique products that we loved. Thankfully lots of other people loved our style too. Generally Garrett is the creative one who has the product ideas and does most of the design work, whereas Chrissy handles the day-to-day business operations. We make a good team, and enjoy working our tails off to produce stellar grappling gear!
Tell us about Ground Fighter.
When we first started Ground Fighter, it seemed like everything had skulls and wings. So we wanted to offer people a completely different style. Even now with all the different brands out there, our style is still very unique. We love coming up with creative ideas, designing products with a minimalistic approach, and using bold colors to stand out. For example, take our “Kimura” or “Jiu Jitsu” shirt designs. They look clean and simple, but a lot of thought and creativity went into designing them. We usually include a blurb about the design process on each product page, like this: http://groundfighter.net/collections/shirts/products/ground-fighter-kimura-shirt-navy
We think that most people are drawn to Ground Fighter because of our name and style, but our customers keep coming back because of our high quality products and unbeatable customer service. Every product we release has been through intense testing to make sure it’s comfortable and durable. The very first pair of no gi shorts we released five years ago is still in the regular rotation of training gear in our house. And we hear a lot of people tell us that they bought one shirt and it quickly became their favorite tshirt in their closet, so they ended up buying several more.
We also feel that good customer service goes well beyond being personable, answering questions, and making sure our customers are generally happy with their products. We’re always trying to think up completely unexpected ways to thrill our followers. Everything from the buying experience with informative size charts, product info, and reviews, free shipping over $75, custom packaging, and extra goodies, on down to providing valuable BJJ content like training videos and nutrition tips and recipes via social media/newsletters. And we LOVE chatting with fellow BJJers--at gyms, tournaments, dive bars, or on social media. Connecting with our audience is our favorite part of running this company.
What obstacles did you come across when you first started out?
Finding manufacturers who could meet our high standards of quality wasn’t easy or cheap. Also finding the best way to reach our audience was tough. Back in 2009 the functions and features of social media wasn’t near the level it’s at now. We actually spent 3 years traveling around the country in a travel trailer going to gyms, tournaments, fights, etc. to grow the brand. It was definitely an adventure, and we got to meet a ton of awesome people.
What’s your most popular product?
Our “Shoot First” spats have been incredibly popular, as has our trademarked “Ready Set Roll” line of products. We are most proud of our new “Northern Lights” gi though. Word is spreading about the amazing design and quality, and we don’t doubt that it will be a key product for the Ground Fighter brand.
What items do you sell that people may not be aware of?
We just recently released our very first gi, so many people may not know us as a gi company yet. Also we carry kids gear. It’s hard to find good kids gear, so we think it’s important to provide high quality products for the future of the sport as well.
Do you have any exciting plans for new products coming up?
We’ve got lots of new designs and new products in the works--ranked rashguards, shorts, spats, hats, our second gi, etc. Sometimes we get so excited about a new product that we wish we could rush the release, but we know how important it is to make sure every little detail is perfect first.
Where do you get inspiration from in designing new products?
Inspirations come from anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes ideas come when we’re completely surrounded by BJJ--like obsessing over a new move, or a phrase someone says when rolling. Other times it happens when we’re the furthest from BJJ--like the way colors come together in nature when backpacking through the mountains, which is where the idea for our “Northern Lights” gi came from. We get cool ideas a lot faster than we can get them on products and released. More than once we’ve had to scrap an idea because by the time we were able to complete it, someone else had done something with a similar theme.
Do you ship internationally?
Yes, we ship to just about anywhere in the world, and we’re always working to reduce shipping costs. With international shipping costs vary depending on location, but the more you order the more you save on shipping. We also offer multiple shipping options to meet your needs.
Why should people support Ground Fighter?
Ultimately our goal is to grow the sport of Jiu Jitsu as much as can and however we can. We see a lot of other sports televised on ESPN, and there’s no reason why BJJ shouldn’t be too. So everything we do is in support of the sport. Jiu Jitsu is expensive with gym fees, tournament costs, travel expenses, etc., and we try to keep the cost of gear down while still providing the best quality so it will last a long time. We also have sales and contest giveaways frequently, and you can get 10% off when signing up for our newsletter. We provide womens and kids gear, and are always working to expand those products. We help support tournaments big and small, seminars, and also sponsor a number of athletes from all over. And we’re always using our passion and creativity to inspire newcomers to join the BJJ community. Even when traveling or on vacation, we’ll get friends, family and locals together to train. There’s nothing like a flow roll at 15,000 ft overlooking a glistening lake as your first introduction to Jiu Jitsu.
How did you get into Jiu-Jitsu?
I actually never thought of myself as very athletic growing up and spent most of my youth studying drama, choir, and other arts. It was until my second year at Arizona St that I got into BJJ. I had dabbled some in martial arts growing up--Karate, Akido, Judo, Boxing, and Muay Thai, but I never took anything seriously until I found Jiu-Jitsu. A friend of mine took me to a class at Charles Gracie Academy, and after getting tied into a knot for a few hours I knew I had to learn more. I’m a pretty small guy and found that I loved BJJ because I could hold my own against bigger guys if my technique was on point. I trained at Megaton’s for over 2 years while I was in AZ. I remember Mackenzie Dern making me look like a fool when she was an orange belt. I’ve trained at a lot of different gyms since then, but now that I’m back in TX, I train at Next Gen in Frisco, TX under Chris Brennan.
What social media sites are you on, and what are those addresses?
I met Joey, that is what I called him, when he started training at the Pedro Carvalho Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Rancho Cucamonga in 1996. I had already been training there a little over a year. He was very excited about learning Jiu-Jitsu. He was very dedicated and trained as often as he could. He would even have his girlfriend record him so he could play it back see his mistakes and then try and correct them during class. Back then and for many years, Pedro was the only BJJ Black Belt in the Inland Empire. If you lived in the IE and wanted to train BJJ, you trained with Pedro.
I was a purple belt teaching the Friday evening No-Gi class. This is where my bond with Joey started to really build. Because of his interest to do MMA, he would come to the Friday classes religiously. This was an old school BJJ gym so No-Gi classes regularly consisted of punch and kick defense to take downs and ground control with striking to set up the submission etc. It was a basic training ground for early MMA style fights. Joey loved it. There was nothing I could throw at him that he would ever complain about. No task was too difficult. He loved sparring guys bigger and better than him even if he would get smashed. It was just a challenge that he was determined to overcome.
One of those Friday night classes we had a visitor from Europe wanting to try BJJ. This guy was already an experienced kickboxer. We were practicing timing the kick to step in get the clinch and take your opponent down. This guy did not like the technique. He proceeded to tell me that if he was truly trying to kick, the power of his kick would prevent him from being taken down. I realized at that point that he was not there to learn BJJ but to test himself. So technique time was over now time to drill full speed. The drill consisted of one person acting as the kick boxer and the other the grappler. The kickboxer would try to kick his opponent while the grappler could only take the kickboxer down without using any strikes to set it up. So I put the visitor in the kickboxer role first and Joey as the grappler against him. I told the kickboxer to not hold back. Joey was preparing for MMA and he welcomed his attempts to kick him as hard as he could. By the way, this was without Joey's pre-approval. I told Joey what I instructed the kickboxer to do and he didn't bat an eye. They proceeded with the drill and needless to say, the kickboxer didn't get one kick off on Joey while Joey punished him with repeated takedowns. I was so proud watching Joey just turn it up and represent Jiu-Jitsu right at the spur of the moment with no hesitation. The kickboxer didn’t return.