You wouldn’t know it from the looks of him – not too tall, blonde, blue eyes, friendly face – but Daniël de Groot is a killer. That is to say, he is a killer when he is on a competition floor (and sometimes on a training floor, as well). Opponents who fail to tap the mat in time run the risk of limping for a few days afterwards, if they are lucky. If they are unlucky, they may suffer a badly bruised leg and be too injured to walk for weeks afterwards. Just last month De Groot absolutely destroyed a Belgian-Moroccan opponent from Molenbeek in an away match.
De Groot is one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitors in the Netherlands, and in his class (under 64kg, purple belt) he ranks among the best in Europe, as well. He normally trains at the Erasmus Sport Center on campus, but he is also a member of a club in the country where his sport originated, Brazil. He has already completed two three-month training camps there (which included matches in the Valhalla of the sport, the favelas). This summer he will go on a third training camp, which will last six months. First, however, he will have to complete his degree.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art featuring aspects of judo and wrestling; it mainly features fights in which the competitors are lying on the ground, and which generally consist of one seven-to-eight-minute round. “There’s nothing interesting about it to the average spectator. That’s possibly why there is not a lot of money in the sport.”
De Groot, who previously obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from EUR, got into the sport at age 16. “Prior to that, I only played Brazilian jiu-jitsu video games,” he says with a smile. “There are two aspects of the sport that really appeal to me. First, it’s always a man-to-man fight, a fight to the death, although you shouldn’t take the latter too literally – provided you tap the mat in time, that is. Secondly, it is an extremely technical sport in which every technique has its own solution. There is a lot to it.”
Best of Europe
He teaches EUR students three times a week, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They are physically demanding lessons involving a great deal of sparring, and many amateur enthusiasts will quit because it is also quite gruelling. “Generally, I can tell from the start who will end up quitting,” De Groot says. He is proud of a female pupil of his who is on her way to becoming one of the best fighters in the country.
De Groot is ambitious. “I wish to become the best Dutch competitor of all time in this sport, and I wish to be the best in Europe in my class,” he states emphatically. He says the fact that he does not weigh very much will not stop him from doing so, then shows me a video on his phone, which shows him performing a leg lock on a 130kg opponent and forcing him to surrender. As you do.