Passion, Respect, and Discipline with Michael Angelista

Meet Michael Angelista. Michael is 41 years old, lives in Zwolle, is married, and has two children. During the day, Michael works at Rapid Circle as a Client Consultant, but in the evenings, he runs nothing less than his own Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu dojo. Are you ready to meet our martial arts champion?

Let’s start from the beginning. How did you end up in your role as a client consultant?

“I started as a system administrator. I come from a technical background and had been in that field for about 16 years. Willem Jonkers, a colleague of ours and a good friend of mine, started asking if I wanted to work with him. At first, I said no, I’m good where I am. But eventually, I gave in, and we started looking for a role for me within Rapid Circle. That’s when the role of Client Consultant emerged. I am a people person. I love being around people, talking, and doing things. The technical field didn’t offer that much. It still took me about a year before I took the leap, but that’s how I ended up here. So, I transitioned from a technical role to a consultant.”

And how did you become interested in MMA? What attracted you to the sport?

“As a little boy, I wasn’t really into ball sports. Most boys play soccer or tennis, but I didn’t find any of that appealing. So, at a young age, I started with judo and then transitioned to karate. I was around six years old at that time. I did both sports simultaneously for a few years. During that period, I won many tournaments and received awards, but I felt it was becoming a bit too tame. That’s when I switched to kickboxing and eventually moved on to MMA. I sort of stumbled into it because I couldn’t do much else but work with my body and my strength.”

Is there a fight that has stayed with you? Maybe one that you won?

“Yes, my second-to-last fight. It was in Dublin, and I fought in front of about 10,000 people. It was amazing because I was fighting against someone from there. It was a highly charged fight and a tough match. We had three rounds, and I vividly remember both of us covered in blood in the final round. Eventually, the entire audience started chanting my name. I won the fight, and that moment will stay with me forever. It was truly unique.”

Are you happy with your victories?

“Yes, definitely. I can be very proud of them. I’ve fought a total of 27 fights, out of which I won 20. I had to travel a lot for my fights, so I also enjoyed it and got to see a lot of the world. The only downside is the cauliflower ears I ended up with. Due to the many blows, my ears became deformed. I often notice people looking at my ears during conversations. I’m well aware that it’s an unsightly thing on my head, but combat sports aren’t always pretty. My cauliflower ears come with the territory, and they’re part of me.”

What about the less successful fights?

There was a fight in Scotland that has stuck with me as well. The opponent was very well trained, and he won within a few minutes. That’s something I still struggle with to this day. In the world of combat sports, you have peaks and valleys. The peaks are very high, but the valleys can be very deep. In team sports, for example, you can vent your frustrations on your teammates, but in these sports, you can’t. You have to do it yourself, and if something doesn’t go well, you feel disappointed in yourself. And that can be quite depressing, especially when you’ve been training hard for seven to eight weeks. You give it your all and don’t see your family much. You’re just training, training, training. And then, in a fight, you think, ‘Okay, you’re prepared,’ and you lose within a minute. Well, it can’t get much worse. It was truly a hellish experience for me.”

What have you learned from that?

“I’ve done many fights and lost a lot of them. At times, you look at yourself in the mirror and wonder, ‘Why am I doing this? What am I doing wrong? Why am I losing again?’ It’s also a form of self-reflection. In this world, it has a lot to do with who you are as a person and what you do. I also have a full-time job as a Client Consultant. I have a family and two children. I’m very busy, and the guys I fight against don’t have those responsibilities. They’re also much younger, and they have a completely different mindset. The emptier your mind is, the better you perform. Perhaps that’s something I can’t compete with anymore.”

“I often say that three years ago, the mango seeds were planted. And now, I’m enjoying the mangoes, the mango tree.”

Michael Angelista, Client Consultant at Rapid Circle

What do you get from MMA that you can’t get in your role as a client consultant?

“I think it allows me to channel the pent-up anger that I might not be able to express at work. That’s also why, through the sport itself, I can maintain my peace of mind. Currently, MMA is in the past for me, and I’m fully focused on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ. It’s a more relaxed sport. It can be aggressive, but I see it more as an art form. You’re wrestling with each other, but at the same time, you’re constantly adapting to each other. You react continuously, and it’s a different game every time. It also changes the way I perceive things, and unconsciously, I apply that to my work as a consultant.”

And now you have your own dojo. What inspired you to open it?

“It has always been my ambition to open my own gym. Three years ago, I finally made the choice, together with two of my ‘brothers’ whom I knew from training, to open a dojo in Zwolle. In the beginning, we did it to have more training opportunities and prepare for fights. We had some mats in a small room and started with around 15 people. It turned out to be very successful, and we quickly grew from 15 to 150 members. The youngest person currently training with us is 7 years old, and the oldest is 63. That’s the beauty of it. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is for everyone, young or old, girl or boy. Everyone is welcome. It has now become an official Chamber of Commerce (KVK) dojo, where we focus entirely on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which is quite unique in the Netherlands. We’re trying to bring attention to this somewhat overlooked aspect of martial arts. Our goal is to make Zwolle the capital of Jiu-Jitsu. I often say that three years ago, the mango seeds were planted. And now, I’m enjoying the mangoes, the mango tree.”

Has the dojo changed your way of thinking or living?

“Absolutely! And in a positive way. It’s where my passion and love lie, and that allows me to function well at Rapid Circle. When I want to clear my mind after a busy workday, I have a place to go where I can do something different. BJJ is a form of therapy. It truly works on a therapeutic basis. You can release yourself in a fun way. You learn, but at the same time, you deal with any demons or issues bothering you. You can express yourself in a fun and sportive way, and that’s very comforting.”

What principles can I find in your dojo that you instill in your students?

“Respect. That’s really at the top. I attach great importance to it. I convey it to them by talking about it a lot, but also by punishing the lack of it. For example, if someone doesn’t want to listen, they can be sidelined or asked to leave. We don’t laugh at each other, and if someone is slower than you, you help them. We also make sure to build people’s self-confidence. We have many guys training with us who have very little self-confidence, but they have roles in their daily lives where they need it. Through the training, you can see them holding their heads higher, walking straighter, and throwing their shoulders back. It’s a great example of how we try to create a safe place. Everyone can just be themselves, and we try to help everyone.”

Is there a reason why respect is so important to you?

“Many people might not understand why respect is so important to me unless they are involved in the world of martial arts. You get respect from me, but you also have to earn it. I’m quite black and white about that. It’s likely something I learned during my childhood. I had to fend for myself from a young age and was essentially left to my own devices. That toughened me up. During that time, I had to survive on the streets for about a year and a half to two years. So, I know what it’s like to sleep in a shelter for one guilder a night. Despite it not being a pleasant period, it shaped me into who I am. I learned that you always have to work hard for things and that nothing comes easily. That’s also something I pass on to my students in the dojo. The harder you work, the greater the rewards. You could say that’s my motto in life. I always go for gold because silver is not an option. As long as you aim for gold, you can hardly fail.”

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Wilco Turnhout

Chief Commercial Officer