Elliott Bayev plans to change the world. Big dream? Maybe. Impossible? Not even close.
Bayev is a champion competitor, the founder of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts gym OpenMat, and has launched two successful initiatives to help stop gender-based violence.
You don’t achieve that kind of success by thinking small.
As a young kid growing up in North Toronto, Bayev started taking Tae Kwon Do lessons but was frustrated by his martial arts experience. When a friend introduced him to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, it changed everything.
“Being a smaller kid, any time I would spar with someone bigger, it felt like nothing I was learning worked. And within a month of training jiu-jitsu, I was making 250-pound bodybuilders submit,” says Bayev.
Bayev trained regularly in the sport from his teen years into his early twenties. Then, at around age 24, he started learning about social justice issues, particularly the plight of violence against women, and he had a lightbulb moment.
“The secret to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, what makes it such a powerful martial art, is the idea of positioning. From a good position, things are easy, from a bad position, things are hard,” says Bayev.
Bayev realized quickly that he could use his position of being a Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion with a background in marketing to start his own gym. He could create positive change by empowering women through martial arts.
So he started kimonogirl, a women-only jiu-jitsu gym. This experience set him up to start OpenMat, and with OpenMat he created Fight Like A Girl, a free monthly women’s self-defence workshop, and Fight Like a Man, a school workshop to inspire young men and boys to reframe their perception of masculinity to help end violence against women.
For Bayev, there is always a bigger picture, a bigger goal than the immediate. OpenMat is more than a martial arts school for him – it’s the catalyst for social change.
He doesn’t limit himself by what he thinks is feasible or practical. He lets his dreams get as big as possible and works like hell to make sure they become reality.
“Dreaming I would say is the big thing. Dreaming for me is a big part of success,” says Bayev.
Every December, he does what he calls ‘dreamscaping,’ where he maps out every area of his life using paper and permanent markers and sets goals – from fitness, to relationships, to business.
“The first thing you see when you walk in is ‘believe in yourself.’ This really is a dream materialized,” says Bayev, about OpenMat gym.
But he’s not finished yet. He has plans to publish a book, and make free self-defense classes accessible to all women in the world by 2030. Bayev doesn’t just dream big, he dreams global.
His advice to dreamers everywhere?
“Ask yourself: if you had all the time, all the money and support in the world, what would you do? That tends to be something in line with your purpose. Then articulate your vision as finely as you can and ensure that you’re in a position to actualize it. And surround yourself with people who are pushing you in that direction, rather than holding you back.”
Bayev speaking on small business as a vehicle for social change at “OpenHeart Dialogues,” a quarterly talk series he hosts at OpenMat.
Image Credit: YouTube