We had the good fortune of connecting with Erik Klinger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erik, how does your business help the community?
My business started as a passion project in Los Angeles where I began teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to children and adults in the West L.A. and Santa Monica area. I called it Level Up because I wanted people to “level up” their life through positive mindset and confidence building skills, that would lead them to a holistic and optimal life experience. Eventually this grew into an idea of helping people in underprivileged areas around the world to do the same. I started by bringing uniforms, mats, and supplies to a student of mine who was teaching Jiu Jitsu to children in his village in a mountainous region in Guatemala. Eventually I expanded the idea of helping children to learn martial arts, Jiu Jitsu and life skills in other underprivileged countries as well. I then joined with several other Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructors across the United States to expand the vision. The project then grew into creating an international non-profit organization which helped us expand our mission across the globe. The organization is the International Jiu Jitsu Education Fund, commonly known as “i-jef”. Soon thereafter, I began helping the local community as well, by teaching teenagers in Inglewood at a high school for at risk youth. We now have projects for children in the Philippines, Cambodia, India, El Salvador, Ecuador, Brazil, and the U.S. The movement has expanded and we have been able to impact hundreds of children around the world.
What should our readers know about your business?
My business life started at an early age when I realized that you could make money while helping others, through something that you were passionate about. This started when I was teaching martial arts to children of professors at Stanford University, while I was just a teenager in high school. The parents were so happy with the results the kids were getting. They were becoming more focused and more disciplined through the training. I couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to do something I loved and that it was helping the kids so much. I figured if you could love what you were doing, help people along the way, and make enough money to live, then you had really figured out life.
This later expanded to entering college, continuing to teach martial arts and later traveling the world and learning new martial arts and skills along the way. I learned throughout my travels that there was no exact or correct method of doing anything. Everything amazing was beyond difficult and your mind had to be extremely open to knowing that you knew almost nothing at all. Once I understood this, it helped me to take in a lot of knowledge. No perfect method of teaching, no perfect method of martial arts, and no perfect method of business, existed. The best method was an open mind, great listening skills for learning what was out there, and patience to put it all together.
Later while fighting in the underground rings of Japan in Mixed Martial Arts for three years, I won and lost enough times to realize that I never truly knew it all. There was always more to learn. I later took these lessons to Brazil where I lived for almost four years and grew to love Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which taught me a lot about patience and leverage. Patience and leverage later helped me as I began to grow my financial advising and wealth management business as well. Navigating the markets during the day and teaching martial arts at night was not easy. Especially while expanding both. But I realized throughout it all that patience and leverage can help you arrive at your long term goals whether balancing the volatility in your portfolio, growing your mindset, or building an international organization.
These lessons have helped me become successful as a teacher, founder of an international non-profit, CEO of a global martial arts organization, business and personal coach, and licensed financial advisor managing assets across the country.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If I had a friend visiting from out of town I would definitely take them for a drive on PCH and finish up back back in Santa Monica to catch the sunset while enjoying an incredible meal at Meat on Ocean.
The next day we would have to grab some breakfast and coffee at Playa Provisions in Playa Del Rey and add a short walk on the beach to catch some rays.
We would have to visit Irori Sushi in Marina Del Rey for lunch and then at night a signature old fashioned at The Alley bar in Mar Vista (a little hard to find / speakeasy style).
Skateboarding and/or a bike ride on the Venice boardwalk would follow the next day and then a good rest and sunset again at my favorite lobster roll spot, The Pier House.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have been impacted by so many people throughout my life and career, and first and foremost I’d like to thank all of the various mentors and teachers that have helped me along the way. My farther, from the very beginning, taught me to follow my passions at an early age. Then came my first Karate teacher, Sensei Jay Castellano who taught me about discipline and focus, He also taught me about being loyal to my values. My second teacher, Sensei Toshihiro Oshiro taught me about being dedicated and obsessed with detail and growth, through consistent practice in the pursuit of perfection. There are truly too many people to list but while living in Japan I also trained with the famed teacher Sunabe-san who helped me to become a fierce competitor and who helped me push my limits passed where I believed they could go. Many other great mentors have influenced me throughout the years in so many ways and I am grateful to all of them, These four however were the biggest influences on some of my earliest memories of learning.
Instagram: @erikklinger @levelupjiujitsu @ijefund. @mugenmindset