As a Peace Corps Volunteer, Bobby McMasters was assigned to teach health eduction in Burlacu, a small community (est. population ~2,250) in the southern part of the Republic of Moldova. Initially, Bobby had dreams of training Sambo and Judo in the former Soviet republic, and was dismayed that he wouldn't have the chance to do this in Burlacu. So he decided to form a BJJ team.
Thanks to countless numbers of generous folks across the world, Bobby and the Burlacu community were able to buy mats, and were sent gis by people who wanted to help out. Since the beginning of the initial program in January 2006, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu continues to spread across the country with, in addition to the Burlacu BJJ club, established teams in Leova and in Chisinau.
It's important to understand that all BJJ programs in Moldova are Moldovan initiated, Moldovan run and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Just another reason to have some pride.
Moldova is a small, landlocked country located between Romania and Ukraine. Most of Moldova's people live in rural communities and although they may work in their communities as teachers, doctors, mechanics, etc, most people also have farms and gardens at their homes that they live off of. They're very proud of their fresh produce, and it's really worth checking out if you're into good, fresh food.
Because of the relatively low salaries in Moldova, many of Moldova's population live and work abroad; the more popular destinations being Italy, Spain, Portugal or Moscow. As a result, it is not uncommon for children to have one or both parents in another country while they are looked after by grandparents or other relatives. These children tend to be most at-risk and the most in need of healthy alternatives like BJJ in part because Moldova consumes the most alcohol per capita in the world.
These children are also the future of the country.
All sob stories aside though, Moldovans are legendary worldwide for their hospitality. No matter who you are, you can be rest assured you won't leave anybody's house, event, or in some cases their office without having your belly fully stuffed and maybe (if you drink) just a little tipsy. If you ever have the rare occasion to have the pleasure of training with the Moldovans at one of their gyms, you won't be able to escape the uniquely Moldovan BJJ experience as well as the celebrity photo sessions with half the fighters. Moldovans love having visitors, learning new things and seeing new ways of looking at life. Since it's difficult for Moldovans to travel legally outside of the former Soviet Union, they can't wait for the world to come to them. Consider putting Moldova on the map as your next out-of-the-way tourist destination and come see it for yourself!
Robert "Bobby" McMasters began his love affair with Eastern Europe and combat sports as a pre-adolescent, having memorized all the lines of Rocky IV and doing "Rocky training", with his elementary school friend in Michigan's upper peninsula. It wasn't until his mid-20's when he was able to travel outside of the continental U.S. for the first time as U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer.
Bobby started his BJJ career as a wrestler. He wrestled at East Lansing High School under the tutelage of Don Behm, and later at Fork Union Military Academy. He continued wrestling at Wentworth Military Academy (a NJCAA div. III school) representing his team as team captain his sophomore year. He went on to wrestle at University of Central Missouri (formally Central Missouri State University, a NCAA div. II school) where he accumulated a perfect 0-6 losing record :).
After taking his senior year off from wrestling and graduating from UCM/CMSU, Bobby moved to Detroit, Michigan and looked for a wrestling club or high school team to get involved with. Since Detroit was surprisingly void of wrestling teams, Bobby found submission wrestling which eventually led to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Bobby trained with Saulo and Xande Ribeiro from 2004 to 2005 and during the summer of '05, he made the decision to commit to joining the Peace Corps in the Republic of Moldova.
After his service, Bobby moved to Norfolk, VA and trained with Gustavo Machado in Virginia Beach. Bobby received his blue belt in 2008 and after feeling relatively unfulfilled with life in the US, he decided to move to Romania and to renew his involvement in the development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the Republic of Moldova, which is located right next door to Romania.
Bobby currently lives with his wife, Amanda, in Bucharest. He works as an English teacher and trains at Agon Fighting Center.