If you’re on Instagram, you may be familiar with Swedish hardcore punk icon Alexander Hagman, but there’s a good chance your familiarity with him is due to his short grappling instructionals rather than his chops as the long-time singer of Raised Fist.
Hagman, a brown belt under Rener and Ryron Gracie, has been singing for Raised Fist since its formation in 1993. I first became aware of Hagman’s connection to Raised Fist when I saw a highlight video featuring their snappy song “Friends and Traitors.”
Raised Fist released their seventh studio album “Anthems” today, so I chatted with Hagman about his experience as a musician jiujiteiro.
“I started martial arts when I was young,” says Hagman. “My first real passion was Muay Thai, and this led to numerous trips to Thailand. I also became the head instructor in Nordic Fighters, a Muay Thai club that later merged with a shootfighting club.”
“I learned some grappling as we were now an MMA club. But I became a grappling fanatic and started training every day for several hours until I became the main grappling instructor as well. When I learned grappling, I noticed the lack of structured learning, and always felt I learned so much but never controlled my learning, and felt like my knowledge was a lot of pieces here and there without any strong connection.”
“I knew I had to find a system that was 1. shaped for MMA, and 2. more systematic. This led me to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. They had it all, jiu-jitsu with striking opponents, and a strict system curriculum up. I tried it and was crazy about it. Rest is history. Now I run the first Gracie University CTC in Scandinavia and I’m a brown belt under Rener and Ryron Gracie.”
“I have competed in different smaller competitions, but my biggest achievements must have been NAGA tournaments where I, for example, took silver in the Expert division at the European championship. I was purple and lost to points to a very experienced black belt, who two months later also won the World Championship. So without saying I’m a full-scale ninja, I have been in some wars and managed well.”
In addition to his success in jiu-jitsu, he has also achieved great things in the musical world. “Raised Fist is my band, and we formed when we were young kids in the 90s. We have toured all over the world, and even been Grammy-nominated in Sweden. We are currently on Epitaph Records (LA/USA) and are releasing a new album on November 15. We are set for a European tour in November/December and it 95 percent sold out on all dates…”
As a proud member of Gracie Academy, one would expect Hagman to have a focus on gi training and self-defense, but his social media shows a no-gi competitive jiu-jitsu enthusiast.
“I have trained a lot of no-gi grappling within and outside Gracie curriculum. That is how I started. But over the last seven years, I’ve been focusing extremely hard on advancing in the GU curriculum. I’m one of the fastest students to ever go from white to BBS4 (the 4 big chunks of Gracie Curriculum ca 600 techniques) Gracie jiu-jitsu works fabulously in a sport environment. You just need to adjust your training for the level of competition you are aiming towards (e.g. Ryron vs Galvao at Metamoris). Gracie jiu-jitsu starts with learning of jiu-jitsu techniques that work best against unskilled opponents in a typical street fight assault scenario, but later on, after blue belt, the technique delta enters the full-scale jiu-jitsu vs jiu-jitsu river.”
Hagman’s career as a musician naturally has effects on his training schedule and his ability to train. I always find it fascinating to learn about the training lives and habits of touring musicians. How do they roll? What is their focus? And how do they stay safe?
“I like to train and hold seminars when I travel and tour. But its pretty exhausting playing live every night with my band. We don’t go easy on stage, just tearing off crazy hardcore shows late night. As you know, we are always injured. This is supposed to be the Gentle Art, and yes, it might look gentle. But every grappler out there knows this martial art is hard. Let me quote Conor McGregor: ‘Jiu-jitsu is not designed to hurt you. It is designed to kill you. It is a mad game.'”
“I go frequently to LA to train. This is where I level up the most. The atmosphere, the knowledge. I always roll with lighter weight partners. This limits injuries from heavy clashes. Also, lighter people tend to be a bit faster, which gives your brain a real challenge. You get the best of many things. You increase speed, your brain has to work faster, and you avoid some injuries. So I choose the savage lightweights to keep me on my toes safely.”
Hagman’s fans are now divided into two subgroups, though of course, some are fans of his music and his jiu-jitsu. “People recognize me for different reasons, some for my jiu-jitsu videos and some for Raised Fist. Or some for both, as with the Instagram account owner Rubber Guard Assassins who lives in Berlin now but saw me perform when he was living in Australia. He said ‘hi’ at a NAGA event in Holland. It’s a small world.
Since I started pushing some techniques, my Instagram blew up. I now have 80% jiu-jitsu practitioners waiting for content and 20% music fans. I had 5,000 followers until I started posting my techniques. Shortly after, I hit 30k with the majority being jiu-jitsu practitioners.”
Hagman doesn’t plan on slowing down either in competition or in his music career.
“We are probably touring the US next year, so I’m really looking forward to it. I was aiming towards ADCC Europe this year, but got a bad neck injury with a herniated disk that is still healing up. So maybe NAGA Worlds next year. I really love NAGA as I can compete against black belts being a brown myself, plus the top of weight class is coincidentally the weight I’m always at. I love leglocks, which is my weapon of choice, so that ruleset must also be in line with the comp I choose.”
Jiu-jitsu changes different people differently, I was interested to learn about how Hagman’s life has been positively affected by his training.
“Man, when I started, everyone was talking about this to the extent I thought it was just a cliche. But when I started, my life changed dramatically. All of a sudden, I was implementing jiu-jitsu leverage-based solutions to everything in life. From how I put my seatbelt on, to how I cut cheese. Now at brown belt, I’m even deeper into this mentally. I believe the mindset to always find a solution with some leverage to it, turns you into that person. You become an expert in finding solutions, keeping calm in stressful situations, both physically and mentally. Jiu-jitsu practitioners become masters in efficiency, control, and patience.”
Hagman’s final words for our discussion are of appreciation and gratitude: “Shout out to my fam in the ‘Jiu-Jitsu Illuminati’ and of course eternal respect to late Grandmaster Helio Gracie and his family for giving us jiu-jitsu.”
You can pick up Raised Fist’s latest release at www.epitaph.com or check it out on Spotify.