David Meyer is a jiu-jitsu pioneer in the United States. A black belt under Rigan Machado (1996), Meyer became part of the well known BJJ Dirty Dozen – the first 12 non-Brazilian natives to achieve the rank of black belt in this martial art, while being also the first American to medal in the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (IBJJF) World Championship (1998). David Meyer is also a strong advocate for plant-based diets in combat sports through his Fuel For The Fighter project, an endeavor heavily supported by several plant-based mixed martial arts fighters such as Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, and James Wilks. Outside the world of combat sports Meyer is also the founder of the Adopt A Pet – North America’s largest non-profit pet adoption website.
David Meyer Jiu-Jitsu
Full Name: David Meyer
- 1st Place IBJJF Pan Championship (2004 M3, 2011 M4)
- 1st Place IBJJF World Championship NoGi (2009** / 2010** / 2011 M4, 2016 / 2017 M5, 2019* M6)
- 1st Place IBJJF Masters and Seniors International Tournament (2007 M4)
- 1st Place IBJJF American Nationals (2009 M4)
- 1st Place Copa Pacifica Championship (2000)
- 1st Place Joe Moreira V Championship (1997)
- 1st Place JJWL World Championship (2015 M4)
- 1st Place BJJT American Cup (2012 M4, 2017 M5 / 2019* M3)
- 1st Place BJJT US Open (2009 / 2010 / 2016 M4, 2018 M3)
- 2nd Place IBJJF Pan Championship (2005 M3)
- 2nd Place IBJJF Masters and Seniors International Tournament (2012 M4)
- 2nd Place JJWL World Championship (2018 M3)
- 2nd Place BJJT US Open (2011 / 2016 M4, 2018 M3)
- 2nd Place BJJT American Cup (2013 / 2015 / 2015 M4, 2018** M2)
- 3rd Place IBJJF World Championship (1998)
- 3rd Place IBJJF World Championship NoGi (2018* / 2019 M6)
- 3rd Place IBJJF Pan Championship (2005* M3)
- 3rd Place IBJJF American Nationals (2004* M3)
Favorite Position/Technique: N/A
Weight Division: Peso Médio (82,30 kg / 181.5 lbs)
Team/Association: Machado JJ
David Meyer Biography
David Meyer was born in October 1962, in Los Angeles, California, United States.
From a very young age, Meyer felt drawn to martial arts, kickstarting his combat sporting life at the age of 6 with a modern form of Japanese jiu-jitsu (also known as ju-jutsu). At the time David’s brother was being bullied at school and his parents believed learning a form of self-defense would be a valid confidence booster for the two brothers. Influenced by their cousin, who was a black belt under Sensei Jack Seki, a well-known ju-jutsu instructor in the LA area, David joined Seki’s workgroup.
DAVID MEYER, JAPANESE JU-JUTSU
Throughout his formative years, David trained ju-jutsu diligently, earning his black belt at the age of 16, going on to reach 3 degrees on his black belt rank, all of which were officiated by Sensei Seki and his student, Sensei Skip Koepke. In the meantime, during high-school, Meyer added kung fu with Sifu Douglas Wong to his weekly activities.
In 1980, Meyer attended college at UCLA (1980-1985) where he joined a Danzan Ryu jiu-jitsu school – a combat style developed by Professor Henry Okazaki in Hawaii. Given David’s vast experience with a similar martial art, he was asked to take a position as an instructor during his time with the university. Throughout this process, Meyer became an honorary black belt in Danzan Ryu jiu-jitsu under Master Wally Jay.
In the summer of 1984, the Summer Olympics came to Los Angeles which meant many of the region’s sporting premises were rented out to the many teams participating in the event. One of those was Meyer’s own UCLA facility. In looking for a mat to rent for the Summer, David ended up leasing a time slot in a new aikido school – Tenshin Dojo. The owner of the dojo was none other than Steven Segal, who had not yet broken out as an actor at the time.
David taught at the Tenshin Dojo up until 1985, taking a gap year after he finished college. Upon his return to normality, Meyer re-joined ju-jutsu as an instructor in LA, while also adding Thai boxing to his sporting activities.
DAVID MEYER AMERICAN JIU-JITSU PIONEER
In 1991, one of David’s students mentioned he was cross-training in a different ju-jutsu style, with a Brazilian instructor, referencing how high the level of training was at this school. A big fan of martial arts, Meyer decided to follow his student and participate in one of these classes to ascertain what was different in this “new” Brazilian method.
The gym praised by David’s student was the recently opened Rigan Machado school, although due to unforeseen circumstances, he did not meet the head coach during his trip to the Machados. Instead, his introduction to BJJ would be undertaken by then purple belt John Will. Although of a lower rank, John’s level impressed Meyer enough to warrant a return.
After rolling with both John Will and later Rigan Machado over the course of two weeks, Meyer decided to do a deep dive into this style of combat, closing his own martial arts workgroup, to pursue this goal.
Meyer’s climb through the ranks of jiu-jitsu under the Machados guidance (Rigan, John, Carlos, Jean Jaques, and Roger Machado) was quite fast for the time, but completely understandable given David’s extensive martial arts background. Meyer would be promoted to black belt in under 6 years at a ceremony led by Rigan Machado in December 1996.
In 1998, at the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, David Meyer became the first American to ever medal in this all-important event, the gold standard of BJJ, at the black belt level. It is likely that Meyer also became the first non-Brazilian to ever medal in this division at the Mundial, though there is some debate whether that honor belongs to Nikos Bahlzetis (1996), who was likely a Swiss national, though that information seems to have been lost in time.
Although one of the most well-regarded black belts in American history, David never opted to open his own school, referencing that he “did not want to turn the thing I love into the thing I ‘have to’ do.” Meyer explained to BJJ Heroes in an interview on May 2020. Instead, he opted to focus on his other passion in life, animal welfare.
While working on a range of animal-welfare related endeavors, Meyer launched the BJJ America website, and a BJJ curriculum video developed in partnership with his fellow Dirty Dozen member John Will, which was sold to martial arts academies around the world for many years, prior to the global BJJ boom. This curriculum was an important tool in developing awareness for jiu-jitsu in places where this sport/martial art had not yet reached.
DAVID MEYER VEGANISM & ANIMAL WELFARE
Outside his many grappling achievements, David Meyer is also a champion figure in the animal rights world. Meyer explained the reasons for this altruistic life choice in the aforementioned BJJ Heroes interview of May 2020, where he described his journey starting when he was introduced to vegetarianism:
“I first heard of being vegetarian when I was in college at UCLA around 1981. I always loved animals but didn’t really think it was possible to never eat them. Then I took a year abroad in Israel with my girlfriend in 1985 and she wanted to become vegetarian. I joined her since it would be easier being far away from my home, away from my friends, and away from McDonald’s and other places I used to eat meat at.”
His initial goal of becoming vegetarian proved to be less demanding than first thought and by 1993 Meyer saw no reason not to try veganism: “For me, the reason was always about animal suffering. I believe that if I can not only survive, but even be healthier without eating any animal products, then I should do that.” Meyer explained. “Sure I would miss some of the great tastes, but I have other great tasting foods, and my desire for a nice taste did not, in my mind, warrant causing great suffering and death to hundreds of animals a year.”
The path of veganism drove Meyer down the healthy diet route, which resulted in overall improvements in his performance as a jiu-jitsu athlete. The information gathered along the years led Meyer to launch the Smarter Diet platform as well as the Fuel For The Fighter test (check link here) to help raise awareness to the benefits of a plant-based diet, a project heavily supported by several other plant-based combat sports athletes such as Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Mac Danzig, James Wilks, and Matt Wiman.
David’s passion for animal welfare was also the propeller behind one of Meyer’s greatest achievements off the mats, the Adopt A Pet charity (link to the website here), which became Meyer’s main occupation.
David Meyer The Smarter Diet / Fuel For The Fighter Intro