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April 16, 2024

Easton Black Belt + MD Vassily Eliopoulos: How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything

Tatyana Grechina

Easton Black Belt + MD Vassily Eliopoulos: How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything

One of the best parts about Easton’s culture is how so many different types of people come together on the mat, the great equalizer. We have everyone from high school and college students to comedians, neurosurgeons and doctors sparring together. 

Vassily Eliopoulos

One of these doctors is Vassily Eliopoulos, an Easton Black Belt and co-founder of Rocky Mountain Regenerative Medicine, a Boulder-based medical clinic he shares with Doctor Koshal Latifzai specializing in non-traditional treatments and therapies like Stem Cell Therapy, PRP Injections, Hormone Therapy, Ozone Therapy, NAD+ and Peptides. 

If you’ve been with Easton for a while, you may know him as Doctor Vass. He joined Easton in 2014, but originally Vass got into martial arts in med school while looking for a place to wrestle. 

Having wrestled through high school and college, Vass missed the intuitive connection and physical release training gave his body and mind. He joined the New York Athletic Club and began to compete in USA Wrestling competitions while training with the New York Athletic Club Team.

Unfortunately, while coming in to work the day after wrestling rounds with a fat lip and a black eye didn’t seem that unusual for a wrestler, Vass’s mentor at the time, a doctor with a Madison Ave practice, noted that it might not be the best look for a medical student in a clinic. 

“He pulled me aside,” recounts Vass, “and said, ‘I know you’re a wrestler, I know – but the clientele thinks you’ve been in a bar fight. It’s your choice but you need to be aware people are going to judge you when you show up like that.”

Coming full circle

Soon after that conversation, Vass stopped wrestling and picked up rock climbing, which eventually brought him out to Boulder, Colorado.

Vass with his son, Theo.

However, when having kids meant he could no longer chase adventure for days on multi-pitch climbs, Vass had to find something new. With the stress of work at the ER, he missed the physical aspect of grappling. 

When he discovered that Easton offered a wrestling class, he signed up and the instructor quickly noted Vass had wrestled before; he suggested Vass try Jiu Jitsu. Vass was instantly hooked. 

Like wrestling, his body picked up BJJ easily. Balancing the mind’s noise once more with the body’s flow, moving through feelings, the sport helped Vass manage anxiety and not internalize stress from work.

Vass wins the IBJJF Denver Open No GI at Black Belt, 2023.

Back in familiar territory, Vass fell right in and began competing, with wins starting at White belt level, including a local Fight2Win tournament where he won White Belt of the Year, Masters and the regular adult level. His continued to win IBJJF Worlds at both White belt and Blue belt levels.

Today, Doctor Vass holds a Black Belt in Jiu Jitsu. Along with winning the IBJJF Denver Open in Gi at Purple belt, he also took the IBJJF Denver Open No Gi at Black Belt – all in Masters divisions.

“The mats – I do it because I love it,” says Vass. “I train hard. I like training hard – I enjoy the flow state that comes with that, the ability to relieve and release emotional and physical tension. 

I work as hard at my medical practice as I do on the mats. How you do one thing is how you do everything.”

After Vass went to PANS as a White belt and got submitted during his second match, he became determined to win the next big tournament he entered. 

Later that year, as a White belt at Worlds, he won. Vass continued to compete just as actively at Blue Belt level. At one point, competing in the Abu Dhabi Qualifiers (which meant getting flown to Abudabi if you won) he took 2nd, but later won Worlds at Blue Belt.

[The Competition Ambition]

Winning IBJJF Worlds 2017 at Blue Belt.

Growing a[nother] practice

Of course, what we want to know is how Doctor Vass managed to do all of this training and competing while growing a family and a medical practice. Remember – at the time, when he began training with Easton, he was still working as an ER doctor.

Since he was a kid, Vass had always known he wanted to do something that helps people and something that could provide him with financial stability. Medicine always seemed like the answer to that overlap. It was his new community, however, that helped him believe in the drive to do medicine his way. 

“I probably would’ve opened my own practice either way,” says Vass, “but Easton definitely helped play a role in giving me the confidence to just sort of say, screw the system, I’m sick and tired of my job at the ER. I need to do something else.”

At the time, Vass felt angry and trapped in medicine. He’d gotten into it for the right reasons and had spent half his life getting educated to be there, but ended up feeling like a cog in a huge system. He knew he needed to make it work, but he also knew the system was broken, and that many doctors – and patients – around could feel it.

Vass and Amal kayaking.

One of the biggest proponents of following his dream was our own namesake, Amal Easton. Many people who immerse themselves in the Jiu Jitsu community preach about following your passion and believe in doing what you love – something that has meaning and purpose to you.

“They say, if you’re not doing something you love doing everyday,” Vass says, “don’t do it. I thought, I hate going to work in the ER and it’s not because I don’t want to help people, but it’s everything around it that I hate.”

Vass tells us that the supportive, positive and uplifting the community at Easton encouraged him to live life his way – from the mats to everything else, it was all the same thing. They believed in him. Eventually, RMRM’s first stem cell procedures would be done on volunteers from Easton, testing injections into joints and harvesting new techniques. 

But at the time, the risk was scary, given that he’d take a pay cut of half of what he was making in the ER – especially managing a small business, which he was never trained in, having taken no business or finance classes. 

Vass’s purpose, he shares with us, has always been to cultivate a good environment to take care of his family. He knew he wanted a work environment with people he respected and who he enjoyed.

He finally had the confidence behind the conviction that was always there for him: he needed to do something that wasn’t just nose-to-the-grindstone to earn a paycheck; he wanted something that had a broader impact on the community and really the world around him.

Doctor Vass processing Stem Cells.

Despite the risks, the criticism of his colleagues in traditional medicine, and the countless mistakes made along the way, Rocky Mountain Regenerative Medicine was founded in 2017. Vass can now truly say he’s doing what he loves, which, as he puts it, is priceless.

Doctor Vass and Doctor Koshal.

Leaving the world of conventional medicine behind, taking its best and adding to it along the way has enabled Vass, along with his partner Koshal, to help people work proactively to optimize their health and longevity.

None of the therapies RMRM offers are utilized in traditional medicine, with doctors still not being trained in them. But they work, Vass tells us, you just have to leave the system. He’s traveled all over the world seeking out mentors and learning from them – a time before you could find almost anything at a conference.

As Easton has continued to grow alongside RMRM over the years, we’re honored to have them be our sponsors for the last Easton Open Spring 2024. Part of having members of our beloved mat family sweat, work and learn together means sharing ideas beyond just technique.

The struggle brings us all together, and no matter what we’re battling in life, time spent in the trenches makes us stronger, wiser and more connected to each other. We can’t help but grow.

The RMRM team.

We value all of the knowledge that Dr. Vass, and our many other brilliant students, bring to Easton’s mats. Our community is truly the heart and soul of the academy, and the way that each thread weaves itself into its fabric and ripples out continues to inspire and drive us!

Beating Monday: Relentless Forward Progress, ft. Jason Antin


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