The Team


John Smallios – Black Belt

An avid Rocky Balboa fan as a kid, John has been into the combat sports since he could remember. After learning about the UFC, John immediately found his local BJJ academy and got into training.

It was love at first sight. This romance has led John to travel, and train, and compete all around the world, living, and learning with the gentle art.

Things got very interesting when a competition gold medal came with a permanently damaged shoulder. A lengthy recovery process allowed for plenty of time to ponder the intentions, and methods of this beloved art.

They say ‘when the student is ready the master appears’. Soon after the injury John met Steve Maxwell who shared with him many secrets of Jiu jitsu for a lifetime. And then another chance encounter with Phillip Grapsas and Master Pedro Sauer left John enlightened and inspired to pursue the Gentle Art as a lifestyle.

John has learned by experience that the way of forceful effort is neither smart nor sustainable. Quality is now the priority. On and off the mats. As a coach, he is now committed to sharing this philosophy with like minded people at Higher Jiu Jitsu.

Off the mats, John is a dad of 3 kids, loves to work out, read books, and when not training and coaching you can find him hanging out with the family and watching the UFC.

Matty Voger Mason – ‘Panza’ – Brown Belt

Also an original student of SPMA Concord, Matty has been training jiu jitsu for over a decade. He started training in the martial art as an uncoordinated, overweight teen and with commitment and hard work has developed his skills into a legendary coach and student at Higher.

In 2022 Matty has taken the plunge and is now a full time employee with Higher Jiu Jitsu. You will see him at Sydenham and Woolloomooloo, and you will love taking classes with him!

Off the mats Matty loves keeping fit, and then gaming, & chilling out on his beloved couch.

Daniel Willmot – ‘Big Red’ – Purple Belt

Coach Danny is the perfect example of the transformative nature of jiu jitsu. With the lessons of the gentle art, Danny has slowly but surely moulded from a day 1 white belt without little confidence or direction, to a jiu jitsu brown belt extraordinaire.

His eye for detail is remarkable, and his thirst for knowledge insatiable. After about 5 years of training, the progress has poured on the mats, and also off them too.

After numerous years working in as a sound technician for a big company, Danny is making the slow transition to a life in health and jiu jitsu with the goal of helping everyday people build quality of life, the Higher way.

When not on the mats, you can find Danny working out, and resting before his next jiu jitsu session. Danny is an asset to this school, our students, we love having him around and I’m certain that you will too.

AJ Bhardwaj

AJ started doing Jiu Jitsu after injuries stopped him playing full time rugby. What started as a competitive drive to do another sport has slowly transformed over the last 6 years into the love for the art of Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Off the mats, AJ is a dad to a beautiful daughter and manages a physiotherapy clinic. When not training, you can catch him reading fictional novels and hanging out with his family.



Lead Coach Phil Grapsas is a highly qualified black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  And it is his knowledge of self defence that truly defines him as an expert. The focus of Phil’s Leverage Jiu Jitsu Academy is to ‘get you home alive’ hence an emphasis on practical techniques which can be used in real life situations.

Phil is the Professor Pedro Sauer’s second black belt in Australia. He regularly comes down to guide our practice of Higher Jiu Jitsu. We’re lucky to have him as our coach down under.


Professor Pedro Sauer earned his Black Belt from Helio and Rickson Gracie in 1985, after years of training at the famous Gracie Humaitá Academy in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In 1990, he left a thriving career in law to relocate in Utah and spread the message of jiu jitsu. There he taught as one of only two non-Gracie black belts. His teaching is second to none. He has been named the “Best of the Best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor” by the ADCC.

He leads by example. With the most refined understanding of technique, and a humble appreciation of the philosophy behind our art, the Professor continues to inspire the Pedro Sauer Association and the entire jiu jitsu community.