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Updated: May 31

Stefan Kocev is an entrepreneur, a published photographer and black belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner. With artists and pioneers in his family heritage, he turned his experience in overcoming addiction to a life of service and being a beacon for success. His passion for martial arts informs his approach to life and enriches the essence of his interactions.

Where is your family from?

My dad escaped from Communist Bulgaria and came to this country not knowing how to speak English.

What is the significance of that heritage in terms of something you carry with you to this day?

Bulgarian heritage was my strongest cultural influence growing up, you can trace our family back to Mongol tribes. My dad always instilled in me the importance of staying grateful and to not judge because I could easily be walking in someone else’s shoes. My mom’s side of the family is French and German, she was a ballet dancer and my grandmother was an opera singer. My grandfather was a writer. My mom’s brothers and sisters were all artists so I grew up with an immense amount of exposure to the arts and different mediums, it was very central to our family. A significant theme from both sides of my family was to always pursue what you’re passionate about and forget about money — that success will come as a result of following your heart and your passions.

Through all that you have experienced, with substance abuse and addiction, what would you say was the one thing that brought you forward the most?

Photo by Stefan Kocev (Kauan, Rickson and Kaulin Gracie - Rio De Janiero

People… it’s people helping people. Always, it’s finding the “we” in everything. Addiction is so isolating; I couldn’t break free on my own. I didn’t know the way out of the dark. I have had people to guide me in everything. I can’t do life on my own, just like I can’t do Jiu Jitsu on my own either. Life is about relationship, with myself and the world around me. I feel if I’m not connected and helping people, I’m missing the point.


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