book review: The Cauliflower Chronicles

The Cauliflower Chronicles by Marshal D. Carper. Picture from

In addition to a solid library of best-selling instructional manuals, Victory Belt has expanded their publishing to include more non-fiction works, like Marshal D. Carper’s The Cauliflower Chronicles…a grappler’s tale of self-discovery and island living, a book which I thoroughly enjoyed.


When Marshal D. Carper broke up with his girlfriend of four years, his true love pulled him through: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He packed his white belt and moved from rural Pennsylvania to Hilo, Hawaii to train at the BJ Penn MMA Academy, home of UFC Welterweight Champion and Lightweight Champion BJ Penn.

The Cauliflower Chronicles follows Carper’s adventures and misadventures, both on the mat and around the island. He quickly learns that Hawaii is not the carefree paradise advertised in brochures and finds himself feeling like a foreigner in his own country. On the mat, he experiences Hawaiian fight culture from the inside, goes head to head with BJ Penn, and struggles to overcome injuries. Off the mat, he explores the Hawaiian Independence movement and the effects of colonization, battles with giant cockroaches and centipedes, meets a myriad of colorful locals, and travels the island in the bed of the Red Baron, a rusted 1986 Mazda pick-up.

At times sad, shocking, and laugh out-loud funny, The Cauliflower Chronicles is a must-read for both sports fans and travel buffs, showing a side of mixed martial arts and of Hawaii not available anywhere else.

Chronicles details Carper’s journey to Hawaii fueled by a love for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a desire to train with BJ Penn.  The book details all aspects of his personal life, his travels from Pennsylvania to Hawaii, his experiences with Hawaiian culture, the intense training at the BJ Penn MMA Academy, all while he tried to further his education and writing abilities.

Throughout the book, Carper highlights his travels around Hawaii, race issues that he confronted, friendships he built while there, the issue of Hawaiian independence, and of course, the training at the academy.  He writes about his extensive interactions with other BJJ practitioners and fighters training at the gym, and the experience of watching BJ Penn fight Joe Stevenson on a UFC pay-per-view from the very academy where BJ prepared for the fight.  Carper describes the opportunity he had to interview Penn for an article he wrote for Ultimate Grappling (now Ultimate MMA), and detailed the one time he was able to roll with Penn before Carper left Hawaii to return to Pennsylvania.

For those expecting a detailed account of someone who trained day in and day out with BJ Penn, this is not the book you’re looking for.  However, that should not take anything from Chronicles as it is an excellent read.  Carper did not go to BJ Penn’s academy a decorated black belt, not even close.   He had some grappling experience prior to his trip to Hawaii but, with white belt in hand (or around his waist, as it were), quickly realized he was not in the same league as even the white belts that attended classes there.  Carper’s tone is honest and straightforward as he talks about the high and low points of his trip, adjusting to a new lifestyle while there, the transition to his “normal” life once he returned to Pennsylvania, and even the cauliflower ears he started to acquire while training in Hilo.

Although this book is obviously different from the vast Victory Belt’s prior releases, I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the sport of MMA, BJJ, a BJ Penn fan, and the list could go on.

To purchase the book, visit

For more information on Carper, visit his blog on, or check out his website, For more information on current and upcoming Victory Belt releases, head over to

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