Mark Doze comes clean

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Mark Doze is the owner of GB Sorrento Valley in San Diego and the youngest to open a GB school at 23. To look at this accomplished three stripe purple belt on the mats at his school, you see a very happy, kind, and compassionate instructor who takes the time to ensure his students’ experiences at GBSV and on their Jiu-Jitsu paths are running smoothly and to their satisfaction.

Mark Doze, owner of GB Sorrento Valley / Photos: James Law

Take off the gi and catch Doze at the beach and you think your eyes have deceived you…or have they? On or off the mats, Doze is that same put together, friendly, caring young man you know at the gym, but the package it comes in may surprise you. Doze is “tatted up” all over his body, except for his hands and his neck, “because I promised my mom I wouldn’t do that,” he says, and he hangs out with his modern day “Rat Pack,” Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Ryan Loco (Videographer), James Law (Photographer), and Ryan ‘”Ryrobb” Robinson (his GBSV partner) to name a few of the widely known guys in his MMA/Jiu-Jitsu-related circle.

Doze hails from a very wealthy family and grew up in the upscale, seaside town of Del Mar. Many think that he was raised with a silver spoon in his mouth and not a care in the world, but many would be wrong. He’s always played the game and just smiled at those comments, thinking, “You’d be half right, but the other half…dead wrong.” As the saying goes, looks are deceiving and you can’t judge a book by its cover – especially this book.

Doze was raised on religion and family. His father was a Jew from Poland. His grandparents suffered at the hands of the nazis during World War II and were separated by the concentration camps they had to live in. They lost two children to the war. When they were free, they moved their two remaining children to Israel, one of them Doze’s father. “My dad lived in a one-bedroom place with his family. They were so poor growing up, he and his brother shared an orange for dinner at night,” Doze says.

With the hardship of his childhood etched into his heart, his father moved to America when he was twenty four and met Doze’s mom in New York three years later. The two migrated to California and raised Doze and his sister, Arielle, there. They turned poverty into prosperity. To ensure that his children never had to grow up the way he did, his father immersed himself in work and became a very successful businessman.

“My dad drove up to L.A. for work every day,” Doze says, “He traveled a lot for business. I missed his presence. He tried to be there for everything, but when I’d get up, he’d be gone for work, and when I came home at night, he’d have dinner with us and then go to bed. He worked so hard to provide us with the life he thought we should have.”

Doze says his parents gave him and Arielle everything, and attached an important message to it. “Although we grew up in a million-dollar home, we were raised with the mentality of poor people,” he says, “We were taught to appreciate what we had and our family. My parents didn’t have anything growing up, so they taught us that family comes first.” They didn’t realize at the time how much that message would be put to the test in years to come.

Doze’s parents were raised Jewish but converted to Christianity. Doze’s mom is devoutly religious and immersed herself and her kids in the church. As a teenager, Doze rebelled against its restrictions. He didn’t want to go door to door testifying anymore. He wasn’t into it. In fact, he wasn’t into much except solace. “I never liked school,” he says, “I was an average student. I was into tattoos and an alternative lifestyle. I was motivated to skateboard, snowboard, and ride bikes. I never liked team sports. I was alone a lot.”

When Doze was fifteen, his sister, Arielle, to whom he’s very close, became desperately ill. “The doctors kept trying to figure out what was wrong with her but couldn’t,” he says, “When she was sixteen they told her she didn’t have long to live. Our house became a very negative place. I couldn’t handle it.” Doze lay on the floor with her every day watching TV. “She was bedridden,” he says, “She was so sick she couldn’t move. She couldn’t eat or drink anything. Her immune system was rundown. I took it really hard.”

To escape the pain that was beyond his control, Doze became destructive. “When I got my driver’s license at sixteen, I started doing stupid things,” he says. He began fighting and partying. Every weekend he came home with a black eye or a broken nose. He was angry that he couldn’t fix his sister’s illness or take away his parents’ pain. “I never went out and hurt others,” he says, “I never destroyed property. I just destroyed myself. I got into a lot of fights in high school. That’s how I got my name, Doze.” He says he was like a bulldozer – the little guy bulldozing the bigger guys, but when he got hurt, he controlled the pain.

Over the years, Arielle started getting better. She stopped taking her medications and started going to a holistic doctor who changed her life. However, Doze was still on the wrong course. “My parents just tried to make sure I was safe,” he says, “They did the best they could. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd, but I had found a place where everyone loved me, so, although it was destructive, I thought of them as my second family.” Doze was asked to leave two different high schools before graduating from the third.

Arielle got healthy and moved to Huntington Beach to become a nurse. Doze was eighteen and wanted to get out of the house after graduating from high school, so he moved in with her. “Instead of having a positive experience, I used it to further my misbehavior,” he says. He started hanging out with neighbors who were less than model citizens.

One day, Doze met former WEC Champion “Razor” Rob McCullough. Doze said he was a huge fan. McCullough invited him to come train at his academy. “I started training kickboxing with Rob and I was really good at it,” he says, “I trained for about a year.” While that was good, everything else fell apart. He started using steroids and bulking up at the gym. He failed out of college because he never went to class and was still partying too much. His parents finally came to get him and moved him back to Del Mar.

One day Doze began to feel really sick and fevered. His left hand became numb and he couldn’t stop rubbing his arm. “My whole left arm was white and my veins were throbbing,” he said, “I went to the ER and they did blood tests.” Doze lay in his hospital bed waiting for the doctor. He came in with an envelope. “He put it on my lap and said, ‘I’m not going to tell you to stop doing what you’re doing, but if you keep doing it, you won’t be here in a year.’ My liver enzymes were twelve times higher than they should have been.”

Doze said he just didn’t care. He was twenty years old and invincible. But then his sister got sick again and his parents moved up to Orange County to take care of her. He was left behind. This time, though, instead of falling apart, he pulled it together. “I registered in school and got a job,” Doze says, “I moved in with a roommate, Ryan Loco, who became my best friend.”

Mark Doze on the right

Salvation came to Doze in the form of Jiu-Jitsu. One day he stopped by GB Encinitas to try it. “I thought I was so big and strong,” he says, “I thought I’d get on the mats and smash everyone.” But Nelson Monteiro gave him a surprise. “First, I had to roll with (black belt and GB San Diego school owner) Dominic Parker,” he says, “Then this little Brazilian man, Nelson, climbed on me and said, ’get me off of you.’ He almost ripped my arm off – I used to bench press 400 pounds,” he laughs, “I signed up immediately.” Today, Doze knows the history of his friend, Nelson Monteiro, and is no longer surprised by his experience…

Doze watched his mentors on the mats and realized their lives were nothing like his. “In my life, I was always looking for somewhere to place my pain,” he says, “That’s what GB gave me: a place for my pain. This sport allowed me to see my weaknesses. It gave me the sight to see what was going on in my life and to feel it, not bury it. As soon as I decided to throw my heart and soul into Jiu-Jitsu, everything in my life changed for the better.”

Doze spent a lot of time training at GBE and talking to black belt and co-owner Rafael “Foca” Ramos. “I fell in love with him,” he jokes, “He’s so amazing. It was such a good place for me to be. Nelson and Rafael asked me to help out at the school. They knew I was having issues, but they never said anything. They just told me to keep training and working hard.”

Getting his purple belt was the hardest thing Doze has ever worked for in his life. “The day Nelson gave it to me, I thought, ‘I’m going to do this for the rest of my life and I’m going to be the best at it.’ Doze worked at GBE for a year, then Ramos suggested he open his own school. Doze took his advice, but was nervous the day GB Sorrento Valley opened. “I taught my first class at my new school on July 14, 2010,” he says, “Rafael gave me a smile, a head nod, and a wink and I knew I was going to be ok. I didn’t know I could do it on my own until then.” Doze says he couldn’t have made it without the support of his now healthy family and his GB team. He’s running with the right crowd. “Now they are my second family.”

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There are 25 comments for this article
  1. E. Spencer Kyte at 12:03 pm

    These are the kinds of stories that more people need to hear.

    Doze deserves a great deal of praise for opening up about his life and his struggles because not enough people are willing to put themselves out there like that so that others can truly learn from their mistakes.

    Your students are lucky to have you as their instructor, Doze… keep doing your thing and be proud! Congratulations on the success of GBSV too…

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  3. Nic at 12:20 pm

    Amazing story. I’ve met Mark a few times briefly and he’s good guy with a good head on his shoulders. I wish him and GBSV all the best. Many blessing, Doze!

  4. Bob at 12:21 pm

    Nice story…Doze is a young guy with a bright future. He is passionate about what he does and has obviously realized the value of impacting people’s lives in a positive way.

  5. Michael R at 1:28 pm

    In the little time, I’ve known Mark he has always been one of the nicest guys I’ve known. He would do anything for anyone interested in GB and try to get them on the mats for practice.

  6. Flavia Santos at 2:16 pm

    I really like this article. People sometimes try to hide their truth. I admire Mark for sharing his experience and for his achievements. He is young, but wise! Keep the good work Mark.

  7. Arielle (Sissy) at 5:09 pm

    I am so incredibly proud of the man you have become and how much you fought to get here. I too am who I am today because of you! You not only loved me but you fought me when I was giving up on myself and taught me to fight me to get where I want to be…. and WE (you and I) WON!! Everyday I learn that I can love deeper than I ever thought was humanly possible. Thank you for that precious gift….

  8. m. beezy at 5:31 pm

    Paul Barbosa USED to be my favorite GB guy. After this article, Mark is No. 1-9, Paul is No.10. Good luck Mark. Much success!

  9. Aussie Tim at 12:21 pm

    Great article on a great person. As a student as GBSV, I am proud to be part of his team and it comes down to the leadership, encouragement and passion that comes from Doze (and Ryan!)…

  10. Janell at 8:56 pm

    Great inspirational story of a person that exemplifies a lot of heart. Family is always first, and Mark is an important part of the Bursztyn family as well as the GB family.

  11. Flori M at 7:12 pm

    Amazing story. Mark Doze is the greatest person ive met. I have been training with Mark and Ryan since they opened their academy, and what can i say. they are just great coaches and friends. i am very happy for you guys and i wish you the best!

  12. Heidi Heller at 12:55 pm

    This article was so inspirational. Mark is a wonderful role model and I wish him all the best in his endeavors. We love you Mark!!!

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