Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fundamentals for the Win!

This weeks blog is by Thales Blaso Black Belt, Mike Velotta.

-Keith Owen

I was sitting here thinking about all the amazing things I’ve learned over the last 20 years. I have to admit that some things have not lasted in my memory as well as others have; some things were not as effective for me, or my body type or my style, and fell by the wayside. In learning and evolving your own technique and style, you are constantly making little tweaks here and there, constantly changing your level of understanding of the original technique until you can make it flow seamlessly into your own personal form.

I have noticed, however, a sad trend in many of the Jiu Jitsu schools that have cropped up over the last decade and a half. I see a lot of BJJ Academy’s that let the current flavor of the month technique dictate the curriculum that is being taught. I get it that some things are very trendy and come around in cycles. I get that some things really revolutionize the sport of Jiu Jitsu. I don’t have an issue with that. The issue that I have comes from the quality and depth of the training that people are getting now, or better phrased, that people are NOT getting.

Three years ago I started teaching at my local BJJ academy. I love teaching and training my students. And I am honored when there are high level guys that keep coming back to train. It shows that the “always be a student” mentality still exists. One guy in particular stood out, because he was a First Degree Black Belt. 

What stood out was the fact that at the end of almost every class he would say something like “Wow, I’ve never seen that technique before,” or “Hey, I’ve never seen anyone teach that technique like that, your details are really great…” Being complimented wasn’t the problem, it was the fact that when he was complimenting me, it was usually after I had taught a Fundamental technique. It was usually something as simple as how to maintain posture, or how to break your opponent down in your guard using your legs, or how to use your feet as if they were hands while playing open guard, things that every student should be learning as a White and Blue belt in Jiu -Jitsu. And before you suggest it, No, he wasn’t one of these infamous “Fake Black Belts” in recent YouTube videos. He was a legit Black Belt under a legit lineage.

I had the distinct privilege recently to go over to London and train at the Roger Gracie Academy. While there, I met and learned from Roger’s father, Mauricio Gomes. The conversation we had while on the mats revolved around this very issue. Are the technique’s that we learned 10-20 years ago old and outdated? Or should they still be considered the fundamentals that we build our entire base of jiu jitsu knowledge on? In my opinion, you can’t build a stable house without solid Foundations.

Mike Velotta started learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 1998 under Chris Brennen and Roger Brooking at Next Generation MMA. Mike joined the United States Army in 1999 and was stationed in Germany for a few years where he continued his Jiu Jitsu and Judo training under Dave Celise. When Mike returned to the U.S. he moved several more times, and trained under several prestigious BJJ instructors such as Mauricio “Tinguinha” Mariano of TBJJ, Tony Smith of Lotus Club (Renton), and Finnie McMahon of McMahon BJJ (a Renzo Gracie affiliate). Mike has also trained under the 10thPlanet Jiu Jitsu system and attended many seminars given by Eddie Bravo. It is Mike’s passion to have a well-rounded style which encompasses many of the fundamentals of grappling. Mike received his Black Belt under Thales Blaso on March 14, 2015. Mike has competed in Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Sambo, and Submission Grappling tournaments since early 2001 and continues to compete to this day.
On November 18th, Mike and his two top instructors opened the doors to Foundations BJJ Academy, in Madison Wisconsin.
2014 US Grappling Submission Only: Chicago – 3rd place Brown Belt Division
2012 Fight to Win: Colorado State Championships – 2nd place No-Gi Advanced Division
2012 Fight to Win: Colorado Open – 3rd place Men’s No-Gi Advanced Division
2011 US Grappling Submission Only: Greensboro NC – 2nd place Men’s 30+ No-Gi Advanced
2009 US Grappling Dominion Championships 3 – 2nd place 30+ Men’s Advanced Division
2008 US Grappling Grapple-Mania: NC – 1st place 30+ Men’s Advanced Division
2002 Ultimate Grappling Challenge 3: – 2nd place Open European Championships
2001 Ultimate Grappling Challenge 2: 1st place Men’s Advanced No-Gi Division