Hard work, commitment, and sacrifice these are some of the ingredients of what it takes to become a world champion. Many aspiring athletes enter the sport with the idea of becoming the best not knowing the hard road that lies ahead for them to reach that pinnacle of greatness. In this interview BJJ World Champion Chris Visentin tells you about his road to becoming a world champion and what to expect in your quest to reach this goal.
Define Champion ?
Chris: A champion is someone who is willing to do things that 99% of people aren't willing to do. A champion has the desire that no matter what, he will do whatever it takes to win. When I won the Worlds, all the training prior to that was miserable, doing countless numbers of rounds of training, specific training, sprawls, and basically being so sore and beat up that jiu jitsu wasn't as fun as it used to be when it was just a hobby.
When you first started bjj, did you have goals of being a bjj champion ?
Chris: When I first started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu I had no goals of being a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu champion, frankly because I was more interested in MMA and No-Gi Jiu Jitsu and I wasn't very good at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. When I moved to New York City and started getting better at BJJ I decided I wanted to compete because I've always been a very competitive person. Once I started winning and believing in myself that's when I started setting my goals high.
When it comes to training, how much time must one put in to reach this status ?
Chris: I would try and train 6 days a week and 2-3 of those days should be two times a day. You should also try and do some sort of sport specific conditioning if you're able to. Also I must say when you go into training you must have a purpose. If I just go to class and "roll" it's a waste of time, I have to pick a specific move that I want to master. You must figure out counters to your opponents counters and perfect the move till you can do the move the move on someone without thinking about it. The more time you're able to drill moves the better you will be at them.
What about the mental aspect of training to be a champion ?
Chris: The best advice I can give anyone is to put yourself in the exact situations you will see in competition so you can be comfortable with them. The other thing I can say is believe in yourself and your game enough so that no matter what happens you know you will get out of any unfavorable positions and come out on top. I can recall many matches in which one of my coaches Lucas Lepri would shout out "Believe Chris! Believe!"
In your experience what are some of the sacrifices you have made toward reaching championship status ?
Chris: The sacrifices of training really hard when you don't want to, but the biggest sacrifice for me would be giving up food and partying. I love to eat all the foods that are awful for an athlete such as Taco Bell. I also always want to go out, party and have a great time.
What are some of the hurdles practitioners may go through while trying to reach this goal ?
Chris: You're going to lose in competition when you first start. I've lost numerous big and small tournaments before winning the world championships. You just have to learn from your losses and adjust your game to correct the mistakes you make. Also in jiu jitsu there are major peaks and valleys, some days you'll feel like you can beat anyone and other days you'll want to hand in your belt and go back to white belt.
Reaching this status yourself along with many other prestige, can you tell people what that feel like and what does it say about yourself ?
Chris: The feeling of winning a world championship is indescribable, it's like being on cloud nine. I think winning a world championship just says that I'm able to work hard and persevere through adversity whether it be mental or physical.
How important is focus & concentration ?
Chris: Focus and concentration are everything; whether it be regular training and focusing on the moves you want to perfect or in a competition in-between matches you can't be chatting it up with your friends and walking around. One mistake in any match could be the end of your day.
What about being disciplined ?
Chris: Discipline goes without saying you must have the proper training, diet and rest to succeed. I've made mistakes in the past with my diet before a competition and then been so dehydrated I was more worried about making weight then my first match. You'll either make these mistakes and learn the hard way or hopefully not make them at all.
How important is it to surrounded yourself with positive people ( who have your best interest when it comes to training?
Chris: I train at Alliance NYC and all of the coaches in there only want to see you do your best. Also the students there are great training partners who aren't there to just try and beat you up. You have to find a school that's like a family where everyone helps make each other better. I've been to other schools where people purposely try to beat you up or have big egos where they wouldn't show you a move to counter theirs and I would never train in an environment like that.
Finally do you have any advice for readers out there who chase this dream ?
Chris: The first step I would tell the person to do is find the best school in their area that is already proven with great competitors and coaches. Some schools are more for guys doing jiu jitsu as a hobby or for MMA purposes but if your goal is to be great at sport jiu jitsu find a school that focuses on that. The next step would be to figure out what type of jiu jitsu game you're going to play. If you wrestled or are good at judo then I'd focus on a top takedown/passing game or if you're flexible then maybe a guard game that suits your body type. Luckily for me Lucas Lepri who is one of my instructors is basically my height and weight so I can try my best to emulate his game. After you figure out the game that best suits you, I would learn the bread and butter sweeps/passes from that position and drill them till you drop. Once you start hitting these moves in class and feel super confident with them then enter as many tournaments as you can to get the competition experience.
Before we wrap up do you have any shout outs ?
Chris: I'd like to thank Lucas Lepri, Fabio Clemente, and Babs Olusanmokun for making my jiu jitsu what it is today and all the students at Alliance NYC for kicking my butt on a daily basis. I'd also like to thank my students at Queens MMA who help me become a better instructor and most of all my Parents for always being there for me even when I'm a pain.
Well that wraps things up. Thanks for your time Chris.
Chris: Thanks so much for the interview, I hope you guys enjoy it. If anyone has any sponsorship opportunities please contact me through Facebook (Chris Visentin) or my email address at firstname.lastname@example.org