Hi Professor Savarese, thanks for taking the time to talk with us about your school and your programs. To start, can you tell us some background about yourself? How old are you, where are you from, and when did you start training?
I am 46 years young, grew up in Lodi NJ and started training in 1996.
How did you first get started with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Like most guys who started when I did, it all started with Royce Gracie and the UFC. I always had wanted to try Martial Arts and use to work with a WWF wrestler named Johnny Rodz. He first told me about these guys from Brazil who were supposed to be the best. Then I saw the UFC and saw Royce and went to a seminar in Atlantic City with Chuck Norris and the Gracies. Then I met David Adiv, who was a purple belt under Royler at the time and started to train with him.
I know you have had some success competing at BJJ tournaments in the past. Can you tell us about some of your accomplishments and experiences?
I won a bunch of tournaments. I won the NYC Grappling Challenge, Grapplers Quest a couple of times but had a little more success in NAGA. I also won the Tri State Ground Control Classic, Yamasaki Tournament, the USGA tourn and a couple of more. I had my up and downs competing. I remember being up 16-0 in the finals of the 1st NYC Grappling Challenge and getting heelhooked. Yes, times were different then, heelhooks were allowed in white belt divisions. I didn't have a lot of success at blue belt competing, I think I won only 2 tourns as a blue belt but went on a nice run at purple belt after I started training at Renzo Gracie's Academy in NYC. I won 5 tournaments in a row and then got a bad injury, I tore my ACL, PCL and LCL and that put me out over 2 years.
Who has been your biggest influence in BJJ? Would you change anything about how you came up in BJJ?
I wouldn't change anything because I believe everything you accomplish or don't leads you to where you are today. Had I not suffered some of the setbacks I did, maybe I wouldn't be as mentally strong as I am now. For my influeneces, man there are so many. I used to watch Rickson Gracie videos endlessly, I watched alot of Saulo Ribeiro in competition as well. But I'd have to say Dave Adiv, Royler and Renzo Gracie gave me the tools that I teach everyday. Renzo really taught me a lot, I learned so much from him. I still look at notes I took while training with him. Since blackbelt, where the art opens up to you in a whole new way, I'd say Rafael Lovato Jr and John Danaher have had the biggest influences on what I am doing now.
If you could make any match between any two BJJ blackbelts in history who would you pick? Why?
Wow, very tough question. I'm going to cheat and give 3. I would love to see a submission only, no time limit Roger Gracie vs Buchecha match when Roger is 100%, Cobrinha vs Rafael Mendes until someone taps and I'd love to see Xande Ribeiro vs Rodolfo Vieira in a no time limit, submission only match as well. There ya go Metamoris, set it up!!
What do you think about the development of BJJ? Many people think sport jiu jitsu has drifted too far way from the origins of BJJ with emphasis on points and advantages over submissions. What are your thoughts on that?
Great question! Ok, where do I start. I hate advantages, I think all advantages should be wiped out. They are too subjective. BJJ is the only sport where people get points for "almost" stuff. I would keep all the points the same as they were created and give the most rewards to dominant positions that would help you in a fight or self-defense situation like mount, back and side mount. I really like the submission only format. I know that there isn't enough time to do an event or World Championship like that but for single matches, I like submission only a lot better. I'd make all leglocks legal at black belt. Knee reaping should be allowed as it is proper techniques on a lot of leg submissions, it makes it harder to escape. I do believe that the current BJJ tournament style has gotten too far away from the origin of the art. I like my BJJ to be able to transition to MMA or self-defense. BUT, it is up to us as instructors to teach that there is a fine line. I will teach berimbolos at my school because I have guys who do compete and need to know that style and defenses and escapes to compete. But they know if they try that in MMA or a street situation, you can get hurt. I think some BJJ practitioner will find a way for many of the newer moves to transition over in MMA at some point but if not, hey, the art has some great new sweeps to build upon. I like that the art keeps evolving, even if it is only on the sport side. One problem I do see though is I see too many guys practicing this style at white and blue belt. I am against that. There are many other things you should be working on before that stuff. Build your foundation first!!
How long have you been running your own academy? Can you tell us a little bit about the team and the BJJ programs you offer at the academy?
My Academy is open a little over 7 years now. We have quite a big team now. We start people going through a 16 week program that I designed myself before they are allowed to train in a BJJ class. We have had so much success w/ it that many of my friends that are school owners are using it now as well. It makes sure you establish a proper foundation and limits the amount of guys teaching themselves w/ junk they learned on youtube.
How did you get involved with the Rafael Lovato Association? How often do you see him? Do you train with him?
I have know Rafael for years. We met through Jeff Glover and Bill Cooper who used to come and stay w/ me when they competed on the East Coast. Rafael came w/ them one time and the 3 of us we up all night exchanging moves on my living room floor. They all would come in a couple of times a year and we'd train. Recently, I had broken off from the team I was w/, Gracie Humaita. It was a business decision, not personal, no bad feelings either way and I wasn't affiliated with anyone. Rafael was at my school doing a seminar and asked me to join his organization. He thought between the 2 of us, we could expand his brand on the East Coast and he made my school the headquarters for Lovato BJJ on the East Coast. I see him 4-5 times a year and we train. I don't know if you'd call it training for me as much as defending and escaping :-) but it's great. He is one of the top guys in the world now. Our style of passing is very similar so I love it. If Rafael or any of his students have any tournaments or fights on the east Coast, he sends the guys out by me and I put together training sessions w/ my best guys and some East Coast black belts that I train or have trained with. There has been some killer training sessions at our Academy with some very high level guys training with each other.
You have a number of BJJ students some of whom have been successful in competition. Can you tell about some of your most active students that we should keep an eye on?
We have some guys that are starting to rip it up but actually our Masters and Seniors had the best year this year. We had a bunch of champs in IBJJF tournaments and at the No-Gi Pan. For the young guys, I'd say look out for Brian Procel, he has a big breakthrough coming up, Jeff Rodrigues, who is going to be a star and a new student named Dan Rinaldi, the little brother of ADCC Trials winner and 2009 ADCC runner-up Gerry Rinaldi. Dan will be following in his footsteps for sure. He is good enough to be in ADCC right now. He was a starter for the Rutgers Wrestling Team and is picking things up faster than any student I ever had. He is a future ADCC competitor for sure.
What advice would you give someone who is looking to get started with BJJ or any martial art?
First, do your research! Train w/ the best instructor you can, they will take you to your limits. Train under someone who is going to push you past your limits. Do not leave a good Academy because of it's price. the best things in life cost money! When checking out an Academy for the first time, watch the upperbelts in the room, if they are respectful, the instructor is probably very good and it's a good training environment. If not, maybe the instructor isn't doing his job. Once you find a place, keep a notebook in the beginning as there is so much to be learned. Be patient! The beginning of anything is difficult. Most importantly, don't quit! How do you know what you can achieve if you quit? Listen to your instructor and follow the program. Strive for progress, not perfection. Your time will come, all the highest ranking guys in your Academy has been where you are at some point.
Thanks again to Professor Savarese for taking the time to talk with us. If you would like more information on Savarese Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Academy, contact information is below:
Professor Chris Savarese
Savarese Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy
40 Park Ave (Back Building) Lyndhurst, NJ 07071