Going the Extra Mile
Many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academies strive to build character in their younger students in class, but ETC Centennial likes to go the extra mile. Literally. Professor Vellore Caballero and his team have found that venturing outside the gym with the members of their kids’ class isn’t just fun — it’s invaluable to their students both as individuals and a team.
The kids have often traveled to compete at events like Kumites, Fight to Win Pro, and Battles of the Ages. This most recent adventure was designed with both camping and training in mind. They ventured out to Petaluma, California, just north of San Francisco to spend some time out in the woods.
Their proximity to San Jose also gave them the chance to visit Caio Terra’s academy and train at Oakland’s Guardian Gym, which gives inner city kids the opportunity to train for free. Training in different atmospheres with different people is helps the kids grow as athletes. Beyond that, there are plenty of other benefits to reap from their travels. “I like the kids to see all of these different schools and how they are run. What their mission is,” says Caballero. “The kids also get to meet other kids and get their network started.”
Bonding and Learning
The kids also got to pay a visit to San Francisco and the Muir Woods, where they saw the famous redwood trees. It was a lot of traveling, and while not everyone would be able to handle the stress that comes with bouncing around so much with so many youngsters, Caballero loves it and sees it as an opportunity to get to know the students better. “The kids always have a great time, and the amount of bonding that goes on is priceless. I get to know the kids on a deeper level, and the same for them. When we are together for a week like that, you really get to know one another. Who’s grumpy in the morning? Who doesn’t eat breakfast? …Whose feet stink,” he adds with a laugh.
This is far from the first trip Caballero and the kids have taken together, though. He says they try to do a few trips each year in addition to all their competition travel. One such trip involved participating in the Alabama Build-Vention, which is run by Keenan Cornelius’ father, Tom Callos. “Rather than put on some flashy, “buy a bunch of stuff”-type of convention, he brought people together from all different martial arts to raise money and do stuff for this small community in Alabama,” says Caballero of the event. “While there, we slept on cots and ate simple food. But we had presenters and got great information on running successful schools too, so it was cool.”
Training on the Road
The time, money, and effort spent on traveling for competition hasn’t all been for nothing, either. The ETC Centennial kids are cleaning up at both the local and big-time circuits. The teens won second place at Nationals in Las Vegas, coming behind only Atos. The academy has also competed at Worlds multiple times, and a few of the kids have won gold more than once there. Once, they even got fourth place overall, with only some of the biggest schools like Alliance and Gracie Barra beating them out.
Just because they’re having fun doesn’t mean the kids aren’t working hard, though. Caballero describes a training trip that involved visiting Atos HQ and stopping at Dean Lister’s academy for a week: “I would put them through a morning workout, then we’d hang at the beach all day, then train in early evening. It was awesome,” he says. “The kids bond so much though these experiences and the ones I’ve taken on the trips are all still involved…minus one or two here and there.”
An Essential Component
Now that he’s started taking the kids on these adventures, Caballero considers them a crucial part of the kids’ program. “I can’t be thankful enough that we’ve started to make the trips a regular thing because it’s necessary to have depth with the kids. Some of them forego other sports and activities to do Jiu Jitsu, so I feel that it is important to provide the same opportunity that they have in other club sports. In almost all of them, there is travel as an option,” he says. “Most Jiu Jitsu schools don’t do that with their kids though. They don’t travel and then unless they live in California, they only have a couple of tournaments a year they can do. We pack it up and head out for more opportunity. This, along with the fun nature of the trips, keeps them fired up and excited about Jiu Jitsu.”