Coach Mattie Leto grew up in the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York. His parents passed away when he was young, and he was adopted by his aunt and grandmother at age 11. They lived in a low income neighborhood in New Jersey, right outside NYC. Mattie learned very quickly that he was going to have to fight and stand up for himself. He started wrestling at the age of 5, and continued to wrestle throughout high school. He began training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2000 while he attended Chiropractic school in South Carolina.
Mattie was interested in moving to Colorado, but after finishing school, he decided instead to move back to New York to live with and care for his aunt, who had been diagnosed with dementia. While living in New York, he first trained under Professor Marcos Santos, who emphasized to Mattie that, “the real purpose of Jiu Jitsu is community and friendship.” This idea really resonated with him, and Mattie made a commitment to himself to do everything possible to give back to BJJ. In 2010, Professor Marcello Garcia bought Professor Santos’ academy. Mattie trained under him for the next four years, and is now a brown belt under Professor Garcia.
In 2014, Mattie made the move to Boulder with his girlfriend Ami and their dog Nala. He began training at Easton almost exactly a year ago, and is now the newest addition to the Boulder coaching staff. Mattie has been coaching since he was a blue belt, and over the years, has developed a holistic philosophy about sharing his knowledge and passion:
“When I choose to teach, I set my intention not only to convey cutting edge technique, but also to teach them what Marcos Santos taught me about BJJ, which is friendship and community. This is the greatest lesson that I can teach. To see your training partners and fellow competitors as the most important parts of your training. To really see the value beyond winning, losing, medals, etc. I love competition but there are also many other, even better things about Jiu Jitsu.
Each student will have a different set of gifts that contribute to the Academy. The most important thing is that they are encouraged in the positivity of it all. If they can forget a bit about themselves and their worries, and start caring for the welfare of others in the Academy, thatʼs a real Jiu Jitsu lesson. If they can leave each class feeling that they learned even a little bit, Iʼm happy. But, if they leave each class knowing that someone is looking out for them, and that the Academy exists to help them and support them, then Iʼm really, really happy. All training in the martial arts is about surrendering the lower, petty aspects of ourselves through humility. At least, that has been my experience.”