By Jeff “Breakout Scout” Sasser, Contributing Writer
MISSOURI CITY, TX, December 28, 2012 – As a small boy in Peru growing up playing soccer and swimming who’d only know his early true interests would come in the stables, a young Renan Chavez lived for the horses. An impassioned rider as a pre-teen moving further into young adulthood, Renan began his life with the ideas of being around the horses forever; even if it was only a hobby. It doesn’t seem to be the type of thing that leads a Karate drop out into creating a market of Brazillian Jiu Jitsu Black belts in Houston. On the contrary, Renan though being a passionate equestrian was somewhat of an aggressive competitor from the beginning. It isn’t so ironic that he seems born for the mats as he began wrestling at an early age against his brother shortly after birth moving outward as he left the living room floor and began denying the neighborhood kids with his dominance on the playground.
Growing older and looking for more, Renan decided to take the trek…by way of Italy; that’s right, Italy. After the short detour through the boot, Renan noticed the possibilities his brother had in the United States and set sail again, destination Florida. There he landed odd jobs, progressing as a man working for a living with aspirations of a better life. A young immigrant with a good work ethic having one job that changed his life forever, it was at a car wash. One guy “a big guy” kept coming in and talked about Jiu Jitsu and Renan, a hothead at that point told the guy “hey, I want to try this”…and his life would never be the same.
As many young men do, drink and fight, Renan was no different, “I was a tough guy on the street” so he felt this would be no problem. Walking through the door with his chest bowed out cockiness written all over his face believing he was championship caliber, “I thought yeah, they are gonna put me with the instructor, and I’m gonna show him what I know.” As we know in Jiu Jitsu the truth is vastly different. You walk off the street, onto the mats; you get choked…it’s that simple. “So they put me with a girl, a blue belt; and I thought man this is going to be easy…she tapped me twice.” And, at the end of that? “Uh, I ended up puking all day!”
At this stage in life, most college students are choosing their majors…at this time, so too did Renan; first class, BJJ 101. Renan tells us that training here in Houston is a bit different than in Florida. Florida is a hotbed for BJJ black belts, while Houston has high caliber fighters, true BJJ Black Belts are few between. Not to be mistaken that Houston is in my opinion, the Mecca of the next level mixed martial artist. BJJ has a definite respect in Houston and as it grows, Black belts will one day canvas the streets and Renan is one of the proven best in Houston and will help to pave the way. He remembers that when he first got here, his expectations were that he would find a place to train but at most places, He was the trainer. Florida has 15 to 20 years up on Houston, so it is somewhat understandable. But, as Renan says, in Houston “it’s already happening, there are kids that have been doing it for 10 years” and “you see them making a name for themselves in World Jiu Jitsu Championships.” “It’s coming though, it just needs more time and more people doing it.” He says over there, “you walk down the streets and you see black belts all over;” “20 or 30 just walking around” and “here it’s a rare thing, you know.”
It is a little different though from Houston to Florida, here we have many Blue Belts and Purple Belts as instructors, and Renan says “what I remember at Pablo’s (Pablo Popovitch), only Pablo was the teacher.” He says, “if you go to a Brown Belt and say hey can you show me this move, he would say ‘I don’t want to teach you wrong so go ask Pablo’ or go ask the instructor, you know.” While there are some who feel that might hurt the Jiu Jitsu in Houston, who know but at least we’re rolling! “It’s happening here and it will come.”
Renan started teaching at Brown Belt and when asked about the difference between his Black Belt and his Brown Belt, he said, “Yeah I realized I didn’t know anything.” He says but that is the way it is, because you are always learning and always getting better. He says, that once you get to purple belt, that is when you stick with Jiu Jistu forever. That’s when “you already got beat too much” so you stick with it, he says purple is a comfortable level, because when you are white you “fight, fight, fight to get to blue and when you are blue, you have to fight, fight, with all the blues and all the strong whites and when you get to purple that’s it you feel comfortable.” He says that is when you stay with Jiu Jitsu for life. He says in Jiu Jitsu you are never going to be happy where you are, and that is the way it is, if you are happy where you are then you are not doing it. He says even the old guys, they are still learning, you never stop and that is with anything.
His passion is in teaching Jiu Jitsu, he says “you know there are few things in life that you can be happy doing.” He continues saying that when he wakes up in the morning he gets excited thinking about the students that are going to show up that day, he says “you know there are few things in life like that; not many.” He continues about his students, saying you know “They come in, they warm up and we start fighting and it is like the first day,” it is joy for him to teach, to train. He says “you know I went to Italy, I was doing things and then to the US working and then I found Jiu Jitsu and when I was a white all I wanted was to get to a blue, and then a purple, but I realized then, that this is what I want to do.”
A long conversation with Renan sends us to a point of achievement. Question: what does it mean to you to have a Black Belt in Jiu Jitsu… “It’s like I am a Doctor now; I put enough time…I bet I put more time in than a Doctor to get his degree.” “It means a lot to me…you know; at least 10 years of hard work, it’s a lot.” Further, we have seen some of Renan’s students succeed on the world’s stage and progress and he says “It feels amazing man, really.” “Whenever you can pass something on to somebody it feels the world to me, you know.” He goes on to express his appreciation for his students saying “it is nice when any of my students listen to me and they are doing it that means they believe in me. They believe in what I am teaching, and they go out and succeed, that is my world, you know.”
Renan recently opened Zion MMA in Stafford, TX (335 Staffordshire Rd, Suite 3) and with their recent expansion they are now transforming over 4000 sq ft into the school of friendship, family and Jiu Jitsu. “He says this is not a place to fight, this is a place to learn, you come here to learn you know. It is a school. If you learn one thing at a time, one percent of the day, that is enough. I just want people to come and learn.” Lastly, we asked Renan what would you tell someone just starting in Jiu Jitsu, someone who walks through the doors for the first time? “First, no ego! And second, don’t force it trying to learn, you don’t force it and try to learn everything. You come here have fun enjoy the time with your friends and it’s just gonna come, jiu jitsu is just gonna come.” Just enjoy it and have fun.