From tatami mats to the world championships ?

By Caroline Fabre

Like almost every day, Lev Venguerov welcomes the Jiu-Jitsuka at 3975 Notre Dame W. A little before noon on Thursdays, the program director and instructor puts on his gi, consisting of a jacket, pants and its blue belt, and teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) during one hour.

BJJ is a martial art derived from traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo. It is practiced mainly on the ground and consists of controlling the opponent through a variety of positions, transitions, submissions, with the help of arm keys, leg keys and chokes.

Beginning of a passion

Venguerov’s interest in BJJ came from his practice of other martial arts such as kickboxing and boxing as a teenager. In 2017, after getting into Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), he tried BJJ as it is considered fundamental to the discipline.
He quickly became hooked and started attending competitions in Las Vegas, California and even New York, where he won eight out of its eleven fights on his last tournament. What he did not suspect was that he would make a living out of its passion; when he became a blue belt he was offered the opportunity to teach kids classes, as well as to work as program director. « Once we re-opened [after the shutdown due to the pandemic], they offered me to teach most of the classes, » he explains.

Moreover, what he loves the most about teaching is « sharing the little details that make a technique so much more effective than usual. » He compares BJJ to human chess, « where you always start with an infinite amount of techniques you can use and you try to bring it down to one single way where you can look to finish your opponent. » This is what he teaches the Jiu-Jitsuka.


Immersion in a class

Before starting the training, Venguerov asks his students, to line up and bow to greet the BJJ masters and their classmates. Then follows a ten minutes long warm-up consisting of jumping jacks, push-ups and various movements like the shrimp, that helps manage distances to try to escape some bad positions in ground fighting. Through the class, the professor teaches the knee-on-belly escape, as well as the back take from closed guard and the triangle choke from closed guard. He then let the students practice, before finishing with sparring rounds called rolling, where Jiu-Jitsuka apply the techniques they just learnt during a fight.

Ultimately, the class ends with the traditional greet, and the martial artists shake hands and congratulate each other on the training because camaraderie is primordial in this sport according to Venguerov.

Fundamental values

In addition to the special relationship developed with people you train with, the athlete also mentions perseverance and patience as the keys to BJJ.
« It’s a very long sport, and very tedious to get through. You’re going to have your ups and downs, it’s going to be hard as you progress from blue, purple, brown, black. But the main goal is to always stay and keep training and you will end up getting better, » he says.

Although Venguerov is currently injured, he is hopeful that he will compete again next year; it may be possible to see him at the world championships and the ADCC Submission Fighting World Championship. In the meantime, he always works with a smile on his face six days a week at the JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra center.

A passerby walks past the JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra located at 3975 Notre Dame Street W in Montreal, Quebec, December 03, 2021. CAROLINE FABRE/Concordia
Lev Venguerov watches jiu-Jitsuka roll during class at JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra in Montreal, Quebec, December 02, 2021. CAROLINE FABRE/Concordia
At the beginning and then end of each class, Lev Venguerov, Martin Picard and the Jiu-Jitsuka show their respect by saluting the masters of the sport and their classmates by lining up and bowing at the JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra in Montreal, Quebec, December 02, 2021. CAROLINE FABRE/Concordia
Students of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class, called jiu-Jitsuka, warm up with Lev Venguerov at JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra in Montreal, Quebec, December 02, 2021. CAROLINE FABRE/Concordia
Lev Venguerov presents a position called Backtake from closed guard on Martin Picard that the Jiu-Jitsuka will have to replicate at JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra in Montreal, Quebec, December 02, 2021. CAROLINE FABRE/Concordia
Jiu-Jitsuka train to perform the Backtake from closed guard position shown earlier in class at JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra in Montreal, Quebec, December 02, 2021. CAROLINE FABRE/Concordia
Lev Venguerov helps Eric Kinley perform a position called the Triangle choke from closed guard on Mariflore Beaudin-Veronneau at JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra in Montreal, Quebec, December 02, 2021. CAROLINE FABRE/Concordia
Jiu-Jitsuka test their skills and abilities against their teammates after learning new techniques during a moment called rolling at JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra in Montreal, Quebec, December 02, 2021. CAROLINE FABRE/Concordia
Jiu-Jitsuka Matthew Deveau and Kevin Xu roll under the supervision of Lev Venguerov during a class at JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra in Montreal, Quebec on December 02, 2021. CAROLINE FABRE/Concordia
Lev Venguerov and Martin Picard promote Jiu-Jitsuka Mariflore Beaudin-Veronneau to a higher rank by granting her a new bar on her belt to reward her efforts, perseverance and courage at JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra in Montreal, Quebec on December 02, 2021. CAROLINE FABRE/Concordia
The class ends as the teachers and Jiu-Jitsuka shake hands and congratulate each other on the training at the JIU-JITSU Montreal – Gracie Barra in Montreal, Quebec, December 02, 2021. CAROLINE FABRE/Concordia