Anton Minenko from Garra BJJ / Roger Gracie Brisbane Academy, just made history in the Australian Jiu Jitsu scene by being the first Brown Belt ever to win the open weight Brown and Black Belts combined division at the Australian National Pro Competition in 2017. This tremendous victory assured him a position to represent Australia at the Abu Dhabi World Pro in April 18th – 22nd 2017.
Anton can you tell us a bit about this historic victory and your overall performance?
I am very happy with my performance and winning against some of the best BJJ players Australia has to offer is something that words almost can’t describe. While I have competed in a Brown/Black belt combined division before this was particularly challenging due to the caliber of athlete vying for that ultimate prize (the ticket to Abu Dhabi). It was truly an amazing learning experience.
How old are you and how long have you been training?
I am currently 22 and have been training Jiu Jitsu for around six years.
Your semi final match was against Brian Falson and the final against Sherha Khan, both very experienced and very talented Black Belt competitors. Can you walk us through how these fights unfolded please?
: Brian is very powerful and I had to be conservative and play very tight to ensure I did not give him any space to use his power so I could focus on passing his guard and begin my attacks.
I worked hard to establish a very strong top half-guard position with good control of the head and utilising under-hooks to flatten Brian out. This forced him to explode and attempt to escape/sweep or risk me passing his guard. This occurred and I was able to pass his guard after almost establishing back control. I ultimately won via points.
I scored points early in the match after getting a take down, I then pressured khan with some fast passing techniques and foot lock attempts to force a mistake. After some time and a number of scrambles I was able to pass his guard and take a 5-0 lead. While applying pressure in side control to drain his energy I moved to knee on belly which Khan defending by turning to his knees but this resulted in him giving his back at the same time. This allowed me to secure back control and sink the choke to win the match. The combination of speed, pressure and seamlessly connecting different techniques made it hard for my opponent to establish grips and implement his attack. This forced Khan into a bad position and allowed me to control every facet of the match and ultimately submit my opponent.
Are you aware that what you have achieved here in Australia was achieved by Rodolfo Vieira in 2009 in Brazil when he shocked the world of BJJ in winning as a brown belt the combined brown and black belts division. After that he managed to become a multiple times World Champion and Abu Dhabi World Pro Champion?
Yes I am a big fan of Roldofo. It is very exciting to see things like this happen and I am excited for what the future hold with regards to my BJJ journey.
This will be your second time representing Australia in Abu Dhabi. For people who are not familiar with the scene, can you provide some background about the competition?
The Abu Dhabi World Pro is one of the most prestigious competitions in Jiu Jitsu. It is an incredible experience competing at the highest level with the best athletes from around the world. Which is also the same stage that many greats of the sport have competed. The people of Abu Dhabi love BJJ, so much so that the competition is transmitted live and for free to their local sports TV Channel so everyone in Abu Dhabi can enjoy.
So Anton, you have competed against the who's who in Australian Jiu Jitsu. Is there anyone who you have not yet come up against that you would like to face in competition?
In Australia, I would love to compete again Kit Dale, William Dias & Vicente Cavalcante. They are all at the top of their game and it would be an awesome challenge. Outside of that, any of the high level competitors out there. Jiu Jitsu is about testing yourself and I want to test my skills and abilities against the best the sport has to offer.
You have a very dynamic Jiu Jitsu game and while you compete at heavy weight and you are clearly strong, your movement is fluid, similar to the lighter weights and you do not rely on strength. Do you have any advice for people who may use too much strength?
I believe that relying on strength only serves to limit ones evolution and development as a BJJ player. I think those students who rely on strength first need to address the ego as it often the thought of “losing” or being submitted that drives this dependency on strength. Removing the ego and fear of failure is the first step to allowing your Jiu Jitsu to grow.
What would be your advice for people that are just starting BJJ?
Don’t rush! Just enjoy the journey. Listen, learn, think and experiment in training.
Your coach Prof. Eduardo Dias says: that you are also "An amazing coach too” He states that he saw that attribute in you as soon as he saw you teach your first class under his supervision. You are now a resident coach and can be seen on a regular basis at Garra BJJ (HQ) "making everything amazingly simple and effective for everyone to learn!"
It is our understanding that you teach a lot of private one on one classes at Garra BJJ (HQ). What do you think the benefits of private BJJ classes are and do you think that a student should be a certain level before getting private classes?
Private classes are an awesome tool for improving your Jiu Jitsu. Not only in terms of techniques but also by assisting in your understanding of BJJ (BJJ IQ) and building your overall awareness of what is achievable.
Private classes are for anyone. There is no prerequisite. I teach all types of people from the new student who wants to boost their knowledge quickly, the seasoned competitor looking to fine tune their game to the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle enthusiast who just can’t get enough.
Private classes are also great for people who can't attend normal group class times.
How can someone start private classes with you?
To book a private just speak at Garra HQ reception and we will organise a time that suits.
You have recently traveled to Europe to train at Felipe Mota's Gym (OXY gym) Roger Gracie Norway and compete at the European Championship 2017. How was the whole experience?
The trip to Norway was one of the coolest experiences I have had. It was awesome to train and learn so much from an awesome team of super high-level guys and girls. I am very thankful that I was given the opportunity to go because of so many generous and loving teammates.
Garra BJJ/ Roger Gracie HQ Kelvin Grove Brisbane is about to open a 80 square meters area upstairs dedicated to beginner classes and courses where they will gain a full understanding and practical experience of Bjj as a sport, self defense and martial art. As well as the culture and traditions. What do you think about this unique initiative?
I think this is a very good idea for anyone that is just starting BJJ. This will be a big advantage for new students to develop a solid understanding of the key principles that makes Jiu Jitsu so effective as a form of self-defense and martial art.
Anton is there anything else you would like to say?
I am very grateful that I found BJJ fairly early in life. I am happy for the close loyal and dependable friends I have made along this journey of never-ending learning. I only look forward to what the future holds and am exciting to continue learning and taking on bigger and more difficult challenges that Jiu Jitsu and life will present.
I would also like to thank my sponsors
TMG Thallow Mole Group – One of South-East Queensland’s most exceptional building firm.
BJJFIGHTWEAR.COM.AU - online Shop For Adult and Children Gis, Rashies, NoGi Shorts, Belts and other Fightwear products.
Also my coach Eduardo Dias for constantly striving to keep and evolve this wonderful environment to train and for given me all the support on the great days and on the not so great days too. Nothing is impossible.