EGJJF Grappling / BJJ seminar(s): Mr Michel ‘Babytank’ Verhoeven

With Mr Michel ‘Babytank’ Verhoeven
I recently joined the European Gracie Ju-jitsu Federation (EGJJF) which is the European arm of Master Rickson Gracie's JJGF. The reason I joined this federation, other than what they stand for which is re-aligning Jiujitsu with combat effectiveness, is because I saw that they hold regular seminars on British soil and because I somewhat already knew and trusted the guys heading it. Harold Harder is an old school legend when it comes to bringing the Gracie Jiujitsu brand of fighting to Europe. He's currently the highest graded black belt under Rickson in Europe and has been flying that flag since 1995. I also knew Michel and Raoul from attending Rickson's seminars and visiting and training in Amsterdam, Holland but it goes a little deeper than that. 

During my first visit to train with Master Rickson in Amsterdam I was visiting with a friend. On our way to the last day of the 2-day seminar, my friend forgot his laptop bag in the taxi. Being in a foreign country we decided to ask the organisers for advice on how to retrieve. They helped us get in touch with the taxi company and subsequently with the driver. Unfortunately this is where it almost took a bad turn. The taxi driver had looked in the bag and seen the laptop and other things so he wanted a sizeable reward in exchange for returning it. When Michel, Harold and the other instructors heard about this they became furious. To cut a long story short, when the taxi driver arrived to make the exchange he was met by a less than pleased mob of 8 - 10 badass instructors. The bags were quickly retrieved and the taxi driver was let off with their simple warning: "This is Holland and this is NOT how we treat our guests!"

Fast forward to 2017, and I had become more and more involved with Gracie jiu-jitsu through my instructor Eddie Kone and somewhat disenchanted with the IBJJF and how little the athletes get back for their membership fees. After interviewing master Rickson I looked into joining the JJGF and while I like the organisation and what it stands for, I couldn't see much point in joining it here in Europe as their events (seminars, camps, instructor courses, competitions...etc) have been limited outside the US. As soon as I saw the EGJJF website and that they were planning on actively promoting these things in Europe I knew they were worth investigating. I contacted Michel and he confirmed my understanding. Then he mentioned he has an affiliate in Kent and another up in Ireland which he visits for seminars and instructor training sessions once every two months. That sealed the deal for me. I signed up to the August seminar (which happened to be on the same day as the Polaris Pro event) and boy was I rewarded.

With the British reps of team Babytank - Fluxo BJJ

The curriculum Michel teaches is very much an extension of what we work on at EKBJJ: strike neutralisation, efficient takedowns, strike-safe ground grappling with a ton of pressure and a strong submission focus (you could almost call it obsession!) the great thing is the EGJJF holds competitions under the new JJGF rule set (no advantages and penalties for stalling) so competition performance is another feature. This meant we covered a lot of counter-tactics to modern guard techniques. A very rich curriculum indeed. 

To add to all this Michel explained that by becoming a member coach I'd pay less for the seminars AND have access to the instructor training sessions he holds at each visit. This was my first seminar so I was a guest but this really sold me on the idea. As soon as I got home I joined the federation as a coach and started drilling the techniques we'd covered in the seminar. 

Two months later, true to his word, I received the following message from Michel:

I booked my train ticket and, after some infuriating complications by the TFL, made it to Fluxo JJ again. The seminar content was just as great as the previous seminar. The focus this time was on defence against a variety of standing headlock attacks in the standing portion then refining the details of the straight arm lock from mount and cross choke from guard. Every adjustment Michel made was an inch here or an inch there but the consequences were immediately felt by my training partner. The true gems, however , were in the instructor training. We covered a combination of topics ranging from lesson delivery, monthly curriculum themes, rolling with strikes to technical topics such as micro adjustments to facilitate Rickson's side control escapes where the whole body is connected from the foot post through the hips and torso to the far side shoulder and the underhook, posture breaks and back takes and arm locks from the high guard and priorities during the transition between the closed and open guard.

To round the day off, Michel explained the EGJJF Junior Jiujitsu Program. Considering that I teach an average of 20-25 children on a weekly basis, this was something I am very interested in. The program is very thoroughly thought out with a huge emphasis on character development and correct athletic fostering. I look forward to learning more about this and the other curricula that the federation is working on. And this, again, is the main reason I like being part of this group: it is constantly working and developing ideas to better serve its entire community and not just the competitors.

The Junior Gracie Jiu-jitsu Program

The EGJJF is constantly and consistently growing. I recommend that you check them out but most importantly that you ask where your current federation memberships fees are going and what you're getting back for them. If you want to be a concrete part of a growing federation that looks after its members and helps them build a complete, effective and well-rounded Jiujitsu practice with direct links to master Rickson Gracie, then EGJJF/JJGF is the federation for you. 



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