FROM READERS: Q&A with Columbia's only Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt

Saturday, February 25, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST

This is a guest post from Hannah Zeciri, pen name The Last Ronin, a writer who has a passion for martial arts. The original interview with Zach Lenon, Columbia's only Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, is from her official blog and is reprinted below. 

My latest interview is with Columbia, Missouri’s only BJJ Black Belt, Zach Lenon. Zach is the head instructor at Cavalo BJJ in Columbia (a Kiko France affiliate). I’ve known Zach for quite some time (we went to high school together) and have had the opportunity to train with him on several occasions. If you live within driving range of Columbia, Mo. then you should definitely check his school out. Zach is a great instructor who knows his stuff. If you are serious in learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu then his school is the only place.

Name: Zach Lenon

Age: 30

Home Town: Macon, Mo.

Current City: Columbia, Mo.

Rank & Lineage: Black Belt

Carlos Gracie > Helio Gracie > Rolls Gracie > Renan Pitangui > Totija Jordan > Rogerio Poggio > Edson Diniz > Francisco France > Zach Lenon

Years Training: 9

Your School/ Gym: Cavalo BJJ

Address: 4250 East Broadway, Columbia, Mo.

Classes Schedule: Day and Evening Classes

Website: Cavalo BJJ

Could you give the readers a brief bio on yourself from when you began BJJ to now.

I began training BJJ while attending college. I was immediately hooked. I reached the rank of purple belt while training in Springfield. My BJJ really took off when I moved to Columbia and started training at American Top Team. I received my brown belt in 2009. I opened my own school in July of 2010 and was awarded my black belt from my professor, Kiko France, in February of 2011.

What are your personal goals in BJJ?

My goals are to compete as much as I can and to pass on my love of the art to my students.


I have won numerous tournaments at all belt levels including NAGA Absolute and IBJJF titles.

Do you have any upcoming tournaments/ events lined up for 2012?

I do plan on competing quite a bit during 2012. I have the IBJJF Chicago Open, NAGA St. Louis and the Pan Am Championships coming up in March alone. I averaged one tournament a month last year and would like to do even more this year.

What are your goals for your school over the next 5 years?

I would like to continue to grow and bring along quality students that are well-rounded grapplers.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in BJJ?

Drill the basics. A lot of beginners will briefly go over the basics and move on to attempt flashy moves that look cool but are low percentage. Without the basics, which are the building blocks, you will never pull off advanced moves with consistency.

Favorite Takedown:

I like using a single leg takedown for BJJ/submission grappling. It is a high percentage takedown with low risk of a submission being applied while executing it if done correctly.

Favorite Submission:

I attack a lot of necks and ankles but I am always looking for other submissions if they present themselves.

How many days a week do you train?

I usually train 5-6 days a week plus conditioning.

Favorite music to train to?

I don’t usually crank up the music to train. I prefer the quiet to concentrate on my training.

Do you prefer gi or no gi?

I prefer to train gi. I believe it makes a person a more technical grappler. The gi requires the practitioner to use BJJ to escape positions and submissions rather than to just rely on speed and strength. I do enjoy training no gi though and compete without the gi a lot.

What advice would you give to women wanting to join a BJJ class?

I do have some women in class and I don’t have any different advice for them, than I do for the men. BJJ is so great and so popular because you don’t have to be an alpha male to excel at it. If you do the techniques right then it doesn’t matter your size, age, weight, or strength.

Who have been some of the biggest influences in your jiu-jitsu game?

By far the biggest would be my Professor, Kiko France. He taught me so much while training at ATT and continues to when we get to train together. He has a level of BJJ that I can only hope to be able to reach someday. There have been several others that I have trained with, as well, that I have learned a lot from.

Just for fun, say it’s the Abu Dhabi Finals: you vs Ezra– who wins?

Ezra and I have trained together for a long time. We have very similar styles and know each other’s game. It would probably be a very slow, technical match unless one of us went for something dynamic at the beginning. That being said, Ezra by flying armbar 10 seconds into the match.

Any final thoughts or something you would like to add?

If you live in the Mid Missouri area and would like to learn BJJ then please come tryout Cavalo BJJ. I promise you high level BJJ in a fun and safe atmosphere.

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