By Jorge Abarca
Photos by Jorge Abarca, Meghan Wonder, and Laura Baker
To all but the newest of MMA fan, Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu needs no introduction. Watch any televised MMA event and you’ll see the brand name sprawled across fighter gear, shorts, and banners. Tenth Planet satellite schools are spread out worldwide, from Portland, Oregon to Rochester, New York, Stockholm, Sweden, and even Australia. Producing contenders and champions is business as usual for those involved in Eddie Bravo’s system of no-gi jiu jitsu.
One of the newer branches of the 10th Planet family, 10th Planet Van Nuys, is run by Alder Hampel, a brown belt under the famed Eddie Bravo. Housed under the same roof as Saekson Muay Thai, ‘Coach Alder,’ as he’s known by his students, has partnered with the Trana’s, a family of kickboxers who opened their school approximately three years ago. Together, the two schools under one roof produce an ongoing line of grapplers and strikers, some of whom stay to their disciplines while others combine their skills with aspirations of diving into MMA.
“Anybody that walks into the gym, they might take the perspective of its two separate programs, which it is, but. . . when we have that MMA guy that wants to do it, we know that we’re definitely going to focus on what our strengths are,” explains gym owner and Muay Thai head trainer Julio Trana, Jr. “It’s been great working with Alder. It’s about working with someone that’s as passionate as I am with my part.”
“I love MMA, but I really love BJJ,” says Alder. “I started off at Jean Jacques [Machado’s gym] in ’96. Then I quit for a little while, did the broke college student thing, and did some Judo and Tae Kwon Do. Whatever I could find. But we’d always end up grappling after class. Then I went to a place up in Santa Monica, and I was there until blue belt, and did the broke college student thing again. When I finally got some money back together, I started training with Eddie full time.”
The blend of different martial art disciplines Alder has under his belt translates into their teaching style. As a case in point, during one of their evening sessions, while Alder is demonstrating takedowns, a student improvises during the drilling session, and incorporates a judo toss, into side control.
Many instructors and students would be quick to dismiss the move and explain as to why the move would not work in competition. However, Alder took a different approach, instead bringing the student in front of the class and demonstrating the move, step by step, explaining how he’s seen this move work in competition. The class then drilled the toss and continued on as scheduled.
“I’m a big Bruce Lee fan, so I always liked the ‘whatever works, be like water’ philosophy. Whatever works and heavy fundamentals. Fundamentals are kind of like the seed that grows the plant, and you can grow the plant in any direction you want. As long as you know what the fundamentals are, you can start to work towards one direction more than another,” says Alder about his training.
“If you’re really good at getting a guillotine choke in, or taking someone’s back, then I think you should explore that, instead of being like ‘here’s what you have to do in this position.’ Explore your own game.”
Ryan Bradford, a fellow amateur fighter and instructor at the gym, attributes the gym’s success to their method of training. “It’s very cerebral, and very smart. Every night in here is not Abu Dhabi or UFC. We pinpoint what we need to work on and [aren’t] afraid to call out flaws. And make our flaws our strengths.”
While other branches also host their own 10th Planet school, and follows the curriculum put forth by Eddie Bravo himself, there is something different about this particular branch. Tenth Planet Van Nuys offers a coaching program, where anyone who is dedicated and experienced at the gym can sign up to potentially become a future instructor, teaching one of the many different fundamentals classes, or taking their teaching skills beyond the gym.
“I’m really bringing a foundation to this, where I’m bringing up coaches. I have a coaching program, which teaches guys how to be coaches, and I feel if I can get to more people, through other people, we can reach out a lot more and we can get guys a lot better. If guys wait for me to come over and tell them what to do, it might be a couple days before I get to everybody. If I can get 10 – 12 other limbs on the mat on any given night, it’s like an ‘each one, teach one’ kind of thing. It’s kind of like a fraternity, where the guys who have been here
for a while are the seniors, who teach it to the sophomores, who teach it to the juniors, who teach it to the freshman. So we’re constantly passing the knowledge down.”
Michael ‘Tipz’ Venturella, an upcoming amateur prospect, says “We are the research and development team for 10th Planet.”
His coach co-signs the statement, stating “Eddie’s really open minded, so if we have anything we come up with I’ll be like ‘Hey, you got to check this out’ and he’ll listen. I’m not over here reinventing the wheel, but I’m trying to streamline it.”
No mixed martial artist is complete without a stand up game, and this was not lost on the gym. 10th Planet Van Nuys shares a facility with Saekson Muay Thai, operated by the Trana family.
The Trana’s Muay Thai linage dates back over two decades, and like the close bonds felt by 10th Planet members, is very much a family affair. Patriarch Julio Trana, Sr. came to the States from Nicaragua with a boxing background. When Julio Jr. was five years old, his father enrolled them both in Thai boxing classes at North Hollywood’s Muay Thai Academy. Julio Jr.’s mother and two sisters followed shortly thereafter.
For several years, the whole Trana family trained under Kru (Thai for ‘coach’) Saekson Janjira, even following him to Downey, CA when Janjira left MTA. Soon, Julio Sr. and Jr. began teaching for Janjira, before eventually inheriting the entire program. In 2009, the Trana family opened Saekson Muay Thai (a.k.a. ‘Team Trana’). Before long, the school also had their grappling program, courtesy of Alder and 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu.
For the gym owners, coaches, and students, the partnership between Alder, 10th Planet, and the Tranas was an ideal match. “I was looking to open my own program up. I was just going to do the BJJ. I was looking for a place to teach, I wanted to take on more responsibility myself. I was teaching at other gyms and such, and I heard they were looking for a BJJ instructor, and it worked out perfect,” says Hampel of the joint venture.
“I couldn’t have asked for anybody better to work with than Alder,” notes head trainer Julio, Jr. “The passion that he puts on his jiu jitsu is very similar to the passion I put on my Muay Thai.”
One quick look around the gym chronicles how much success both the strikers and grapplers have had. An entire corner of the location is dedicated to medals, trophies, and championship belts, including the reigning University of MMA featherweight king, ‘Gorgeous’ Georgie Garcia.
Along with teammates Michael ‘Tipz’ Venturella and Mike ‘Lobes’ Frausto, Garcia made is amateur MMA debut at the U’s ‘I Will Be Victorious!’ in April 2011. Since then, all three have stayed very busy, repping 10th Planet and / or Saekson Muay Thai at an array of amateur fights and tournaments throughout California and Nevada. According to Julio Jr., in 2012, their 17-member Muay Thai team had a total of 46 fights, eight of which were championship bouts.
When asked about the experience participating with the U of MMA, Alder has nothing but praise for the organization.
“The U of MMA came at just the right time. I don’t trust a lot of the promoters out there. Not that they’re untrustworthy, but a lot of the time, it’s not set up for the fighters. At the end of the day, there are a lot of guys who want to help the fighters, but there’s no accountability. Promoters can do whatever they want, and if push comes to shove and it comes to them or one of my fighters, and they have to give them to some animal to that’s going to chew them up and spit them out, they would do that. Jay (Tan) and the guys, they wouldn’t do that. That accountability and trust is there,” explains Alder.
“The U is top notch all the way, the way they take care of their fighters, the production, good turnouts. It’s almost intimidating for a newer fighter. It’s like the major leagues of the amateur division.”
While the 10th Planet name continues to grow, the people behind the brand name never forget what is important. “I’m very heavy on fundamentals. I feel like every city is built on a pebble, so you have to start with that pebble and built off of that” states Alder.
10th Planet Van Nuys caters to all skill levels alike, whether it be fighting or coaching as a career, self-defense or just a workout with an accomplished team, the door is open to all.
10th Planet Van Nuys is located at 16832 Saticoy Street in Van Nuys, CA. For more information, visit www.10thPlanetVanNuys.com or call (818) 925-JITS (5487)