Chris Van Valkenburg
Article by Erik Whynot.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Chris Who?
- 3 SORT14's visits...
- 4 The Day of Reckoning
- 5 To the Victor goes the.....wait.....what?
My name is Chris Van Valkenburg. I am the main trainer and manager of the Impact House Gym. I am a professional fighter out of New Jersey and hold a blackbelt in Brazilian Jui-Jitsu and Taekwondo.
Concise, to the point, no fluff list of credentials...just the way it should be, right?
Maybe...provided everything contained in those three sentences, with the exception of the name, is not an outright lie.
This is where the investigation into the credentials and training history of Mr. Chris Van Valkenburg began, a seemingly innocuous initial post asking if anyone in Florida knew this guy and stating that “You guys might wanna look in to this”, on this thread.
Well, the Bullies (GoldenJonas, SORT14, and Cankles) did “look in to it” and what was discovered was that Chris Van Valkenberg (hereinafter “CVV”),
- Has absolutely NO rank in BJJ, let alone the coveted Black Belt;
- has absolutely no MMA, boxing, or kickboxing fight record, professional or amateur;
- has absolutely no proof that he had ever fought any Muay Thai matches as he claimed;
- has never trained under Renzo Gracie; and
- was unable, or unwilling, to provide any information confirming the existence of the instructor (Dan or Mike Andersen or Anderson) who he claimed awarded him a Black Belt in an unidentified grappling style in New Jersey.
Here is how it went down...
Impact House MMA was located off of US Highway 1, in Building 3 Unit 6, Ormond Beach, Florida, about 1.5 miles south of I-95 on U.S.1.
The MySpace page for Impact House MMA, which has since been taken down, originally read as follows:
And had the following marketing flyer which was designed by CVV was found on the schools MySpace page:
So, CVV was charging his students $85.00/month or $15.00/day to train in Muay Thai, Boxing, MMA, Submission Grappling, Wrestling, and/or BJJ; all the while claiming to have an amateur Muay Thai record for fights in Thailand and a Black Belt in Brazilian JiuJitsu under the Renzo Gracie linage through his alleged instructor named Mike or Dan Andersen or Anderson.
At this point the rumor mill and the World Wide Web was abuzz with “Who is this mystery Renzo BB teach BJJ in Ormond Beach, Florida”.
The internetz is serious business!!!! So, once the red flag over CVV was raised at Bullshido.net, CVV was contacted and a time was arraigned for myself and Cankles to go train with CVV and his students; you can piss all you want while sitting at your keyboard, but the mats will show a person's true colors.
At the time I met CVV, I GoldenJonas, was a BJJ Blue belt under Paul Rodriguez with ATT-Orlando and also hold a Brown Belt in Dantor Ryu JuJitsu which is essentially a scramble and muscle for submission catch-as-catch-can style.
Cankles, is an instructor at ATT-Orlando, a BJJ Purple belt under Marcio Simas now under Paul Rodriguez, and a Pro-Fighter with a 2-2 record.
The date set for the visit was May 31, 2008, at around 2pm.
Prior to the trip up to Ormond Beach, a few of CVV’s students posted on the Bullshido.net thread in response to the questions posed concerning CVV’s stated credentials. A couple of the students were defensive, as anyone would be, while a few where on the fence and seemed interested in how the investigation would pan out.
Regardless, all of the students that Cankles and I met when we went to train up at ImpactHouse on 5/31/08 were good personable guys with a definite interest in seriously training in BJJ, MMA, and Submission Grappling.
Another bully who happened to live, and work, in the Ormond Beach area, SORT14, stopped in to chat and lightly roll with Chris on a few occasions after the thread first came off the presses at Bullshido.net.
SORT14 works in Law Enforcement in the area and is acquaintances with CVV's boss, a man by the name of Laci Szabo. Mr. Szabo is also involved in Law Enforcement in the Ormond Beach area and apparently has an interest in MMA and decided to open up and invest in a gym, hence, ImpactHouse. Mr. Szabo had apparently known CVV for a few years and had never really had occasion or need to question CVV’s touted accomplishments and credentials. After all, CVV is a nice guy and appears sincere. Both Cankles and I can attest to that; when we went to train with him he was very open to critique and wanted to here what we had to say about the training...more on that later.
Anyway, Szabo hired CVV to head up ImpactHouse based upon CVV’s lofty credentials. He also, apparently hired CVV to teach a Hand-to-Hand Police Combatives/Ground Fighting Seminar to local law enforcement; I guess this would explain why the poster above reads that CVV is the “Official MMA Trainer of Daytona Beach SWAT Team, Police & Fire Depts.”
SORT14 holds a Blue belt from Marcio Simas and is now training under Paul Rodriguez at ATT-Orlando and also has a couple amateur/pro MMA fights to his name. SORT14 has been training in BJJ and Submission Grappling for going on 6 years.
The following is SORT14's statement regarding his meeting with CVV on 5/28/08
This is too much. Chris knows he is not a BJJ Black Belt. He needs to come clean with this, and I told him this. He may or may not run a legitimate program, but I told him that until he comes clean about his credentials, the doubters will not let up. My hope is that Chris comes on this forum and admits that he embellished his credentials and apologizes. He seems like a nice guy, but he dug a hole and threw himself in it. He needs to get himself out of it with some honesty.
Chris held one seminar for the Daytona Beach PD SWAT Team. The building that Chris' gym is in is owned by a Daytona Beach Police Officer who set up the seminar. I don't believe that this makes him the official trainer of the DBPD SWAT Team, but I could be wrong. I have trained many, many police officers in ground fighting at the Volusia County Sheriff's Office Tiger Bay Training Facility and I have brought in other instructors such as American Top Team Orlando's Head Instructor Paul Rodriguez (UFC, PRIDE, KOTC, etc.)as well as Gracie Barra Orlando's Matt Graham (BJJ Purple Belt) to help teach police officers in this area. I wager that Chris is not on either of these guys' level. I have not trained with Chris yet, but after my conversation with him, which was face to face, I believe that Chris knows that he made a mistake with some exaggerated claims regarding his rank in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Chris, "American Jiu Jitsu" (your words) is not the same thing as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Again, I think Chris is a nice guy who honestly wants to run a good business, but we in the BJJ and MMA community know that one must put his time in on the mat or in the ring before trying to cash in on credentials. Do the right thing, Chris. Come clean.
SORT14 went to visit with CVV again on 5/30/08, and this time got on the mat with him for a brief demo:
I went to Chris' gym again today and even though I was in blue jeans (on my lunch break) I got on the mat with him and exchanged a few techniques in a very friendly way. Some real light work. I asked Chris to show me some things. I have rolled with BJJ BBs before and after going over techniques with Chris, I told him that in my opinion he is maybe new blue belt in BJJ. I honestly would say that at ATT Orlando, where I train, he would definitely be a white belt. I am only a blue belt (training for 5 years), but I can tell the difference between an inexperience grappler and a legit black belt. Though I wasn't sparring hard with Chris, I could tell that he doesn't have black belt level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Chris told me that he got all of his belts-blue, purple, brown and black from Mike Anderson, a Renzo Gracie BB, but that it was mainly Mike's system and not "Gracie Jiu Jitsu" that he holds rank in. After speaking with Chris about this, I expect him to post the details of that system on this forum. I kept things very friendly with Chris and he seems like a decent guy. I wish him well as long as he does the right thing.
As far as training the Daytona Beach SWAT team, the owner of the gym is a member of the team. It is my guess that he set up the previous seminar (business wise-why not?).
So, that brings us to the 5/31/08 training session.
The Day of Reckoning
Here is the complete run down of what occurred on 5/31/08
30 Minute Stand-Up Warm-up
The warm up consisted of following the calls of El Guapo from his MMA/Boxing training CD.
For a warm-up it broke a sweat, but, there was little to no instruction on proper striking technique. Many of the guys training are pretty new to the sport and the warm-up looked like a lot of flailing.
Then again, it was just a cardio warm-up.
15 Minute Sweep Drills
These were done with minimal resistance. I got paired up with all of the guys who were there as we rotated partners each round.
For the most part the sweeps I saw from all of them was, 1) Scissor sweep, and 2) upa. The technique used to break my posture were very bad. Also, none of the guys seemed to understand the benefit of posture when in someone's guard. But, more on that later.
All of the guys were very interested in the sweeps that Cankles and I were drilling (oma sweep, hip heist, pendulum, taking the back with the arm drag or back door underhooks, etc) and were generally interested in having the techniques explained.
15 Minutes of Submission Drills
Basically this was run through the submissions you know from guard. Again we rotated partners and the extent of submission was pretty much limited to, 1) triangles, 2) neck cranks, and 3) shitty arm bars.
30 minutes of "new" technique
OK, the technique was passable, maybe, as catch-as-catch-can with the mantra of "Submission BEFORE Position". I don't think Chris has an actual CACC history. However, the style he is teaching appears to be more ballistic drives for neck cranks rather then technical positional set-up and opponent control PRIOR to trying to secure a sub. Here were the techniques that were taught.
- No-gi Ezekiel from inside the guard;
- Transition from front top turtle to take the back and RNC;
- Arm bar counter to the can opener;
- Face lock and neck crank from front turtle control, and;
- Scissor sweep to mounted neck crank.
- Never, ever, do this crappling submission attempt on anyone who has more than 2 months grappling experience.
- There was nothing wrong with the thought. However,the hand placement and opponent body control was technically wrong, nonexistent and not explained.
- This is a bread and butter technique and the only thing wrong with the instruction was that it completely ignored the necessity to break your opponents posture during the hip rotation by hitting the pendulum motion up into the arm pit of the arm not being subbed.
- An awful technique. Unless you are able to simple out muscle your opponent this is easily countered by sitting into guard.
- Complete crap. Yes, it is possible to scoop the head with your shoulder after the sweep. BUT, in a scramble, this technique would probably have less than a 5% success rate simply due to the guy being swept not simply laying flat on his back after being swept.
15 Minutes of live rolling
Both Cankles and I rolled 2 times.
The round set-up was 1 two minute round with the round ending by either submission or timed out. Chris said that if the sub was quick the guys would stay in and continue after a really quick break.
My first roll was against one of his students who appeared to have some wrestling in his background. He wasn't that bad and was obviously pretty new to submission grappling. From the get go he was 100% ballistic. It took me a minute to get used to the spastic dives for a neck cranks. I was, honestly going maybe 75% and even tried to pull a gogoplata for shits and giggles. We ended up rolling to a draw.
Cankles rolled with a smaller guy (Citizen I believe). Sweeps back and forth with Cankles controlling from mount. Cankles finished with an arm bar in just under a minute.
I rolled next against Chris. This time I was expecting the ballistic submission attempts and transitioned to tight arm bar at about 25 seconds in. Chris fought to the point I thought he was simply going to refuse to tap. His arm popped at the elbow and then I kept it tight and rolled over to a reverse arm bar and heard it crunch and pop again. From that point I held tight and continue smooth controlled application thinking he wasn't going to tap and his arm was going to get broken. He tapped after the third pop and when asked he said he was fine.
Cankles rolled with the guy I stalemated against in the first roll. About 45 seconds in, for some reason, this guy thought it would be wise to try and get Cankles with an Americana FROM INSIDE CANKLE'S GUARD. Much arm barring commenced and Cankles submitted him in less than a minute.
The gym was pretty cool, small, but adequate.
Mat space for grappling was approximately 15'x20'.
There were 4 banana bags that were hung a bit high, one heavy bag, and a speed bag.
The equipment was primarily Combat Arts International brand and was in good shape.
The gym space was similar to a large unit in a storage facility.
There was a cold water fountain and a half bathroom for changing. There was also a storage area that had t-shirts, medicine balls, a grappling dummy, and other equipment.
There was also one of those friggen Bob Dolls that was just peaking over the leather couch at the front of gym which kept freaking me out.
Atmosphere, Attitude, and the BJJ Black Belt Thing
So, here is the good:
- Chris is genuinely a good guy. He is open to criticism and ask both Cankles and I what we thought after the training sessions; neither of us held back our opinions. I told him straight out that he was not, in no way shape or form, a BJJ black belt and Chris listened and accepted the criticism.
- Chris was very open about his grappling experience. He stated that Mike Andersen received his black belt from Renzo, or at least, that is what Mike told him. He stated that he is a Black Belt in Mike Andersen's style of jiujitsu which is primarily no-gi with an MMA focus. He readily agreed to change his marketing material to clarify. that he was a BB in "Andersen American Jiujitsu".
- The students were also good guys. No TapOut testosterone douchebaggery here. All of the guys on the mat were very cool and were interested in learning and rolling. I would happily roll with these guys again.
And, here is the truth:
- Chris Van Valkenburg IS NOT a Brazilian JiuJitsu Black Belt. In BJJ I would place Chris at a Blue Belt level, at best, and more than likely, a high White on the cusp of a Blue. His technical knowledge of correct position and transition is severely lacking to be any higher rank in BJJ than that.
- To Chris' benefit, he does have grappling knowledge that espouses to a CACC mentality, i.e., a heavy focus on odd neck cranks and low percentage locks. Although, I doubt he has any actual CACC training.
To the Victor goes the.....wait.....what?
Well, that's it. If Chris hopes to get his business off the ground and not be the subject of ongoing scrutiny from the insular BJJ community in Florida, which will certainly affect his business, he MUST abandon the BJJ reference from his grappling credentials.
Honestly, if he had posted that he was a Andersen American JiuJitsu Black Belt, no one would have cared and this thread and investigation never would have been done.
As a result of the investigation, CVV apparently changed his credential listing as he stated here in a post dated 6/1/08 on the Bullshido.net thread:
As of today I changed the myspace to American Jiu-jitsu and made a spcific side note not to mix it up with BJJ. All further marketing with be corrected and done under correct statements about my backround and of the gyms.
Further, CVV posted this open apology on 6/1/08 concerning his conduct and actions which led to this investigation:
First i would like to thank the ATT guys for coming up from Orlando to train at the gym.
I would like to extend a formal appolgie to the BJJ community for the "Inaccurate" claim that was made on my end that I am a BLack belt in "BJJ". I am a Black Belt under Mike Anderson and his fighting System. It is different from Traditional BJJ as the ATT guys saw. Its more American with different techniques. I obviously have alot to learn when it comes to traditional BJJ and for lower ranked BJJ students to see holes in my game shows that i need to continue my training as well. I continue to train everyday and am doing the best i can to improve my self and the skills of my students. I am open to critisism as long as it is given in a proper and respectful way. The guys from ATT did that and that is why I am posting here today. I have a long way to go in this sport and am doing the best to my abilities at 23 years old.
My techniques have worked for me in full contact MMA but by no means will i say that they will work for everyone. I am going to continue to improve and show the fight community that I am not a fraud and will do the best i can to keep this sport growing with a positive outlook to the rest of the world. I again appreciate the guys from ATT coming to the IMPACT HOUSE and as do my sudents. I hope that they saw that we train hard and push conditioning as out #1 concern in training. Our technique will continue to grow and I hope the internet community will see that we are not BS and train just as hard as any other school. This is my last post on here so I wish you all the best of luck in your future investigations on keeping this sport pure and hope to see the ATT guys again at our gym in the future. I know some of my students as well as myself would like a rematch... we like to be challenged and the only way to get better is to train with better. A quote from one of my students is "Iron sharpens Iron as One man sharpens another".
Thank You again and god bless..
Chris Van Valkenburg
Lastly, as a result of this investigation, Mr. Szabo fired CVV and hired a legit BJJ instructor to head up his school. CVV lefts us with this final post affirming this change in events:
This is Chris.
As of yesterday I am no longer teaching or apart of the impact house gym. It will now be a Relson Gracie Academia de jiu-jitsu. John-Michael Queisinberry has stepped in to take over. He is much better for the job and will be a better instructor for the gym. His credentials are traceable and has much more skill than myself. The sudents of the gym now have a better teacher and someone already well known in the BJJ community.
I apologize for all of the trouble you went through based on my mistakes. I plan on focusing just on learning now and getting better as a fighter.
The investigation comes to a close with the students of ImpactHouse getting a good, credentialed, instructor from a recognized affiliate academy and with CVV stepping down, coming clean, and admitting his mistakes...well most of his mistakes.
There is the outstanding question of Mike Andersen and 1) whether or not such a person exists, and 2) if that person is a recognized Renzo Gracie Black Belt.
Cankies has made the first inquiry into this mystery with intriguing results:
I called Renzo's gym this passed week, and Rafael (the program director there) Has no idea who Dan Anderson, Mike Anderson, or Chris Van Vaulkenburg are.
Time will tell if anything shakes out on the Mike Andersen issue. However, in the meantime, the purity of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA has been preserved...at least in North Eastern Florida it has...for now...
DUM, DUM, DUM DAHHHHHHHHHH........(fade to black)