Florent Luccioni is a important member of the French Jiu-Jitsu coomunity. Him and his twin brother Jean Claude are both BJJ Black belts under Francisco Nonato and run Arte Suave Jiu-Jitsu academy in Montpellier, France. In this exclusive Interview. Florent will tell us about the time he spent living in Brazil, why a country like France which has 145 BJJ Black Belts isn’t more successful in the international competition scene and how dedicated he is is to his students.
1. Hi Florent, can you please introduce yourself to the BJJ Community of Eastern Europe?
Hello and thanks for inviting me to speak not just about myself but mainly about my passion and my idea about Jiu-Jitsu.
I’m Florent Luccioni,32 years old, born and raised in Montpellier, south of France where I opened a martial arts and Jiu-Jitsu gym in september 2009.
I’m a Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Francisco Nonato 4th dan BB ( who still give some No Gi classes in my gym) since June 2011 after almost 11 years of training.
About my main titles, I will surprise you but it is not so important in my mind nowadays.
I see so many Jiu-Jitsu fighters who claim to be “champions” and are so proud about their titles but without telling in which belts, age or category and how many fights they did to win this “European championship”! It’s one aspect of my sport that I don’t like so much and it’s why I appreciate combat sports like Judo or Tae kwon do for example where nobody can” lie” about their accomplishments.
I grew up seeing real champions like in Basket Ball, the 1992 Dream Team or the runner Michael Johnson who were my heroes so i can’t consider myself a champion like them! lol
I prefer to remember which fighters with who I fought, because winning or losing is more important than the titles you won ( sometimes only fighting one fight)
So from 2005 to 2009, I was very active in competition in France and Europe fighting some of the best fighters in my weight class , some became my friends, and it makes me more happy and proud than the titles I won.
But to answer your question, my main titles where 4 time National French cup champion and three more times runner up ( at purple , brown and all grades level) and three time European Medalist at purple and brown belts.
2. What’s your Jiu-Jitsu story?
I started to train martial arts at 16 years old with traditional Ju-Jitsu (Japanese) invited by a good friend who was a Judo player in the same academy.
One day , a gym friend gave me a UFC 2 tape with the Ju-Jitsu victory, I noticed some differences with my Ju-Jitsu style and I spoke to my teacher who told me “it’s Ju-Jitsu, it’s the same thing”…lol.
3 or 4 years later I found a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym near my town who was run by a blue belt instructor ( who was a good level in France at this time, France already only had 3 or 4 purple belts at this time) .
So in November 2000 i started to train BJJ in a very little gym, at the beginning I liked it because I felt that this style was more aggressive than the traditional Ju-Jitsu but I was missing a little of the striking aspect and take downs ( ground fighting was the traditional Ju-Jistu aspect that I didn’t like)
But after some trainings, I really felt in love with this sport
So in 2004 as a blue belt i went to live and train in Brazil for 6 months without speeking one word of Portuguese. I trained there at De La Riva gym In Copacabana RJ. I came back in 2005 for 2 months and again in 2006 for 6 more months where I still trained at the De La Riva academy in Rio and also at the very good Monteiro Gym in Manaus in the Amazone , where I meet Francisco Nonato who eventually gave me my Black belt a few years later.
In 2006 returning from Brazil, I opened my first Jiu-Jitsu training group with some friends to be more active in competition, the first teacher was Nonato, it was in 2006.
3. At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to dedicate your life to Jiu-Jitsu and open a school?
I started to teach Jiu-Jitsu as a blue belt when my teacher was missing the classes. Some years later I taught my own class because I had no more teacher to teach in my school for some reasons.
At a time I decided that Jiu-Jitsu could either destroy my life or help my life and I have to make my choice.
After I graduated from University in France I went to train Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil and after returning to France, I had to work some very boring jobs.This situation was really difficult.
In 2008 I created my association called Arte Suave and one year later with all the money that I saved ( really all!!) I took the risk to open my own gym .
4. Please tell us about the History of BJJ in France. How is the current BJJ scene and how do you see it developing in the next few years? Do you think BJJ could become as popular here as it is in the America or now the UK for ex? How do you explain that France which has the largest number of Black and Brown belts in Europe, doesn’t produce so many medals at higher belts in the main competitions.
Oh man it’s a real large debate here!!
Jiu-Jitsu in France started in 1995 with a Rickson Gracie seminar, it was one of the first country ( if not the first) in Europe to develop Jiu-Jitsu.
This is why we have so many black belts in France , we’ve had Jiu-Jitsu for almost 20 years now!
Jiu-Jitsu is not that popular in France for many reasons. The first is because we have a really strong judo tradition and like it’s a similar sport it’s difficult to motivate the kids to train BJJ since they all train Judo!
When a fighter becomes a black belt he is in his 30’s and competition is more in the past than in the future for him.
Also we don’t have a unity between clubs with a real federation who helps the sport to grow more and more. Some clubs are going to the Judo federation who created a “Jiu-Jitsu Ne waza” department with some competitions to attract more licences i guess. Some are going to FILA (wrestling federation), some are going to CFJJB who are the French representatives of the Ibjjf, so this is not positive to develop Jiu-Jitsu in France.
When I started to fight in Europe i noticed than France was a really strong country in the European scene but it’s true than nowadays some country like Poland, England,Finland…are at the same level or even better.
In fact we really miss to see the reallity of the situation and to work to be better, of course we have some really good fighters, but for exemple Jiu-Jitsu started in Japan more or less in 1995 like in France and they have medals in World championships at the adult black belt level and in France,we rarely have medals at even the blue or purple belt level.
It’s sad because we have great potential with our cultural diversity and our martial arts tradition but this is the reality and I can’t close my eyes to this.
5. Please tell us about your experience training in Brazil (who did you train with, what did you learn etc….)?
Training there for a long time was really cool! I really enjoyed this time because it helped me to build myself as a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and also as a man because I quit everything to go to Brazil and like I said, I mainly trained under Ricardo De La Riva who is so a nice person . I really learned many things there, the first was that ” it’s not about magic it’s about training”, when I first came to the DLR gym i was expecting to see some highly skilled guys that would tap me with incredible moves, but I quickly noticed than they were the same fighters in Brazil as in France but they trained a lot more than in France. De La Riva gym is not a competition oriented gym In Rio but many of his students train everyday and they don’t even compete! Imagine how they would train , if they were competitors !?
I also learned about humanity by meeting people from all around the world. I learned the Portuguese language , I improved my English, i met some friends for life…it was really cool. Since I stayed there for a long period , I was considered like a regular member of the gym and not just a visitor and it was nice. Also the first medals I won was there representing the De La Riva school and it made me so proud and was very happy to win my firsts championships in Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil and not in France, as I was a blue belt, just the beginning!!
6. Please tell us about your academy Arte Suave in Montpellier. How does it differ from other BJJ academies?
It will be a little too much for me to say that my academy differs from others schools!!lol
But the first aspect it’s that i try to make some decent prices to my students, many times Jiu-Jitsu schools are expensive and i think it’s wrong because everybody should be able to train Jiu-Jitsu, so of course i have to deal with the prices because i have my bills to pay but i try to not kill my students with the affiliation to my gym.
In my gym, you can train Jiu-Jitsu and No Gi, we are three black belt to teach. I teach most of the classes, Nonato teaches some No Gi class and my brother teaches the Saturday class, we train both gi and no gi because i think its really cool to train both, and makes you a more complete fighter but it’s a real interesting debate and i can’t developp here! lol
We also offer Boxing and MMA classes and we have a gym where my students can lift weights.
It’s one of really rare academies 100% dedicated to Jiu-Jitsu in south of France , so we have the chance to offer our students, 3 Jiu-Jitsu or NO gi classes per day( or sometimes even more )for adults (like in Brazil!lol) and to teach kids also
I also teach Jiu-Jitsu in another gym in Nimes ( 50 kilometers from Montpellier) since last year, where i teach two times a week, and where I have a purple belt student who teaches two other classes,.His name is Joro Gueorguiev he is Bulgarian and is living in France for years and years,and a very good friend of mine and long time sparring partner.
We are focused towards competition but not at all cost. I only motivate people for competition if they really want to fight and train more than others, and we generally have good results but, most of my students don’t fight , they just play Jiu-Jitsu like an hobby.
7. What are BJJ players that you admire, and why?
I don’t really admire so many fighters because I don’t admire a person that I don’t know personally and who is only better than me in Jiu-Jitsu, I admire a person with great human qualities.
For what I know I really admire Ricardo De La Riva because he is a very simple person and because he is all the time working on his own techniques to improve their efficiency.
He helped me a lot to understand better Jiu-Jitsu Training with him when I was a beginner, as a blue belt he was giving me some good sparrings against some brown or black belts and was very happy about me. The first time that I sparred with him, he crushed me so slowly and easily at the same time that I understood that you can’t really judge someone according to their belt color. In JIu-Jitsu, the black belt is difficult to obtain but your teacher is giving to you, so I think that you have the responsibility to keep training. I saw so many purple belts in Brazil who were better than blacks, just because these blacks belts think that they don’t need to train anymore.
Like Bruce Lee said, your belt is not the most important, its just an accessory. I always said to my students that they should not look at the opponent’s belt color but to refer to their skills. A martial arts belt is not a level, it’s only a rank, and I learned that training with him. Your belt is the result of a person giving it to you (sometimes for the wrong reasons) You give yourself your true level by pushing yourself.
I remember when I fought and lost in the final of the French cup a few years ago, refereed by Ricardo De La Riva. Earlier that day I won against a Brazilian black belt as a purple belt and was very confident on winning the championship but I was really badly beat by a very good blue belt in the final. After the match, I apologized to De La riva and he only said to me “the other was simply quick and better than you, don’t apologize”.
In Jiu-Jitsu you only stay some months or years in all belts but the rest of your life with the black belt. This is the belt you keep the longest time, and you have to work hard to deserve it.
Another person that I met and respect a lot is Marcelo Garcia. I trained one time with him and he was so cool and so good at the same time. I remember rolling well against all his students and then being invited to spar with him!!
Great experience of humility!!
I like so muany fighters , many have such incredible skills!
But I admire more my students and friends like for exemple an instructor of my gym , Joro, who started training at 42 and only fought against adult competitors and who is training every day at 48 now, and never complained about training.
My coach , Nonato who was fighting MMA against a beast like Jeff Monson at more than 40 years old without training for the fight (short notice) ,real true warrior spirit.
My former sparring partner in Rio, Helveccio Penna who is famous for only fighting the adult class against world class fighters , he is more than 45 years old I think!!
They are really inspiring people not only because of their martial arts skills but because of their spirit and it’s what i admire the most.
8. How does it feel to train and roll all the time with your twin brother Jean Claude. Do you both have similar styles?
In fact I don’t train anymore with my twin brother for the past 2 or 3 years because he doesn’t work anymore in Montpellier, but we began the same day and we are both black belts from the same day.
For sure to start the same day was very motivating at the beginning to train more than the other and like all brothers, training was very contested, sometimes we even fought for real after a hard training!!lol
We don’t really have a similar style, I’m more “guardeiro” and he likes more to pass than me maybe
We even fought against each other in competitions and this is one other aspect that I don’t like in Jiu Jitsu, closing the bracket with a team mate. Jiu-Jitsu is not striking and you will not hurt your opponent so why not to fight against a friend, partner or brother in a final !
9. What did you think about the Metamoris Pro event? Do you like these rules as compared to IBJJF?
Oh!! i really hated those rules man!! I really hated the Gracie-Galvao match, i think only one fought this one, the other only wanted to not been submited This type of rules can be cool but I think a sport has to have unified rules and I like the traditionnal rules For sure some time fighters don’t play the game and play with the rules to win by advantage but it’s the same thing with all sports, its called strategy and it’s also part of any sport. I think Jiu-Jitsu could change its rules with fights of 7 minutes for all ( like in Abu Dhabi pro) for more intense fights, and with all belts together like all the others sports, could be surprising and interesting to see more purple and brown belts against black belts, i would really like it and
I also think IBJJF should change by organizing a real world championship like all the others sports but it’s another story!
10. How would you describe your style of Jiu-Jitsu? How about your teaching style? How were you able to develop a successful BJJ youth program?
My Jiu-Jitsu style was originally very focused on guard playing, but I have trained a lot my passing game and nowadays I almost enjoy more in training, to work on my passing, like Carlson said, you manage more the fight by passing some times.
But my teaching style is absolutely different, because i like to oblige my students to train on top and bottom by using some specific training in my classes. We rarely do free sparring, one or two time by week, the rest of time we do lot of specific training like “passou-parou” (specific work on positions)and all variations. I also like to work on handicaps fights( one start on mount, on side, on the back…) because it allows everybody to work on their escapes and make the better fighter in difficulty against the other. An other difference with main schools is that we train stand up more than most of others. Every class I show a take down and we train takedowns, sometimes also with the ban to pull guard , with goal to have decent takedowns. I have trained a little Judo or Wrestling but I never was really good in take downs but i think its a enormous mistake to never train stand up , like I said, in so many gyms they never even train this and it’s a mistake, because it makes you a complete fighter in competition and you can choose where the fight will take place. It’s good to eventually do self defense also ( do you pull guard in the streets? Explain me the reason for training a ground fighting art if you don’ know any takedowns??) If one day you want to fight MMA you’ll need to have good basics on your feet.
Another specificity of my classes it’s that i never do traditionnal warms up like pulla-pulla (hard core Brazilian warm up) for exemple, we start to run a little depending the climate only few minutes to be able to work on drills a lot. Drills I use could be done alone or two by two.
I think in a Jiu-Jitsu class you have to do Jiu-Jitsu from thhe first to the last minute. I don’t like to loose 30 minutes by running or doing pull ups. If my student want to do conditionning he have our gym to work on his strenght or conditionning. So one day i made them to work on their drills to improved the guard, the other day to improve their base…and it’s a great method because your students will forget most of the techniques you show them but they never forget the advice you give them when drilling a lot
Of course like other teachers , (De La Riva gave me that idea during his classes, ) we train our technique by giving to each week a theme,( for example week one: side control, week two: transition from side to mount, week three: finish from mount and week four:escape from mount)
In fact, I have had many different teachers so I try to keep the best of each one and do some adjustments with my working philosophy. I also try to keep a friendly atmosphere in my class, its very important because we do a sport which can be dangerous in the wrong hands so I have to take care with my students attitude during training.
To speak about kids programm!!oh man, it’s so interesting but also very difficult, because some times you train a kid for 3 years and he decides to stop because of himself or his parents and it seems like you did all this work for nothing.
But it’s really cool to see what a kid can do and how much Jiu-Jitsu is good for kids, it gives them a lot of confidence
To teach kids it’a a lot different than adults , mostly with the relation between both and I think the most important thing for young people its to try to give them somes values more than techniques
12. What is next for you and your team in 2012/2013?
My personal plan is to be happy with my life more than to to win more championships, I may fight some championships, may not, I don’t really know.
For my team it’s to grow a lot more in both Montpellier and Nimes and for the competition team try to help them to reach their goals if they are ready do all the work you have to do to reach them. You know i feel the desire to fight in each championship I attend, but I coach them with such passion than it’ could be difficult for me to fight at the end of the day!lol But I may return to compete in few years when my team will be strongly built , just to fight good black belts to see where I am, in my gym I receive a lot of good fighters and in training i’m not so bad against them, so why not to see me again in competition in the future, but nowadays my goal is my team more than me. I see me more like a coach than a fighter right now.
13. Thanks Florent and all the best!
Thank you for allowing me to speak about my passion, thanks to my students to be like they are, to my love to support me every day. It’ not easy, and thanks to Jiu-Jitsu who really changed my life and my personality by transforming a disrupted teenager afraid by his future by an man happy with his life!