Academy Hunting Homework #2: Trainers Elite MMA Cleber BJJ

Last June when I was getting ready for the 2011 IBJJF World Championships, one of my coaches advised me to go roll with Helen of Trainers Elite MMA. The weekend before, he had taken a seminar with Cleber Luciano and had rolled with Helen afterwards. Although she was a white belt at the time, he told me Helen was super aggressive and I could benefit from rolling with her to warm me up for the intensity of competing at the Worlds. I had never set foot in Trainers Elite before and only met Helen a few times at UFC and other BJJ functions outside of class but we never really talked much.

Two weeks before the Worlds I took my coaches advice and  ventured up to Trainers Elite to roll with Helen. Sure enough, he was right. Although she was smaller and less experienced than me, she made me work harder than anyone else her size and belt level. She has grips of steel and a good inverted guard game. I absolutely benefited from working with her in my preparation for that tournament.  Shortly after my knee healed, I came back during open mat to roll with Helen again. If you've met her before you are very lucky. She's a fire cracker of a woman with a heart of gold. She is also a self proclaimed "big dork". Needless to say it didn't take us long to develop a friendship.

After I decided to leave Relson Gracie team in August, I took my first official class with black belt Sean Cooper at Trainers Elite MMA. Trainers Elite is apart of the Cleber Luciano BJJ team. The academy is located in N.W. Austin. They have large mat space, clean facilities and a relaxed family style atmosphere. I've heard nothing but great things about Sean Cooper's instruction and academy, so I was excited to see what was in store for me during a regular class.

Cooper's classes begin with a traditional bow in at the beginning and end of classes. Then a typical warm up (running, sprints, wrestler stance inside and outside, etc.). Next the warm-up continues to drills that mimic the movement for the instructional portion.We did exercises like passing the guard to knee on belly back and forth on both sides and grabbing hands with your partner and lifting your hips up to switch sides back and forth. It was a good length of time for a  warm up and at a good level of intensity.

The instructional portion of the classes consisted of 2-3 technical moves that played off each other (I.e. Knee on belly, mount, choke from mount to arm bar). The class had a nice movement and flow. It was easy to follow and Cooper was detailed in his instruction. I picked up some sneaky moves that can fit into my game nicely.

My last instructor Phil , had a strong guard game and as a result of his influence so do I. It's been eye opening to learn from those who have different strengths. The reason Helen has a good inverted guard game is because of Cooper's awesome game.  We really are a product of our experiences. One of my biggest goals in this process of finding a new academy team is to expose myself to new perspectives, techniques, styles, etc.  My hope is to be more versatile by the end of this process regardless of where I end up.

During training, Cooper was attentive and provided feedback on our drilling of his technique. After the technical portion it was time for positional sparring and then rolling. Typically a few people stay down and the others rotate around the room to different partners at each round starting from various positions like open guard or side control. The classes are 1-1.5 hours in length including the warm up. The students ranged in skill levels and sizes. Everyone is friendly, helpful and welcoming. I've even run into some familiar faces of my past academy which has been a nice surprise.

Overall, my impression of Trainers Elite has been favorable. The instruction is up to par, the environment and classes are relaxed yet structured, there are quality training partners, the price is reasonable and the class times are adequate to accommodate my schedule and goals. Cooper is a full time BJJ guy, a good instructor with a big bag of tricks.  The only minor draw back is location. It's about a 30 min drive one way from home.  I've been spoiled living 10 minutes of biking distance from my last academy. However, on my school day it's only 15 min from campus so I've been able to check out noon classes in addition to Saturday and weeknight classes. The noon classes are smaller than the evening and weekend, giving participants an opportunity to get more one on one time with Cooper so you can ask more questions and get feedback.

I also got to meet Cleber Luciano during his seminar when I photographed it a few months ago. I had fun documenting  the seminar and getting to know the team better. If you missed the past Cleber Luciano seminar you'll want to catch the next one which will be on December 3, 2011.   I got some great shots from the last seminar and look forward to participating in the next one. Thank you to Sean Cooper, Helen and the team for sharing your mats with me...I'll be back for more! 


  1. Looks like you had a great time on those MMA sessions with the wonderful instructors. And I see that you thrive well in the MMA field. I wish we could see you compete some time, so we get to see those amazing style and moves you’ve learned from your mentors.

    Ritchie Yip @ InFighting


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