Interview with Alvis Solis February 11, 2005
Alvis Solis is no stranger to the Martial arts community in Texas. Solis originally trained in Filipino Martial arts and later stickfighting under the “Dog Brothers”. Solis, also known as “Hound Dog” under the Dog Brothers, became exposed to BJJ under the Machado brothers, and later became a disciple of world renown Black belt Carlos Machado. Solis, like other Machado students, compete in the BJJ arena. Solis has amassed an impressive competition record, placing in many TexasState championships. On an international level, Solis has placed in the prestigious Pan American world championships, winning in the Purple and Brown belt divisions. Solis is an impressive coach as well, noting his successful team that partakes in Carlos Machado’s Texas juggernaut team.
Xena: Welcome Alvis!
Alvis: Thanks for having me..
Xena: Well, let me start off by saying congratulations! you are now among the elite in Texas, and in the BJJ community. For those out there that don’t know, let me recap a proud moment in your life. You received a Black belt in BJJ under instructor Carlos Machado. In BJJ, we all wonder if we ever will get to that level. You obviously were notified before the tournament. how did you feel? Did you think: “I am glad this path is over”, or “Oh my God, I am now a Black belt!” Ha-ha….
Alvis: When Carlos told me that he was promoting me, I was blown away. I think I actually went speechless on him off a bit. It’s a goal that I set early on, and have worked hard at it, and it only took me ten years! LOL! I do know that this is only the beginning. Carlos said that we will both be training when we are in our 80’s, walking to the mat with our canes, only then I will have the advantage because of my stickfighting experience!! (Laughs)
Xena: Alvis, you have been around for some time in Texas. Can you briefly recap your BJJ history training?
Alvis: I actually started BJJ by watching the Dog Brothers tape # 5 in which Carlos was featured in back in August of 93′. I then met the Machado brothers in April of 94′ and started training with them every time I went to California. I began training with Eric Williams (he was part of the Machado team then) at the end of 94-95′. I left that school to teach Filipino Martial Arts at another school and privately (I continued traveling to California to stickfight and train at the Machado academy in Hermosa Beach). Once Carlos moved to Texas, I traveled quite a bit to train with him on the Walker Texas Ranger set and at various seminars he held. I opened my school in 1997. I got my Blue belt in Dec. 97′, my Purple belt march 2001, my Brown January 2003, and now my Black belt to start 2005 right!
Xena: On to different areas. here in Texas, you are on most forums regarding BJJ. As you know, BJJ is still a relatively small tap compared to other styles into the martial arts market, despite its popularity. How can we promote BJJ in a more acceptable way where one day schools have 100 kids show up each week?
Alvis: I think that we need to stop fighting each other and actually help other schools grow. Here in Houston, we have a population of over 4 million people. I think that Houston is big enough to have each of our schools have 300 students apiece. We shouldn’t be competing against each other (in a derogatory way), but working with each other. Instead we fight for crumbs when we could all be eating steak. We need to educate the general public that BJJ is not the UFC. I think that tends to scare off a lot of potential students, which is a shame because I have seen how positive of an impact BJJ has had on the kids I teach.
Xena: Ok, let’s play devil’s advocate. Give me your top five BJJ competitors. active right now and why.
Alvis: Black belts? In no particular order… Roger Gracie: He has the best closed guard game in the world. Jacare: he is a very dynamic player, very aggressive style. Marcello Garcia: He has brought the arm drag from wrestling, plus his back attacks are on a different level. Braulio Estima: very smooth and fluid style, very Gracie Barra. Rafael Lovato Jr.: very technical and intelligent fighter. When Carlos decides to compete again, he will definitely make a big noise. No gi, Jean Jacques is still my favorite. Brown belt: I enjoy watching Mike Fowler and Jeff Glover, who both are going to make a big deal in a year or two.
Xena: How far have the Americans closed the gap on Brazil in BJJ? You have competed at the Mundial a couple of years ago. What is your opinion?
Alvis: I trained at Gracie Barra in 2003 and from what I saw, Americans are definitely closing the gap. Brazilians have the advantage of having so many Black and Brown belts training in one academy, but we will get there soon. I think our teaching methodology is better which is why it shouldn’t take our students 10 years to get their Black belts and still maintain our high standards.
Xena: As you know, my instructor and friend of yours William Vandry has promoted women in BJJ. You know something about training women, as your female student Siggi is arguably the best female BJJ competitor in Texas, and one of the best in the U.S. as well. What can the BJJ community do to promote more women in training BJJ?
Alvis: By offering an atmosphere that is not so aggressive. Assertive yes, but not so aggressive. We still have knuckleheads who look at new students as new meat whether they are male or female makes no difference. I have fought for women in BJJ for a long time. I think that its time that women are treated as fairly as the men. They have paid their dues in sweat on the mat just like the guys.
Xena: Speaking of Siggi, how is she in training these days?
Alvis: She is awesome. Pound for pound, my most technical student. We are working on some new elements in her game plan, and she should do very well at the Pan Ams this year. Oh, I don’t think that Siggi is one of the best in the U.S., I think she is one of the best in the world.
Xena: Alvis, you have competed and done well. Do you plan on competing at the Mundial or Pan Am this year?
Alvis: I am training for this year’s Pan Am, and will be going to Brazil (hopefully with Carlos) to compete at the Master’s mundial. I am not only training physically, but will be ready mentally as well. I am utilizing Lloyd Irvin’s grappling game plan (www.grapplinggameplan.com) and it is starting to make a difference in training.
Xena: As for style, different BJJ practitioners have different techniques. What type of game do you like when rolling? What type of guard strategy do you use, top game, bottom game, and what are your favorite submissions?
Alvis: I try to have an active game. I fell that for my age group ( I just turned 41 on Feb. 4)I am in decent shape, so I like to press the action. I use a closed guard, when that opens I try to set up the hook flip or the split sweep. From top I like to pass standing and try to secure side control or the knee ride. My favorite submissions are the Bat choke from the knee ride, or if they go to all fours, the clock choke. I have actually made a couple of guys throw up with that move which is not that great of a thing because I am a sympathetic vomiter! LOL! I am working on some new submissions and Carlos has been helping me develop my attacks and overall game plan.
Xena: There seems to have been a controversial issue with PeDePano at the Arnold. It was stated that he was suspended. Did you hear about that?
Alvis: I wasn’t there so it would be inappropriate of me to comment on that situation.
Xena: There have been other issues in the past. As for tournaments, you yourself host the H-town tournament each year. Yours seem to go off without a hitch. What do you think would help BJJ tournaments in the future? Suggestions?
Alvis: We listen to feedback and are always working on improving the tournament experience. We have implemented several rules at our tournaments in order to make it run as smooth s possible. I have a wonderful staff that works very hard. We do not tolerate any profanity since there are children around and as adults we have the vocabulary skills to make out point without offense. We also won’t tolerate any fighting. There is simply no reason for it. I will press charges. We have a difficult time finding a gym because of all the chaos that has happened before, so we try and nip that in the bud. Elbert Hebron works very hard finding us a venue in which to showcase our skills, so I am not going to let a few rotten apples ruin it for everyone. We try and run the fairest tournament that we can. We respect the hard work that the competitors and their coaches have put in. Everyone is aware that we are all human and that we will make mistakes, but that we will do our best. Another thing, there is No instant replay in BJJ! So at my tournaments, whatever call the ref makes, that call will stand. I will not go over my refs. So while you are allowed to video tape, you better keep that camera out of my face! having the support of other coaches though is really crucial and we have been fortunate to have that support. JD Shelley is one coach from another team, who I respect and has always been very supportive. Thanks JD!
Xena: Alvis, you have up and coming fighters from your school. Can you bring up a few of them, and tell us about them?
Alvis: Robert Soliz and Anthony Bernabeo are two of my purple belts that will be competing more this year. I have a student named Darren McCall that moves impressively for his size. He is strong as an ox and very technical. Shawn Key, a blue belt has a nice closed guard game and is learning how to be an instructor as well as a competitor. I have a group of soon to be blue belts that I am really proud of. They know who they are. Soon, everyone will know! Plus, I have the best kids group in Texas. William and Brandon Lorenz, who closed out their division at the tournament, along with my daughters Meagan and Ember lead the way there. Up and coming kids are James brooks Jr., Sarah and JT Bounds, the Abouk and Ferdoz sisters, Melosio Garcia, the Davis brothers, and Dominic Dawkins. I currently have several women training who everyone will need to keep their eye out for. Charlotte Lenssen has won her first two competitions and then there is my oldest daughter Meagan, who just turned 13 on Christmas. She is going to start competing in the Women’s divisions this year. Her game is really coming on. She has been training BJJ since she was 8 years old, and I expect for both her and her little sister to be Black belts when they turn 18.
Xena: Alvis, when did you start teaching BJJ? When did you open your school? Is it as easy as everyone thinks? (laughs)
Alvis: I started teaching BJJ in 1996 out of my garage to just one private student. I opened my school in Jan. of 1997, and with Carlos’ support, encouragement and permission, taught BJJ as a white belt. Carlos has always supported me. I am very thankful to have Carlos as not only a teacher but as my friend. I am always learning new things to run my school more efficiently. I am a good teacher, but I could be better as a businessman, so I am always studying ways to improve. I would love to be a Black belt in business. My wife Cynthia is the Black belt there. She is always making sure that we are on track. There are good resources on the net. One I can highly recommend is www.martialartteachers.com , which I have learned a lot from. I love my school and my students, and they understand that I do have to pay the bills. It’s not easy at all. There were times when we nearly closed because of hard times, there times I nearly closed because of personal heartache and disappointment. We have survived all that and came out of it stronger than ever! The future looks really great for us!
Xena: Alvis, can you give out your contact information for people interested in training under you , and also for those interested in possibly hosting you for a seminar?
Alvis: Anyone can email me at avis @solismartialarts.com or call my school at 281-540-8443. You can also visit my website at www.solismartialarts.com
Xena: Thanks again Alvis. Is there a last piece of advice you would like to give to all the undergrads training in BJJ?
Alvis: Don’t be afraid to tap. The tap is where learning occurs. Use the tap to analyze where the holes in your game are. Start tapping more in training when you can’t escape, and watch you skill level improve. EAT, SLEEP, JIU-JITSU!