Competitor Spotlight: Christopher Wienandt

11 Nov

Today competitor spotlight is about Christopher Wienandt from Travis Lutters Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. You have probably seen his pictures of inspiration floating around the internet as he started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in his 60’s and is an active competitor. Christopher is an inspiration to all jiu-jitsu practitioners of all ages and rank. In tournaments he regularly faces off with competitors 20 -30 years younger. We managed to catch up with him to ask him a few questions about himself and jiu-jitsu.

1. Tell us about yourself…

I’m a deputy copy desk chief at The Dallas Morning News and have worked there for about 30 years, mostly as an editor, but I spent six years in a quasi-IT job. I’ve written occasionally for the books and travel sections. I’m also an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of North Texas. I’ve got a doctorate in English and lived in Germany for four years, three of them working for the military newspaper Stars and Stripes; I’ve lived in Fort Worth for 27 years. I’m married and have a son who’s 21. And since people keep asking, I’m 62.

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2. How long have you been training, background on you and your jiu jitsu experience

I started training at Travis Lutter’s gym in Fort Worth about a year and a half ago. I’ve never been athletic except for running, until I messed up my Achilles tendon. After having surgery to get it fixed, I decided I was seriously going to get in shape in a way nobody who knew me would ever believe I’d do. My first few times at the gym were murderous – I had no idea what I was getting into. My coach was sure I’d die right there on the mat in front of him. But I kept coming back. My first goal was just to make it through the warm-ups! I found it pretty addictive – obviously.

3. What pushed you to start competing?

I was hesitant to compete the first time, but I felt like I needed to get out there to have a fuller understanding of the jiu jitsu experience. Or to put it more bluntly, to lose my BJJ virginity. As it turned out, I had a blast. When the match ended, I couldn’t believe five minutes had already passed. Since then I’ve competed in three other tournaments and been better every time.

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4. What were your thoughts when you stepped on the mat for your first roll knowing it was submission only? How did it feel?

Stepping onto the mat in any competition is scary to me. I have no problem speaking to a crowd of 500 people, but facing one other guy in a fight is incredibly nerve-wracking. I was looking forward to the submission-only format because I figured it was a chance to concentrate more on technique without having to worry about the clock or scoring points.

View complete event album and order photos - www.mikecalimbas.com/BJJ/BJJClassic2013TXChampionships

5. You started BJJ in your 60’s and are an inspiration to others. Competition pictures of you fighting people 20 – 30 years younger have circled around the Internet inspiring others. What would you say to someone that is thinking of starting Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Any advice you would give them?

Just do it. Even though we joke about it at the gym sometimes, I never think about my age. I’m just a guy trying to get better at the sport like everyone else on the mat. I’d say to anyone wanting to try BJJ, “Stop stalling. Get out there. It’ll be hard at first – harder than you could ever imagine – but it’s worth the effort. You’ll be healthier, you’ll feel better about yourself, and you’ll be part of a community of some of the greatest people in the world.”

6. What are your goals with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and competition?

Like everyone else in BJJ, I just want to keep getting better and better. Of course I want to earn that succession of belts, but they’re just symbols of progress on a very, very long road. As for competition, I want to be standing in that top spot on the podium someday … especially if the other two guys are half my age!

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7. Anything else you would like to add about BJJ or yourself?

I can’t say enough about the encouragement and patience of Travis Lutter and my coaches Bobby Alexander and Ben Annunziato. And even though people say I’m an inspiration to them, I’ve got a whole academy full of teammates who constantly inspire me. Everybody I train with makes me better. Finally, one other great thing about BJJ that I never expected – I’ve made a lot of great friends at the gym, at tournaments, and even from people contacting me on the Web. It’s a fantastic bunch of people. I realize some of this sounds pretty sappy. But I mean all of it.

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