Interview with Team Tooke founder, Travis Tooke
Interview with Travis Tooke
By Lance Edwards
Well liked and well respected, Travis Tooke is a well known member of the Texas Brazilian Jiu Jitsu scene. As well as competing in jiu jitsu tournaments, Travis Tooke has a number of active MMA fighters at his school, including UFC fighter and former Legacy Fighting Championship Middleweight Champion, Andrew Craig. We caught up with Travis Tooke to find out about how he got involved in BJJ and developments at his school, which includes the opportunity to study BJJ and complete school credits at the same time.
Legacy: How did you get involved in jiu jitsu?
Travis: I was fourteen or so. I had a friend who introduced me to UFC 1-4 and I watched Royce Gracie fight. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I had been conditioned to believe that fighting was what you saw on TV, and that was how a fight went, but Royce was doing something completely different; I felt that I had to learn that. At the time, there was nowhere to learn. I ended up getting involved with Alvis Solis, who was a blue belt at the time and is a great leader and coach, and always encouraged me. I searched for information and everything I could find on BJJ, and got connected with Carlos Machado. I started training everyday and went from there.
I trained for a few years, and then moved to Dallas and trained with Carlos Machado for four to five months. I came back, and when I was twenty-two moved to Brazil. I sold my car, got sponsored and saved money. I planned to stay for three months and if it went well, maybe six. In the end, I stayed there for fourteen months. You aren’t exactly allowed to stay that long, but if you go in and out of the country and things like that you can get around it. When I came back, my goal was to open an academy, but I had no business skills, I just knew BJJ.
Legacy: I heard you used to teach out of your garage?
Travis: Well, it wasn’t actually my garage. It was my dad’s. I opened the school at my dad’s house in the garage, and ten months later my dad sold the house. Houston summers are no joke, and that garage would get really hot. I realized I needed to get some business knowledge. I just assumed that when I opened the school, people would find me and that didn’t happen, so I did that and now my main academy is close to four hundred and twenty students.
Legacy: When did you get your black belt?
Travis: I was awarded it in 2004 by Carlos Gracie; I had been there seven months and was already a brown belt when I went to Brazil. I learned the language when I was there, and when I was given my black belt, you have to give a speech, which I did. That was one of the best moments for me during my time there.
Legacy: Did you just train at the main Gracie Barra Academy there?
Travis: I visited a few schools during my trip, but mainly trained at the main Barra Academy while I was there.
Legacy: Did you think Brazilian Jiu Jitsu would grow as much as it has?
Travis: I thought so. I was hopeful. If you’re a martial artist and love BJJ, it’s hard for people to understand exactly why you love it so much and what you get from it. When I started, I was an addict right away. I didn’t want to party. It was a good thing to be addicted to a healthy activity like BJJ. During the journey, you learn about leadership, teamwork and about working hard. There are a lot of benefits to obtain from training. The success of BJJ has been fueled by the UFC, but until people learn some BJJ, they don’t really understand the culture that goes with it. Teaching BJJ is a responsibility as well. How you teach it affects what sort of person your student becomes.
Legacy: Now, I know you’re starting a BJJ summer school.
Travis: We have. It’s for high school kids from eighth to tenth grade. They can come and take courses online that are fully accredited, while they are doing BJJ and MMA full time, like a specialist school. I’d have killed for something like that when I was at school. We plan to continue it all year round.
Legacy: What’s next?
Travis: I’m always looking to the next goal to take the school to the next level and trying to improve it. I’d like to get some sponsorships, so our team can compete internationally on a more regular basis. As well as the opportunity to travel, it would be a great experience for the students. We have a boot camp as well, and a number of other things being planned.
We have Andrew Craig in the UFC and his next fight is July 11th, and he is looking for another victory.
Legacy: Are you surprised at how fast his career has taken off?
Travis: On paper, it’s been very quick, but training with him daily I don’t feel like that. He’s had a quick progression, but I’m expecting him to perform as he has performed, so it doesn’t surprise me. The ultimate goal is for him to hold the title.
Legacy: Any advice to people who want to be successful in BJJ or MMA?
Travis: Whatever you are going to do whether it is BJJ or MMA, whether you are a student, instructor or competitor, you need to make a plan and accept responsibility for your success. It’s easy to blame others. There’s always a reason as to why you lose, but the main thing is not to make excuses. Planning and perseverance overcomes. When I started, my original goal was to compete, but when I got back from Brazil, I had a herniated disc in my back; the pain was crippling, and it was a good time to give up, but I didn’t and pushed through it. You need some perseverance. Most of all, enjoy the ride along the way.