BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU: Hantz adds to his success with recent first place finish

Clay Hantz couldn’t tell you the moment when he realized he wanted to compete in Brazilian jiu jitsu. But when he did, he wanted to make it his calling.
“I don’t think I can pinpoint that,” Hantz said. “I didn’t know what I was passionate about at the time but all I knew was that jiu jitsu is hard.”
Hantz, who owns the Vagabond Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Odessa, has been participating in the sport for 14 years and has built himself up as one of the most decorated and talented jiu jitsu practitioners in town.
“When I started, the goal was to make it my life,” he said. “I wasn’t just looking for something to do. It was something to do as a career. That’s what I wanted to do. I just never gave up on myself or my family and that’s just how it happened.”
Hantz, who grew up in the area and graduated from Midland Christian in 2004, competed in Mixed Martial Arts for seven years before moving on to Brazilian jiu jitsu.
Whereas mixed martial arts covers an array of art styles to form one art form, Brazilian jiu jitsu is designed to allow an unarmed defender to defeat an armed opponent.
“Brazilian jiu jitsu is one aspect of mixed martial arts,” Hantz said. “It’s not just something that made you think and about the techniques and how to use them correctly. But it also makes you think about yourself.”
He added that there is more to it than just physical ability.
“There’s the martial side of martial arts and then there’s the arts side of it. The type of person that you are is how you’re going to be on the mat,” he said. “If you’re an anxious, then you’re going to be anxious. If you’re an angry person, you’ll get upset the minute you get taken down.
“But if you stick with it long enough, you’ll see that. You can only change those things about yourself.”
Hantz competes as a black belt with people from his academy and has racked up a number of awards over the years.
He won titles from the IBJJF San Antonio Open and the Austin Open in 2015 as well as the F2W Brown and Black Belt Texas State Championship in 2016.
He recently took home the title from the Chicago Open back on May 18. Competing at the Master In one group that includes ages 29-35, Hantz competed twice as the only American in his division, going up against two Brazilians.
“The Brazilians really dominated the sport,” he said. “It’s a big reason why it’s named after them. But, it was really great to represent my country.”
It was the third tournament that Hantz has competed in so far this year. He’ll look to go to four other tournaments before the end of the year, including the Austin Open on July 20 and the San Antonio Open.
While Hantz never gets tired of winning meets, his love of Brazilian jiu jitsu goes even deeper.
“What I like about competing in it is winning,” Hantz said. “But it’s really an adventure for being an older guy. There’s not a lot to do in Midland and Odessa, especially for people in their 30s and 40s.
“Being able to be a part of a team again and do something athletic with people that really support, you, that’s what I enjoy. It’s the culture and the team aspect of it.”
Hantz started the Vagabond Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in 2014, offering classes to all age groups to help spread the sport throughout West Texas.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” Hantz said. “I’ve lived here for too long and there are things to do here, you just have to look a little harder. It’s not something that you would think about when you think about martial arts.
“When you’re older and out of college and in the workforce, you can be stuck in a rut sometimes. Getting out and hanging out with people who are expanding themselves and learning more puts you out of you a little out of your comfort zone while still in a comfortable setting.”
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