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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

WSU, say hello to jiu-jitsu

A+couple+of+Wichita+Statestudents+practice++a+Brazilian+jiu-jitsu+technique.
Gavin Stephens
A couple of Wichita Statestudents practice a Brazilian jiu-jitsu technique.

Jiu-jitsu is an art that changes who you are as a person, according to Kael Laselva.

“It brings out the person you really are, and then it fixes it,” Laselva, a freshman business major, said. “After I started training (in) jiu-jitsu, I kind of realized that there’s a lot more to life than what I thought it was because you can’t hide in jiu-jitsu. Your skill really will speak for itself.”

Students learn self-defense and discipline techniques via Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) in the new class provided by Laselva MMA and Wichita State in the Heskett Center — all because of Laselva and the support of his father, Marcio. 

Laselva has been immersed in BJJ his whole life; his father is the highest-ranking black belt in Kansas and introduced the martial art to Wichita in 2006. 

“I’ve been doing it since I was 6,” Laselva said. “A couple of people have come in saying, ‘I was expecting someone a lot older,’ but just through my experience, I feel like I’m qualified to teach.”

Laselva focuses on the techniques of BJJ rather than fitness level and athletic ability. He teaches two new beginner-friendly techniques each session.

“Something that I’m focusing on is really dissecting each technique to the point where they understand the concept, not just the movement,” Laselva said. “If you want to get fit, that’s great. This is a great start because you start moving your body a little bit … but I’m not making anybody run.”

Christopher Dietrich, a freshman exercise science major, said joining the BJJ class is beneficial for teaching the mechanics of jiu-jitsu as well as self-defense.  

“I think it brings a lot of value just in terms of just self-defense,” Dietrich said. “Also, it’s extremely fun to learn. You’re going to learn a lot about mechanics and how humans move and pose.”

Dietrich also said the class is very beginner-friendly for non-athletic students.

“I think (Laselva is) a great coach,” Dietrich said. “When I started doing jiu-jitsu, I missed a lot of the basic knowledge. He’s good at teaching this basic stuff that I missed out on.”

Laselva said he strives to create a diverse, open environment for learning BJJ.

“These guys that I’m teaching, that I’m trying to influence, are promoting safe practices,” he said. “They’re just being nice to people, and they’re being respectful, especially to women. I think it’ll progressively start bringing more people in because I want to have a very diverse set of people.”

Laselva wants to host self-defense classes in the future and encourage more women to join his class because effective jiu-jitsu techniques may save their lives someday. He pointed to a real-life example one of his students experienced.

“Somebody tried to grab (a student) … and they knew how to defend themselves, whereas they wouldn’t have known how to before,” he said.

Months of planning and dedication went into making the BJJ class a reality at WSU, and Laselva plans on keeping it going for years to come.

“The goal would actually be to … either get it as (an accredited) class through the university … which is, I don’t know how attainable that is, or maybe get it to be a college sport,” Laselva said. “I feel honored to be a pioneer of that, regardless of which direction it goes.”

Students interested in joining Laselva’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu class can contact him by emailing [email protected] or by phone at (316) 618-3176. Students may also attend the class in Heskett Room 145. 

The class is offered every Monday and Wednesday from 7-8 a.m. and costs $150; however, the first class is free. The classes are open to everyone, regardless of experience or skill level.

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About the Contributors
Genesis Merriett
Genesis Merriett, Reporter
Genesis Merriett is a second-year reporter for The Sunflower. She is a sophomore majoring in mathematics and minoring in French and anthropology. Merriett wants to pursue a doctoral degree after graduating, but for now, she enjoys writing, drawing, and baking.
Gavin Stephens
Gavin Stephens, Photographer
Gavin Stephens is a first-year photographer with The Sunflower.

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