Aspiring Grappler and Musician Chris Senner Finds Motivation Through Challenges
Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is just one of the many hobbies for up-and-coming grappler Chris Senner. Still only 22-years-old, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student recently took home top honors at King Grappler, released his first album alongside his Before The War bandmates, and is preparing to make his amateur mixed martial arts debut.
Before it was common to find the UFC airing across three different channels at almost any given time, aspiring fighters or interested BJJ practitioners were forced to rent instructional VHS tapes and practice the moves on a nearby friend. And while old school VHS tapes are a thing of the past, Senner began his path into BJJ in a similar manner.
"It's funny looking back because in the very beginning my buddy Mike (Litschauer) and I bought a wrestling mat and just started going on Youtube and working out that way like three or four times a week," Senner told US Combat Sports. "We would find random submission videos and practice them for hours."The self-taught lessons paid dividends for Senner and helped him win the first King Grappler tournament he ever attended. From there, the former Arrowhead High School wrestler followed his older brother's lead and began training at Roufusport in Milwaukee. Ultimately, Senner made the move to train under Eric "Red" Schafer after the UFC-veteran and BJJ black belt opened his own gym near the end of 2010.
"It's awesome training at Red's," said Senner. "Everyone gets along really well there and Red is a great coach. Training with my brother is also really good because we have always had the same style in wrestling and it's just a really great fit for me."
Over the past few years Senner has proven to be one of the toughest grapplers across the state and is currently ranked atop the state's 155-pound BJJ rankings. Most recently, Senner earned what he considers his greatest grappling achievement to date by submitting Ben Pitchford within the King Grappler Advanced Grappler No-Gi Finale.
"When I locked that triangle up there were a lot of things going through my head," Senner reminisced. "Instead of looking to finish it right away, I just tried to maintain control and make sure he couldn't escape. I ended up trapping his arm and then I felt the triangle lock in deeper. When he tapped it was a really cool feeling."
Since his introduction into grappling, Senner has jumped head-first into the toughest challenges possible. He insists that regularly competing within Absolute divisions against the most qualified opponents is the only way to truly improve within the sport.
"I've been competing in wrestling since I was seven or eight and when I get out there I don't really care about whom I'm going against; I actually want to compete against the best people possible. I feel that the better opponents I compete against, the better I perform. I think that mentality comes from my wrestling background."
Currently a blue belt under Schafer, Senner has routinely impressed during his trails within the Absolute divisions. And while he is excited for the possibility of increasing belt rank in the future, he is more than willing to put in the extra effort and leave no doubts that he is worthy of the promotion in due time.
"When you get a belt from Red you really feel like you've earned it. It's definitely an awesome feeling. I've been doing the Gi off-and-on for three years now and it's truly a good feeling when you test for a new belt, especially once you get it because you know that it's been earned with Red."
But upgrading belt rank and winning future grappling competitions aren't the only items on Senner's to-do list. Despite facing bout cancellations in the past, the former wrestler has also been working on his striking and plans on competing within his first amateur MMA competition in the future. And like all else, Senner plans on testing some of his lesser utilized skills once inside the cage.
"When I was getting ready for the past fights I really worked on my striking," said Senner. "For these amateur fights I don't necessarily want to take it to mats right away, instead I want to see what I'm capable of on my feet. "
As well as entering the amateur MMA ranks, Senner also has high hopes for the music business. Alongside Keegan Calmes and Nick Cesarz, Senner plays piano and adds vocals to the alternative-slash-progressive rock band Before The War. The group recently released their first EP on iTunes just days ago.
Whether through athletics or music, Senner has proven more than capable of making waves by relying on his determined mindset just as much as his talent. It's safe to say that the future looks bright on a multitude of levels for the aspiring grappler.
If you've read this far into the article I'm going to just go ahead and assume you're a fan of Wisconsin's Mixed Martial Arts scene. Stay up-to-date with all of the area's breaking news, interviews, and recaps from Paul Fladten at US Combat Sports (uscombatsports.com) and make sure to follow us on Twitter at @paul_fladten84 and @USCombatSports for all local MMA news.