Pedro has also established a very successful grappling event in the local region, which is going from strength to strength and Pedro himself is a keen competitor himself having recently fought in the 10K Clash, where he faced BJJ stand out Braulio Estima.
Back once again with an interview of Brazilian instructor Pedro Bessa; like many of the BJJ instructors in the UK, many gravitate to London and other big cities such as Birmingham and Edinburgh. However, Pedro is based in the South West of England and has established a network of BJJ academies within the region and is now looking to expand across the UK. Pedro has also established a very successful grappling event in the local region, which is going from strength to strength and Pedro himself is a keen competitor himself having recently fought in the 10K Clash, where he faced BJJ stand out Braulio Estima.
Once again, big shout to Paul Carthy for helping me with the interview and photographs and a large number of Pedro’s students who answered my call for help, you know who you are!
Carl: Most of the instructors I have talked to are from Rio, where you on the other hand come from Sao Paolo; can you tell me about your life in Sao Paolo and how you started in jiu jitsu? Who was your instructor out there?
Pedro: I am actually from Sao Jose dos Campos, a city in the Sao Paulo State and 1h drive from Sao Paulo City on the way to Rio. It is a good location because the city is 3h drive from Rio, 1h drive from Sao Paulo City and 2h drive to a beautiful coast. I lived there until the age of 19 and then moved to Sao Paulo City. I started in jiu-jitsu in 1996 after watching the early UFC and was impressed with Royce Gracie’s performance. At that time there was a black belt from Bolao teaching near by my house so my brother and I decided to start together. I trained there for two years.
CF: How big is jiu jitsu in Sao Paolo? Who are the big names out there? Is it as popular as Rio?
PB: Jiu-jitsu is very popular in Sao Paulo, I would say as popular as in Rio. There are many good schools in Sao Paulo, such as Fabio Gurgel, Leo Vieira, Ryan Gracie, Rubens Charles, Telles, Fernando Pontes, just to name a few.
CF: Does your first instructor still teach jiu jitsu? Do you still stay in touch?
PB: I have never seen him again!
CF: Where is Mestre Careca’s academy? Can you describe the academy and some information on the instructor?
PB: Mestre Careca’s Academy is in Sao Jose dos Campos. There are two mats area and some weight facilities as well. There are classes from 10 am to mid-day and from 4pm to 10pm every day. He is a very humble guy and his teaching is very detailed. His trains are hard, a lot of fitness exercises!
CF: When Careca joined TT, did he continue teaching or was that left to Eduardo and Terere?
PB: Careca set a branch of TT in Sao Jose dos Campos so he was still teaching at his own academy. However me, Andre Galvao, Flavinho, Chuck and Caicara went to TT headquarter in Sao Paulo City to join Telles and Terere.
CF: Did these two instructors have any influence on your jiu jitsu? Did you have much contact with them?
PB: Yes a lot; Telles and Terere were the main instructors at TT Academy. Actually many people in TT influenced my jiu-jitsu, when I started there my game improved as I managed to pick up some things from both of them and also from the others students too.
CF: Did you train with Andre Galvao at all? What are his training methods like?
PB: When Andre started at Mestre Careca’s Academy I was blue belt already. However he was so dedicated and disciplined that he managed to grade to black belt before I did. He deserved it, he use to train 6-8h a day since he started. I use to train only 2h a day until brown belt and then I increased to 6h daily.
CF: When did you come to the UK and why did you come over? Who brought you to the UK?
PB: I first came here in order to learn English in 2003. At that time I was just promoted to brown belt and I had injured my shoulder so I was not training much. My brother was studying photography here and he invited me to come over. I went back to Brazil for two years and came back for goods in august 2005.
CF: Many of the jiu jitsu teachers that come to the UK usually head for London, yet you chose Bristol. Any reason why?
PB: Because I already had a place to teach here, I knew the city already and really liked here.
CF: Are you still operating under TT or do you have your own Association?
PB: No, the TT closed down, which is a shame. Therefore I decided to start my own group with the same principles of TT, train good jiu-jitsu in general and effective for competition.
CF: How many clubs have you in the UK and where are they located?
PB: I have now three clubs, one in Bristol, where I am based; one In Devon and other in Birmingham, where I go every month to teach seminars. I find important to have regular instruction on the other clubs to keep a good standard of techniques.
CF: Have you any other clubs outside the UK? If not are you planning to expand in Europe?
PB: I also have a club in Ireland. Well, I would like to expand as long as I keep the level of the groups in a good standard. I want to have a strong group and this does not mean big.
CF: You have a sound competition background back in Brazil; what are the competitions like in Sao Paolo? Many people only read about the Mundials, so it would be nice to hear about these other events. What are the big events in Sao Paolo?
PB: Well Sao Paulo has competitions nearly every weekend. The big one was the Black Belt challenge, where 8 fighters matched each other for a prize of R$10,000. There is also the Sao Paulo state tournament where the first two places qualify for the Mundials. There are many other competitions, such as Sao Paulo Open, Sao Paulo League, etc. I fought all of them.
CF: You have also competed in the UK, very recently in the 10K Challenge; can you talk about that event first? Who did you fight and what were your thoughts on your opponents and the competition overall? Did you watch the finals?
PB: The 10K Challenge was a great event and thanks to the organizers for their effort in helping the Jiu-jitsu in the country. These events are important to help the jiu-jitsu grow in the UK. My first fight was against Ze Marcello from BTT, I took him down and then he pulled a wristlock on me so he was ahead on points. I managed to pull an omoplata on the last 30 seconds, which gave me the victory. Was a good match! Then I matched Braulio Estima, he tried to take me down but I defended landing on my knees, which he got the points anyway. Then he pulled guard and applied a triangle, I resisted but he caught on the arm. He is a very good fighter. I thought he would win, he was in a very good day, confident and was submitting all his opponents. But he matched Jeff Monson in the final, Jeff did the right strategy, took him down and just waited for the time finish.
CF: What other UK events have you fought in?
PB: I fought the London Open twice, absolute and my weight, won them all. I fought the super fight at the Gracie Invitation last year and won. I also fought MMA and won too.
CF: You also organised the Bristol Open event and this year it was a very close finish for the team medals? Please tell me how this event came about and who helped you set the event up?
PB: The Bristol Open this year was very good, or very hard if you were fighting. The standard was very good and was very close finish for the team medals, this year Carlson Gracie team did very well. I am also organizing the summer leg in August. I decided to organize this event because there is a shortage in GI competitions in the country so I am trying to encourage students to practice more with the GI. A lot of people support the event, the guys from Gracie-Barra Birmingham, Roger Gracie Academy, BTT, Carlson Gracie Team, Mark Walder.
CF: How important do you think competition is for a jiu jitsu player?
PB: The competition is a way to boost your jiu-jitsu standard because you are motivated to train harder and you always learn something new, loosing or wining. You can correct you mistakes and improve your good abilities.
CF: Do you feel cross training is good for jiu jitsu?
PB: I think it helps if you are a full time trainer. However if you only train jiu-jitsu twice a week I think is not worthy, you rather train more jiu-jitsu.
CF: One of your clubs has regular coaching sessions from Vadim Kolganov an accomplished Sambo player; do you encourage your students to explore other arts?
PB: Yes as I said if you train full time I think it does help you. I always say to my students if they want to improve their stand up ability to attend some judo classes. I do some judo, wrestling and Capoeira as well. I believe that students should be free to train what ever they want, just keep the loyalty with the group you are training with.
CF: Do you speak to the other Brazilian instructors here in the UK?
PB: Yes every one. Normally at the competitions, with such a busy life is quite hard to meet very often but we always meet in competitions and have good laughs. ‘Lagarto’ is a very funny guy.
CF: What are your thoughts on teaching jiu jitsu? What do you like to teach in a class? Do you have a strict set of guidelines?
PB: I teach what I have learned along these years. Not only techniques but also some principles of positions and I try to keep the techniques as effective as possible. The standard of my group still quite beginner, my higher belts are purple, so I want my students to be good and precise with the basic techniques. Therefore I do not teach any leg locks or positions not allowed for belts lower than brown.
CF: How would you describe your teaching style and your competition style?
PB: I try to teach the positions as much detailed as possible because in jiu-jitsu the details are very important and also I select a range of effective positions to teach. My competition style is quite calm, not so aggressive. However I try to be very concentrated and focus on my opponent.
CF: When you compete how do you prepare for the event, physically and mentally and how do you act on the day of the competition itself?
PB: I do some physical exercises to increase my stamina and strength, swimming, lifting weights, specific jiu-jitsu trains with my students. I also do a diet where I cut sugar, alcohol, all fried food, eat lots of carbohydrates and protein. Mentally I do some meditations and watch some jiu-jitsu and surf videos.
CF: How do you deal with a defeat and injury setbacks?
PB: I think the loss without injuries is a victory you learn with your mistake and can keep training on the next day. Jiu-jitsu is a sport where only one is the winner there is no drawl so you have to get use to the defeats. The injuries are the bad part of it because you can not train, all you can do is rest and watch some dvd’s
CF: Apart from your immediate teachers have any other influences and role models within the sport?
PB: A lot of guys, Roberto ‘Roleta’ Magalhaes, Leo Vieira, Fernando ‘Margarida’ Pontes, Marcelo Garcia, Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, Roger Gracie and many others...
CF: Do you have other hobbies outside jiu jitsu?
PB: Yes I like surf.
CF: How important is jiu jitsu in your life?
PB: I think without jiu-jitsu my life could have taken a completely different way. Growing up in Brazil where drugs and crime are a big problem the jiu-jitsu helped me focus and keep on the right direction.
CF: Do you have any other family members back in Brazil that train jiu jitsu?
PB: My brother use to train but not any more, we started together actually. I also have a cousin in Rio that just won the World Cup in the white belt category.
CF: How often do you go back to Brazil?
PB: I try to go every year or twice a year to see my family and friends, up date positions and feel the atmosphere of my home country.
CF: What degree are you studying for in the UK?
PB: I am doing a Bachelor in Economics.
CF: What are your plans for Pedro Bessa jiu jitsu for the UK over the next few years?
PB: My plans for the next two years are to build a strong group and make my students improve as much as they can, therefore I will be focusing on my teaching side and keep competing in the UK. Once my group is set here, I want to spend few months in Brazil to train for the Mundials and the others big events.
For more details contact Pedro at email@example.com