I was lucky enough to have a chat with Carlos Zapata the blackbelt owner of Team Quest training centre in Redding California tqredding  He is a fascinating man to talk to and as friendly and helpful as I have come across so my thanks to him and to Rob for putting me in touch with him
- Tell me about yourself your path into BJJ and training in Brazil?
I started training BJJ in 1997 with some guys in Redding, California while I was attending college. Like many others, I watched the early UFCs with Royce Gracie and I wanted to learn what he knew. Luckily there was a few guys that had trained with Rickson and Joe Moreira that lived in my area and I began to learn from them. I fell in love with the challenges that Jiu-Jitsu presented and with the effectiveness of the techniques. When I was a brown belt, I had the opportunity to train with Carlos Diego here in the states and he invited me to train in Brazil at Clube Pina. Training in Brazil is intense and I learned that you have to keep pace to survive. The guys down there are very tough and the academy had many brown and black belts to train with.
(note Carlos received the Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Faustino “Pina” Neto and is the first American to be graduated to the rank of Black Belt at the prestigious Club Pina Academy in Brazil.)
- Was there any link between your BJJ and military training?
There really is little similarity between military training and BJJ. BJJ is very technical and methodical, where military fight training is very basic and uses much more large motor skills than fine motor skills. I never compared the two as there is little comparison. It did, however, give me a good mindset for when I teach law enforcement and military personnel.
- Is there any difference in teaching normal students and marines as I see you are also a marine corps instructor
There is no real difference with teaching Marines or normal BJJ students. They all require much attention and guidance. In both you have good students and some not so good ones.
- What led you to open your own school and why team quest?
I got out of the Marines in 2007 and by this time I felt comfortable with opening a BJJ school back in Redding. I wanted to open the door for others to learn and I wanted to continue my journey in Jiu-Jitsu as an instructor.
I used to train at Team Quest in Temecula, California and I always liked the way that they ran their programs – Very organized and had a great sense of teamwork. I enjoyed the environment. I also trained at the Portland gym and really got along with the guys there and felt that we could work well together so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it. It’s a great fit for us.
- Is there a difference between your style Club Pina and other systems such as Gracie Barra in which I train?
Every person that trains BJJ has their own style which is developed by their own interpretation of Jiu-Jitsu for their own needs. This is what is great is that BJJ is truly for everyone, just as Helio and Carlos envisioned. Clube Pina and Gracie Barra have very similar styles as they are rooted in the same lineage. Clube Pina actually used to be a GB school and many of their top guys such as Bibiano Fernandes and Carlos Holanda have fought under the Barra flag – But really, each school has it’s own personality and there is something for everyone in the BJJ world. Everyone has to find a school that meets their needs.
- How did Jose Chavez’s (the first Redding BJJ World Champ) success make you feel and who else do you have in the gym who might make an impact?
Jose Chavez made me extremely proud as he is the first world champion that I trained. His success is the success of his teammates and training partners. He works extremely hard and his dedication paid off. I have quite a few guys in the gym who are very tough and talented. I look forward to our team making a splash in the BJJ world next year with competitors in different divisions. I also have many great students that love the art and train tirelessly to improve BJJ. When one guy improves, our martial art gets better.
- That is very true indeed, so if it is OK can I ask a bit about your MMA tside specifically cornering, how do you approach cornering fighters?
My approach to cornering fighters has always been focused around mindset. I like to make sure that they believe in themselves, in their training and in their gameplan. Fighters are either victorious or defeated before they enter the ring. I like to make sure that they envision winning and that they feel happy and poised as they enter the ring. The hard work is done in camp and the fight is a contest of who had the better preparation, so the focus of energy is in the camp.
- Do you teach it all or do you bring in specialists?
I work within a team of specialists. Because of my background, my best input is with regard to the situations on the ground. Jiu – Jitsu has 3 aspects. Sport BJJ, MMA, and street self defense. When training guys for MMA fights, I ensure that I am giving them the correct aspect and techniques that will keep them safe in that realm and within the parameters of that fight. My Muay Thai coach, Josh Hernandez, ensures that the fighter has good fundamentals in the standing, and My Boxing and MMA coach, Mark Shoemaker, ensures that the fighter is polished and technically superior in all aspects. We have a lot of talent within our camps and everyone brings something to the table. We all learn together and from each other. It’s definitely a team effort. If you go to a gym and one guy is teaching it all, you are not getting enough perspective to make a guy successful. For this camp, we are bringing in Robert Follis for a couple of days. He is the true “guru” of the MMA world and always bring a good perspective to inspire our fighters. We will also travel to the Portland Team Quest gym to cross train with our brethren there and to keep fresh guys in the mix.
- Will you focus more on MMA or more BJJ
My focus is in coaching and developing fighters and students. I leave every door open and see what presents itself, but for now I will continue to train everyday with my team and focus on them. I am fascinated with coaching, leadership and training. My students can have the spotlight – They have earned it.
- What next for you and your team
We have a lot of guys fighting MMA right now and a few champions within the gym. We will make sure they stay busy along with our BJJ team. We will continue to learn, grow and wave the Jiu-Jitsu flag wherever we go, on and off the mats! Osss!
- Thanks so much for your time and patience.