In all the years on the reporting front, I`ve carried around a top ten list of people in the grappling world that I have wanted to interview;
In all the years on the reporting front, I`ve carried around a top ten list of people in the grappling world that I have wanted to interview; I`ve been fortunate enough to tick a large number of people off my list (most notably at the ADCC 2001 championships) yet BJJ has always been my main passion and being a Gracie Barra student, the most sought after interview would have to be with Carlos Gracie Jr.
Unable to conveniently hop on a plane to Brazil to achieve this dream, I placed the number one name on the back burner, striking it off as a pipe dreamâ€¦â€¦until now. As growing testament to the rise of Gracie Jiu Jitsu in the UK, Carlos took time out of his busy schedule and dropped in to London after the highly successful European BJJ tournament in Lisbon, the previous week.
The overall head of Gracie Barra held a one off seminar on Saturday 6th February and I can now cross that number one name off my list as I present to you, Fighting Photographer`s first 2004 interview - Carlos Gracie Jr.
Carlos, are you looking forward to the seminar today?
Of course Carl, yes I am.
How long are you in England for?
Just for the weekend to do the seminar as Roger invited me over to open his new school and he called me and said you have to see the new place and meet all the Gracie Barra students.
Is this your first time in the UK?
It is yes
Will you be coming here again?
Sure; my plan is to arrange a tournament in Europe every year and it will make me come back here and spend more time in the UK, as I spent a lot of time in Portugal just now. I have some business to sort out in Brazil, but next time I hope to be here again this year.
How long did you stay in Portugal?
I stayed about twenty days and we organised the tournament together with the guys from the Portugal academy; there were many countries competing over the weekend. I organised the event and directed the people on how to organise the event, I didn`t referee any matches.
What did you think about the competition?
It was very nice, it went well, it wasn`t so big with number of participants but it was the first event of it`s kind in Europe, but it will grow little by little. It was clean and fast and I think the people enjoyed the event.
Do you plan to open more academies in Europe?
Yes I do, I`m looking to organise a Gracie Barra organisation and it`s now time to invest in Europe and organise as many as possible.
Mauricao has been working hard here in the UK, establishing Gracie Barra in the UK?
Yes, he`s a very serious guy and is working hard and I think through his hard work, this country is one of the strongest in Europe for jiu jitsu.
Are you pleased with Roger`s progress?
He trains hard and is keen and am very restrictive to give a black belt to a fighter, as I have two kinds of students, one who wants to be a fighter and the others just want to train and enjoy life, so they don`t have to be pushed too hard, they have other jobs and cannot spend as much time on the mat as they would like. The fighters can put the hours in on the mats and I push them hard and Roger trains hard and now he`s opening a school and being professional in his teaching, so this will take up a lot of his time and energy, so choices have to be made and after he`s settled things here, he can come back to Brazil and start hard training again.
Renzo was scheduled to attend the seminar today, yet he`s not here now?
That`s right he was due here, but my nephew Rodrigo is due to fight in Pride and he said it was going to be very difficult to attend here, so he said he will come next time.
Gracie Barra now has a Vale Tudo team doesn`t it?
Yes a lot of people in my school when they get the black belt, they say they want to fight vale tudo, so we now have a team that trains and I put somewhere in the academy to take care of that and now it`s growing a lot and this year the guys will fight more and they are training hard. We have some guys over from Cuba to teach the wrestling and some kickboxing trainers.
Do you still get time to go on the mats in Brazil?
Yes I try to every day or night to spar with my students and take a class, as I don`t want to lose contact with jiu jitsu and the time I feel happiest is when I am on the mats, it`s the best time for me.
Who else helps you with the CBJJ?
In the school, Marcio Feitosa is the chief instructor in the academy and for the CBJJ we have Marcelo, we call him Siriema, which is a bird with long legs (laughs), everybody knows him by this name (laughs).
The Mundials are growing each year, would you agree?
Yes the foreign participants continue to grow and I think the level is very high, there are a lot of tough guys; I see in a couple of years there will be many good foreign fighters.
How did you feel about Roger and Pe de Pano facing each other in the finals, as team mates do not usually fight each other?
Most of the time the eldest fighter have the title, as they`ve been longer in the black belt, but the television were coming to me and we need to record the finals and we want the guys to fight and they pushed me a lot, so I said OK let`s go and make a fight, we don`t care who wins we have to fight and they went and fought.
Gracie Barra has new kimonos in stock now?
We want to start a uniform and everyone use the same gi`s, so when the tournaments are on you can see who`s with Gracie Barra and on the back we`ll have the name of the teachers on the back but the man who makes the kimonos does not have the time yet to do it, he`s very busy. They will be available in the UK soon.
Where do you see Gracie Barra in five years time?
I give a lot of my time to the federation and to spread jiu jitsu around the world and Gracie Barra is growing naturally and now I want to make it work like a company and become a strong organisation.
What keeps you motivated to keeping the flame alive?
I think I have a legacy of my family, my father had the first job and I was born in a place in the family that had ideas to spread jiu jitsu and I think it is very important in my life and it`s been so good in my life that I want to pass it to other people so they can enjoy it and bring people together and make their life more healthy.
Carlos Gracie Jr hits the UK!
This was the BIG one: it was the moment that all Gracie Barra UK students had been waiting for. President of the Confederation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the man at the forefront of a fast growing worldwide movement, or just plain â€˜Carlinos` to his friends, Carlos Gracie Jr took time out of his busy schedule to drop in on London.
After the success of the first ever European BJJ event in Portugal on January 31st, Carlos was invited over by Roger Gracie on the weekend of February 7th, to host the first ever UK seminar and to officially open Roger`s new academy. It was also a chance for Carlinos to meet UK students and see for himself the fruits of Mauricao Gomes`s labours over the past five years. Carlinos was not to be disappointed as over eighty-five people attended the seminar; not a single centimetre of mat space was visible when the seminar commenced and such was the mass of students that people had to wait at the sides of the mats and wait their turn to train.
Instructors from UK Barra academies were present, with Marc Walder (Dagenham); Jude Samuels and John Donnelly (London); Paul Murphy, Neil White and Neil Owen (Doncaster); Darren Good (Bradford); Andrew Roberts (Sheffield); yours truly (Manchester); Rob Staples (Jersey); and Rob Stevens (Birmingham) out in force, as well as students from London`s Carlson Gracie academy and a number of sport jiu jitsu academies thrown in for good measure. Sponge Bob and crew had travelled up from sunny Cornwall to attend the event and show their support and a healthy haul of black belts made themselves known as well.
Luca and Roberto Atalla, Pablo Silva, Roger Gracie, Felipe Souza and Braulio Estima were on hand to help demonstrate techniques with Carlos and help out with tuition throughout the afternoon. With adequate mat space in short supply, Carlos started the seminar with ground techniques and kicked off with a simple sweep from open guard, with the attackers hands on the knees; instead of reeling off many techniques that would easily be forgotten by the end of the afternoon, Carlos progressed the techniques in an easy to follow method and gave the students ample time to train each move. From the sweep, Carlos moved to a sweep from the same set up, only this time the opponent stands up and then moved on to by far the best move of the day, the helicopter arm bar technique. Ask any one who has either trained or competed with Braulio Estima in the UK the last two years the move they`ve been hit with the most and it is the helicopter arm bar, myself included. Thanks to Carlos, we now know the set up and execution, but sadly this was not enough at the end of the day, as Braulio took to the mats at the end to roll with the students and yep, the helicopter arm bar was in full effect! Scorpion guard sweeps and techniques followed, whereby Carlos went on demonstrate the kimura, kimura into arm bar and a variation when the opponent holds the gi. At the end of the class all the black belts lined up and rolled with the students and it was a chance to see six black belts in action, with all manners of submissions coming from every angle.
Carlos gave a short speech and said he was very impressed with the turn out and the technical level of the UK`s students and was also impressed at the outcome of the first European BJJ event in Portugal; two surprises were in store for Barra Doncaster`s Neil White and Neil Owen who were awarded their purple belts from Carlos and deservedly so. Carlos now aims to stage a European event every year and also come back to the UK on a more regular basis; Renzo Gracie was scheduled to attend the event, but was unable to due to Carlos`s nephew Rodrigo fighting in an upcoming Pride event. Let`s hope we see him here again soon.
As ever, the day was over way too fast for my liking and another defining moment in UK BJJ history in the bag; the seminar also reinforced my belief in the continuing growth of Gracie Jiu Jitsu in the UK and with more new academies opening, Carlinos has much to be happy about.
See you on the mats!
For more info on Roger Gracie`s new academy visit www.gracie-barra.co.uk