Recently, we had the privilege to sit down and learn more about our Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) Guest Instructor, Professor Rodrigo Teixeira. Though it is his second time instructing at FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts, there continues to be so much to learn and glean from this 4th degree BJJ Black Belt.
Rodrigo is currently teaching classes daily, and recently gave a free seminar on submissions from the mount position. With the seminar reaching its full capacity within days of its announcement, it was evident that Rodrigo carries a weighty influence within the community, due to his solid understanding of the martial art, as well as his charismatic and approachable demeanour. All you’ll need to do is hang back after a class, and you’ll see Rodrigo patiently troubleshooting positions and answering questions from the students - yes, even the beginners!
Thriving in such an element does not come without years and years of rich experience brought about by the circumstances of his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey. Rodrigo moved to USA in 1995 to train BJJ with his brother, Professor Pedro Carvalho, and was quickly asked to teach classes not long after receiving his Blue Belt.
“My brother (a Black Belt) gave me the direction and the technique, and I copied the steps. There were not many higher belts at that time! We taught basic techniques, such as the basic cross choke from the guard."
In today’s context, it seems premature to allow a new blue belt to teach classes. But Rodrigo described that era as a very different one from what we understand today.
The BJJ “Hipster” - Practicing BJJ in the United States before it was cool
While it’s not uncommon for a Brazilian to be exposed to BJJ at a young age, it was a privilege that Rodrigo received to be able to see the art grow in the United States.
“Then, there were probably no more than ten gyms; and these were run by the giants of the sport, such as the Gracies, Nelson Monteiro, and the Machado brothers."
In that day, the challenge was to convince people that BJJ works.
"Back then, many people didn’t believe in the art. They thought it was similar to the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment - pro wrestling, a performance art and entertainment which combines wrestling with theatrical performance). As such, a lot of people, including those from other disciplines like Karate and Taekwondo, would come to the gym to challenge us.”
On the other hand, many others saw the need for ground grappling. Law enforcement officers were amongst the students, as well as a young Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter who sought the help of Rodrigo and his brother, after an initial loss from lack of grappling ability.
Back in the day, competitions were also a rarity. In fact, it was a treat to be able to witness a purple belt superfight at small tournaments!
"It was a beautiful time, because it was the beginning of Jiu-Jitsu in the US,” Rodrigo recalled, “Nowadays, it’s bigger than anywhere else."
“How can I get better?” - Seeking personal growth in the midst of a young community
With such responsibility given to him so early on, Rodrigo also learned how to balance teaching with his own personal training, and actively sought out training partners and teachers who would help him to grow in his skills. Notable training partners included Rigan Machado, BJ Penn, Vitor Belfort and Kron Gracie, but most of the time was also spent training with his own academy partners, who held Pan Am championship titles at Purple and Brown Belt levels.
As Rodrigo sought to improve his personal ability, he began to look to one notable figure for inspiration: the great and legendary Rickson Gracie (presently a 9th degree BJJ Red Belt).
“I heard stories of him sparring with world champions, and successfully beating all of them up. It made me wonder how one could achieve such a high level of Jiu-Jitsu. I came to the realisation that the answer comes from setting personal challenges for yourself at every sparring session.”
Rodrigo then began to set different challenges in his training, ranging from training without the use of one arm, or on his weak side. Today, he brings this approach to the mats and challenges his students to grow and learn in the same manner.
“Aim to make every training session a form of ’struggle’, and you will evolve a lot more. Of course, don’t do it to the point of exposing yourself to an injury!"
Come back next week for the second part of our interview with Rodrigo, where he talks about beating the competition nerves, shares advice for aspiring coaches and gym owners, and even reveals a few fun facts about himself.
FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts Established in 2016, FaMA is a world-class martial arts training facility located in the heart of the Central Business District in Singapore. Walking distance from the Clarke Quay MRT station, FaMA’s main goal is to help people improve their lives through martial arts regardless of age or athletic capability. Each program is led by experts in their respective fields. Whether it is weight loss, a fun workout, camaraderie, competition training, or just to break a sweat, FaMA has something for everyone.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ as it is commonly known around the world, is a self-defence martial art that enables a smaller, weaker person to protect themselves against a much larger attacker using leverage and pressure. Formed from Kodokan Judo in Japan, Jiu Jitsu found its way to Brazil in the 1910s through Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese judoka and no-holds-barred prize fighter. During his time in Brazil, Maeda accepted a young Carlos Gracie as his student. Carlos would later pass on his knowledge to his brothers, most notably Helio Gracie - the father of modern Brazilian Jiujitsu. The Gracie family would go on to spread BJJ through The Gracie Challenge and eventually the creation of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Today, BJJ has grown to be more than just an effective unarmed fighting system. It helps young children deal with bullies and adults live a healthy lifestyle. BJJ classes are offered daily at FaMA under the tutelage of Black Belts Zoro Moreira, Robyn Goudy and Thiago Gaspary.