Alliance HQ with Master Jacare and Leo Nogueira

May 23, 2016

My most recent work trip took me to Atlanta and I was excited to connect with my home team lead by the legendary Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti.  Unfortunately, I was injured and couldn’t train.  As I’ve said many times though, there is always something you can do.  I took advantage to connect with the team, take some great photos, and study technique.

Jacare thumbs up

In case you didn’t know, Jacare is one of the most famous jiu jitsu instructors on the planet and was the last of only 5 black belts awarded by Rolls Gracie.  Afterwards, he went on to form the most successful jiu jitsu team in history, Alliance, which is currently the 10 time winner of the team title at the world championships.

Jacare and Leo addressing the class

The Gym:

It’s ideal when a gym’s aesthetics match the level of instruction provided.  With Leo Nogueira teaching along side Jacare and both accompanied by a number of outstanding jiu jitsu athletes that’s no easy task but Alliance HQ pulls it off.  The front desk is laden with accolades and the the Eagle logo is prominently displayed on the floor with a smaller one on the back wall.  Benches line the windows and there is a display of Alliance apparel.  As you’d expect, it’s one of the best places to stock up on gis and patches.  The main mat space is so large it can have 2 classes run at a time and there’s a second mat that has a cage with heavy bags for the kick boxing class, mma, and drilling.  The locker rooms are large with multiple showers and lots of space.  It’s an absolutely awesome space to train in.

Leo standing over class

First Impressions:

Over the years I’ve gotten to know Jacare and Leo so I messaged them directly letting them know I’d be in town.  Most of the staff and practitioners remembered me from when I passed through during my summer road trip.  The staff were all very friendly and professional.  Jacare stepped away from the class briefly to greet me and welcomed me to take pictures and hang out.  Visitors are treated just as warmly.  My Canadian friend and recent masters world champion at purple belt, Jason Palmer, visited over the summer and was treated like royalty.  No matter who you are, you’ll feel welcome and comfortable.

Back attack roll away 1

Teaching Style:

Jacare is an incredible jiu jitsu resource.  He knows the basics inside and out and has a deep understanding of the newest moves on the scene.  He  is almost jovial when he shows technique and helps students with the minor details that make all the difference. I especially appreciate when he throws in stories from some of the most formative years of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu history.  He can flip the switch when it comes time for conditioning and competition classes, though, and is quick to motivate the team and push them to their limits.  Leo tends to focus more on movement and concepts with just the core steps necessary for a move to work.  If asked he is quick to fill in all the details a student may need.  He also does a nice job of calling out the most critical elements of a move.  While Jacare is more demanding verbally, Leo is more apt to push the class physically and by rolling with the group.  It’s a great mix of complimentary teaching styles with more experience in one place than ten normal gyms combined!

Leo laughing omoplata

What to Expect:

Instruction is catered to every level of practitioner.  Fundamentals I and II follow a set curriculum that Jacare, Fabio, and Gigi(The 3 founders of Alliance) spent years refining.  It covers leverage principles, self defense, and the foundation of Jiu Jitsu.  The instruction is very hands on with a lot of attention given to the students.  This is the breeding ground for the advanced and competition teams and towards the end there is conditioning(suicide runs in this class) and team push ups, to help prepare the students for the next stages of training.  It’s a great way to build students up without throwing them in the deep end and discouraging them from training.

Leo omoplata toe hold

The advanced classes get into newer techniques and competition training.  After a quick dynamic warm up with running and shrimping variations, the students do some sort of guard pass or sweep drill and then proceed through sequential technique.  Leo focused on maintaining side control and transitioning to a back take with some nice details like controling your opponent’s far sleeve when they try to roll away.  Afterwards, students were broken into groups by rank and size for positional sparring starting from the omoplata position.  Several rounds of standard sparring closed out the class.  Because of the proximity to Worlds, Jacare was back on the mat at the end of class taking the students through suicide drills and more push ups as a finisher.

Class line up 2

Rolling Style:

Being injured I didn’t get to train with Leo.  His style is a lot of fun to watch, however, and worth making a couple comments about.  He has great pressure and favors the Sao Paulo pass in closed guard.  I’ve never seen him be excessively dynamic while passing, instead favoring to suffocate his opponent and wear them down.  His bottom game is quite good and uses a combination of lapel half guard and open guard.  Bernardo Faria and he were roommates and training partners for many years and it’s interesting to see how Leo, who has a slightly bigger frame and jumps between super and ultra heavy weight for competition, uses some similar guard techniques and pressure passing but with a little more strength and variation in technique.  He also has some diverse submissions including crushing foot attacks.

Jacare big hug 2

Closing Thoughts:

I am always impressed how one of the original BJJ teams is able to consistently produce some of the top athletes and keep a balance between competition success while ensuring every person that receives a belt has a solid understanding of the fundamentals of BJJ and self defense.  At the end of class several belt promotions were announced and it was fun to see the positive energy as the students gave Jacare a giant group hug.  No matter your level, you will learn something and get a great workout here.  Another highlight of the visit was meeting Tuan.  He’s a white belt in BJJ but a 16 time world champion of foot sack!  The guy is incredible!  Leo got excited and filmed him doing tricks.  It’s nice to see how much Jacare and Leo take a personal interest regardless of whether they are visiting or training there regularly.  I would highly recommend that this gym be added to your bucket list of places to visit!

Enjoy the extra pictures and please like and share!


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