During my last trip to Europe I took advantage of the Roger Gracie training camp in Malaga, Spain. I attended the previous year and picked up some game changing details and this year promised to be even better with the addition of Roger’s dad, Mauricio Gomes. I took full advantage to pick his brain about how jiu jitsu has evolved and picked up great details on his favorite techniques.
Mauricio is coral belt who started training with master Joao Alberto Barreto when he was 4. Later he trained with the legendary Rolls Gracie. He may be more well known for his son, Roger Gracie, but he is a deep well of jiu jitsu knowledge. He represents and stays true to a generation of jiu jitsu practitioners that focused on self defense and practicality over sport and is an absolute inspiration. He moves better on the mat in his 60’s than most people half his age! An unexpected discovery was that the Brazilian native has a New York accent when he speaks in English! It caught me off guard and I found out it was due to spending several of his younger years there.
As is typically the case, Mauricio’s style is a blend of his two most influential instructors. He has the self defense and vale tudo foundation that you would expect from a student of Joao Brreto, one of the greatest vale tudo fighters of the early generation of BJJ and maybe of all time. He is quick to remind students that this is a fighting art. He also has an endlessly attacking style coupled with an open mindedness to incorporating the newest grappling techniques so long as they pass the practicality test. All clear influences of his time with Rolls.
How has Jiu Jitsu Evolved?
I was quick to ask Maruicio his opinion of how jiu jitsu has evolved. He said that while the art is beautiful, it’s sad to see it drifting away from the original roots as it’s become more sport oriented. In particular it disappoints him to see people more focused on tying people up in lapels and stalling or winning by an advantage rather than going for the kill. He believed in the essence of what Rolls taught which is to always attack and look for the finish.
Who was the best practitioner in his opinion?
I couldn’t even finish the question before he answered Rolls Gracie. Many people reference Rickson or some of the newer generation. You could make a very strong case for Roger. I give a lot of stock to Mauricio’s opinion since he’s rolled with and personally known some of the greatest practitioners of all time. In his opinion, Rolls died too soon and no one else has been able to surpass him in creativity or execution.
Did you always know that Roger would turn out to be so good?
Surprisingly, he said he didn’t know Roger would turn out to be as good as he was. He knew he had all of the resources and advantages to achieve greatness. Up until he was a teenager, however, he spent a lot of time getting beat up on the mats. Once he got focused and made the choice to really train hard with some of the toughest members of the Gracie family, it was clear that he was destined for greatness. It was a good reminder that even the best didn’t start off that way.
Mauricio focused a lot on self defense. I was fortunate to start in a school with a strong background in sport and vale tudo so it was a nice refresher. One of the key details is to get in base prior to executing any technique. It doesn’t do you any good to start to defend yourself only to end up out of balance and in an even worse situation.
One of Mauricio’s most infamous techniques is knee on stomach. More aptly, it’s knee on sternum. And I’m not talking about having your foot by the hip and angling your knee to end up in the sternum. Mauricio puts the entire shin across the sternum and rib line. It’s devastating and will force your opponent to move and create an opening for attack. Note how his foot is snug against the opponent and how he traps the near side arm with his hips. Also note the discomfort on the student’s face from the pressure of the position. Poor guy!
It’s an amazing opportunity when you get the chance to learn from a coral belt. Mauricio is a clear example of how jiu jitsu keeps you young. You can see his passion for teaching. He patiently instructed white belts and black belts alike. His technique is fantastic and very effective. If you ever get the chance to meet or train with him I would recommend it. As a final word of advice, believe him when he says something works! Otherwise you will find yourself on the receiving end of the demonstration. It was a real honor to meet and spend time with him and it meant a lot when he said we would cross paths again.
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