Stuart Cooper is perhaps best known for his films about Brazilian jiu-jitsu and for being a BJJ black belt himself. Stuart recently relocated to Singapore to teach jiu-jitsu with the Evolve Fight Team.
The Jiu-Jitsu Times caught up with Stuart to talk about his training, world travel through BJJ, and life at Evolve in Singapore.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: You have traveled and trained in many different academies all over the world. What are some of the notable academies that you have spent time training at? Who have been the most significant influences on your jiujitsu?
Stuart Cooper: One of the best academies I trained at was Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York. I was really impressed with the level of talent they had on the mat and the amount of classes they had throughout the day in gi and no-gi. I also had a great experience training at Gordo Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Rio De Janeiro , which was an Evolve affiliate. I spent three months there as a purple belt and it really helped develop my game to another level, as I had never trained with that many black belts at one time before. My biggest influence in jiu-jitsu has to be Braulio Estima. He has become a great friend of mine and I spent a couple years traveling with him to his hometown of Recife for training at the Blackzillians in Florida. I was able to witness the way he lives, trains and studies the sport. As a coach, I really look up to my own professor Lucio Sergio Dos Santos. I see the way he is with people and how much he cares as a coach .
Jiu-Jitsu Times: How did the move to the Evolve Fight Team come about for you?
Stuart Cooper: I’ve been traveling for almost six years producing videos with some of the best athletes in the world and developing my own BJJ skills. But the time had come where I really wanted to find somewhere to focus full-time and continue producing martial arts videos and develop my own BJJ skills as a coach. I had heard through a friend in the industry that Evolve MMA was hiring, so I immediately contacted them about any possible work .
Jiu-Jitsu Times: What would you expect a typical teaching and training in a week for you at Evolve?
Stuart Cooper: I’ll only arrive at Evolve in the next couple of months. From what I’ve been told, I’ll probably be teaching four classes a day, six days a week. The rest of my time will be focused on video work and training MMA with the Evolve Fight Team. I will plan to train BJJ once a day, then an hour or so on striking and either MMA or wrestling. I’ll also do conditioning work three times a week.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: How did you get started making films about jiu-jitsu?
Stuart Cooper: When I was a blue belt, I decided to focus on BJJ full-time because I knew it was something I could do for a living. Unfortunately, I had two bad back-to-back accidents while training. First, I broke my arm and right after a 12-month layoff, I broke my foot. To occupy my time and keep busy in the sport , I decided to buy a video camera and film the BJJ classes and tournaments with my team. I didn’t think too much of it at the time – I was just doing it for fun. But people started to give me a lot of positive comments and my videos started to get a lot of views online.
One day, my friend Jason Tan invited me to film a seminar with Ryan Hall. I went down with my video camera and produced a 15-minute seminar/instructional video. I posted it online and it got thousands of views in just one day. I knew immediately from the feedback that I was onto something, since no one had never really made videos like that before on BJJ. I continued to produce videos with Gunnar Nelson, Jeff Monson and Braulio Estima during my recovery. My videos and editing got better and I got the opportunity to film backstage at ADCC 2011. Once I released the highlight video, doors started to open for me and from there it was a domino effect of taking different jobs filming BJJ all around the world. So, breaking my arm and foot was kind of a good thing in the end!
Jiu-Jitsu Times: Out of all of the instructors you have worked with, is there a film you made that is special for you?
Stuart Cooper: I would say my most special film has to be “Jiu-Jitsu: A Way of Life.” That video features Roberto Cyborg Abreu, Dean Lister, Andre Galvao, Fernando Maccachero and Rafael Lovato Jr – all talking about how BJJ can change your life for the better. It is one of my most viewed and loved videos online to date.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: How did making BJJ films provide you with a different perspective of jiu-jitsu?
Stuart Cooper: Because I’ve met and made films on so many high-level BJJ athletes, I’ve had the chance to hear their stories of the struggles they have gone through to achieve what they have today. I have seen how the sport can change people’s lives for the better and help them develop confidence, make friends, and deal with many other problems life can throw at you. So, since making these BJJ films, it has always been more than a sport to me, it’s a lifestyle with so many positives, and I always try to show that in my films.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: Will you continue to make BJJ films and do you have anything upcoming that we should be watching for?
Stuart Cooper: Yes, definitely. I still have many more to finish with Marcus “Buchecha” Alemdia, Cyborg, Keenan Cornelius, Eddie Bravo, Dean Lister, and Carlson Gracie Jr. There will also be a lot of new content coming with all of the BJJ athletes at Evolve MMA, such as Shinya Aoki, Roger Gracie, and Rick Marshall. Evolve also hosts many seminars throughout the year with big names, like the upcoming one in February with Garry Tonon. These would make great projects for me to work on.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: What are your goals and challenges in becoming a full-time instructor at Evolve?
Stuart Cooper: My goal is to always keep learning and pass on that knowledge to the students at Evolve MMA. I’m really looking forward to becoming a part of the Instructor Team and helping the students develop their game and minds for competitions. I think it’s important to keep an open mind and teach techniques that I might not use myself, but may work for some of the students. I want the students to know that they can come to me with any problems that they may have, and trust me like I trust my own professor. It’s vital to have a positive atmosphere when you’re teaching.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: What are your thoughts on the team of instructors that Evolve has assembled in Singapore?
Stuart Cooper: It’s very impressive because of the huge line-up of world-class coaches teaching in each discipline. I have trained at many academies around the world and I have never seen so much talent under one roof. For example, Evolve MMA doesn’t just teach BJJ in the gi. They also have classes specializing in no-gi for MMA with 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu classes with Rick Marshall. They have World Champions teaching in MMA, BJJ, Muay Thai, wrestling, and much more. It ‘s amazing how much talent there is.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: Lastly are there any sponsors, coaches, training partners that you wish to thank?
Stuart Cooper: I really want to thank my professor Lucio Sergio Dos Santos for all that he has done for me over the years. Fernando Maccachero for all his guidance when I was training with him in Thailand, and Dennis Ache for giving me the opportunity to train and work out in Brazil in 2011. It was during that time my films became very popular and he was a big part of that.