“I have been on so many different mats all over the world. That amazes me sometimes looking back.”
– Prof. Mauricio Gomes
This week we feature 6th degree Black Belt Mauricio Gomes, a black belt by the late Rolls Gracie, one of the key innovators of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Prof. Maurício was the founder of the first Gracie Barra academy in the United Kingdom and is one of the very first BJJ black belts to grow the art in London.
You may also know Prof. Maurício Gomes as the father of Roger Gracie, the most successful BJJ competitor of all times.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you tell us how and why you got started in BJJ back in Brazil? Who have been the biggest influences on your jiu-jitsu and what did you learn from each of your professors? What got you addicted?
Mauricio Gomes: My dad got me addicted. He used to train at the original Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro city centre under Joao Alberto Barreto and they remained friends for the rest of my dad’s life.
My father used to take me there sometimes and tell me stories of the vale tudo fights of the time that he watched and I just couldn’t get enough of it.
I started training when I was about five and at that age I trained in a nearby gym and then trained with Joao Alberto until he closed his gym and I started with Rolls. Joao got me hooked even more and Rolls made me what I am.
Jiu-jitsu Times: You have been training jiu-jitsu for over 50 years. Training must have been very different in those early days compared to how most current BJJ academies are run.
What are the differences between that “old school” training and modern sport jiu-jitsu schools?
Mauricio Gomes: I have been training for 55 years on and off. I don’t really understand old jiu jitsu and new one. For me there is only one martial art.
There is the obvious changes over the years that happens in anything in life, but to be able to do advanced things you will always have to have your basics very well-learned. Otherwise later on it will come tumbling down like a pile of cards.
In my opinion the jiu-jitsu has grown a lot all over the world and that is overwhelming.
Jiu-jitsu Times: You were one of the earliest black belts to start jiu-jitsu in the UK. Can you tell us about how you decided to move to England to establish an academy? What was it like to introduce jiu-jitsu to a new part of the world?
Mauricio Gomes: I was invited by Carlinhos Gracie to start teaching in Tokyo because they needed somebody with good English and good teaching skills to start a Gracie Barra school there and I went. It was doing fine.
The thing is that to teach in a place that you don’t speak the language and relying on a translator for everything is horrible. I am a perfectionist and you never really know what is coming out on the other side.
Then I had an invite to go to a city in England where I started teaching called Birmingham. Later I moved to London.
Teaching abroad is a challenge that a lot of people don’t know what is like to be away from family and friends for a long time until you start making new ones in the new place.
Anyway, introducing a new martial art in a new country in those days was very challenging because nobody knew what it was except for the fact that Royce beat everyone with jiu-jitsu, so you can imagine how many people you had to tap to prove yourself!
Jiu-jitsu Times: Your son Roger Gracie is both a multiple-time world champion in jiu-jitsu and now the new ONE FC Light Heavyweight Champion. Can you tell us what it was like to teach your son jiu-jitsu and watch his success in the world of competition?
Mauricio Gomes: Roger makes us all very proud, especially to me as his father. His jiu-jitsu is impeccable and never afraid to put it on the line again and again. For what I have seen him do I can die a very happy man.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you give some advice for students of jiu-jitsu that worked for you in your training? Perhaps a principle or training practice, motivational quote, or tips on passing the guard? What mistakes do you see students make in their BJJ training?
Mauricio Gomes: Very hard to answer this, but the only thing I can say is to take your time and repeat everything as many times as you can because it’s the only way to get your basics solid so you can create your own style later on. Otherwise you are just playing.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you talk about your philosophy of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, training, and life? How does jiu-jitsu influence your life outside of the academy? What do you try to teach your students about the role of jiu-jitsu in their lives?
Mauricio Gomes: Jiu-jitsu is not only a martial art; it’s a lifestyle that I thank the Gracie family every day for sharing this with the rest of the world. You start applying what you learn to your everyday life.
From the hip escape that you practice every day in the gym to a simple self-defense learned a while back. How to behave on the mat to the tidiness of your gi and so on.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you tell us something interesting about yourself that most Jiu-jitsu Times readers would not know? Perhaps some other hobbies, accomplishments, a funny story, or something new you are working on.
Do you have any interesting projects that you are working on? A new academy? Seminars? Online projects?
Mauricio Gomes: I can’t really think of anything interesting about myself but love my old rock and roll, not the loud ones! Swimming in the ocean in front of my house.
My plans are to continue teaching at my son’s gym until I can’t anymore.
I do a lot of seminars all over the UK where I have many friends now. I have been on so many different mats all over the world that amazes me sometimes looking back.