‘It’s Not Jiu-Jitsu If It’s Just A Sport’

Professor Fabio Leopoldo, the Founder and Head Instructor of the Morumbi Jiu Jitsu and Fitness Academy and a former World Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion, posted a short video about clinching against an opponent who wants to punch. Professor Fabio said, “Jiu-jitsu without knowing how to defend yourself is not real jiu-jitsu!”

Jiu jitsu without knowing how to defende your self is not the real Jiu jitsu!! #jiujitsubelivets #selfdefense #mma #graciejiujitsu #ryangracieteam #renzogracieteam @morumbiacademy @morumbiacademybr

Posted by Fabio Leopoldo on Monday, April 10, 2017

We sat down with Professor Fabio to talk about his philosophy on jiu-jitsu.

Here is what he had to say.


Jiu-Jitsu Times: Professor Fabio, can you explain what you meant by that quote?


Fabio Leopoldo: I believe that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the most effective self-defense system in the world because it lets us handle any self-defense situation. If an attacker is standing up, then you must be able to close the distance and get the fight where you want it – on the ground. Sometimes this means using strikes to set up for the takedown. And of course, once you’re on the ground, you need to know how to submit your attacker. If any of these skills are missing from your game then you haven’t truly mastered real jiu-jitsu.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Many BJJ schools say they teach self-defense but focus on sport jiu-jitsu and tournaments.

Fabio Leopoldo: I can’t comment on other schools, but I watch a lot of tournaments, and it’s common to see high level jiu-jitsu guys who don’t know how to clinch safety and control their opponent. If you can’t do this, you can’t defend yourself effectively.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: How do you see that way — i.e. with a focus on self-defense — of teaching jiu-jitsu? Why is this important?

Fabio Leopoldo: That was how I learned from my master, Ryan Gracie and Renzo… always connected to “Vale Tudo” (MMA ) and self-defense. I want to pass this to my students and make sure jiu-jitsu doesn’t lose the essence of being a martial art. It’s not jiu-jitsu if it’s just sport.


Posted by Cliff Montgomery on Sunday, January 22, 2017

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Jiu-jitsu continues to evolve with many new positions. Especially in the gi using the lapels — e.g., Worm and Lapel Guard — or positions to score sweep points in competition. How do you feel about jiu-jitsu students training these positions?

Fabio Leopoldo: The fact that jiu-jitsu continues to evolve is amazing! I am a big fan of competition and sports jiu-jitsu, but we need to know the basics of our beautiful art. It’s great to learn new things, and I encourage it, but not at the expense of mastering the basics. I really believe in the basics because they always work! It doesn’t matter what size, or weight, or even what physical condition you’re in – if you have a good full mount, a good closed guard, good cross side control, and a good takedown, you will succeed. As to new techniques, I think that ‘invisible’ jiu-jitsu, which we can apply to all of our individual techniques, is the correct complement to the basics. It’s all about focusing on our base, the angles, and making the connection to our opponent.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Is there a point where some of the sports positions are moving away from the original spirit of jiu-jitsu as developed by the Gracie family?

Fabio Leopoldo: I think that in some ways, sports jiu-jitsu has already moved away from the original spirit of jiu-jitsu. Many techniques are, to my mind, crazy and dangerous! Without intending to, the rules of some tournaments are pulling sports jiu-jitsu away from the original jiu-jitsu of the Gracies. For example, at a recent tournament I saw a guy giving up the full mount to attack the foot. It was crazy!


Jiu-Jitsu Times: What is the line between real jiu-jitsu and playing a game or sport?

Fabio Leopoldo: It’s really important that the instructor is competent and comfortable in both self-defense and sports jiu-jitsu so that they can relate the jiu-jitsu techniques to both. Before the students learn how to do something fancy like berimbolo, they need to learn how to clinch, to defend against punches, to put the person down, etc. That’s why it’s important that the instructor has a well-defined and clearly thought-out curriculum; they need to build on the basic techniques and track the student’s progression through those techniques.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: In your academy, what is the philosophy of jiu-jitsu that you teach to your students?

Fabio Leopoldo: It’s all about control. We always want our opponent to be uncomfortable even when they are in a better position. And we always want to be ahead of them. We don’t need to be fast, but we do need to be early. And of course, we emphasize making the connection to our opponent. Feeling where our energy is, and using it to make our control even better. I try to teach all that I know to my students.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: What advice do you have for students who want to make certain their jiu-jitsu training prepares them for a real fight?


Fabio Leopoldo: We as grapplers do not need to be good strikers, but we do need to feel comfortable if we’re standing up. We need to be able to close the distance with a striker and get the fight to the ground, where we want it. It’s critical to always keep our base and create the right angle for defense and for attack. That’s true from the top or from the bottom – that’s real self-defense. Taking away the base from your opponent so that you can control them. That’s real jiu-jitsu.

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