Tag Archives: seminar

Cobrinha in Vancouver

Cobrinha2

Original photo by Eric Yu.

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Rubens Charles Maciel is a man of many talents.  As a four times black belt World Champion it would be enough if “Cobrinha” was known only as a great Jiu Jitsu competitor, but the man is also a skilled baker, capoeirista, innovator and teacher. His many experiences seem to inform the way Cobrinha thinks about and teaches his Jiu Jitsu.

When I heard that Cobrinha was giving his first seminar in over two years only minutes from my apartment, I knew I needed to go. It meant cancelling my plans to drive south to Seattle to attend another Mendes brothers seminar on the same day.

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The Competitor

Cobrinha’s Jiu Jitsu has inspired me since I saw my first footage of him in competition. It was the finals of the 2006 mundials, which had taken place the year prior. I was a brand new white belt searching the internet to kill time. I had heard of Marcio Feitosa who had won the mundials several years earlier, but didn’t know much about his opponent. In that match it looked like Cobrinha and Feitosa were doing two different sports. Cobrinha’s impossibly smooth leg drags, reverse de la Riva sweeps and long-step transitions are still considered innovative in 2012.

Since then we have seen Cobrinha reclaim his world title three more times, including two legendary matches against Bruno Frazatto in 2008 and 2009, which were won by a brutal toe-hold in the dying seconds and a referee’s decision, respectively. Each time he steps on the mats we are able to witness Jiu Jitsu evolving.

Despite these titles and accolades Cobrinha’s legacy is in a difficult place. Several losses to featherweight upstart Rafael Mendes, including a brutal armbar at the 2012 Pans, have overshadowed the veteran’s accomplishments in the eyes of some fair-weather fans. Some might overlook or denigrate Cobrinha as a result, but the man has four world titles at black belt, and in recent years when most of his peers are no longer competing Cobrinha has maintained his status as at least second best in the world. Cobrinha has earned his legend status, and has even been inducted into the IBJFF Hall of Fame, in case anyone would dispute it.

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Cobrinha competition highlights

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Heat and Pressure: The Mendes Brothers in Arizona

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Delta 5819 to Phoenix is accelerating across the tarmac. The Vancouver rain becomes a machine-gun crackle and then disappears behind the roar of the dual GE CF34-8C5 turbofans. The plane sways violently in the gusts of wind coming off the Fraser River, dropping several feet and taking my stomach with it. I can’t help thinking about how difficult it is to study the genetics of nitrous oxide reduction when I think I’m about to die. It wouldn’t be the first time a small aircraft slammed to the ground after taking off from YVR, but I put my exaggerated sense of doom on hold and focus on my excitement about finally starting on my journey to train with the two best lightweight Jiu Jitsu athletes in the world.

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Heat and Pressure

The two most memorable aspects of my weekend in Phoenix were the heat and the pressure. The temperature was north of 34oC (93oF) while back in Vancouver it was snowing. For me it was a difficult adjustment but one I gladly made to get out of the Canadian winter and bask in the desert heat. Feeling both Rafael’s and Guilherme’s pressure while passing the guard made me a convert to their philosophies of the importance of posture and pressure. These two elements came up repeatedly as I delved deeper into the Jiu Jitsu of the Mendes brothers.

Rafael Mendes has won the world championships in the featherweight division twice at black belt and looks virtually unstoppable as he contends for his third world title in 2012. He is also the reigning two-time ADCC champion. His older brother Guilherme was the first of the two to win the World Jiu Jitsu Championships in 2009, regaining his title in 2011. Just with credentials like these the brothers would be in high demand, but their style of Jiu Jitsu has also revolutionized the competition scene, making the study of their techniques a must for every serious student of the art.

While they have been performed by others before, the Mendes brothers’ signature positions – the leg-drag, the berimbolo, and the reverse de la Riva guard – have become have become de rigueur for competitors in the lighter weight classes. It was more than their techniques that made them great at Jiu Jitsu, however. Their ideas of posture and pressure and of a systematic approach to Jiu Jitsu were equally important for creating a highly-developed Jiu Jitsu game.

The Mendes brothers’ approach to Jiu Jitsu is fairly simple. From every position they analyze what the most efficient action is, then break down their opponents’ possible defenses and counters, and adjust the position or techniques to pre-emptively nullify them. Their techniques are developed as a series of movements that take away their opponent’s defenses while adhering to the basic principles of Jiu Jitsu. For example, for the leg drag pass to work, the brothers want to control the leg, then the hips, then the shoulders – which should be kept flat on the mat to secure the pass. Each detail, grip and movement is calculated to achieve these criteria with as much control and efficiency as possible.

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The crucible: Gracie Arizona

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Mendes Brothers Seminar – Day One

I arrived in Pheonix, Arizona late on the evening before the seminar. At the time I wasn’t aware of the socio-economic intricacies of the city, meaning I was ignorant that I would be staying in one of the worst neighbourhoods in one of America’s supposedly top-ten most dangerous cities. I guess that’s what $30-a-night accommodations get you. I was told later by Dave, my drilling partner during the first day of the seminar, that it would be a good idea to find alternate accommodations if possible, advice that I followed for my last night in Phoenix.

The direct area that I was in wasn’t actually that bad. It was very poor, but I mostly saw families trying to make the most of their lives in a city hard-hit by the recent economic downturn. There were even the dreaded signs of gentrification nearby: art galleries, trendy cafes and vegan restaurants. Of course this was all bound-in by the scrawl of drug cartel graffiti.

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Mendes brothers seminar – Day one in the gi (Mendes bros. photo)

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Rafael Lovato Jr. Seminar – Recap and Review

Rafael Lovato Jr. Seminar –  June 8, 2011

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Rafael Lovato Jr. made history in 2007 by becoming the second American black belt to win the World Championships. Leading up to his winning of the most prestigious title in Jiu Jitsu, Lovato had been on a tear, claiming gold in the European Championships and the Pan Ams, among others. Since this time he has not faded from the competition scene like many of his peers, but has continued to win at the highest levels of Jiu Jitsu. Lovato recently won the 2010 no-gi Worlds and Abu Dhabi pro 2011 in no-gi, beating one of the most feared grapplers on the planet, Rodolfo Vieira in the finals. He took a respectable bronze at the 2011 World Jiu Jitsu Championships, having a tough rematch against Vieira that resulted in a win and a gold medal for the GF black belt.

One of the elements that allowed him to claim so many titles was Lovato’s development of the omoplata as a position unto itself. Although not the only one to do so, Lovato had evolved his omoplata game to act as a central hub for a variety of submissions and sweep combinations, some of which he shared with us on the 8th and 9th of June at Dynamic MMA. But Lovato’s Jiu Jitsu is much more than his signature position. He has been steadily working on all aspects of his game, and gave us a great introduction to his style of Jiu Jitsu.

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Rafael Lovato Jr. seminar introduction

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Out of respect for Rafael Lovato Jr. I won’t be sharing a detailed breakdown of each technique covered. However, if you are interested in Lovato’s teaching, please check out his iPhone/iPod iOmoplata iApplication over at the iTunes iStore. I picked it up after learning from Lovato and it contains a lot of the same details covered in the gi portion of the seminar.

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