I recently had the pleasure of interviewing 2015 double gold World Champion Bernardo Faria on my podcast (click here to listen to or read How Bernardo Faria Won Double Gold at the 2015 BJJ Mundials).
Here are the top five take-home lessons that I came away with from that interview…
Takehome #1: You don’t need to be a D*****bag to be a world champion
If you listen to that interview Bernardo comes across as a genuinely nice human being. And it’s not an illusion – everyone who meets this guy says the same thing. I’ve spent time with the man, corresponded with him, and learned from him, and he has always acted with genuine humility and caring.
Just because he can absolutely dominate 99.9% of other BJJ players in the world today doesn’t mean that he walks around with a gigantic chip on his shoulder, cutting in front of little old ladies in the grocery store lineup, and refusing to meet the gaze of anyone who isn’t a brown belt or a black belt.
In a sport dominated with so many big egos it’s nice to see that a certified BJJ badass can still treat people the way he himself would probably like to be treated.
Takehome #2: Train positions that you don’t like and make you uncomfortable
All of us have positions we dislike and aren’t quite comfortable in; maybe you hate leglocks, spider guard, or knee mount. But you should still make an effort to train those areas once in a while…
But in BJJ it’s often what you don’t know that ends up hurting you.
Here’s what Bernardo had to say about the topic…
For example, I hate 50/50 guard. I hate it, and you’ll never see me go to it deliberately. But in the finals of the Worlds I ended up in the 50/50, so if I hadn’t been training and studying that position – had I closed my mind to learning – I would probably have tapped in the finals. I hate it, but I do it, train it, study it. Sometimes in training I go for it just to see what it’s all about. And then in the finals of the Worlds, João Gabriel put me in the 50/50, and it was cool – I wasn’t that worried and thought, “OK, I know what’s going on here…”.
For Bernardo it was playing with a position that he hates which allowed him to win the World Championships. That’s a pretty strong endorsement to spend at least some of your training time out of your comfort zone, isn’t it?
Takehome #3: Give credit where credit is due
Some BJJ teachers act as if everything they’re teaching was handed to them on a stone tablet by the ghost of Carlos Gracie himself. They somehow feel that if they say “I learned this cool technique from so-and-so” then it somehow diminishes their own status.
In the interview with Bernardo Faria you’ll notice that he tries to give credit to other people all the time, including Marcelo Garcia, Kevin Paretti, Fabio Gurgel, and Ricardo Marques. He knows that he didn’t get to World Champion status all by himself, and that he’s standing on the shoulders of his teachers and training partners.
I like what one of my other instructors, Dan Inosanto, once said about this topic: “Take and teach techniques from everywhere, just give credit for where you learned them.”
Takehome #4: The power of having a gameplan
One of the things I most wanted to talk with Bernardo about was the gameplan that he uses almost every single time he competes.
He pulls deep half guard, fights for the lapel-assisted single leg sweep, uses the over-under to pass the guard, and then tries to submit his opponent.
All his opponents know what he’s going to do, and yet they usually can’t stop him.
It’s a good example of how working on a gameplan, going really deep into a technique, and learning every variation, counter and recounter is a very powerful approach to BJJ.
He will play with other techniques in sparring, but when the chips are down and he’s competing a big tournament then he goes straight back to what he knows has worked for him in the past.
You may never pull deep half guard in your life, but the idea of building a gameplan that works for your body, attributes and psychology is still very important.
Takehome #5: Jiu-Jitsu involves a lifetime of learning
It is important to have an open mind and never think that you’ve learned all there is to know, especially in Jiu-Jitsu which has SO many different positions, techniques, and variations.
The art has never evolved faster than it has now. New techniques are being discovered, tried out, and put onto Youtube on a daily basis. If you stand still in BJJ, even for a little while, you WILL be left in the dust.
Instead of being overwhelmed by how much there is to learn take an adventurous attitude. It’s a great thing that you can continue learning for your entire BJJ career.
Jiu-jitsu is the same way; even if you never use what you learn maybe someone is going to use it against you, and then you’ll know what’s going on and how to defend it. So I never close my mind to learning anything.
Thanks to Bernardo for not only being such a force on the BJJ competition scene, but also for being a first class human being!
Stephan Kesting is a BJJ black belt and has 35 years of experience in the martial arts He is the force behind Grapplearts.com.