Master Fabio Santos is a 7th-degree jiu-jitsu coral belt. One of the first BJJ black belts who come to the USA. He witnessed many Gracie Challenges in Brazil and also in the USA. He had a lot of experience in the old school BJJ. Matt Thornton, head coach of Straight Blast Gym talks to Professor Santos about these but also many other interesting topics.
Training in Brazil back in the days:
Back in the days, training was rough. Life in Brazil was also quite difficult. Master Fabio got his black belt in 1983 from Rickson Gracie. When he got his black belt he was only competing because he had too much to work. In the beginning, he was not so good, but when he started doing better he moves to the USA. He explained how the training looked in the 80s. Fabio explains also how the classes with Rolls look like. A minor warm-up and then some self-defense movements in the position on the ground. The class was about an hour and a half, and the last 20 minutes were free like an open mat. Always was a technique to bring up for drill. Almost everyone from the Gracie family teaches the same way, pretty much like a tradition. Today it is much different. A lot of schools focus just on competition, which a lot of time could be a mistake.
Rolls Gracie is responsible for developing the open guard:
Rolls guard was so impassible that people would just tire out before they would pass. He used the open guard a lot, the spider guard, and all the other stuff. All the stuff that they call have a name today, and at that time was just called the open guard. His guard was impassible, but he let you pass so he could see what are you going to do in the position. The elders like Carlos Gracie would never teach the turtle. The turtle is not involved in that teaching method. It is pretty simple you put your opponent in the guard, or you stand up in base out of there. The turtle is in a very vulnerable situation.
As we all can consider, Rickson was on another level. Rickson gots so deep into the perfect techniques, the angle of the body, and the grips that you should use. His timing is perfect. When you train with him you can see that he is smooth but on the dot. He is a perfection of the moves, that’s what makes him so good. The perfect leverage is definitely, where to grab, where to keep holding. He trained non-stop for the years, with the perfect instructions of his dad and the whole family.
Gracie challenges in Brazil and the USA:
The grudge was mostly with the guys from Luta Livre. There were a lot of fights with those guys. Also, there was a lot of street fights. In the beginning, it wasn’t so friendly but it ended up being friendly later. Rickson beat all the guys and that one of the reasons why he came to the USA because he was looking for other challenges. Back then in Brazil, nobody wanted to fight him anymore. Later, the challenges happened constantly in the USA. A lot of guys came and try to fight the Gracies, but there were also guys that actually signed up, the smarter ones.
What’s lost in BJJ?
For Master Fabio, there should exist standardization in the black belt promotion. Something like a test. Fabio has 60 of his own black belts. As he says, he can guarantee that most of them are well involved in self-defense, basic Jiu-Jitsu, or even the more complicated stuff, and all of them will get you a pretty good answer. The problem today is that a lot of people get their black belts too early.
Advice for longevity in BJJ:
Keeping moving is important, always stretching. Having a routine of exercise is one of the things that kept Fabio going for many years. Trying to maintain healthy food habits, with a lot of greens and fruits. Those are things that helped Fabio a lot. This is an influence from the Gracie family because they actually taught him how to eat that way. People think that they were on diet, but that is not so. They eat everything, but they don’t eat between meals at all, just drinking water. If you don’t have any injuries, training every day is the best thing that you can do probably to maintain your body.
Pros and cons of IBJJF:
Nowadays, guys are incredible. But they just wanna manage the time. Back in the days, there were not so many calculating. Always looking for the finish, if you got shut down, it’s ok, you give your best. If they killed you it was an honorable thing that you did. There are also dirty guys, they take stuff. Once they are dirty they are cheating. All the accomplishments on steroids, they don’t have weight. In Master Fabio’s opinion, all organizations should test prior and ban all the guys because they need an example, when there is no example they’re gonna keep doing.
Fabio’s advice for beginners in BJJ:
Before you even go to any BJJ school, you really have to do research. See where the lineage goes come from. You need a coach whos really going to help you with what you have to ask him. The atmosphere of the school is important, find a school where you will feel good and enjoy the journey.