A hardened competitor, these days Marco Joca “Piu-Piu” spends most of his time teaching what the years of training and competition have taught him, as well as helping Gracie Barra’s expansion through the Premium Schools program. In this conversation with the black belt from Rio de Janeiro now residing in California, he comments on GB’s ambitions and explains the change philosophy that accompanied his move from being a competitor to a teacher. “Some years ago I decided to put my time to projects that help in GB’s growth, instead of winning medals for the team myself,” says Piu-Piu.
How important is the work you are doing to standardize Gracie Barra affiliates through the Premium Schools program?
An organization doesn’t exist without a minimum of uniformity and standardization. Master Carlos Gracie Junior’s aim is to lay the groundwork for the organized expansion of Gracie Barra so our organization may contribute as much as possible to the quality teaching of Jiu-Jitsu to the greatest number of people possible. Standardization is a tool and an important step in attaining this greater objective of contributing to our art’s growth.
How is this system being accepted at your school in the United States?
Wonderfully! Since the systems are created to help schools to grow and offer teaching of quality, everyone is very satisfied with the result.
You became world champion with a choke from the guard in the final. In a nutshell, a basic position proved the basics make one’s Jiu-Jitsu stronger. That is another of the proposals of Premium Schools. Tell us about that:
It’s true. I was a purple belt at the 2000 Worlds. At Gracie Barra teaching is always focused on producing well-rounded students in all areas of Jiu-Jitsu. Master Carlos Gracie Jr. always adhered to the mentality of Jiu-Jitsu being the gentle art and a lifestyle, where simplicity goes hand in hand with efficiency. Thus we believe that Jiu-Jitsu is for everyone: big, short, strong, weak, men, women, children, old people… The curriculum’s proposal emphasizes the basic moves and techniques of Jiu-Jitsu that were always a part of Gracie Barra and continue to be to this day through Premium Schools. Beyond that, the Gracie Barra Association has been developing a management system for schools along the same lines. These systems have been successfully applied by Premium Schools.
Now that we’re on the subject of competition, do you ever think of competing again?
I always think about it. Bu, the truth is my routine is geared towards making Gracie Barra grow, so it’s hard to find time to prepare and train adequately. Some years ago I decided to put my time into projects that would help in GB’s growth, rather than win medals for the team. I’m very satisfied with the result of these projects and with the solid growth of this family around the world!
Is having competed important to being a teacher? Is it essential?
I believe it’s important if you are a teacher with the aim of producing champions in your school. Jiu-Jitsu used in competition has the same basic principles of leverage, balance, distribution of weight, grips, etc… However, speed, psychology and physical form and some other factors are different from gym Jiu-Jitsu. A good analogy would be a 100-meter-dash sprinter against a marathon runner. Both are running, but the training for each modality is different. I believe competition is a good test for an athlete to evaluate his potential within those rules, but, sincerely, that just covers a small part of what Jiu-Jitsu has to offer a human being.
What’s the importance of Jiu-Jitsu in your life?
At 6 years of age I was already on the mat watching my older brother train. Jiu-Jitsu took over my life, everything I do has to do with Jiu-Jitsu and Gracie Barra. I truly believe that Jiu-Jitsu transforms people into better human beings. I’m the number 1 fan of the concept that the world would be a better place if everyone practiced Jiu-Jitsu. Therefore one of the main ideas in my life is that I should help the worldwide expansion of Gracie Barra and the goal of there being a GB school in every city in the world.