The up and coming purple belts from Gracie Barra are turning on the heat. With the schools in Southern California being so relatively new, many students are just beginning to progress through the “higher” level belt system. At the last GB Tournament, quite a few purple belts showed up to compete, showing how many more senior level belts are working their way up through the system. Many of them are born competitors and believe in competing at every tournament possible, including the upcoming Worlds.
One of GB’s highest hopes at purple belt is Brian Morizi. He’s a very young purple belt who recently came in 3rd at the Pan. Morizi has been training for about three years and has already competed in over 60 tournaments. Part of his success may stem from the fact he’s been able to train with some great black belts who’ve been helping him along. “I’ve been training with Kayron Gracie, Flavio Almeida, Lucas Rocha, and Otavio Sousa, to name a few,” says Morizi, “Whatever’s working on those guys has to work on other purple belts!” At the Pan, Morizi had four division matches, only to lose to Jordon Schultz from Alliance in the semifinals. Schultz went on to take first in the lightweight division.
At that time, Morizi said he had a lot to “clean up” before the Worlds. “I have a lot to work on,” Morizi says, “I need a smarter game plan for the Worlds.” As part of his preparation, Morizi recently competed in the GB Season Opener where he took 1st place in the Adult Division, “It was a great experience,” Morizi says, “Any time you can compete, it really helps you in other tournaments. The GB tournament has good rules, great refs, and a friendly environment to fight in.”
Morizi says the level of competitors at the GB tournament is the same as what you’d find at the Worlds or anywhere else, so he thinks more purple belts should sign up for it. “If more guys came out to fight at this tournament, we’d have more fights in our own weight class, which would help us prepare for the other big tournaments like the Pan and the Worlds and it would be more realistic of what we’d be facing there.” Morizi says he’s looking forward to the Worlds and he feels confident about his training in preparation for it.
Jeff Shulze trains at GB Santa Ana under Ulpiano Malachias. He also trains at GB America a couple times a week to train with the black belts there. Shulze, a young purple belt, says he’s been a little frustrated with his Jiu-Jitsu lately, but he’s working through the kinks, “Professor Ulpiano’s been giving me hints. I need to figure out what’s going to make me better.”
Shulze says he’s going to register for the Worlds. “It’s my responsibility to represent my school,” he says, “I’m a big fan of competing. The more you compete, the better you get. If you don’t compete, your nerves build up and you don’t perform as well. If you compete all the time, you get used to the stress.”
Shulze was disappointed in his performance at this year’s Pan. “I lost my second fight,” he says, “It was really tough.” Shulze also competed in the GB Season Opener to prepare for the Worlds, where he came in third “I lost to Guilherme (Cotliarenko). Competing in that tournament showed me that I’m in a good place and working my way up. You have to rise to the occasion with each new belt.”
Shulze believes, win or lose, competing at any tournament only helps with the overall evolution of his Jiu-Jitsu. “When I compete in BJJ, it magnifies my results,” he says, “It makes me a better person – it gives me goals to set. It helps me deal with stress and gives me confidence to go about my daily life.”
Brian Mansfield is a purple belt in the masters division. He trains at GB America about four to five times a week. Mansfield loves to compete and does so whenever he can. He says he will drive anywhere to compete in a tournament. He went to Arizona in March and came in 2nd at a tournament there and then competed in the GB Tournament and placed 2nd again, where he lost to Rafael Villanueva.
“GB America has one of the larger schools in America,” he says, “The competition is great. There are so many different people playing different types of games, with different strengths. You have to train hard to adapt to that. That’s why there’s no downside to competing. The experience you get is invaluable. You learn more in those 5 minutes of competing than you can in an hour class.”
Cedric Chamouille is a purple belt at GB America. He’s been at it for 3 ½ years. Chamouille is a world traveler – he was born in New Caledonia (between New Zealand and Australia), moved to Tahiti when he was 12 years old and came to the U.S. in 1995. “I’ve lived everywhere,” he says, “My dad’s a TV Director, so we moved a lot.” Chamouille says he has put his suitcase down in Irvine, “I’m done moving,” he says, “I’m staying in Orange County.” With the kind of training he gets at GB America, who can blame him?
Chamouille’s real passion is teaching. He wants to have his own school one day, but says he wants to be a black belt first. “I want to learn as much as I can,” he says, “I want to stay on the mats and be one of the best Jiu-Jitsu instructors in GB.”
Chamouille says he also likes the experience of competing, but he prefers the GB tournaments. “They’re such great tournaments,” he says, “They’re like family reunions. Not everyone can be the best, but everyone can get there. If all the purple belts from GB competed in that tournament, the level would be really high. I mean, look at Brian Morizi. He’s a phenomenal guy. He’s one of those prodigy kids. Time-wise, he’s still a blue belt, but his level of purple belt is more like a brown belt. Can you imagine if everyone signed up?”
Chamouille says the GB purple belts are going to be a force to be reckoned with, “We’re the first homegrown purple belts,” he says, “We’re the first wave. We’ll see more coming up in the future. We’ve only been around Southern California for like 5 years, but our purple belts are already really good.”
Rafael Villanueva has been training at GB America for a little more than 3 years. Villanueva is a little different because, not only is he a GB purple belt, he’s also a 4th degree black belt in taekwondo (which is master status), a black belt in Aikido and a brown belt in judo.
The GB Tournament was his first tournament as a purple belt. His strategy for fighting comes from his wide range of martial arts skills. “I’ve been training martial arts for 22 years, so I think differently. judo helps with the grips and takedowns, but it takes a lot of energy to take someone down for 2 points. Sometimes it’s easier to pull guard and get the sweep because you get more points. If I feel my opponent’s grips are strong, I just pull guard. If I test him and I know I can do ok, I’ll throw him for sure, for the points.”
Villanueva’s strategy must work because he came in 1st at the GB Tournament in the Masters division. He thinks more people should sign up for it, “There’s a lot of talent in GB. It’s a ‘faith’ tournament. You can test yourself in a friendly environment. It’s good to test your skills against other schools. I try to go around and visit other schools to see where I’m at. It helps.”
Villanueva believes that competing makes you see things differently. “When you compete, you’re stepping up to a different level,” he says, “You feel it right away – how you respond to stress and different circumstances. It’s completely different than taking a class. After so many tournaments, you don’t get nervous and you can stay calm. Any experience competing helps.”
One other purple belt to look out for at the Worlds is Guilherme Cotliarenko. He’s a tough GB competitor who also trains at GB America with the stellar list of black belts there. He also has an MMA background. The other purple belts say Cotliarenko’s a tough competitor who will be a threat at the Worlds.
With the Worlds only a couple of weeks away, the GB purple belts are training hard to prepare themselves for the biggest tournament of the year. It will be interesting to see the results of their hard work and efforts.