An inside look at the kids program with the Mendes Bros at Art of Jiu-Jitsu

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Rafa and Gui celebrate Courtney Cardoza’s win at the 2013 Kids Pan Ams. Photo: Ivan Trindade

The Mendes Bros, Rafael and Guilherme or Rafa and Gui for short, are champions who are now extending their knowledge and experience to their students. Their academy, GMA Art of Jiu-Jitsu, is full of many students looking to achieve their individual goals although many of which aren’t even old enough to drive.

The kids program at Art of Jiu-Jitsu has fostered little champions while also teaching valuable life lessons. Many have wondered how they maintain such a large group, how they have built such a strong competition team in such short amount of time, what type of training they do and what attracts the young crowd to their Costa Mesa, CA location.

In an exclusive chat with Graciemag, the Mendes Bros let us in on how such a program is run:

GRACIEMAG: How many kids do you have training at your academy?

MENDES BROS: We have close to 200 kids training at our academy and our program is still growing. It was our goal when we first opened to develop a very strong kids program since they are the future of the sport. We offer 6 kids classes per day. We separate the kids by age and belt level so we can be sure we teach the appropriate techniques for their age groups. We also do this so we can manage the class size, otherwise the classes would be too large and we would not be able to give each child the attention that they need.

How many of them compete?

About 25% of our kids compete. Although we have a very large group of kid competitors, the majority of our students just train to learn and have fun. We always let the students decide if they want to compete. If they show interest and think they want to compete, then we will help them and make sure it is a good experience. We always make sure to give the students the same level of attention whether they are a competitor or just train for fun.

What kind of sacrifices do your kids make when they choose to compete?

Our students are hard workers! We are very proud of the commitment they show, especially at such young ages. One thing that we feel very strongly about however, is that all of the kids need to have the passion for Jiu-Jitsu on their own. In Jiu-Jitsu and in other youth sports, we see many parents pushing their kids too hard at a young age and it makes the kids lose their enjoyment for the sport. So we don’t really feel that our kids are making big sacrifices because they enjoy being here and training with their friends, and the kids that choose to compete enjoy the competitions.

Would you say that these kids are already working as full-time athletes?

We like to say they are doing all the right things to become future champions. We always do our best to be good role models for the kids and we want to give them all the right tools to achieve their dreams. We love to teach the kids and we admire their dedication. It inspires us to keep pushing forward to achieve our goals since we know all of the kids are looking to us to lead them. We know that as long as they keep up the good training, work hard, and believe in their dreams, they will be able to achieve their dreams.

What type of training do you have for the competitors?

We drill a lot of everything: takedowns, guard, submissions, passes, back attacks. After competitions we always study the mistakes to fix our game and improve to the next tournament and of course we do many rounds of sparring and specific training (this is their favorite part of the class).

How is it the same or different from the adult training for competitors?

The kids competition class is just like the adults competition class; we do a lot of speed drills, talk about tournament situations, and lots of sparring. I think this is the biggest difference between our training and most of the other schools. We teach them the same techniques that the adults drill when they are preparing for the biggest tournaments.

Check out more information about the kids program by going to

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