Training Program: Get creative to win, with the Mendes brothers

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[First published in 2009. Scroll all the way down for plain text.]

Guilherme and Rafael Mendes are not twins. Guilherme
(in blue gi) is about a year older. And taking
a good look at the brothers, it’s easy to note the differences.
Rafael, 19, has a broader face and thinner
lips than Guilherme, 21. The similarities, though, are
apparent in the trajectory of the two natives of Rio Claro, a town
situated around 170km from São Paulo. They started training as kids
with their elder cousin Thiago Mendes, now Team Atos Jiu-Jitsu’s
conditioning coach. When, eight years ago, Carioca Ramon Lemos
showed up in town, the two gained a black belt master. They evolved
quickly and it wasn’t long before that showed in the good results
they attained. “They’ve dominated their category since white belt,”
Thiago recalls. In retrospect, since 2005, when Guilherme was
roosterweight blue belt world champion, the two have dominated
the categories they disputed up until brown belt, in 2008. In 2009,
Rafa and Gui will make it up to Long Beach, California, to fight in
the Worlds for the first time as black belts. And the man to beat is
a certain Rubens Charles. On “Cobrinha,” the two skirt the issue:
“We’re going in to win the competition and not to beat one specific
guy,” say the two of them.

In putting together this fraternal Training Program, we
hit the road and requested the duo pick a striking spot in town to
shoot the positions at. Without so much as blinking, they chose
Navarro de Andrade Forrest. So, facing the lake, ducks on all sides,
first Guilherme and then Rafael each demonstrated their positions.
Each with a touch of the originality that is the duo’s registered trademark.
As is so particular to lighter Jiu-Jitsu fighters, the moves are
influenced a great deal by the guard game, as Guilherme explains:
“In this category, fighters are very flexible. That’s why playing on
bottom is an advantage.” Make the most of the shortcuts created
by the brothers, who lay out how to get through each one.

exercise 1 – Start the exercise lying with your legs bent. Next,
supported by your right leg, raise your hips and left leg. End the
exercise with your left arm propped on the ground and raise your
torso while simulating sinking a grip on your adversary.

position 1 – “Here the difference is only in the grip on the belt
and not the sleeve, which makes the position tighter, with more
hip control,” Guilherme orients.
Doing the well-known De la Riva guard, grab hold of your opponent’s
left ankle, as seen in photo 2. Next, position your left leg
between your opponent’s legs, fitting it in at the left crotch. As in
Exercise 1, raise your torso and grab the belt with your right hand.
Maintaining your hold on the ankle and belt, turn till you are positioned
behind your opponent with two hooks placed at your adversary’s
crotch. To finish, pull him/her backwards, using the hooks to
lift their legs off the ground. As soon as your opponent lands seated,
put in the hooks and dominate his/her back.

exercise 2 – Start seated and tilt to the left doing
a full spin, first supporting your left foot on the mat
and then the right. End the move sitting.

position 2 – “This position was nicknamed Kiss of the Dragon
by Eduardo “Jamelão” Conceição and we modified it. Instead
of sweeping, as most do, we take the back and finish,” explains
With your adversary standing in your guard, grab the outside
of your opponent’s right leg with your right hand. Next, spin as in
Exercise 2 and put your right hook between your adversary’s legs.
What you do is to spin to the right and pass under your adversary’s
legs, putting in forward hooks and grabbing your opponent’s left leg
using your left hand. Grab hold of the belt using your right and pull
your adversary backwards using the hooks to remove your opponent’s
support. Next, put in the hooks and dominate his/her back.

exercise 3 – With your right knee on the ground and left foot on
the ground, kick your right leg forward keeping your right hand as
support. Next, drop to the right maintaining your right leg extended.
Now, put your back to the ground and turn to your left.

position 3 – “At featherweight, it’s hard to pass guard and make it
to side control without running the risk of being swept, due to the
flexibility of the fighters. That’s why we modified this position to get
to the back instead of just passing guard,” says Guilherme.
In your opponent’s open guard, grab his/her belt with both
hands and hoist him/her up. Now, in the reverse angle, put your
left foot over your opponent’s right ankle and maintain your hold
on the belt. Now drop to your right and hook your opponent’s right
leg. Back in the original view, pull your opponent against your body,
put in your hooks and grab his/her lapels.

exercise 4 – With your back to the ground, spin to
the right with your legs above your head. Complete
the spin with your legs again in front of you.

position 4 – “This is another move most fighters use to sweep, and
we use to take the back and finish,” explains Rafael.
With your adversary in your half-guard, grab your opponents
left wrist with your right hand, while your left hand goes to his/
her right lapel. With these two supports, pull your adversary forward
and when he/she brings his/her left leg forward to prevent
the sweep, release the grip on the collar and use the hand to grab
behind the left knee. Use the support of the knee to pass between
your opponent’s legs, release the grip on the wrist and grab your
adversary’s belt, putting your hooks in under both legs. Pull your
opponent down and use your hooks to remove his/her base. Adjust
the hooks and grab the lapels from his/her back.

exercise 5 – Standing, take a step forward and drop to the right
kicking your right foot forward. Next, roll to your right till your back
is on the ground and your legs over your head. Bring your legs to the
front again, but keeping your right leg up, lowering it thereafter.

position 5 – “This move we created as an alternative to the trapped
foot in the half-guard. With it, instead of wasting time trying to free
the foot, we go straight to the back,” Rafa clarifies.
Standing, stoop over and grab your opponent’s right pant leg
and place your right arm under your adversary’s head. Move as
though passing around the guard, which will leave your foot trapped
in the half-guard. Then grab your opponent’s left foot and spin over
his/her body without releasing the foot. The spin will force your opponent’s
legs over his/her head. Take advantage of the movement
to pull your opponent’s foot towards your feet till he/she turns 180
degrees, landing positioned next to you. From the back, put in the
hooks and grab the lapels.

exercise 6 – Lying down, sit up and support yourself on your right
arm. Next, lower your torso and kick your left leg forward.

position 6 – “To close, yet another adaptation of a sweep ending
on the back,” says the youngest Mendes in finishing.
With your adversary standing and you lying down, raise your
body and hook his right leg with your left arm. Next, grab hold of
your opponent’s left sleeve with your left hand, put your left leg
between your adversary’s legs and remove his/her right-leg support
with your foot and pull him/her forward by the sleeve. At the
same time, grab your opponent’s collar with your right hand and
lay him/her down in front of you. To finish, put your hooks in and
grab the collar.

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