A champion’s mind: Gezary Matuda’s lessons for you to win in BJJ

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Gezary at the IBJJF Worlds. Dan Rod/GRACIEMAG

Although it may not look that way to you, Gezary Matuda is 35 years old. Yes, 35, the typical age of a fighter in the masters’ age group. The Curitiba native, however, carries on fighting much younger opponents in the adults’ group. That was, by the way, how Matuda won her three world titles in the black belt, an unstoppable veteran amongst young powerhouses.

“It’s all a mental matter,” says the champion from ATT. “These days I feel even better than when I was 25. Now I’m more experienced, I know my body better, I know what is good for me and what’s bad, I know how to make good choices, I identify exactly what I like and what I want. When I was younger, I’d be full of doubts. With maturity came the clarity of who I really am.”

The fact that she has always been the lightest athlete at any gym has presented itself as a challenge throughout Matuda’s career. Where many people would be wary of training with much heavier opponents, she dared:

“Of course, it’s not simple weighing just 110 pounds. But since I can’t change that, I adapted my way of training. After a few lumbar pains from playing guard so much, I began fighting on top more, avoiding feeling the weight of the guys so much. Adapting is the secret. I’ve been training for 15 years and have never had surgery. Injuries happen, but we can prevent them if we train in an intelligent way, doing good physical preparation in parallel.”

At the seminars she teaches worldwide, Matuda often answers questions about the theme of motivation. “I hear from students things like: ‘But why do you, with three world titles in the black belt, keep fighting?’ I think the secret to keeping the competitive flame going is simple: loving BJJ. I love to train, I love the vibe of my friends training, all with the same goal, going to the limit — I feel alive, you know? I like every second there. It’s hell, but it’s good. [Laughs.] I’m sure one day I’ll feel it’s time to stop, but as long as I feel pleasure in fighting, I’ll carry on showing up in competitions.”

To conclude our interview, we asked Matuda whether, in the course of her career, there was a decision she considers crucial to her success. She didn’t even have to think.

“Yes. Having left Brazil. It’s sad to say this, but it’s the truth. Everything happened after I felt Brazil in search of my dreams. I left my comfort, family and friends because I was certain I would win the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in the black belt. Of course, the Worlds is every fighter’s dream; however, it’s worth noting that life goes well beyond the medals. By the way, everybody thinks that after winning the Worlds, the life of the athlete is going to change with a huge leap in quality. It’s tough to see that nothing changes; your life will be almost the same… What really changes is you inner satisfaction. The process of the camp, the high level of stress, the inner war of feelings until the moment of glory! That does last, and it makes every battle worth it.”

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