Jiu-Jitsu as a shortcut to success

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Liberi's team in Campinas. Photo: Personal archives

More and more Jiu-Jitsu is going beyond being just a simple sport, fight or competition. The Gentle Art lifestyle, as with its philosophy, can be implemented in daily life and offer paths to success in several ways. Be it at an automobile manufacturing plant or in one of the academies spread across the planet – just a few examples –, Jiu-Jitsu changes the way people think, act and can make just about anybody into a champion.

In a chat with Carlos Liberi, regional director for Gracie Barra in the state of São Paulo and the man responsible for the Gracie Barra Association in Brazil, it becomes clear. The black belt tells of how the Gentle Art was important in training employees of Mercedes-Benz throughout the country. And, if what we learn on the mat can help a company from a different field, why not use the experience within the sport itself? The professor also explains the success of the training system developed by Carlos Gracie that was implemented in his academy in Campinas, soon to be adopted by all the Gracie Barra branches across Brazil.

How did Jiu-Jitsu make it to Mercedes-Benz?
I was invited there by a student who works at the company. He had the idea of installing a group dynamic with Jiu-Jitsu in the sales and post-sales training program. They put together a new training system, based on the life of the Samurai. Samurai, for those who don’t know what it means, means ‘one who serves’. So he decided to add a martial art, but with no greater intentions. I applied the strategic part of Jiu-Jitsu and the folks started linking that to their day-to-day lives. That caught the directors’ attention, who came to watch the lectures. After that, I went on to do lectures all around Brazil.

But how was fighting introduced to this training?
Since Jiu-Jitsu means gentle art, and the maxim is to yield to win, I focused on that for their area of expertise. To listen to the customer, what he has to say and what his needs are. I focused on some topics listed in our exercises. I picked a strong volunteer and would tell him to push me. Then I’d say, ‘You are stronger than me and you beat me. Now, if when you push me I add it to my strength, instead of trying to contain it, I redirect it wherever I wish to, then I become stronger than you.’ Or in other words, I don’t confront the customer. I take advantage of what he says to improve service and sell more.

Liberi (middle) with some of his black belts. Photo: Personal archives

That means what is learned in the dojo goes well beyond moves…
Jiu-Jitsu is much more of a philosophy of life than a fight. Anyone who manages to understand it as a philosophy applies it to life as a whole. Those who manage to convey it as being beyond a fight manage to open the doors to companies or to whatever they wish. A new field to be explored in several areas opens up. Anyone who takes it as being just a fight won’t train for long.

You helped Mercedes, one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world. But the emphasis on good customer service and offering a good service also makes a difference in academies themselves. Can you comment on the Gracie Barra Premium Schools Program?
This new program was a welcome surprise, implemented by Gracie Barra in the United States, which is starting here in Brazil. Among the proposals, we separate students by experience (fundamental, advanced and black belt). This way, beginners aren’t taken aback when they get tossed around in their first training session. When we treat beginners this way, besides managing to get new students, we make them loyal to the academy and keep them from giving up. The number of white belts, who are the future, increased a lot in the academies that applied this system. The foundations are worked on well and, with solid foundations, there’s no way they won’t become great competitors. Roger Gracie at competitions uses everything white belts learn in their first classes. He does it perfectly, because his foundations are really good. So we’re putting together an army of Roger Gracies! The method consists of a series of actions. The class is standardized by Master Carlos Gracie Jr, attendance is kept and there’s also standardization in how the academy is put together and uniformization of the students. It stops being an academy and becomes a Jiu-Jitsu school. Just as an example, the number of students in my school leapt from 90 to 200 in just a year.

How can teachers around Brazil get in on this system?
We’re informing all teachers via email: associacao@graciebarra.com. That’s how I will provide all the necessary information teachers need to adhere to the idea of Gracie Barra Premium. In Brazil, we start with the project at my academy, in Campinas, and with Jefferson Moura, in Rio de Janeiro. When need be, I’ll go on location to help with implementation. But it’s real simple. The teacher just has to be willing to follow it, and success is guaranteed.

The Premium Schools program packed the academy. Photo: Personal archives

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