Gracie Barra instructor’s meeting sets vision for the future

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Kayron did brilliantly, but he still had to teach and then make time to train” Márcio Feitosa

Last week, a special instructor’s meeting took place at Gracie Barra headquarters in Irvine, California. Once or twice a year, professors and their students from all over the world get together to meet up and share their thoughts on what’s happening around GB. The meeting took place shortly after the Pan because so many professors, competitors, and students were in town and could make the easy trek to GB America.

Over 45 black belts and numerous brown and purple belts lined up around the mats. The room was filled with more Jiu-Jitsu years of experience and technical skill than would seem humanly possible. When Master Carlos took to the mats first to speak, he looked around at all the faces – some he’d known the majority of his life; others were men he’d met over the last few years. Regardless of the connection, it was clear in his smile and the warmth of his voice that he considered everyone in the room highly-regarded and respected members of his family.

Master Carlos Gracie Jr makes the opening speech

As this revered man spoke to everyone in attendance about his legendary family, eyes lit up around the room, “My father, Grandmaster Carlos Gracie, Sr., was a guy who had a very open mentality. He was a philosopher. He tried to create something for his family. I was lucky. I was the oldest child of his last wife. I got the chance to talk to him and he told me the history of our family. He accomplished a lot of things in his life.”

Master Carlos continued, “He always had a sense of family. To see that was the most important thing in my life. His students became our most important friends. They stayed with us in our home, too. That is what I’ve tried to accomplish here with all of you.”

Master Carlos went on to explain that other schools and professors he knew didn’t want to give black belts to students because they were afraid they would leave, open a school somewhere else, and become a competitor. Master Carlos says he encouraged black belts to open new schools, “I felt if I had to lose some students, then that was ok. We have to share to grow. That’s why we are here today with so many black belts. It’s important to spread Jiu-Jitsu throughout the world.”

When Master Carlos was finished speaking, Flavio Almeida, Director of the GB Association stepped into the middle of the room, “We had a great Pan experience last weekend,” Flavio says, “We hear people saying that GB isn’t focusing the same amount of energy on the big tournaments anymore, but what they don’t understand is that GB is about going beyond the contest mentality. We are not just concerned about points. We are concerned about the individual. We are concerned about how we dedicated ourselves to training for the tournament. We bring back the great experience of competing and testing ourselves.”

Almeida explained, “What’s important is that we keep up with the vision of Master Carlos and it has nothing to do with the next Worlds. How does being a world champion help you when you’re standing in front of your white belts at your school, if you can’t communicate techniques to them?”

Almeida says the goal is not the medal they bring or don’t bring back, “The goal is,” Almeida says, “from the founder of this sport, to change people’s lives for the better through Jiu-Jitsu. How many dads are fixing relationships with their sons by doing Jiu-Jitsu on the mats? Not by winning a tournament. We are following those values. We are all students of Master Carlos. As instructor or competitor, we want to leave those values on the mats.”

Marcio Feitosa, Head Instructor at GB America spoke next, “We want to win tournaments now just as much as we did 10 years ago. We just want to accomplish even more than that. If we’re training for a tournament, and a white belt walks in, we have to stop training and teach that student. Kayron did brilliantly at the tournament, but he still had to teach classes and then make time to train for the Pan.”

Feitosa says he’s very glad the way he learned Jiu-Jitsu, “I will carry it with me for the rest of my life. Me, Flavio and Piu Piu were there at Carlos’ first school. It’s very inspiring to be part of his vision.”

As the meeting came to a close, Almeida looked around the room at all of his friends and GB family members, “All of us around the circle are GB.  Everything happening at GB is done for you. To move forward, we must move forward together.”

At the end of the meeting, a belt ceremony took place. Most of the recipients had no idea they were about to receive new stripes or belts. There was a lot of laughter and even some tears as student after student was awarded a new stripe or belt from their professor and Master Carlos.

As the meeting came to a close, old friends got together, reminisced, took pictures, and promised to reconnect at the Worlds. One black belt remarked, “The meeting brought up good memories of old friends. It’s funny to look back at old pictures of these guys when we were all blue belts. Now we are all standing as black belts and teaching at our own schools.”

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