“Life is a Jiu-Jitsu tournament; just a little bit bigger and longer”

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Flavio by Mike Pesh

About to compete at the Las Vegas Open, Flavio Almeida has been studying Jiu-Jitsu under Master Carlos Gracie Jr. for more then 17 years, and won all the major tournaments he competed in from blue belt juvenile to brown belt, and was undefeated in his weight division throughout all those years.

Today a 3rd-degree black belt, Cachorrinho’s competitive career was interrupted right after he received his black belt at 19. Admitted to a renowned university in Brazil, he could no longer train full time and slowly disappeared from the competition arena.

In 2007, Flavio hit the competition circuit with a vengeance and came back as a more mature fighter. That year he pulled out many important accomplishments such as 1st place at the No-Gi Pan, 2nd place at the Gi Pan, 2nd place at the ADCC, and 3rd place at the Worlds. He took gold at the Pan in 2009, but then his other callings came to pass again, and his involvement as an important decision maker at Gracie Barra, along with his pregnant wife, Vivi, took him away from the competition scene once again.

These days, Flavio leads the way as Director of the GB Association and is responsible for many of the changes to GB’s business strategy and its successful evolution over the years. With over 300 schools worldwide, and the aim of opening many more, he works diligently towards the goal of getting every GB school around the world to be uniformly run so that it is as though Master Carlos were overseeing each one of them himself.

Flavio with wife Vivi and daughter Valentina

“We’re working on bringing Jiu-Jitsu to as many people as possible through the hands of GB instructors worldwide,” he says, “We have a clear vision of how Jiu-Jitsu should be taught that is slightly different from the way most core competitors see it. We are reconnecting with the roots of the gentle art and resurrecting Carlos Gracie Sr.’s vision of Jiu-Jitsu as a practice aimed to support individual development.”

Along with his GB Association work, he also runs two successful GB schools: GB San Clemente and  GB Dana Point, which keep him even busier. Being so involved in business, Professor Flavio hasn’t competed since the 2009 Pan.

Lately, Flavio’s gone back to the mats to dedicate some time to getting his body back in competition shape. “I’m training for the Worlds No Gi, so results will come in a few months,” he says, “I feel much better already and the training with the other GB professors in Irvine definitely helps.” Flavio also enjoys training with his students. Although most of them are blue belts, he says they create a good challenge for him and help him develop new strategizes into his game.

Flavio Cachorrinho and Vivi. Photo: Gustavo Aragão

Flavio also adds physical training and cardio to his routine. “I power lift and run a lot,” he says, “I love the open trails in San Clemente and Dana Point. They give me extra motivation to get out there and work on my cardio.”

Flavio misses competing on a regular basis. “I miss the adrenaline, the training, and the excitement of it,” he says, “I truly believe every martial artist should be involved in some kind of competition. It keeps us on edge and connected to the best we are as fighters.”

He doesn’t usually look at the brackets before a tournament, but this year, he says he hears through the grapevine that Rafael Lovato may be competing in Las Vegas. “That would be awesome!” he says, “Every time I compete I truly want to grapple with the best guys out there and having big names like him keeps me even more motivated.”

Like many seasoned black belts, Flavio believes that competition is one of the best ways to grow as a fighter and as a person. “Master Carlos always told me that learning to handle the pressure of a contest makes us more prepared to deal with life and I agree,” he reflects, “I remember being a kid and my dad would tell me that life is like a Jiu-Jitsu tournament; just a little bit bigger and longer. That kind of good advice has taught me a lot. I have been blessed with great mentors.”

As far as winning or losing goes, Flavio likes to borrow words from the great John Wooden, a famous UCLA and Hall of fame basketball player and coach, “’Success is the peace of mind derived from knowing you prepared to perform to the best of your abilities.’ That is a very accurate way of defining the competition philosophy we learned from Carlinhos,” he says, “The tournament is not an end to itself. It’s a tool we should all use to achieve our potential as fighters and grow as individuals. We can’t control the results from a tournament, but we can control how much we prepare for it.”

And let’s face it, with Flavio’s crazy-busy life, he needs the distraction of competing once in a while. “By committing to a tournament, something changes within me,” he says, “I get out of my damned chair, put my tired laptop aside, leave the 100+ emails aside that I get in a day, and go train. I train to exhaustion. I eat better, I sleep better, I am overall happier, and that’s my goal.”

It’s this type of preparation that Flavio believes allows a person to perform at their best. He tells his students to not be obsessed with the victory. “Winning is a consequence of a strong commitment to do all we can to perform to the best of our abilities,” he philosophizes. He himself is going to show up to the Las Vegas Open a focused fighter with a strong desire to win, but above all else, he says he’s just happy to be back on the mats.

Jiu-Jitsu is Flavio’s life. You can often hear him saying, “I see my life through Jiu-Jitsu.”  Meaning that the art has shaped his character and has a strong influence on the way he makes decisions in his life. “Jiu-Jitsu training has made me realize the importance of noble values like respect to others, mutual support, discipline, and commitment to growth,” he says, “It has taught me the ethos of a warrior that ultimately allows me to make better decisions for the benefit of my family, my teammates, my friends, and myself.”

GB roots: Pedrinho Brandão with flake-gray shorts, Marco Joca with arms crossed and Cachorrinho doing the funk. Photo: Personal archive

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