Absolute champion of Asia celebrates, but doesn’t reveal “family secret”

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A well-known competitor and trainer in Japan, the half-Brazilian, half-Japanese Marcos Souza is not an illustrious unknown to readers. The son of Master Adilson Souza, master and founder of Bon Sai academy, Marcos is of noble lineage, with further family credentials from his brown belt brother Roberto Satoshi Souza.

Even so, Marcos was not the favorite going into the Asian Open that ended September 12. And he nearly put off signing up, due to a foot injury.

In the end, he stuck his neck out among beasts like Abmar Barbosa, Mike Fowler and Jonathan “JT” Torres, and showed the worth of the Brazil-Japan blend – he won both his weight and the open weight group at the IBJJF competition. And he even had breath left to answer five questions from GRACIEMAG.com.

Marcos Souza celebrates victory over JT in absolute. Photo: Kinya Hashimoto.

Was the 2010 Asian Open your first major title?

Yes, there was a special flavor to it. Two years ago, at the same championship, I was winning 15 to 2 with 40 seconds on the clock and my I wanted to finish off my opponent any way I could. I let myself get carried away by emotion and I got caught in an armbar with 20 seconds remaining… This year I wanted to prove how that Asian Open was unfortunate.

This year I won all the events I was in here in Japan, at weight and open weight. Cups like the Dumau International, Aichi Open, West Japan, All Japan and the Abu Dhabi Asian Qualfiers…

How did the match go against JT, one of the sensations of the current season?

Everyone was saying it would be an interesting match, perhaps the most heavily anticipated of the absolute. He’s been gaining ground in Jiu-Jitsu, has been beating a lot of tough guys and deserves respect. He has a highly offensive guard, has been catching everyone in his path, but I believed in my game. I passed his guard and got my knee on his belly, winning by 5 to 0. He’s really strong for a lightweight, and on top of that he’s really quick. I was pleased.

Then came the absolute final. Why did you and Abmar opt not to fight?

Last year, Abmar came to compete in Japan and stayed at my house, we trained together and we’ve been great friends ever since. He said that as I helped him last year, this year he’s going to reciprocate what I did for him. The curious part is that, on Saturday, he told me he wasn’t going to compete in the absolute because he was going to watch the judo Worlds. So I joked with him asking whether he was afraid of somebody, and bugged him about the title having to go to a Brazilian. Besides the Japanese threats, there was JT and Mike Fowler, each in a different bracket, and the danger of the two closing out. We joked about each of us having to take out one of them along the way, which is what ended up happening.

The Bon Sai teacher score 5 to 0 over Torres. Photos: Kinya Hashimoto.

You nearly stayed out of the Asian Open. How did you get injured?

Last month in the final of the All Japan, I hurt my foot against a 170-kg (374-lb) opponent! It was right at the start of the match. I ended up winning, but haven’t been able to train since. I’d already told my students and sponsors I wasn’t going to compete, since I hadn’t been training. But my desire spoke louder, and as I was in Tokyo to accompany my students, I decided to sign up at the last minute. I overcame the pain and fear of competing untrained.

I’d like to take the chance to thank my sponsors, Bull Terrier, Fightwear, Dragão Kimonos, Brutal Company. And of course, all those who rooted for me, it’s because of you that I try to improve with every day.

You brother won the absolute brown belt division, getting the finish in all his matches. What are you guys’ training sessions like?

My brother has enviable focus and responsibility. He wins a championship and on the next day he’s training again like he’s about to compete.

Now he’s even going to compete in the Jiu-Jitsu GP against another sever fighters, to prove who’s the best in the under 75 kg (155 lbs) division in Japan.

We trust each other a lot, corner each other and know exactly what the other is going to do in a match. We train every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday at our academy Bon Sai Hamamatsu. Everyone asks who submits who, but that’s a family secret! (Laughs).

What’s you guys’ routine like in Japan?

I teach class from Monday to Saturday, while my brother heads training at Bon Sai Iwata. There are three of us brothers here in Japan. At first we worked in a factory. Hard times… The food was bad and the work grueling. Even worse, we didn’t have time to train. Now we have three branches here, aside from the 14 in Brazil, which we always visit. In October, for example, we’ll be back there to be with the family.

Brown belt brother Roberto: now in the fight to determine best lightweight in Japan.

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