The Mendes Bros were on point July 1, 2012, when they introduced their new studio “The Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy” to the public at their grand opening gala in Costa Mesa, California, last Sunday afternoon. Jiu-Jitsu superstars Rafael and Guilherme Mendes, along with their sponsor, RVCA founder Pat Tenore, unveiled their new school with some serious flash and flair. Not only did the Mendes Bros offer a free seminar that had the giant mat area packed with students, but they had a number of celebrities wandering around the party, like first American Worlds gold medal-winner and current UFC legend, BJ Penn, André Galvão, Allan Goes, Joel Tudor, and Kid Peligro to name a few. Outside of that, many pro surfers were hanging out, including big wave surfer Makua Rothman who brought his band, The Skains, with him and put on a free show for the crowd. With an endless supply of açaí and Brazilian BBQ, the Mendes Bros had a huge hit on their hands.
The Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy’s facilities are pure class. With its white walls and ceilings and clean lines, it comes off as more of an art gallery or museum, than a Jiu-Jitsu school and the guys had it designed this way on purpose. “We wanted to get away from the typical blue and black walls and the MMA cage in the corner,” Rafael says, “We wanted this place to look pure because we are offering pure Jiu-Jitsu here.” Add to that, walls showcasing Rafa and Gui’s vast supply of gold medals from tournaments around the world and an array of pictures of the two black belts, two mat areas for rolling, his and hers showers, and a laundry service that ensures your gi is clean every time you come to class, and it’s clear they’ve thought through every aspect of running an academy efficiently and effectively.
The Mendes Bros are pouring their “all” into this school and say, although they have had a very busy traveling lifestyle of late because of competitions, seminars, traveling back and forth to Brazil and so forth, they are now rearranging their schedules and lives to make sure they are home in Southern California every week. “We will be teaching all the Jiu-Jitsu classes,” Gui says. “We live here now and will be at the school Monday through Friday teaching classes.” Rafael adds, “We will be flying out for seminars and things like that Friday nights and getting back Monday mornings in time for class. We will always be here.” That’s quite a commitment for these two “rock star” brothers who are quite in demand in the Jiu-Jitsu world these days because of their consistent world-class showings, dynamic style of Jiu-Jitsu and their charismatic personalities. “We aren’t opening this school as a hobby,” Gui says; “this is our business and our life now. We will be here to make it grow and be successful.”
What may be a little surprising to some is that, yes, the Mendes Bros are looking to pack in the students at their school, but their target audience might not be what you’d expect coming from two multi-time world champions. “We want to have the biggest kids program in Orange County,” Rafael says. “Then we want to have the biggest kids program in California. And eventually, we want to have the biggest kids program in the whole United States.” Rafa says that the kids are the future of Jiu-Jitsu and he and Gui want to have a hand in building them up and creating a sense of self-esteem and confidence in today’s youth. “I started doing Jiu-Jitsu when I was young,” Rafa says, “and it changed my life. It made me confident. I want to help be the one to bring that to other kids. I want to change their lives and help make them confident so they can live happy lives. Jiu-Jitsu does that.” Gui concurs, “We are going to be offering anti-bullying classes as well. We really want to be a part of the future through a big, successful kids program.”
Rafael and Gui want to show everyone that Americans can be just as successful at Jiu-Jitsu as their Brazilian counterparts. “Just because I’m Brazilian, it doesn’t make me better at Jiu-Jitsu,” Rafael says, “It’s because I train hard. There will be no secrets here in our academy. We will be showing all of our Jiu-Jitsu to our students. I would be so happy if my students were better than me! That would mean I was really successful at teaching!” Gui continues, “We also understand that people have to work and so, not everyone is going to want to be a world champion. But Jiu-Jitsu is more than competition. Mostly, it’s a lifestyle that we want to share with our students. And everyone can benefit from that.”
The founder of RVCA, Pat Tenore, has sponsored the Mendes Bros ever since they were purple belts. He laid a challenge on them years ago and finally had to pay up on the wager. “We always had a running joke that if they ever won the Worlds as black belts we’d open a school two blocks from my house,” Pat laughs. “They’ve won it three times now, so I guess I had to step up to the plate. I live two blocks from here and my neighbor owns the building so we really couldn’t pass it up. I really care for these kids. They’re like family members. They’ve been staying at my house since they were teenagers. They help my kids with their homework; I’ve watched them grow up. This has always been a dream to open up a Jiu-Jitsu academy. I thought it would be great for the community to learn the art. That’s why it’s called The Art of Jiu-Jitsu, because it’s pure Jiu-Jitsu here and nothing else.” Pat says that their motto is “Believe and Achieve,” and he is on board with the concept of making their kids program the biggest in the nation. “We want to have a positive impact in the community,” he says. “The future of Jiu-Jitsu is the kids.”
If you’re interested in joining the Mendes Bros Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy, you can call them at: (949) 295-0276 or visit them at: 411 E. 17th, Costa Mesa, CA 92627 or locate them on FB at: http://www.facebook.com/aojacademy