Gracie Barra Montreal: Bruno Fernandes harnesses learning power in brick laboratory

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Black belt class drilling technique / Photo by Erin Herle

While in town for the UFC 158 in Montreal, I made time for a visit to one of the city’s best Jiu-Jitsu academies: Gracie Barra Montreal. I had heard great things from purple belt student Glen Mackenzie about the leader of its clan, the competitions they’ve dominated, the great atmosphere, the jokes between members, the warm environment accumulated by people all over the world gathering to learn Jiu-Jitsu. He moved to the head location when it opened in 2010, moving its student base from famous MMA gym Tristar. It sounded like Glen was just buttering me up before I could see it for myself, but the realization of the truth in his boasts came when I witnessed it myself and especially by meeting do-it-all head professor Bruno Fernandes.

Head black belt Bruno Fernandes rolling with a student / Photo by Erin Herle

Master of many, Bruno Fernandes

GMA Gracie Barra Montreal is home to head black belt Bruno Fernandes and students of the art from all kinds of backgrounds. Bruno now teaches and trains full-time at the two-story stone abode after stepping down from his position as Assistant Professor at McGill University, one of the best medical schools in the world. With a Ph.D. and residency training in Ophthalmology, he has an eye for success.  The man is a student of all things in life and uses his broad knowledge and hunger for leaning to help others achieve greatness as well.

Rodrigo Mendanha teaches a technique from the mount for the black belt class / Photo by Erin Herle

Variety of classes and instructors

The classes at Gracie Barra Montreal are run by Bruno himself, Rodrigo Mendanha who received his black belt from Vinicius “Draculino” Magalhaes, the Briccoli brothers, purple belt Bruno and brown belt Thiago and brown belt David Guigui. Other various brown and purple belts teach the basic classes as well. When I arrived, Rodrigo was teaching the black belt class with chokes and armbars from mount. When sparring began, Bruno jumped in to roll with the students as well. Many of the participants stayed around for the following advanced class taught by brown belt David Guigui while I journeyed upstairs to see the supplemental mat space. The staircase is found outside of the original lower level, combined into a larger building filled with other businesses. The view from the upstairs was one of white and clouded streets below, but I can only imagine that the big window harnesses some refreshing daylight other times of the day and year. With students drilling under Bruno’s direction upstairs, he seemed to always be in two places at once and managing more than just one class, one piece of paperwork, one planning of an event, one competition strategy or more.

The laboratory is held together by bricks and big windows / Photo by Erin Herle

The brick laboratory

The overall feel of the academy matched its look: a laboratory. The big double doors throughout the building, various offices, mat spaces and levels andthe painted brick walls surrounding every enclosure made the environment comfortable yet purposeful. Like a mad scientist, Bruno runs a facility that harnesses knowledge to drop into the minds of his goal-driven students. Whether they compete in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, train MMA, work out for weight loss or practice as a hobby, all are catered to within these walls.

Jiu-Jitsu base for best MMA fighter in the world

Originally formed at the MMA gym Tristar while Bruno was still studying at McGill, the student base connjured many top MMA fighters including Georges St-Pierre. Student of Bruno, he was awarded the first degree on his black belt in December 2011. GSP received his black belt from the decorated professor in 2008. You can read about the surprise promotion here.

Looking to the future

The team is constantly looking towards growth and bettering themselves. With the IBJJF World Championship coming up, many students are gearing up for their trek to California in May. Others are working on their ground game for upcoming MMA fights and some are even working on their degrees off the mat. Next week, Rodrigo Mendanha is opening his own school not far from the Montreal headquarters in South Shore as the newest Gracie Barra affiliate academy.

Thank you to Bruno Fernandes and team for the warm welcome during such a cold time of the year!

You can read more about the GB Montreal academy by going to www.gbmontreal.com

See the rest of the photos from my visit below:

[flickr set=72157633107744689]

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