The Mendes brothers, Rafael and Guilherme, are two of the top black belt competitors on the sport Jiu-Jitsu scene. One year ago they opened their first academy on a busy street of Costa Mesa, California, close to the venue for the Pan Ams. There in the white building, lined with white walls, filled with white mats, houses two champions who work hard to maintain their own skill level while passing it on to their students.
The academy celebrated their one year anniversary last month. The brothers spoke to GRACIEMAG about their year so far and what we can expect from them and their students in the future.
GRACIEMAG: How much has your academy grown?
MENDES BROS: Our academy has grown more than we had ever expected. The support we have recieved from the community has been incredible. We have so many families in our local community that have become part of the AOJ family. Some are new to Jiu-Jitsu and others have trained before, but we are thankful for all of them. We even have many students that commute an hour or more to train with us at our Academy. This is so amazing to us.What can you say about teaching at your own academy full-time with your own students?
Many of our students that have been training here with us for a year are great training partners for us. We are always pushing each other in the training and making each other better. It is really an incredible feeling to watch the students learn our style of Jiu-Jitsu and do well in the tournaments. We feel that many of our students will be future champions. It is really nice for us to have our own academy because it helps us with our schedule. We live close by our academy so we can spend all day teaching and training with our students, and then go home and sleep in our own home. This is the first year we have been able to do this.
What are the lessons you’ve learned after building a successful team of students and competitors while competing and winning at the highest level yourselves?
Many people say it is not possible to be a full-time professor and win the biggest tournaments at the same time; we disagree. We have already proven that it is possible to be a champion competitor and still dedicate ourselves as full time professors as well. It takes a lot of hard work on our end; most days we start with our conditioning at 6 a.m. and then go to the academy and are teaching and training in the classes until 9 p.m. We are thankful that we have the support from our wives and all of the students at our academy. Without their support, there is no way we could be successful competitors and professors.
Compared to what you had planned one year ago, what have you accomplished?
We have achieved more than we had planned in the one year our academy has been open. When our kids team won Kids Pan Ams it made us very happy as professors. We had the goal to put a lot of focus on our kids when we opened our academy, and now we already have the best kids team in the world. We have many kids moving here from different states to join the team, and we are so proud of how well it has all worked out. We are also seeing many kids working hard and training like top adult competitors. We know in the future many of our kids will be future champions.
We have also seen our adult competitors really develop their game and gain confidence. We are proud of their hard work they put in, and know they will go far. Also we have seen brand new white belt students get exposed to Jiu-Jitsu for the first time and develop the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle. This is a big accomplishment for us because we know we are giving back to our community by improving the lives of all of our students.
What do you have planned for the future?
We are very motivated to keep developing our team and build champions for the future. We are confident many of our students will be big names in the next few years. We are also very motivated to keep competing and win more championships for ourselves. We are still young, and have a lot more that we want to achieve in the sport. We are always looking to push ourselves. We don’t just want to win titles, but we want to leave our mark on the sport by creating new techniques, and winning our fights by submission. We want to say thank you to our sponsors RVCA, Storm Kimonos, and Bull Terrier. Thank you for the interview, God Bless, and Believe & Achieve!
Check out the celebration below and to see what GMA Art of Jiu-Jitsu is all about, visit www.ArtofJiuJitsu.com