The art of motivating fighters of all ages, with Rodrigo Antunes (Alliance)

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Professor Rodrigo Antunes with his trophy from Pan 2020 Novice

Text: Rodrigo Antunes

The more difficult, for me the more interesting.

I hate that comfort zone. I am restless, but not inconsequential. Always be careful with my steps.

In the middle of this pandemic, I received an invitation to a fight, and it made sense to me. I had time available, my city has outdoor spaces for training, and I still had the help of my assistant instructor, a guy even more plundered than me (and younger, obviously).

As the flexibilization rules became milder, the training became more intense and frequent.

As soon as the IBJJF resumed holding championships, I signed up for the Pan of Jiu-Jitsu. Okay, after two years of dealing with changes, opening new gyms and branches, and dedicating more time to the family, I was finally back!

Generally, we do the hardest training outside of business hours, so as not to hinder students’ learning. After the reopening of the academy, on a rainy Friday with few students, we decided to go out of the standard and gave a “more pulled” roll.

A student, when experiencing that, then released the comment: “Teacher, can white belt compete?”

I have to go back in time. Two years earlier, a father came to enroll the two 12-year-old twin daughters in Jiu-Jitsu, one of the sweetest girls I have ever met. At a Sunday lunch, during dessert, they then asked the key question: “Dad, if you think Jiu-Jitsu is so important to us, why don’t you practice it?”

What a tight skirt! Well, be an example. Monday, this father enrolled in our school.

Going back to the present. Two years have passed, the girls have taken a break, but I hope they will come back. But the father is active, firm, and strong, with three honorable degrees in white. This father is vice president of one of the largest multinationals in the world, at the height of his 48 years, without an athlete background, and wanted to test himself in yet another challenge. He wanted to compete and that’s it.

I like to analyze my purpose as a teacher, at this stage of my life. My school today is for training, geared towards practitioners, taking Jiu-Jitsu seriously and democratizing access for everyone, without the goal of forming world champions.

Some questions then arose in my mind: “What if that father gets hurt in training”, “What if he gets hurt in a competition”, “How the family will react to training, since he will spend more time on training and diet ”,“ How will this affect the attention I need to give to my other students ”, etc.

I raised these points together with him, asked to talk to the family, while I was going to talk to my assistant instructor, and on Monday we would decide together if it was worth it.

Monday morning, I receive the message early: “What’s up, master? Can I fight? ” How to say no to a guy like that?

With our endorsement, on the second we started. Two more students were immediately interested, and by the end of the week, we already had so many other students thirsty to participate. All businessmen, super executive in the master category, mostly white belts, with no tournaments in their lives. One of the students even had to be removed. We held his momentum because it was not yet his time – in addition to not having time for training, without enough classes to develop his technical skills, he needed to focus on fitness. There, a team formed with the students, and still with me and my assistant instructor.


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Pan 2020 ? Novice ? . . . @alliancekb @alliancecoconutgrove @alliancenaples . . . @gigipaivabjj @lucasaraujobjj @rafademartins @mateus_lasco @ale.silvajj

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During the first weekend, we need to make an important decision. How to reconcile the fact of competing with the activity of a coach. And how to prepare them without jeopardizing the functioning of classes at our school.

The first was easy. Today, even though I still have a fighting warrior inside me, my students are a priority. I took my name to focus on them.

As for the second, I analyzed our timetable, chose two shifts of intermediate classes with less frequency, and changed to intermediate/advanced. I explained that, during those next six weeks, we would be focusing on drills, falls, and strategies.

Motivating successful people is easy.

As we got closer to the championship, we realized that even businessmen have fears, fears, and need support. They are guys who analyze and supervise billionaire businesses and study everything thoroughly before making decisions. In that case, they were treading on a whole new terrain, which they would only be able to get to know in-depth when the opponent was going to grab their kimono and try to take them down.

After each workout, I tried to tell my experience in the weeks of competition, the difficulty to lose weight, the importance of a good night’s sleep, what to eat, how to exercise on D-day.

I also talked about the step by step of IBJJF events: preliminary weigh-in, gi measurement, official weigh-in, introducing yourself to the ring coordinator, the time between fights, the rules, which coach will be next to which student on the verge from the ring.

Another important point: we reserve rooms in the same hotel so that we are close to each other so that we can eat and return together from the gym. And as it was in Orlando, the families were able to go later, to cheer on the day of the fight.

The Pan started on a Thursday and ended Sunday. Big fights, lots of emotions. Everything went better than planned. All students won at least one fight and only one of them did not win any medal. I was happy to be able to help Alliance secure first place in the Pan, in the rookie division, Novice.

Remember the father, the twin daughters? At the Pan, he won the bronze medal and then took our test for blue belt. He went into the house looking silly, with the new sash tied around his waist. The twins? They are all proud of their big daddy and will start training Jiu-Jitsu next week.

* Rodrigo Antunes is our GMI and runs Alliance Key Biscayne academies,
Alliance Coconut Grove and Alliance Naples, Florida, USA.

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