Alvaro Romano will be teaching a Ginastica Natural seminar at the Open Door Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Oakland, CA on Saturday, April 15th.Ginastica Natural is unlike any other fitness/training program I personally have ever seen. Because of this, it’s a difficult thing to describe to someone who has never seen it for themselves. How do you describe what it is that you do?
It’s a method of conditioning both physical and mental. It uses your body weight. It fundamentals are the natural movements of primitive man. I researched the ground movements of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and incorporated techniques of flexibility and breathing.
How did you come up with the idea for this particular system of training? What influenced you?
I was raised in a poor place in Rio de Janeiro and I used to practice all outdoor activities. I used to run in the street and climb trees. In 1969 I went to live close to the beach and I started to practice surfing… soccer on the beach…. At that time everyone was doing activities outdoors. There was no gym. In 1977 I started studying physical education at University. There I had an idea to continue the activities that I had done when I was younger. Methods of exercise were just starting to exist like other indoor exercise, aerobics classes etc. I started to practice Yoga. The only other people doing that in Brazil were seniors. I started to use the methods of Yoga on the athletes that I was working with in my own physical preparation. I started Yoga because no one else was doing it. I wanted to do something different. Later on I started doing a ‘body expression’ class where they used to use the movements of Kenpo. After that I started to work with my own movements with a huge influence from the ground movements I knew from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I had an idea to identify these exercises with the movements of the animals. Only martial arts uses the names of animals to identify particular exercises. My idea was to create a method of gymnastics that the exercises would be identified with the names of the animals. I used to train many hours per day, create a new exercise, and then I would look in the mirror to see what it looked like, but Ginastica Natural is not the movements of the animals.
In the movie ‘Choke’, Rickson Gracie is shown at a waterfall doing a series of breathing exercises and other movement exercises that seem somehow integrated with nature. Was this workout of his influenced by your teaching?
Rickson Gracie and I had some of the same teachers, both for BJJ and for Yoga, so we were influenced by the same people. His training and my training are similar because of that, but what we do is also very different.
Could you tell me something about your BJJ background?
I met Rolls Gracie in 1975 during one surfing trip in Peru. On that trip I lived with Rolls for one month and Rolls changed my life. First off, he introduced me to a diet that was created by his dad Carlos Gracie and invited me to train at his Academy. In 1976 I went with Fabio Santos to train with Rolls Gracie at his Academy near Copacabana. I dedicated my first book to Rolls because his teaching was fundamental to both my personal and professional life. The death of Rolls Gracie was a big loss for martial arts. The charisma of Rolls and his posture as a Master brought benefits to many, many people in Brazil. His vision was a step ahead of everyone else about ecology. He used to have a power of leadership and could put people together. He made so many incredible things happen on the mat. The generation of Rolls Gracie adore and admire him still. For me, he’s my biggest idol. With the death of Rolls I went to train with Carlos Gracie and with Rickson Gracie. I got my Black Belt from both of them. One week after Rolls and Carlinhos gave me a brown belt. After that I graduated as a black belt training under Rickson. Because my whole Jiu Jitsu is fromRolls Gracie, Carlos Gracie considers me a Black Belt from Barra Gracie.
Which BJJ and MMA fighters have you helped get ready for competition? How did your training help?
Murillo Busamante, Vitor Belfort, Fabio Gurgel, Fernando Margarida, Mario Sperry. I trained a lot of fighters. Certain fighters come to me to train for certain tournaments like the Mundials. My training helps with the control of their own body, breathing, flexibility, and coordination, and also explosive strength. Not only that, there’s the mental training that I instill in everyone who trains with me.
Could you tell me something about some of the other athletes you’ve trained and how you were able to help them improve their overall game?
Because I practiced BJJ for such a long time I have a lot of understanding of how to develop the training for these fighters using exercises similar to BJJ. I have a lot of exercises that apply to all sports but there are exercises specific for each sport. I trained Daniella Freitas, the world champion of body boarding. Guillerme Tamega, five time world champion of body board; I taught Ginastica Natural to help recuperate the world champion soccer player Ronaldo. We worked on recuperating his knees. I’ve helped surfers volleyball players, tennis players, triathletes, actors, and many others – but not only atheletes. I apply my work to anyone that would like to have a better quality of life and health.
What is it about Natural Gymnastics that makes your techniques better than other types of physical conditioning activities? How does it compare with an aerobic conditioning or core training program like ‘Cross Fit’? How is it different than Yoga?
Ginastic Natural is a complete exercise. It works the aerobic and an-aerobic. It’s a training that’s never the same. It involves a lot of strength with isometric exercises, but at the end of the training you feel better sense of well-being. It is a sensation that the body was worked with pleasure, while the mind is consciously engaged. It is ‘Meditation in Movement’.
Currently, are there any places here in America where your system is being taught?
Right now I am studying the American market and selecting instructors to certify.
How about in Brazil?
In Brazil I have instructors all over the country. I participate in about 50 seminars per year in all different areas such as fitness, personal training, recreation and games for kids, and I speak at companies about the quality of life and health.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans now involve building a good team in the US to teach my method for the people who would like to have a better quality of life, health, and physical conditioning. I want the classes to be taught in various clubs, studios, and Academies throughout US.
If someone wants to learn more about Ginastica Natural, where should they go to find more information?
The best way to get information is to go to my website www.ginasticanatural.com.brThere’s an English translation up there. I’m looking into setting up seminars in different cities across the US, so if someone is interested in having me at their school, gym or Academy just contact me through my website.
Alvaro Romano will be teaching a Ginastica Natural seminar at the Open Door Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Oakland, CA on Saturday, April 15th. He is available for private instruction on the 16th. For moreinformation please contact Sergio Silva at firstname.lastname@example.org , or check out the Open Door website at www.opendoorbjj.com .