One of only a handful in existence, 6th Degree Black Belt from the Rickson Gracie Camp, and 3 X Pan American Champion, Luiz Palhares, spoke with me about his training in Brazil, his growing organization, and his soon to be released instructional DVD. RC: What city in Brazil are you originally from?
LP: Rio de Janeiro.
RC: At what age did you start training?
LP: I started training in the martial arts when I was 18 years old. I tried Karate but didn’t really like it. I did Judo for about two years, and then switched to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
RC: I understand that Rolls Gracie was your first BJJ instructor in Brazil, how long did you train with him, and what was your relationship like with him? (*Rolls Gracie was fatally injured in a hang-gliding accident)
LP: Rolls was the kind of teacher I always wanted to be. He was like a big brother and always gave great advice. Whatever he asked of us, he would do also. He always set a good example. He was the best coach I have ever seen. Actually, he was a coach and a competitor. We would watch him compete but we never got to see much. He usually won his matches in less than six seconds!
RC: Who did you train with after Rolls passed away?
LP: I had trained with Rolls at Carlos Gracie’s school for five years and received my purple belt there. I tried to go back after Rolls died, but it didn’t feel right without him. During that time, Rickson Gracie had a school right across the street from my job and I had developed a friendship with him. When Rolls passed away, I started training with Rickson. I got my brown and black belts from Rickson.
RC: How long have you been living in the U.S.?
LP: I came here the first time in 1999. I was in California teaching at Rickson’s school in Pacific Palisades. I taught there for two years and then went back to Brazil for a while. After that I went to Canada but I had to come back to the U.S. because it was too cold there!
RC: I know you were teaching in Nashville, TN for a while, how did that come about?
LP: I was invited to come there and teach by Eric Silver. I taught there for two years and then I got an offer to teach in Virginia Beach, Virginia, at the Linxx Academy with Frank Cucci.
RC: Who is teaching your students in Nashville now?
LP: One of my best students, Jeremy Akin, has a school there called Nashville Self-Defense Academy. Jeremy is a very dedicated student and instructor. (See www.evojiujitsu.com)
RC: I know your partner, Frank Cucci is a long time military instructor, are you involved with teaching the military?
LP: Yes, I am certified to teach Modern Army Combatives. Frank and I teach the Navy SEAL teams together. I have also worked with the Kentucky National Guard, the Marines in North Carolina, and several law enforcement agencies. At Fort Benning, one of my students, Major Abel, is an instructor and MMA competitor. He is a very good teacher and fighter.
RC: In your opinion, how has BJJ changed over the last five years?
LP: The basic concepts and techniques are still there, but you must remember, originally BJJ was mostly about self-defense. Since the creation of UFC and popularity of Mixed Martial Arts, it has become more competitive. Of course, the ideas of leverage and controlling the other person’s weight will never change. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was developed from the standpoint of a smaller guy beating a larger opponent. I like having my students become fighters but I get more pleasure from seeing someone come to the school that might have a weight problem or a health problem. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I can help someone improve their life. Also, nowadays it is very dangerous for women and children. A women is raped somewhere in the world every two minutes. Teaching women self defense is very rewarding.
RC: I know you have been busy putting together an instructional DVD series, can you tell us what it entails and when it will be available? Where can we buy it?
LP: Many students have been asking me to make a video for them to have as a reference. This one is mainly about techniques from the Closed Guard. It shows the basic techniques plus many options. It should be released in July and will be available on my website, www.luizpalharesjiujitsu.com and PracticalGrappler.com.
RC: I know your organization, Luiz Palhares BJJ Association, has been growing. How many schools are involved now?
LP: Yes, we are getting a lot of new members now. We have thirteen affiliate schools and we are in six states, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Delaware, and New Jersey. RC: Any predictions about the upcoming Royce Gracie vs Matt Hughes match?
LP: Of course it will be Royce all the way!