This weekend, I was fortunate to attend a seminar in Charlotte at Fernando Loor BJJ taught by the Mendes Brothers and Gilbert “Durinho” Burns.
It’s pretty rare that you get three world champions teaching a seminar at the same time, and I was especially excited because Gui Mendes competes at my weight. Whenever you get the chance to learn from a guy your size who happens to be the best in the world at that weight, you have to take it.
Predictably, the seminar was packed. About 50 people attended, including multiple black belts. If you’ve seen any of the Mendes’ technique videos, you know how absurdly detailed they are — everything these guys do, they do for a reason. A technique that you see someone else show in 2 minutes takes them 10 minutes, and it’s not because they’re padding the time. All that additional information comes from the countless hours they’ve spent thinking about how to optimize the technique.
In person, they’re even more impressive. Rafa and Gui encourage you to ask questions, and no matter how esoteric the query, they have an answer for you. “Why do you put your hand there?” “If I put my hand here instead, it would be easier for a big guy to smash, for these three reasons.” Stuff like that. There are many reasons these guys are the best, and they were all on display.
Put it this way: my notes from the seminar are 2,000 words long, and I’m sure I missed a bunch of details.
The Mendes Brothers have a reputation of trying a lot of innovative techniques, but I can also report that I successfully worked one of the things they showed into rolling yesterday against a very good training partner. That says something about their teaching ability, since it usually takes me a month or two to work seminar techniques into my sparring.
Enough of that, since I’m not going to talk about the specific techniques. I am going to talk about the last 40 minutes or so of the seminar, though, which is where Rafa, Gui and Durinho rolled with all of us.
I’ll explain how it works, and then give the two reasons I think it’s an awesome idea for seminar-givers to implement. Everyone gets in a line, and when one of the three instructors is free, you jump in with one of them. You get three minutes with them or until they submit you, whichever comes first.
I got to roll with Gui, which was exactly what I’d hoped for (and big thanks, Hameed, for helping me rig the line). You don’t need me to tell you how good he is, so I won’t (but he is, and his top pressure is heavier than any dude our size has a right to).
What I will say is that he’s great to roll with. I watched him adjusting his intensity to the skill level of his partner. Mostly, he’d just stay five percent or so ahead of you. If you did something good offensively, he’d let you work it; if you defended one of his attacks correctly, he’d move on to something else. Let’s be real, this is a guy who could get pretty much whatever he wants on you, however he wants it, so that was really cool of him.
This leads me into the two reasons I think this is a great practice for seminars. First, it’s obviously really fun and rewarding for the attendees. If you want to learn from someone chances are you want to roll with them. It’s a learning experience and also just a fun story to have, no matter how it ends up.
But the second reason, I believe, offers some insight into the Mendes Brothers. These are guys that think all the time about optimizing their training. That’s why they’re the elite: they’re constantly working on ways to get better at jiu-jitsu.
Now, normally, when upper belts roll with me, they’re basically doing me a favor. They’re not going to get as much out of the experience as I am, from a learning perspective. And when you’re a world champion, it’s not like sparring with a random blue belt is going to teach you anything new.
However, rolling for 45 minutes to an hour straight, against people of varying skill levels and sizes — that’s likely to be a great workout, if nothing else. Also, having to adjust from me (a 145-pound old guy blue belt) to one of the next guys in (a 200+ pound black belt) is likely to present interesting challenges.
What I’m saying is this “line of rolling” isn’t just fun for us participants, it’s a way for Rafa and Gui to get some training in while they’re teaching. Maximizing your time like this demonstrates intelligence and efficiency — and isn’t that really at the core of jiu-jitsu?
Besides the excellent instruction, the Mendes Brothers and Durinho were all very cool, too. At Hameed’s request, Durinho even gave him the distinct honor of a post-seminar judo throw. I have pulled the photos together into this animated GIF for your amusement.
Bottom Line: This was a great experience. If you have the chance to take one of these seminars, don’t balk at the asking price: it’ll be worth it.