Draculino – "My main goal is to spread the gospel of jiu-jitsu. I want to touch people’s lives in a way that jiu-jitsu touched mine. It changed my life for the best."

InsideBJJ
You have a really accomplished career. You are a recognized competitor, coach to world champions, head instructor at Gracie Barra Houston, Texas, and you have very good instructional DVD’s. On top of that, you run a state of the art website for online BJJ training. I also read you have a law degree and were a lawyer for a time. How did you get your start in jiu-jitsu? How did you end up where you are today?

Draculino
I began to train jiu-jitsu mainly because of surfing. It’s a funny thing, but many times in Brazil this happens. I used to surf a spot called Quebra-Mar and some of the Gracies were also surfing there. I was a neighbor and friend with Ryan, Ralph and Renzo. This is how I got hooked up with jiujitsu. I trained because of surfing. I never stopped studying in high school and the University. I graduated in Law, and I have a Lawyers License. The three things for me were surfing, training, and studying. After I got more serious with jiu-jitsu, the surfing was left behind and became a hobby and jiu-jitsu was full-time. I decided to live by teaching classes in jiu-jitsu but only after I got my diploma in law. After I got my lawyers license, I said, “I have my lawyers license, and now I’m going to do what I love, teaching, competing and fighting.” I moved to Belo Horizonte and the rest is history.

InsideBJJ
One of the things you bring to BJJ with your DVD’s and website is a unique methodology to how you teach techniques and chain them together in a particular progression. This is evident in your DVD’s and online training site. Do you feel this is lacking in traditional BJJ schools? What prompted you to pursue this approach to teaching BJJ?

Draculino
Many jiu-jitsu schools teach in a random way. They don’t have a structured curriculum; something that makes sense for the students to absorb the knowledge. At many schools, people are going to be good anyway. There are people who can train with the wall and get good. If you want to have a strong and accomplished team and your students to have good jiu-jitsu, as important as the technique is, you have to teach the techniques in a certain way. The progressive way is the way to do it. You disect the most important aspects of jiu-jitsu. For example, in a month, you’re going to have a main topic. Let’s say it’s the closed guard. For the closed guard, you’re going to have the basic approaches and techniques. From there, you’re going to evolve into more scenarios and situations and the student gets a deeper knowledge of all the areas of the guard. With every aspect of jiu-jitsu you can use this approach.

InsideBJJ
Do you have specific advice to people signed up to your website who do not have access to a local academy or may be at an academy but want supplemental training.

Draculino
They have to sign up for the daily curriculum on the website. The curriculum is as important as the technique. If they have the daily curriculum, they can print it out, review the strong points, and take it to the mats. It will help them tremendously.This allows them to train under a technical guide. I won’t say guidance because there’s nobody there as an instructor, but it’s a guide. If they drill and practice the techniques in the curriculum and train with each other, they will learn. Nothing replaces a really good live instructor, but if they can’t have one, the website is going to be the next best tool.

InsideBJJ
What is your approach to coaching elite level competitors like Romulo Barral and Samuel Braga? What do you try to provide to the athletes as a coach? How is it different from being an instructor if at all?

Draculino
The first thing is that all of students were taught by me from the time they didn’t know anything. They couldn’t even escape a headlock. The most important thing to build a champion is to give the student a really solid foundation. I always say the basics are the most important aspects of your training. Some people say you have to know the basics but I don’t agree with that. You have to master the basics. After you master the basics, everything gets easier. All of my students have a really strong foundation. We work in a progressive way that makes it really easy for you to produce great technicians. To be a strong high-level competitor, it depends more on the you [the athlete] than anybody else. You have to have a really good mindset for competition. You have to work hard on the physical conditioning. You have to train more than the average guy. You have to have determination. You have to learn defeat is going to be a learning process for you to get to the top one day. Having good instruction with a solid foundation is important, but it’s not going to work if the athlete doesn’t want it. The desire is the most important thing. Besides teaching the techniques and curriculum, I’m really good at putting a champion’s mindset in the athlete. I was a really successful athlete in my days. I competed at the highest level, so I have experience on the mat to tell them exactly what’s going to happen. It’s not going to be something where I say, “Hey, people say this is going to happen.” No, I was there. Anything that could possibly happen in a jiu-jitsu match has happened to me before. I think that experience is going to make them better than me. I always say my goal is to have my students better than me. With my experience and the technical knowledge, I think I’m achieving that because I have many of students who are better than me already.

InsideBJJ
One of the things I have noticed with some elite competitors such as Romulo Barral is the addition of a strength & conditioning coach. One of the axioms of jiu-jitsu is that strength is not as important as technique. Does this axiom hold true to competitors at the highest level or does strength & conditioning become a bigger factor?

Draculino
I agree completely. Yes, the technique is the most important thing. Without technique, you have nothing. Today, the techniques spread. Everybody has access to great techniques. The techniques are not like they used to be in the past when a couple of instructors or academies would have a technical level way above the others. You see great academies and athletes everywhere. It’s going to be other aspects that make the difference. One of them is the physical condition of the athletes. When you see two great technicians, there will be other aspects that will sway the balance of who will win. Sometimes, one guy has more stamina, is more flexible or has more strength. This will be a decisive factor in a tournament. Day by day, I think it’s true the mental aspect is the most important of all. I’m seeing great, great, great athletes that don’t have a good mindset to be a champion. Even though they do great at the school and are great athletes, they’re never going to get to the top. They don’t have the mindset of a champion. It’s going to be a mix between the technique, physical condition, and mental aspect. These are the three main things in a great competitor.

InsideBJJ
Speaking of Romulo who was injured in his match against Tarsis Humphreys at the 2010 World’s tournament this year. He was on pace to face Roger in the absolutes. Romulo stated that he believes he can beat anybody in any match. How do you think that match would’ve played out?

Draculino
Romulo is a great competitor. He has the mindset of a competitor. He believes in himself not in an arrogant way but in a good way. That mindset is needed for a competitor at a high level. I don’t know what would have happened with Roger and Romulo because the fight didn’t happen. Roger, no doubt, is the number one jiu-jitsu guy in the world right now. He has the best mindset and incredible physical conditioning. He’s big, tall and strong and he has great technique. It’s hard to beat all these aspects together. Romulo is also a beast. It’s hard for me to say what would happen. I really believe it would be an incredible match. I’m sure it’s going to happen again. My opinion is these two are the best jiu-jitsu guys in the world. Roger is number one and Romulo number two.

InsideBJJ
Xande Ribeiro criticized the style of BJJ at the 2010 World’s tournament this year. He specifically mentioned guys jumping to half-guard, playing the 50/50 and looking to win by advantage or sweep points at the end. What is your opinion of this style of jiujitsu?

Draculino
In a competition at a high level, everybody wants to get the medal. Everybody wants to win. There’s much strategy involved with that. Of course, everybody wants to see an open game and submissions. The reality is, if you need to stall a little bit because you’re ahead on points to be a world champion, you will do it. I don’t believe anyone who has a chance to be a world champion will say, “Oh no! My philosophy is that I never stall. I prefer to lose the World championship medal to play an open game and finish people.” I don’t believe that. That’s a bunch of crap. In what Xande said, I agree with him to a point. I also think the strategy is a really big part of winning the tournament. It’s not always the most technical who will win. Sometimes, the guy who competes better will win. I think stalling is always bad but you have to be ready to fight against stalling as well. You have to fight against adversity. If you lost because a guy played safe and strategic, I don’t think you should complain. You have to train a little harder and try to overcome the next time. That’s my opinion. The reality is different from what people say, “I never stall. I just go for broke. I just go for submissions.” Of course every one wants to see that, but that’s not what happens.

InsideBJJ
You’ve accomplished so much in the world of jiujitsu. What is next for you and what is the next evolution for BJJ?

Draculino
First, thank you for the kind words, but in life you always have to try to accomplish more. My main goal is to spread the gospel of jiu-jitsu. I want to touch people’s lives in a way that jiu-jitsu touched mine. It changed my life for the best. I strongly believe jiu-jitsu changes everybody’s life for the best. I’m not saying it’s going to create thousands of great competitors, World champions or UFC champions. I just want to help build a community with healthy people who have a good mindset. They know how to defend themselves and their loved ones. I want to expand and show as many people as I can how jiu-jitsu can change your life for the best. I really believe this. If in this process, I make World champions and have a fight here or there for myself because I’m not retired yet, it’s going to be a bonus. My main concern right now is to stay with the work I’m doing in America and Brazil with Gracie Barra and Master Carlos Gracie, Jr. He’s the revolutionary in jiu-jitsu – not just in competition but in putting jiu-jitsu on the next step. He was the guy. If I can grow my school and expose jiu-jitsu all over the world and change lives for the best, I’ll die happy. That’s the biggest goal I have now.

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