First and foremost, it was an absolute honour to chat with this man. He needs no introduction in the world of jiu-jitsu, but he is Braulio Estima, BJJ black belt, and coach at Gracie Barra Birmingham. He has a ton of experience beginning his journey in ’96 and this chat was humbling as Braulio’s approach to life and jiu-jitsu is incredible. Enjoy.
Kieran – Where did your jiu-jitsu journey start and what got you into the gentle art?
Braulio – It started in ’96 and I was 16 years old. The main attraction was the idea of controlling an altercation without hurting no one. The Vento part of it, of a bullied kid being able to defend himself against the bully in class style. As I have always wanted to be an athlete, I took the wave of Brazil into jiu-jitsu to be my path as an athlete back in Recife, Brazil.
Kieran – Can you recall the first-ever moment you witnessed jiu-jitsu?
Braulio – First time I saw jiu-jitsu was when Royce was fighting on the UFC. It fascinated me. A Brazilian representing us in the martial arts world, Brazil, Brazilian jiu-jitsu with the Gracie family. Royce won against bigger opponents, everything goes. And he won annoying everyone. What a class act. While he didn’t take any blood from any opponent, he made them give up the fight.
Kieran – It was an incredible display and continues to show why jiu-jitsu is so effective. So you started at 16, what gym did you decide to go with and can you tell me about that moment when you first entered?
Braulio – A friend of the school who once I had trained judo with invited me to check it out. It used to be called freestyle and the coach was a black belt called Charles Dos Anjos.
Kieran – How did you feel after that first session?
Braulio – When I visited for the first time I really was impressed by the efficiency and that I wanted to be able to do all those locks, and I never stopped since. I was a very consistent student. Rarely missed a training session.
Kieran – How long was it after that that you then went into competitions?
Braulio – I competed in local tournaments after 4/5 months in then in BJJ. The competition was always my goal since then.
Kieran – You’ve competed in many competitions since then, but what has been your proudest/biggest achievement?
Braulio – When you win a big tournament it is a great feeling, but I’m proud of winning ADCC 2009 weight and Absolute.
Kieran – I saw a post you put around Christmas time which was like an alternative heel hook. First of all props for demonstrating that in jeans, but how important is it to implement new techniques into your jiu-jitsu?
Braulio – Hahahaha it was a good pair of jeans. stretchy ones lol. I’m always trying to develop myself. Never stop searching for answers and improvements. Always try to better all I already know, but understand The core concepts of everything and try elsewhere crossing references to find the blueprint of BJJ.
Kieran – Amazing. A lot of practitioners say when they get to the black belt it’s not the end of the journey and they start a new chapter. What has been the focus of that chapter in your jiu-jitsu journey?
Braulio – For me is a never-ending journey of self-development. The more you know the more you realise the infinite horizon of knowledge.
Kieran – Absolutely. Can you talk a little bit about the evolution of jiu-jitsu? It’s come a long way and evolved so much since ’96
Braulio – Yes. BJJ has come a long way, but it was inevitable. It’s a humbling environment, effective, truthful, challenging, exciting and the possibilities are endless. And it will still keep improving. The more people train the more the sport evolves.
Kieran – You’ve been keeping a busy schedule with online tutorials. How do these compare to actually being in the gym and are you looking forward to gyms reopening on April 12th, if all goes to plan?
Braulio – In my childhood, my dad always taught me to appreciate what I have and make the most of what I can. And I apply this one to everything. I came from a town that there was no BJJ. The closest black belt was 2:45h away by airplane. It was with this mentality that I managed to improve training with my teammates. Away from the BJJ mecca, 90% was white belts. So I know that at the moment we are limited, but I have never ever improved technically more than in this pandemic times. I have studied loads. I think if you want to you will find a way to make improvements in other areas.
Kieran – I think that is a great mentality to have for everything. Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have, big or small.
Braulio – Yes those times have taught us a lot. How to make the most of what you got. How to correlate “the want” with “the need”. We tend to want and want things but we have learned that if you want what you need you can find fulfilment.
Kieran – Which, if any, jiu-jitsu practitioners have had a big impact on you throughout your journey?
Braulio – Roger Gracie was my main training partner and an amazing reference.
Kieran – That is incredible. It must have been amazing from watching Royce do what he did in the UFC to then having your main training partner be Roger Gracie. Amazing.
Braulio – It’s pretty insane and to be the head professor of the Gracie Barra online global is even crazier. Interesting story. When I first went to Rio, I was there to fight the nationals as a blue belt, I was 17, and lost in the first match. The last day before we went back home I went to train at the Gracie Barra and Master Carlos was there. After training, he called to the side and asked my name, where I was from and that there was something about me. Also, to not surround me with the wrong people back home. Keep training and grounded. I never said this to anyone until I was already a black belt world champion. That never left my head and heart. And now I am here where I am is not a coincidence.
Kieran – That is interesting and absolutely amazing. To have your potential recognised by master Carlos. That must have been a massive push for you especially after losing that first fight and when your confidence low. Thank you for telling me that by the way. I’ll make this my last question as I know you’re a busy man and you’re keeping a busy schedule. But first, let me thank you for taking the time to have this chat with me. It has been an honour to speak with a legend like yourself. So, what can we expect from Braulio Estima in the future now that things are looking up. Also, will you continue with the online sessions even after gyms reopen?
Braulio – I want to focus on the mission beyond the competition. The first stage was to achieve my goals, my personal goals, now my goal is to help others to achieve their goals and then help to inspire and to teach others to achieve their goals. So, pretty much that’s the mountain that I want to climb now by using jiu-jitsu as a tool to make the world a much better place to be, to live.
Follow Braulio on Instagram: @braulioestima