The Brazilian Jiu-Jiteiro

Bruno, from Brazil, is an embedded software engineer at ELSYS Design Grenoble. Outside of work, he is fond of martial arts in general, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) in particular as a black belt. He makes us discover his passion.


Q: Bruno, first, what is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

BJJ is a martial art that comes from traditional jiu-jitsu (ju-jitsu or ju-jutsu), which can be translated as the “gentle art”.

Traditional jiu-jitsu contains grappling techniques (takedowns, ground attacks, …) and strikes (kicks, punches, …) and is referred to as “father art”, as other martial arts such as judo and BJJ derived from it.

In judo, you spend 90% of the time standing and 10% on the ground. In BJJ, that is the opposite, we focus on ground techniques, which are called ne-waza in judo.

To sum up, BJJ is mostly on the ground, we don’t attack with elbows, knees, feet, or hands, it’s only about immobilization and submission.

We fight with and without a kimono.

And by the way, in competition, when a fight starts, you can try to bring your opponent to the ground with judo or wrestling takedowns, but often people just sit on the ground to avoid the standing fight, it’s totally accepted.


Q: When did you start?

I started BJJ 14 years ago. I had practiced karate for 7 years, but when I moved to a new city for my graduate studies, I could not find a place to go on.

Close to my new home, there was a BJJ training, that’s how I started and since then, I have never stopped.


Q: Is there a belt system?

Yes, but for adults we have only 5 in BJJ (white > blue > purple > brown > black), so it’s longer to upgrade from one to the next.

To become a black belt in BJJ, you roughly need 10 years. On my side, I got it after 8,5 years of rather intense training.


Q: Do you compete?

Not anymore, but I competed from the white to the brown belts in Brazil, at a state level, so an equivalent of a regional level in France.


Q: Do you teach?

Not officially. In Brazil I started teaching from the purple belt.

Here, when I train in different places (Echirolles, Claix, Sassenage, Grenoble), I often show techniques.

I know all the BJJ teachers around here, as there must be ten black belts in the region; I’m always willing to pass on my knowledge.


Q: How often do you train?

These days, it’s three to four times a week; it was twice a day when I would compete in Brazil: there, I was an engineering student before all, so I would dedicate around five hours a day to it (including physical preparation), that was the maximum I could do.

In France, in addition to BJJ, I also practice capoeira and boxing, once a week each, and fitness two to three times a week. So in average, I exercise two hours a day.


Q: Tell us more about capoeira…

In its early stages, martial arts were banned for slaves in Brazil. So they disguised it into a dance.

It’s a mix of combat and dance movements, with songs and instruments. I’ve wanted to practice for a long time. I managed to start while in France.


Q: So your passion is rather martial arts than BJJ?

I would say sports in general, as I also enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, or climbing.

In Brazil, I would mainly practice BJJ, because to get good results, you need to be focused.

Here, I enjoy discovering new activities, I still love BJJ, but I don’t want to practice it five hours a day anymore.


Q: Why do you love it?

My motivation to do sports is the pursuit of pleasure, but of health too, as it’s fundamental to the body and to rest one’s head.

Concerning BJJ, I love to learn how to move my body well and do new movements. It’s like being in a video game, where you control a character and develop its skills, but in real life.

People often refer to BJJ as “human chess”, as it requires physical attributes and, at the same time, an adapted strategy to counter your opponent movements to reach a submission (“checkmate”). I love both parts of it.


Q: What does BJJ represent to you?

I see BJJ as a true social experience. With it, making friends is easy.

For example, when I arrived in France in 2018, I knew nobody and did not speak French. BJJ helped me integrate, it was the same in Brazil a few years earlier.

One way to explain it is human contact. For example, when you work out in the gym, you do it individually. Or when you do boxing, you hit a punching bag, and even if it’s a partner, it’s not the same.

BJJ helps develop a relationship with people, you get to know them quicker.

That’s the power of BJJ!