To be young and gifted can be a blessing and a curse BJJ Legends interview with 15 year ole Roberto Jimenez of Team Gacho.
Young & Gifted: Roberto Jimenez, Alliance Team Gacho
“As our parents often say, share your God-given gifts and talents to help others” ―Tiara Tanishq Abraham 7 year old college prodigies
To be young and gifted can often be a very lonely experience. To be young and gifted at BJJ can be even more isolating. It is not a universally known sport and when your peers are swinging bats and bouncing balls. While you are berimboloing and cross collar choking people it can be challenging to make the connections kids often make when discussing the things they have in common. Alliance Team Gacho (4711 Louetta Rd Suite 114, Spring, Texas) Green Belt Roberto Jimenez manages to make connections with ease. His humble demeanor, amazing attitude, and reverent spirit make him a joy to watch on the mats and easy to be around when he is off. Hard work has its own reward, Roberto has been working hard since he was 5 years old and he has reaped the benefits. At 15 he has a very impressive resume and he is only in the beginning of his career.
BJJL: When did you begin your BJJ journey?
RJ: My dad started jiu-jitsu before me and he decided to start making me train when I was 5 years old.
BJJL: What is the first BJJ memory you have?
RJ: I did not like jiu-jitsu. I would hide in the bathroom and the receptionists would call my dad and he would drive to the academy and I would get in trouble and he would make me go back onto the mat.
BJJL: How much time do you spend training, what’s your regimen like?
RJ: During school breaks I train 3 times a day and help my dad with the kid’s classes. During school, I do wrestling in the morning at school and train Jiu-Jitsu at night.
BJJL: Do you have any other interests or hobbies?
RJ: I really like cruising on my long boards and I am a big fan of Dragon Ball Z and Naruto.
BJJL: Who are your role models in the BJJ World?
RJ: There are so many, but the ones that influence me most are my dad, Lucas Lepri, Marcelo Garcia, Bernando Faria, Cobrinha, Buchecha and Leandro Lo.
BJJL: What has been your biggest challenge since you began training?
RJ: Making friends, because at school most of the kids if not all don’t know about jiu-jitsu.
BJJL: What has been your favorite moment since you began training?
RJ: When I met Buchecha at Pan Ams last year. Also, moments that I have shared with Lucas Lepri and Cobrinha when they stayed at my house in Houston for seminars, it's a blessing to get to know these guys.
BJJL: You are a very humble competitor, your attitude is the epitome of NO EGO on the mats. Was that instilled in you from the moment you began your journey?
RJ: Yes, my dad has always told me if you act well to others only good things can happen and always be humble.
BJJL: Would you consider yourself a role model?
RJ: Most role models have lived through a lot and can pass on their wisdom to others. I am very young so it’s hard to consider myself a role model. However, I am the professor's son and a lot is expected of me, all the kids in our academy look up to me and at tournaments there are kids that come up to me so I try to always be respectful.
BJJL: You are a 15 year old Phenom, what do you deem your most noteworthy accomplishments thus far in BJJ?
RL: Winning kids Pans this year. I have been trying to go to the tournament for years but never had a lot of people in my division and this year being my last year competing as a kid in IBJJF I had the chance to go and accomplished my biggest goal as a kid.
BJJL: You come from a VERY distinguished BJJ background (Alliance Team Gacho Black Belt Raul Jimenez & Brown Belt Gabriela Muller), how have they shaped your perception of BJJ?
RL: They both kicked by butt when I was younger and my dad continues to push me to my limits with every roll we do.
BJJL: You were recently inducted into the BFA Hall of Fame that is an AMAZING achievement. What did the induction mean to you, to your family?
RL: We were all very happy and grateful but I like to not let titles and medals define who I am or get to my head. My dad has a saying, every tournament is a book, every time I win a tournament, just turn the page and move on to the next one.
BJJL: At 15 you have competed in countless tournaments and faced some stiff competition, to include black belts. Tell me what it feels like to already be facing adult male black belts at your age?
RL: I feel blessed that I can even compete with such high level adults. I like to push myself, win or lose. I try to look into the future and look not only in my divisions to push myself for my main goal.
BJJL: 2016 is right around the corner, what are your goals for the coming year?
RL: Hopefully being able to do the grand slam, but definitely have PanAms, Worlds and whichever IBJJF Opens I can do.
BJJL: What are your long term goals in BJJ?
RL: Winning ADCC weight and absolute, winning WPJJC weight and absolute and winning worlds and Pans at each belt.
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank that has helped you along the way?
RL: God, my parents and all the guys that I look up to osssssss
To be young and gifted can be a blessing and a curse. You sacrifice, you do not live the normal life of other kids. You push yourself to the limits because you are doing what you love. You have milestones to achieve and as you reach them, you push harder, then move on to the next. For Roberto Jimenez being young and gifted is an absolute blessing. He is driven, determined, and inspirational. His gift has been nurtured since he was a child and he is coming into his own. His future in BJJ is luminous.
“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.”―Winston S. Churchill
Jennifer Perez returned home last week after a year traveling the world and training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. She visited 10 countries and 45 academies. Fresh off her travels Kostas Fantaousakis asks her about her year abroad.
Kostas: Jenifer, how long have you been training in BJJ.
Jennifer: I have been training since February 2012. I started Training BJJ as a way to rebuild my self-esteem and strength that had been drained from a bad relationship of 9 years.
Kostas: What is your belt rank and who is your instructor(s) in BJJ? Do you train in other sports too or just BJJ?
Jennifer: I was promoted to blue belt in June of 2013 under Amal Easton. I trained kickboxing and Muay Thai 2 years prior to starting BJJ. I had a 1 year break between the time I stopped MT and started BJJ
Kostas: How did you get this idea to travel around the world and visit so many academies?
Jennifer: Japan was always a place I wanted to visit so after my breakup I took some savings and booked my trip to Japan. Fast-forward, on my flight back I couldn’t help but be sad knowing that the high from my trip would soon subside. There was a Fidelity commercial that came on and at the end of it it said "Save Today to Live Tomorrow"...that was the moment I realized I had to quit what was making me unhappy and dedicate at least one year to myself. To try and discover my intended purpose. I read BJJ globetrotter by Christian Graugart and immediately knew I had to do that.
Kostas: Can you name some of the countries you visited? How long did it take to visit 45 academies?
Jennifer: I’ve visited about 50 academies in total this year and visited some amazing places like South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Mexico, Portugal, Singapore, Panamá, Puerto Rico and a few more. I started Jan 15th of 2014 & in Jan 2015 I visited my 50th academy AlleyCat Fitness Foundation in Casco Viejo Panama.
Kostas: Did you travel all by yourself or did you have other athletes with you?
Jennifer: For the most part I was alone but our Jiu-Jitsu community is so amazing that once I connected with at least one person from the academy I was treated like family instantly!
I met up with many friends along the way that stayed and globetrotted with me for weeks at a time. Like Vivian Velez from Puerto Rico and Talita Alencar from Rio. It was great to have full time partners who also enjoyed visiting other academies as much as I did.
Kostas: How do you decide which school to visit? Do you use the internet to get information first and then contact the school or do you ask friends and fellow athletes where to go?
Jennifer: I primarily relied on referrals from my professor teammates and other members of the globetrotting community that made suggestions on where to train. I did google a few places out on a remote island in Lombok but that’s because I was itching to train & no one there seemed to know what Jiu-Jitsu was.
Kostas: There seems to be a recent trend in BJJ to combine traveling and training. After visiting so many countries could you give travelers a few tips on what to look for and what to avoid when visiting schools abroad?
Jennifer: I can’t say I've had a bad experience because I truly haven’t. Everyone was always so welcoming. What I do recommend is if you are traveling on a budget make sure to call ahead and confirm the cost of the drop in fee. Also, as a female I was nervous at first meeting so many new people and telling people my story and the fact that I was traveling alone, it was scary but the complete opposite happened. It’s like I had big brothers in every country I visited!
Tip: Train with respect and you will always be welcomed back! It’s that simple. Our community may seem big but it’s quite small and if you are a good person with good intention the door to any academy will always be open but being disrespectful and rude will spread like wild fire and soon the doors will start to shut on you. Stay positive and happy always.
Also, I always had gear from my sponsor Newaza Apparel or from Easton BJJ and I gave them out to the professors as thank you gifts for allowing me to train there. Nice gestures are always appreciated.
Kostas: Every BJJ school is different. Some focus more on self-defense, others in MMA and others on sport Jiu-Jitsu. Did you notice any other differences? How do schools vary from one country to the other?
Jennifer: Yes there were many different styles of BJJ. I remember showing up to No-gi class with Prof. Nico Han at Synergy MMA there were about 10 guys on the mat and I was one of 3 women. I was excited to train, except for the fact that I was getting punched in the ribs when I locked down the guard and in transition to a triangle I was getting tapped in the head by punches from by partner. It was very annoying and I kept losing focus but I believe that was the point and lesson of Prof. Nico -- self-defense first.
Some schools that I enjoyed very much this year were Atos BJJ in San Diego & Mendes Bros in Costa Mesa. Both were very competitive academies with amazing training and tough competitors. Alvarez BJJ in Dallas TX has incorporated wrestling into their training and after being there for a week. I can definitely say there is no question why they have such high level performing athletes. I trained with Lucas Leite and Pati Fontes at Checkmat La Habra and their machine drills are amazing. I still use a lot of them today. I also spent two weeks training Ft. Lee Combatives with Prof Matt Smith, whoa, what a monster of an instructor. Trained with military men every morning at 5:30 am, def no berimbolos were being used here! Prof. Edison Takohara at OverLimit teaches Judo every night as a part of the BJJ curriculum, it was very fun and I learned some pretty cool throws. Every academy was different. I started at Easton BJJ where we had a curriculum and learned step by step, move by move, fundamental, intermediate and advanced. Some academies didn’t offer this. There is one class and that is it, sink or swim. You have to pay attention and learn quickly.
BJJ is a very artistic martial art and each country is painting with the same colors except every painting in the end looks very different from the other.
Kostas: Did you meet any famous instructors/athletes during your travels?
Jennifer: Yes, many amazing talented athletes. From Fernando Terere in Lisboa, to Prof. Rickson Gracie in Torrence, Lucas Leite in la Habra, Miyao Bros In Japan, Mendes Bros in Costa, Nico Han in Bali, Master Cyborg in Miami, Michelle Nicolini, MacKenzie Dern and the list goes on and on... Truly a blessed year.
Kostas: Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that was given to you during so many training sessions around the world?
Jennifer: I was in Miami prepping for the worlds and Master Cyborg was running a class and after 3 hours of intense training he said, "I don't care if you win, there will always be more opportunities. The only thing I care about is that you never quit."
Another great moment was in Lisboa, after training, Prof. Terere overhears me talk about my roll with my partner and says to me the best way to win is to believe you've already won!!
Ian Lieberman of Easton BJJ said to me after a really tough roll, Jen you are 5'ft 127 lbs. blue belt he's 6'4 200lb black belt. You did great! Hahaha, I know BJJ isn’t about the size of the person, it is about the size of patience you have with yourself.
Kostas: Did anything surprise you when visiting other countries?
Jennifer: Yes, I was surprised and impressed with the determination of my Brazilian brothers and sisters in Japan that worked 12 sometimes 14 hour shifts. Afterwards go straight to the academy to train at 9:30pm train until midnight, go home only to sleep 4 hours max and be up and doing it again the next day. Now any excuse I hear people make to not train seems petty and inconsiderate!
Kostas: To finish this interview would you say that the BJJ lifestyle is unique in bringing people of different ethnicity and backgrounds together?
Jennifer: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu isn’t just a martial art or a sport it is much more special than that. It unites and brings people from all walks of life to one center point. The mat is full of not just one type but many and that is why it is so beautiful. There is no discrimination, no racism, no politics, no religion... It’s all about the flow of the roll! That's why I love this so much.
"Lucas Lepri is one of the most dynamic and creative competitors in action today his techniques are smooth and easy to learn I strongly recommend his DVDs to anyone interested in learning the real jiu jitsu." - Master Romero "Jacare" Cavalcanti
Lucas Lepri has been one of the top lightweights in the world since 2007. In that time the Alliance black belt has won numerous World & Pan Am titles while teaching at Alliance Atlanta. Lucas’ newest DVD release focuses solely on passed the guard and spends a lot of time on the De la Riva guard and other open guards. With the rise of the Berimbolo and successful open guard players this DVD set comes at an auspicious time.
Lucas Lepri’s DVD set consists of 2 DVDs and covers ~3 hours of instruction in total. The initial DVD in the set covers: closed guard, butterfly guard and De la Riva Guard. The DLR material is the bulk of the instruction and all of the techniques are heavily dependent on your opponent wearing a gi.