Da Firma Kimono Company: How the Brand Continues to Evolve
The Da Firma Kimono Company established a brand of kimonos customizable to the body type of the individual only a few years ago. This year the Da Firma Training Center opened its doors for training. In a remarkable amount of time Ricardo Tubbs, a dedicated service member, and owner of DFKC expanded his brand and it is thriving. The company is a major supporter of 2 non-profit organizations and sponsors some outstanding athletes. With the impending release of an updated version of one of the brands most popular selling kimonos (the Arte Suave V2) BJJ Legends took some time out to talk to the DFKC owner Ricardo Tubbs about the Da Firma Kimono Company, family, and brand.
As a service member, how did you get involved with BJJ?
My very good friend Andy Barker was the one who first really got me on the mats. Andy is a Judo Black Belt who was starting to cross train in BJJ. Before that my very first grappling lesson was from a guy named Bas Rutten, after training with me he went on to become a UFC Hall of Famer…coincidence …….I think not! He did give me my first lesson but the last part is a joke before Mr. Rutten kicks my butt (notice how I called him Mr. Rutten)
What’s your lineage?
As a service member I traveled and moved a lot, trained under Marcelo Alcantar and Alan Merullo in the past. I am very proud to be a Brown Belt under Master Ricardo Cavalcanti. He is an amazing man and true leader; he is located in Las Vegas, Nevada. My current professor is Jean “Dalua” Cartagena and I train at Da Firm Training Center in Chesapeake VA, www.dafirmatc.com. We are part of the Cavalcanti Jiu Jitsu association. Master Ricardo Cavalcanti is one of very few men to receive his Black Belt from Grand Master Carlson Gracie.Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > Carlson Gracie > Ricardo Cavalcanti.
Do you ever have the opportunity to compete?
I competed a lot in the past and have done very well. I am recovering from knee surgery but I plan to compete again next year in the NO-GI Pans and the Senior-Master Worlds. I will also compete in a few of the regional tournaments. I would also like a super fight with Guto Braga from BJJ Graphics…..calling you out buddy! Metamoris, EBI seems like the best venue.
How did you convince your family members to also start training?
It was not that hard to convince them, we all enjoy it is a family thing. The family that trains together…submits people together!
What made you want to start your own Kimono Co?
My family owned a small clothing factory in Massachusetts when I was a kid, when I started Jiu Jitsu I always thought I could make high quality gear for a fair price. It took me a long time to start, but I was on deployment in Afghanistan and some crazy things happened (to make a long story short) when I came home I started the company.
How do you develop your designs/color schemes for your kimonos?
I listen to my customers and my athletes to be honest with you. I like to change up the colors every year or so. We try not to do anything too over the top or blingy but we want to have a clean look that stands out.
What determines when you will release a special edition?
When we finally decide on a final look, that is when we release new products. I would not say that there is a 100% formula, but we will be releasing the Arte Suave V2 for Pre-sale at the end of September so that they will be available well in advance of the holidays.
How do you determine the price per edition?
As far as price goes we do our best to keep the prices low, the pricing on the limited edition kimonos are usually higher because they cost more to make. Just wait until you see the new Arte Suave V2! We collaborated with Guto Braga from www.bjjgraphics.com for an incredibly beautiful design for the inside of the kimono, but right now it is a secret.
Your kimonos are ideal for women because they accommodate the extremely petite. When you conceptualized the idea of starting a Kimono Co did you think about the gap in the market for women?
I think our kimonos accommodate people of every size. We have 46 different sizes available, long, short, middle, regular, and combinations of all of them.Yes, we thought about the gap for women, we could never find the perfect kimono for my wife so I made it. When we designed our first women’s kimonos with a lot of help from Lana Hunter who went on to become the very first DFKC sponsored athlete. I think we had a group of 20 women, of different body types, that Lana recruited for us to design the first women’s cut. We did the same thing with the guys, but it was a lot more difficult with the women’s kimonos. We started from the ground up, with totally new patterns. I wanted our kimonos to be a true women’s cut!
You will take one of your bulk item kimonos and customize it for an individual customer, NO ONE else does this. This truly sets you apart from all other Kimono companies. What gave you the idea to do this?
Actually we don’t use bulk kimonos to customize, we actually design the kimonos for the customers and make them a truly custom kimono. We are pretty quick too; we take about 8 weeks to turn things around, sometimes we are faster. I had the idea because I traveled a lot and I noticed two things: the teams with custom uniforms had more students and the smaller schools did not think they could afford it. My goal was to make high quality gear that every academy could afford regardless of size.
You have a very quick turnaround rate when an individual buys a Kimono that is not a special order, it is two to three days in the U.S. (correct me if I’m wrong), what is the turnaround rate for an order going overseas?
Yes we try to get orders shipped out the same day they are ordered, I hated ordering from a big online store and waiting 2-3 weeks to get my gear. Depending upon the country and the importation rules it will take about 1-2 weeks on average for overseas shipments.
Are there any overseas areas you can’t ship to and why?
We ship just about everywhere in the world.
Your company sponsors some very prestigious BJJ competitors, what made you decide to start doing this?
We sponsor people who we think represent Jiu Jitsu and our company with respect and dignity. All of our athletes are special people; if you read their biographies you will see what I mean. They are all good people, there is a lot more to them than podium appearances and twitter followers.
Do you have a process that the competitors have to go thru or do you approach them for sponsorship?
I pretty much will not consider anyone for sponsorship unless they own our gear. To me a sponsored athlete must love the gear that they represent; if not sponsorship is just about getting free stuff. I do something I call a spot sponsorship; I pay close attention to people who wear our kimonos and post about us on social media wearing our gear. I will contact them and let them know that I will pay for a tournament entry fee for them. I really love to connect with our clients like this, it is fun and you make a friend for life. It is great way to pay back loyalty. I also love to go to tournaments and talk to people who are wearing our gear, I usually don’t tell them who I am until the end of the conversation!
This past year your brand expanded even more with the opening of DTC, how long had you been planning that?
We are very proud of Da Firma Training Center in Chesapeake VA, www.dafrmatc.com. We are starting to grow and I am very proud of our team. Our Professor, is Jean “Dalua” Cartagena, a Carlson Gracie Black Belt under Andre “Tim” Monteiro. We offer Athletic Performance Strength and Conditioning, with Coach Zack Roberts and Yoga!
What can we look forward to next DFKC energy bars or drinks, the brand must continue expanding ;)?
Haha, no we are not expanding into any of those arenas, but we love to support other companies that do! We would rather partner with other like-minded companies.
What has been your biggest accomplishment with the growth and expansion of the DFKC Brand so far?
Making great gear that is affordable that fits the fighter. I am really proud that we have been able to support two non-profit Jiu Jitsu organizations in the states, Vector Jiu Jitsu in Mississippi and Level Ground MMA in Massachusetts; we also have been able to support two social programs in Brazil with Action and Reaction (Master Ricardo Cavalcanti Professor Moises Costa) and Brazil 021 (Andre Torencio and Hannette Staack)
What has been your biggest disappointment?
Anytime we make mistake it drives me nuts!
What are your long-term goals for the DFKC/DTC?
I love where we are going with DFKC we are improving every day and it is awesome! As far as DTC we are looking to grow and teach authentic BJJ. We want to be a staple in our community and provided training to everyone, especially our police officers and military members. Jiu Jitsu has changed my life and I want everyone in my community to have the opportunity to learn what I have. We are more than just a local small business at DTC we are a part of the community. We will provide high level training, but not just competition BJJ, real world, self-defense, and training. We recently had DFKC athlete and MMA veteran and Coach Jorge Gurgel in for a seminar, and next month Master Ricardo Cavalcanti will be in the house. We have some pretty awesome seminars planned for next year too!
Team Gacho: Alliance Powerhouse Competitors of Texas
“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” - Jack London
The last two years for Team Gacho has been outstanding. Gold at Master's Worlds, Gold at Pans, Gold at Worlds, Gold at Kid's Pans, the list goes on and on. This family of competitors is an absolute POWERHOUSE. It takes hard work to achieve this level of succes as an individual. It is amazing that this family is able to achieve such success as a team. They are truly an inspiration to us all. Husband and wife, black belt Raul Jimenez and brown Gabriela Muller talk with BJJ Legends about the biggest loves in their lives their family and BJJ. Team Alliance Gacho is located in Spring Texas, about an hours drive outside of Houston.
BJJL: Why MMA? Is it big in your Country?
Raul: MMA is big in Ecuador but Jiu-Jitsu is bigger, more people do Jiu-Jitsu. I wanted to do MMA for the adrenaline and to challenge myself and see what I can do. Also, I got to travel with MMA, I fight in Brazil, Korea, Ecuador and Mexico.
BJJL: Husband/Wife how did you meet?
Raul: We met in school in Ecuador.
Gaby: In school in Ecuador. I moved there when I was 12. We went to the same private school and hung out with the same people.
BJJL: You’re a family that does this as a cohesive unit, are your children interested in anything other than BJJ?
Raul: My son Roberto does wrestling in school, he also likes to ride his skateboard and Matias wants to do wrestle.
Gaby: Roberto wrestles, cruises on his skateboard, unicycles and his dream to to learn how to surf. Matias wants to wrestle as well and his seems interested in soccer and gymnastics.
BJJL: As a support system for each other how has this helped you all these years as you achieved your goals?
Raul: My wife and son help with the academy when I travel to compete or seminars.
Gaby: Before Roberto got so big he was my best training partner. We were about the same weight and he pushed me, now he smashes or plays with me (ughhhh)
BJJL: Talk to me about your BJJ lineage?
Raul: I am a black belt under Mestre Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti and he is a black belt under Master Rolls Gracie.
Gaby: I am under Alliance, Mestre Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti gave me my purple belt and my husband is my main instructor.
BJJL: What equals a well-rounded fighter? How does one train to become the equivalent of a Kenan Cornelius?
Raul: Train hard, there is no other way.
Gaby: There is no easy way to be a well-rounded fighter. I see my son’s evolution and how much he has worked to get to the level he is at. You need to be dedicated, train hard and love it.
BJJL: Is there anything you would like to tell a person that is starting out in MMA/BJJ/Boxing…etc? Some pearls of wisdom you wish you had known that would have prevented injury, aggravation, etc?
Raul: Don’t hurt your partners. Leave your ego when you go train. If you hurt your teammates you won’t have anyone to train with. Also, don’t say “let’s roll light,” then try to rip off their foot.
Gaby: I would tell them not to spaz out and work on technique and not on ripping your teammates head off.
BJJL: The right gym, the right black belt, what advice do you have for people searching for the right environment to train in?
Raul: It is both. You need to find an academy that is serious about the sport. Find out the credentials of the instructor. If you're interested in competing, find a school with an instructor that competes and will push you to train hard.
Gaby: You need to train where you feel comfortable. Research the instructor, see what their Bjj lineage is.
BJJL: If there is one thing (across the board) that you would like to be standardized when it comes to BJJ rules, what would it be?
Raul: I don’t like advantages, you should get point on what you actually did, not almost do.
Gaby: Let purple belts do toeholds and knee bars.
BJJL: There are so many BJJ competitions out there, a person could compete on weekly basis, how does one distinguish a good tournament from a bad one?
Raul: Find tournaments that are organized and don’t mix weights and belt ranks just to fill a bracket.
Gaby: I like to refer our students to the well-organized tournaments.
BJJL: What is a solid piece of advice you think all competitors would benefit from when picking a tournament to compete in?
Raul: There are so many options, just look at the rules and see what tournament fits you.
Gaby: Compete when you are ready and feel comfortable.
BJJL: Do you have any women only classes?
Raul: Not at the moment, Gaby wants to do one in the summer.
Gaby: No, we don’t have enough girls for that.
BJJL: Do you have any thoughts about women only classes? Any thoughts on, “The Blue Belt Curse” in relation to women that train?
Raul: I support all women's class but it’s hard to find women that train and love it. The blue belt curse is for men and women, they think they black belts when they get the blue belt. Blue belt is you finishing kindergarten, I don’t understand why people quit.
Gaby: I think there are great, even all women’s open mats are extremely beneficial to women that train. Personally, I am not one to start something and not finish. I recently just graduated college at 37 years old. When I started jiu-jitsu I never had a doubt in my mind that I would continue until I got my black belt. I don’t understand women that start training for 1 or 2 years and quit. I think in the first weeks on training you know if it's right for you. If you accomplish getting your blue belt why quit?
BJJL: Your Team finished strong in 2014 and has started 2015 with a bang, what do you attribute your success thus far to?
Raul: Alliance is a successful team because everyone helps each other, all the top level guys share their knowledge to everyone on the team and the team is always evolving. We don’t just stay on the basics. My school is still small and I would like to continue to see it grow, I want to form champions, not just my kids, I want to see my students up on the podiums at high level tournaments.
Gaby: Alliance it the only team to win 10 world titles. There are many high quality, top notch athletes.
BJJL: Your oldest son (Roberto, 15) has been competing since he was very young, he is a force in the BJJ world. He is a dynamic competitor to watch, why do you think he is so driven in this sport?
Raul: He loves the sport. If it was up to him, he would only train, eat and sleep. He is driven because he wants to be a world champion at every belt.
Gaby: It took him a while to warm up to the sport but now he only thinks about training. I think his passion is seen on the mats when he is competing.
BJJL: Do you have any regrets thus far? Training miss steps/setbacks, not following advice, etc.
Raul: Rest when my body needs it, if you have an injury listen to your body and rest. Also, I thought that bodybuilding and lifting heavy would help me when being big guy doesn’t help and it's important to eat right all the time.
Gaby: I wish I started training when I was younger. If I would have started when Raul started training I would be a black belt. Not cutting too much weight.
BJJL: What has been your proudest moment since you began the practice of BJJ?
Raul: Winning Pan-Ams as a black belt, brown belt and purple belt and getting my black belt.
Gaby: Winning my first IBJJF gold last year at Dallas Open
BJJL: What are your plans for the future? What goals do you still have left?
Raul:Keep training as long as my body allows me to. I would like to be ranked number one in my division. Make my boys, my daughter that will be born in December, and my students World Champions.
Gaby: I want to get my black belt and continue to compete. I compete masters so I would like to win Masters Worlds or Pan Ams.
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank that you have never had the opportunity to thank for helping you get to where you are today?
Raul: My wife, I don’t thank her enough for everything she does and all her support.
Gaby: My husband and sons, they motivate me every day.
BJJL: If you could go back and change anything about your journey, would you?
Raul: I am happy with everything I have accomplished. I wish I started younger and focused more on my training when I was younger. I am glad I pushed my kids to train and not quit because they will be champions.
Gaby: Just wish I started younger and valued the importance of drilling earlier in my journey. I feel my game got better the more I drilled.
Team Gacho started off 2015 with an unbelievable winning streak and has been on a roll ever since. 2016 is right around the corner and I see no signs of them slowing down. This family trains together, competes together, and wins together. That is something we all can respect and admire. Team Gacho is reaping the benefits of all their years of hard work and deserve each and every blessing that has come their way.
“I ask not for any crown But that which all may win Nor try to conquer any world Except the one within.”
In a wheel chair and paralyzed from the last rib down Max is going to compete in the 2015 IBJJF World Championships. A little background on a great warrior. Photos courtesy of Paulo Bihis and Bathala Apparel.
Maximiliano Ulloa is a purple belt under Leticia Ribeiro who trains at Gracie Humaitá South Bay. He’s 37 years old and will be fighting as a light weight (157) for the first time in his life.
Max became a paraplegic in 2012 after a fall from a second story balcony pinched spinal cord at level T7. With a T7 injury he has lost the use of his abs as well as his legs and lower back.
Before his injury Max was a 1 strip blue belt.
Max spent 2 months in hospital and 2 weeks in outpatient rehab when insurance only provisioned for 1 PT visit per week. He was home alone for 2 months then his brother moved to California to help. Six months after his accident resumed training because of his failing insurance need for rehab. He trains 8-10 hours a week.
Max took several months to travel across the US alone. He visited family and academies along the way. While he was visiting Miami for two months trained at the Rilion Gracie Academy. With Leticia’s blessing Max was awarded his purple belt from Rilion 2014.
Motivated to inspire other spinal cord injury people Max started the non-profit RollingtheWalk.com. He is supported by the great people at Jiu-Jitsu Changed My Life.