Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a self-defense martial art and combat sport based on gripping, seizing, choking, and submitting the opponent in the most effective way possible. The sport dates its roots back to Jujutsu -- a family of Japanese martial arts of which Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a part. Over the past 10 years, the popularity of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has grown tremendously, becoming the most important discipline in Mixed Martial Arts and a life-changing experience for anyone who undertook the discipline.
Mastering Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a life-long journey. The belt, or ranking, system in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu divides into two categories. One is for kids, aged up to 17 years old. The other is for adults. Kids and adults begin with a white belt. Each colored belt, or rank, is accompanied with stripes, or rank degree. Students are to receive up to 4 stripes in the belt, before receiving the next colored belt. After a practitioner receives a white belt, the next is yellow, for kids, and blue, for adults. Once a kid receives a yellow belt, he or she, later on, receives an orange belt, then a green belt, and then, when the kid turns 17 years old, he or she automatically receives a blue belt. After the blue belt comes the purple belt, then the brown belt, and then the black belt. Having a black belt, the practitioner is then considered a “professor” on the mats. Beyond the black belt comes a seemingly unattainable milestone: the coral belt (black and red). Students can receive the coral belt only when they have trained and taught Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as a black belt, for 31 years.
One of the very well known Brazilian Jiu Jitsu affiliations that highly interprets this discipline is Brazilian Top Team (BTT). It was found in April 2000 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, by former MMA fighters and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners Murilo Bustamante, Ricardo Libório, Mário Sperry, and Luis Roberto Duarte. Today, their affiliations are all over the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In its earlier years, the academy was known for producing many talented MMA fighters that had been successful in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), -- the biggest MMA promotion in the world.
Today, as the sport’s popularity is rapidly growing, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners representing BTT are winning worldwide championships, making themselves known all over the world. The first recognized BTT center in the United States was established in 2003, named Brazilian Top Team Boston, by João Amaral Miranda and his student, Daniel Mirel Gazoni, who now runs the academy. Today, it is one of the most successful Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academies in New England, winning not only regional and out-of-state championships, but also European and Pan-American championships.
Being a Martial Arts practitioner means being respectful, disciplined, and polite to the peers and to the instructor. But first and foremost, the academy is a family. In the academy, Gazoni is referred to as the “professor” or “sensei.” Before stepping onto the mat, the students are expected to greet and bow to all the black belts present. Being late to practice is never a respectful sign to the head instructor. Respect and politeness are expected in the school, as much as thanking the peers after the practice.
Levi Moura, a 21 year old brown belt, professional competitor and instructor at BTT Boston, started his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey when he was a freshman in high school, in Brazil. Ever since then, “[he] would give up on other sports and hobbies to entirely focus on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.” Throughout the years of pure training and competing, Moura said that “the journey had shaped [him] not only as an athlete, in [his] younger years, but as a human being.”
As Gazoni taught so many people throughout his teaching career, “[he] noticed that kids and teenagers that have been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for months, have become more confident and have shown a higher self-esteem.” And adults who have suffered from either poor regulated mental health or addiction, “have come up to [him] and thanked [him] for changing [their] lives for the better.” Growing in a healthy social environment, one only integrates into a better version of oneself.
Eric LeClair, a blue belt from BTT Boston, has been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for three and a half years. Beginning his journey at the age of 36, and “going through a mentally difficult time in [his] life, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu had changed [his] life.” In the start of his journey, “[he] was scared inside because [he] was nowhere close to being at the level at what [he] was looking at.” Before finding Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, LeClair had difficulty controlling his anger issues. He believes that “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu helped [him] fight his anger and self-awareness.” Constantly losing to the stronger opponents on the mats, and being at the same time part of the “family” in BTT, “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu” has humbled [him] in ways where [LeClair did not] even realize where [he] needs humility.”
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not easy. Ismail Guessous, a blue belt from BTT Boston said that “it was tough in the start, but comradery in the team helped [him] a lot.” All the black belts and “Professor Daniel” have helped him along the journey. “[It is] good for mental health to have a good social setting where one learns from experienced athletes and teaches less experienced athletes -- all the while socializing and forming that human connection,” stated Guessous.
Practicing Martial Arts is not always about learning how to protect oneself, but also about evolving as an individual. Along the road, who one becomes, doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is more important than what one gets out of it. “Life is about ups and downs and it [does not] matter how many times [humans] fall back, it matters how many times [humans] get back on their feet” stated Gazoni.