Two of a Kind

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Interview by: Jake McKee    Photos by: Dave Contreras

One was the teacher, the other the student. One is a legend in BJJ, while the other is looking to forge his own path, and make a name for himself in MMA. Wherever their respective paths take them one thing will remain true for Gracie Barra black belts Vinicius “Draculino” Magalhaes and Romulo Barral. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is in their blood.

Interview with Draculino:

Can you talk about how you moved from Brazil to Texas?

I’m from Rio de Janeiro and lived there until I received my black belt. My thought was, “If I wanted to live doing BJJ I would have to move.” The sport is so segregated today, and that is not the type of competition I am looking to participate in. So I moved to Barro Zante, the 3rd biggest city in Southeast Brazil. I can easily say that move was the turning point in my career.  Working at a school with many types of students, all different levels of belts was a great learning experience.

Throughout that city I became known as both a good father and a good fighter, which provides me so with so much happiness. I love being able to teach students, and watch them grow and succeed. A previous student of mine (Tioshico) now owns his own gym in Manhattan.  Anyway, when he was younger he used to be goofy, fat, out of shape and couldn’t participate in any sport. Everyday I would help him train, and now he is a 3 time world champion. He is the only fighter to give Sergio Moraes a hard time during the championship match. Helping him become a world champion really makes me proud. It is something money can’t buy and cannot be taken away from either of us.

From there, because I came to the US for competitions, I was able to build up a good reputation throughout the US BJJ community. People encouraged me to move out to the States because it was the place to be. For 7 years I debated about moving and finally decided to pursue the American dream.

I moved to Houston, Texas because I have a lot of friends and affiliates already here. We opened a school less than 1 year ago, and we now have over 200 students. We received first place overall for a BJJ school at a competition in Texas.

What do you think it is about the BJJ curriculum that develops students so well?

I base my curriculum on the progressive system. I believe that if you learn something that is connected, then dissect each topic it has a good effect. What I see today, unfortunately, is people are forgetting the basics to most systems. Some people forget their guards and just do triangles.   They can’t escape from a headlock, they can’t defend a guard pass. So my students learn all of that; self defense, top positions, everything. We can sometimes spend a month on a simple guard pass because there are so many situations that can occur. We don’t just spend one day on one type of technique. For beginners, at my curriculum, it’s based towards the generality of self-defense or a real fight situation. Then they will get better at ground fighting and BJJ.

Can you tell us about the DVD which you just filmed?

It was a great experience. I made a DVD before in Japan, and I’ve always wanted to do something here in America. There is no one better to work with than Budovideos. I was lucky enough to have this invitation extended to me. I know the quality will be top notch, as well as the marketing. The techniques and concepts will be something no one has done before, following the progressive system of dissecting each move. I trust the crew completely in what they do and I just hope everyone likes it. If you are serious about BJJ, then you need to really pay attention to the small things, which is what the DVD captures.

What is the difference between this DVD and others that are out there?

This is the first DVD that covers the attack (or offense), the defense to the attack and how to counter that defense. These three aspects are there for each technique. If you master them all, then you really will be successful. Another thing is that this DVD really focuses on defense. BJJ is really a defense art, where you beat your opponent because you are a good defender. The way I was taught and how I learned was that you have to be really hard to tap, and really hard to defend. That way, no one can beat you and your opponents have to look at the bigger picture in order to compete with you.

What are your plans for the future?

It’s great to start again in a new country. I am so inspired to accomplish everything but don’t know where to start. I competed last year after an ACL replacement, so this year I will try to compete in the Mundials, PanAms, some NoGi tournaments, and some MMA fights. I think MMA fights are good for finding out who you really are. I don’t do this for the money because I’m older and can’t have a career in this field, but I want to still be one of the best coaches in the world for MMA. To be a good coach in MMA you have to experience more in the ring. I’ve submitted, won, lost, but I haven’t really learned all that I can. I want to go back in the ring, be put in more situations and learn how to get out of them in order to pass that along to students and really be the best coach for MMA.

What do you think about BJJ guys being in the MMA competition?

It’s style against style, but it won’t happen again. It wont be BJJ vs. boxing, but fighter against fighter. They train similarly everyday: grounds, takedowns, and strikes, no matter what country. Some people think BJJ has stopped, but they have learned it in the past in order to continue to another type of fighting. In all my years, I haven’t seen any fighter not incorporate BJJ during their fights. Sometimes it is through defense or countering, but in the end BJJ is the foundation to all the types.

What’s the best way for someone to continue training and having fun for as long as you have?

You can train until you die. You see grand master Hélio Gracie, 96, who still has mats in his house in Brazil. To this day he sometimes teaches private classes to students or trains with his son still at that age. BJJ is really a lifestyle. There is nothing that can stop you from doing BJJ. You can be hurt, but BJJ is a sport, which does not affect one’s health too much. You can do BJJ and work all parts of your body aerobically and anaerobic, which is a good work out for you mentally and physically. Training with a gi, when you are finished training you feel like you are on a level of Zen and your body and mind are in a blank spot of pleasure and joy.

Interview with Romulo Barral:

Who is Romulo Barral?

I was born on May 3rd, 1983 in Damantina, Brazil. I lived there for about 15 years until my family moved to Bella, Brazil where I remained up until about 4 months ago when I moved to the US. I’m a 5x World BJJ champion, and I even have a win over UFC veteran Demian Maia (Romulo was able to submit Maia in the 2006 World’s semi-finals). Really though, I’m just a regular guy. I love to compete, I train hard, and I always give my best.

How did you get into Jiu-Jitsu?

I trained in Tae Kwon Do as a kid, and one day my friend showed me fighters and MMA fights like Vitor Belfort and Rickson Gracie. Since that day I have grown to love it. My first teacher was Christiano “Titi”, a black belt under Draculino. After 6 months he introduced me to Drac and I told him I wanted to fight MMA but he told me BJJ was better for me to begin with. He told me to get started in the smaller shows, build up a better name, get more money and take it from there - Since then I’ve continued to progress, and I’ve even won some tournaments!

How did you get to be so good?

The school I trained at was one of the best BJJ academies in Brazil and had the best people around. If I had to give you a simple answer I would just say because I train hard. I have the best teachers and best training partners. I’ve trained before my tournaments with Drac and have competed with some of the best guys like Eric Vandalay, Christiano “Titi”, and Philipe Carnegata, and I’ve continued to get better each time.

How often do you train?

I usually train 3-4 times daily with physical conditioning, 6 hours a day. Drac would always tell me to go home, but I would always want to stay a few more minutes in order to get the good results. I keep taking classes like sparring classes, positioning, all of those.  Like I said earlier, I train hard.

You just opened a new school. Can you tell us a bit about it?

I just opened one with (former UFC Lightweight competitor) Alberto Crane, another Black belt under Drac out in Encino. We recently had our grand opening, and already we’ve got about 35 students currently enrolled. The school offers both BJJ, and Muay Thai. We have some really good instructors for our students to learn from. It’s a great place to go if you’re serious about learning either, or both these arts.

What do you see in your future as far as competitions go?

I will continue to compete at as many competitions as I can. My goal right now is to restart my career in MMA and become a future champion. I had one fight in 2004, but now I am more serious about it. I have a fight coming up (February 28th at Rage in the Cage) and I’m facing a tough opponent named Adrian Valdez. I’m really looking to just build a name for myself in MMA and continue to fight the best guys. I just want to test myself as much as I can especially since I have been out of competition for over a year-and-a-half due to an injury.

Is there anyone in particular you are looking to fight?

No, just anyone. They’re all tough so it will be a difficult journey.

Tips for the readers?

To be a champion in a black belt is not easy. You can’t just train hard and keep fighting. For me, I changed my diet, rested, and chose my training partners and coaches carefully. You really have to change your lifestyle. If you do that and really put your heart into it, you can become a world champion.

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