Interview with Saulo Ribeiro

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Saulo Ribeiro, jiu-jitsu legend tells us a little bit about his history and what jiu-jitsu needs today.

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"The Jiu Jitsu ‘s University was something idealized by me and Alexandre when we went to Kodokan in 1996. Our master Royler Gracie was fighting there. We were impressed with people from the entire world who visited that sport’s temple. So we got that inspiration of a Universal Academy for everyone. We saw so many flags, so many academies and so many countries.

We said: Oh my God, this is the universal energy that we must bring to Jiu Jitsu. So we came back with that idea in our minds. And we always had our team, the Ribeiro Jiu Jitsu. How can we make something so big, not in competition, but in terms of being a center for the study of martial arts? That’s when we had the idea to set a pole in a place where Jiu Jitsu was already well developed as it was in San Diego. California was always on our minds. So we said: “San Diego it’s the place. Let’s do it here”.  For us this it is like a temple. We have already been visited by more than 50 countries and over 300 academies. So we are very happy with the great feedback that the University of jiu-jitsu got.
I started in Judo with Henrique Machado who was also Jacaré Sousa’s teacher. Then I went to practice Jiu-Jitsu and I got my black belt five years later.  
Man, we came from the same academy, the Academia Monteiro in Manaus.
Did you start together?

We started together. He was 9, I was 15. I am six years older than him. He started when he was a child. I had to give him an ice cream or a chocolate, otherwise he started to cry and he didn’t want to go. And we used to live in the jungle.  We came from a very hot and wet place. The temperature would put you in another state of mind. He was very young. He cried on the first and on the second day. Them he stopped crying and began to make the others cry.  He was a very good child. A year later I went to Rio de Janeiro. I went to the Law School. That's when I met Royler.  He stayed in Manaus. From 10 to 18 years old he was training in a school that is a hotbed of champions. The Monteiro Manaus facility is very famous even today. But I already had a little team in Tijuca, founded by me, Artur Cartiado and Marcelo Machado. And my students began to face Xande in the big tournaments. So I said: Man, you are blood of my blood, it's not right that you fight against our soldiers. Come over and let’s follow this philosophy together. But at the time we weren’t thinking big. It was more like a contact, a family close to me. He came when he was 18; he was purple belt, lightweight. That’s when we started our Jiu Jitsu’s journey. And the rest is history. Everyone knows.
You taught at Gracie Tijuca, didn’t you?
That’s when I started, I was a brown belt at the time. Gracie wasn’t an academy for competition, it was an academy for executives.  Royler was not fighting at the time and I always loved the competition.  The competition is my life, it is what makes me happy. I was a bit scared.

The executives only went there for a light training and I wanted to rip everyone’s head. So I said: Man, we must set an academy here at the north zone. And I want your boys here. And actually I created a golden generation.  I didn’t have much experience as a teacher, as a sensei. So it was on a  “only the strongest will survive”  basis.  Two o’clock in the afternoon, the tin roof was popping… I didn’t have someone with a black belt to practice with me. That’s why I believe that you don’t need to have many black belts to become a champion. You need people who are willing to help you. People that have a greater good that’s to help you. Then you have success. Sometimes when there are too many black belts there are many wills for each side. Then the greater good is kind of dispersed.
Too many particular interests. And when you have many particular interests you don’t  reach the community. I think that made the difference in my career. I fought against the whole Gracie Tijuca, I fought against the entire Carlson Gracie Team all by myself. I never had a strong partner.
Man, I was so happy to fight [Worlds Masters and Seniors]. I had the best time! It has been a long time since I fought in the same tournament as Alexandre. Sometimes I attended the same event. I won the senior absolute weight, he was champion of the master absolute weight. So I think we increased the credibility of the event. Previously people used to say: “Oh, he’s fighting the Masters, he is old.  But now the thirties are what the twenties used to be in the past decades.  Jiu Jitsu has given us an incredible vitality. When I thought of someone with 40 years, I used to think: “Man, this guy is old”. But nowadays, everybody says: “No, I can do anything. First Worlds Masters? Sign me up. You can sign Alexandre’s name too. Let’s go! Because we fight for the Jiu Jitsu, no matter what institution is organizing it.  Our goal is to help Jiu Jitsu in any way. You need the help of the Ribeiro family? We’ll be there. And we do not ask for anything in advance, we ask after. Are we going to do a serious job? Are we making it happening? The problem is that people are wondering: What about me? And me? But it is not about you. It’s about Jiu Jitsu."