Stanley Tam from SHANGHAI BJJ was recently in Australia and was kind enough to interview Prof. Leonardo Arruda for BJJ-ASIA. It's great to hear about peoples' experiences both in and out fo Asia as we're all connected by our passion for BJJ. Thanks to Stan for making this happen. -Luke


Hi everyone,

I’ve always enjoyed reading other people’s training reports on the internet, since I was fortunate enough to train with Professor Leonardo Arruda in Australia, I thought it might interest the readers to write a short training report and conduct an interview with Professor Leo.

During Chinese New Year, I made my annual trip to Australia from Shanghai to visit family and friends. At first I was a bit bummed out about the timing of the trip because it coincided with Tony’s arrival in Shanghai, I really wanted to stay and train with Tony but I couldn’t change my travel plans. Luckily, my best mate in Australia also trains in BJJ and I went along to his academy and trained with Professor Leo. The professor teaches out of Master Vince Palumbo’s ICMA academy (www.grandmastervincentpalumbo.com) in Adelaide and has recently arrived in Australia from Sao Paulo. I remember the first group training session there, the outside temperature was close to 40 degrees amidst the Australian summer; the training area felt like a sauna with no windows and no fan! Coming from the Shanghai winter (and I caught a cold in the plane!), the heat really kicked me in the face and I was literally in survival mode during my first training session there. And those guys train hard, which is always a positive thing to experience.

During my stay, I did many private training sessions with Professor Leo. What strikes me most about the professor is his level of professionalism and his passion for BJJ. He really wanted me to learn something from him and really cared about my progress. A lot of times our one hour training session would go on for 1.5-2 hours, but the professor wasn’t concerned about the time and only cared about whether I understood the lesson or not.

I want to thank Master Vince Palumbo and Professor Leo for having me at the academy, I had a great time! And to Cho, you can get stuffed!

Here is a short interview with Professor Leo.
Professor Leonardo can you tell us something about your training background and how you got started in BJJ?

I started martial arts with judo when I was 7 years old and at age 10 I started Aikido. When I was about 18, I began Capoeira (Afro-Brazilian Martial Art) and at 20 years old I found Jiu Jitsu through a friend’s introduction. He invited me to try one class and I became addicted, after 3 years I stopped everything to dedicate myself to training only Jiu Jitsu.

How long did it take for you to get your black belt?

I took 8 years. Usually training everyday and after a few years of training, twice a day every single day, especially before competitions.

What are some of your notable competition wins?

I have won titles in all coloured belts in a lot of different championships. The most important was in 2007, I won the World Championship from CBJJE in both my division and the open division under 79Kg.

What is your most memorable BJJ moment?

It happened in 2008 at the Pan Pacific Championship, my first competition in Australia; it was the first time without my master, far away from my friends and in front of my students. I won the competition!

Do you practice any sports aside from Jiu-jitsu? And which do you think most compliments Jiu-jitsu?

Nowadays I practice Aikido, Boxing and Cacoy Doce Pares Eskrima, but what has helped me a lot is the Aikido, because it gave me a very good idea on which strategy is better, making my game nice and relaxed.

You have traveled to the Bahrain to teach BJJ and now reside in Australia, how do you find BJJ training differ in Brazil to the other places you have traveled to?

In Brazil, Jiu Jitsu is very popular and most of the children want to start the training and participate in competitions; just for children only, the competition is held on a separated day, because of the number of enrolment. Another thing is the way Brazilians train. And we can see the lifestyle throughout the practice of BJJ, most of those people who train together in the team become a family where they help each other in any situations outside of the mats.

What advice would you give to a new student when choosing a BJJ academy or teacher?

Make sure the place that you want to stay can offer a very good environment, with discipline, respect and a very good work out.

In your opinion, what does a student need to do to progress in BJJ and reach a high level?

First of all, he needs to persist and do not stop when barriers appear, because the barriers come to ask us to jump over it. Keep the learning simple always, pay attention to the basics techniques, study Jiu Jitsu by watching dvds, try to find the best technique that can fit in your game and look after your fitness, because your fitness is your best friend.

Can you tell us what your requirements are for students to progress form white to blue belt, blue to purple belt and all the way to black belt?

I think the search to understand the practice of BJJ is the point. I mean, how we can control ours partners using our body to get the best movements and submissions. So it is complex, we need to start with learning the basics techniques and watch the development of the game. Jiu Jitsu is the most ‘primitive’ martial art, because everything starts in whatever stance and finish on the floor, people who do not know any type of martial arts, always will finish with grappling on the floor.

Do you think it is necessary for students to compete in order to be competent at BJJ?

Sure! But I reckon there is no need to get all of those techniques for a position if you want to compete, just specialize in those techniques that fit in your game, if we are talking about competition. Most of the best players have got few simple movements, but strong and sharp. Of course we need to train everything to develop the art of Jiu Jitsu, because the specialist also needs to understand an all round game.

Who are your favorites BJJ competitors?

Nowadays I like Marcelo Garcia’s style, he has very good skills and always going for submissions. Before I watched a lot of Nino Schembri; different skills, as well, always looking for something unexpected.

In Asia (outside of Japan ), BJJ is a young sport/art. Many people do not have a regular high level instructor to guide them in their BJJ journey. What advice would you give to people in this situation if they want to excel in BJJ?

The challenge is to always put together all of the techniques in combination during your training session, because if you can have many possibilities in your game, you can always have a counter and your contra attack. You can just practice passing the guard, whatever sweep etc. But the key is to combine your passing, sweeps with something else, like knee on the stomach, chokes, arm locks, mounts etc. So in one exercise you can develop a few techniques that will give you timing and precision.

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