7.02.2009

INTERVIEW W/ RUBENS 'CONBRINHA' CHARLES

This interview with 4x mundial champion Ruben 'Conbrinha' Charles is taken from 'Facebook Fans Interview'. All the questions were submitted by fans and answered by the champion himself. I got to submit a question of my own and to my joy, a question that Cobrinha liked enough to award me a signed t-shirt. One that I will proudly display at the gym. I want to thank Derek for coordinating everything and for giving permission to re-post the interview in its entirety here on BJJ-ASIA. Be sure to check out the fanpage since there's a lot of direct news from Cobrinha. -Luke

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Thank you to all who posted questions – there were nearly 70 questions from people all over the world. To make the interview smooth, my team had to consolidate similar questions and rephrase a few. I wish I could have answered everyone's directly. I hope you enjoy the interview …

Background/History

Please tell us exactly when and how you were introduced to jiu jitsu? (Michael Carn)
I started jiu jitsu in 2000. I was teaching Capoeira at a friend's Martial Arts school. He decided to add a jiu jitsu program to his curriculum because it had become very popular in Brazil, and he suggested that I come try it. In my first class, I got spanked, despite the fact that I was a contre mestre in Capoeira. I had a hard time understading how someone could beat me so easily. It made me want to do it again, and again, and again. I started training & practicing a lot. Little by little, I began spending more time training jiu jitsu than capoeira.

How long did it take you to progress to each belt level? (Gareth Murphy)
I earned a new belt approximately every year. I received my black belt in 2005, after 5 years of training. I won my first IBJJF World Championship as a black belt the following year (2006).

How did you progress so quickly? (Gareth Murphy)
I believe the primary reason that I progressed at the rate I did was because I was very dedicated to training. I trained every day and enjoyed drilling positions over and over. I also think the skills that I had gained from capoeira helped me a lot. From capoeira, I had very good balance, flexibility, and conditioning … all definitely helped my jiu jitsu tremendously.

What are the key differences in your jiu jitsu style as you progressed from belt to belt, or do you feel that your style has remained constant? (Jadon Ortlepp)
My style stayed basically the same over the years, but of course, my technique, timing, pressure, and anticipation improved.

Who were your most influential instructors and what did you learn from each of them? (Paul Moran, Sky Kauweloa, Ian Hardcastle)
I have been very lucky to have some amazing instructors in jiu jitsu, all of who have been a big influence for me. My first instructor was Mauro Pacifico. He gave me a really good base and helped define and develop my guard. Terere became my instructor when I was a brown belt. He polished my jiu jitsu and developed my passing game. Fabio Gurgel played a big role directly in helping improve my back control, but of course a lot of Terere's jiu jitsu and instruction was influenced by Fabio. Currently, I learn something new with Jacare every day. He pushes my training in the right way and helps me identify and fix my mistakes.

When did you decide that BJJ would be a career and not just a hobby? (Chris Visentin)
In 2004, when I was a brown belt, many things came together to clear a path for a jiu jitsu career. I had opened my own bakery but was having some business problems with the landlord. During that same time, I went to compete at the Federacao Paulista de Jiu-Jitsu's Championship where Fernando Augusto “Terere” watched me compete and asked me to move to Sao Paulo to train with his team. After my instructor Mauro Pacifico told me that I could not pass up that opportunity, I left my bakery, two other jobs, and my family to go to Sao Paulo to train with Terere. I will tell you that the adventure of going to the big city of Sao Paulo from little Sao Carlos was a big adventure, which is worth sharing sometime. Anyway, it was upon arriving in Sao Paulo and beginning to train with Terere's team that I knew I had a good opportunity to make a career out of jiu jitsu.

How has jiu jitsu changed your life? (Michael Carn, Nate Mann)
Before jiu jitsu, I liked my life very much. I enjoyed capoeira and I also enjoyed being a baker, which was my primary way to earn money. Jiu jitsu has given me an opportunity to travel much more than I did previously, and I have been privileged to meet people from many different cultures. I have a better respect for people's lives all over the world. My success in jiu jitsu has also put me in a position where some people look up to me. That is both a big honor and very humbling at the same time. Finally, I am very glad that my life allows me to teach others. I think many lessons of jiu jitsu are lessons of life, and I am happy to be able to help others gain attributes that can help them on and off the mat.

When did you finally know you had made it big in the jiu jitsu world? (Chris Visentin)
When I got the opportunity to come train with Terere, that is when I knew I had a good chance to be successful in jiu jitsu.

Before we move on, please tell us where you got your nickname … “Cobrinha”? (Jameel Khan)
My Capoeira teacher gave me that nickname because of my flexibility and smoothness of my movements.

Capoeira

Most people know that Capoeira was your first martial art, and many want to understand how that background has affected your jiu jitsu. First, for those who don't know, please tell us when you started Capoeira and how did you get introduced to it.
I started Capoeira at 7 years old. I had some friends in Sao Carlos who did it, and they introduced me to it.

Do you still practice Capoeira?
These days, I do capoeira just for fun. I still like it very much!

What elements of Capoeira did you find useful in your transition to BJJ? (Udi Pan, Neomix Nutype)
Capoeira gave me a really good balance, flexibility, and conditioning – all of which were very useful in jiu jitsu. It also helps the fluidity of my movements.

Did Capoeira pose any problems to your BJJ? (Neomix Nutype)
There are no real bad habits that come from Capoeira for jiu jitsu.

Would you recommend someone who does BJJ to start learning Capoeira as a complement? (Udi Pan)
I do think capoeira is big help for jiu jitsu and recommend for anyone who has the time to study it.

Training

Can you please describe a typical week of training for you including jiu jitsu, weights, cardio, flexibility, etc (Brabo Fett)
I train jiu jitu 2 times a day - 5 days a week, plus 1 time a day on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, I have private lessons and/or seminars that will increase the number of times I'm doing jiu jitsu each week. In addition, every day I spend time stretching, doing balance exercises, and doing crossfit (or circuit training).

For weight/ resistance training, do recommend strength, endurance, or explosiveness training? (Adam Johnson)
I don't really do weight training – I think crossfit or similar exercise is good for jiu jitsu.

Of the various athletic skills (strength, flexibility, balance, etc.), what do you think is the most important for a successful jiu jitsu fighter? (Adam Johnson, Ali Seena Monfaradi)
To be world-class, I think you have to have all of these skills. You always have to be working to improve those areas that are not as strong as the others. For people who do jiu jitsu for fun or are not trying necessarily be a world champion, jiu jitsu allows you to adapt your game to take advantage of whatever skills you do have.

Do you adhere to any specific nutritional plan? Do you use supplements? (Mateo Nares)
I don't follow any specific nutrition plan. I just try to eat clean and healthy.

How often do you think people should train in gi vs no-gi (each week)? (Darys Kriegel)
I think training both is important – they both help each other. Training in a gi will help your no-gi game and training no-gi will help your gi game. I train more often in the gi. On normal weeks, only 1 day is dedicated to no-gi training. However, when preparing for a no-gi event, I will train about 50% no-gi.

Do you have any advice for people who a situation where they don't have training partners who are better than them to push them and challenge them? What can they do to improve? (Bendon Barlow, Nathaniel Fitzsimmons)
Drilling positions is an excellent way to work situations with training partners who are not better than you. It helps your muscle memory and prepares you to automatically use the positions without thinking about them. You can also do things during your training session to improve, even if training against people who are not as good as you. You can put yourself in bad situations, that you have to work out of. You can also try new things and figure out what does or doesn't work in different situations.

How many times do you think someone should drill a move before they put it to use in competition? (Josh Mckinney)
I am a big advocate of drilling positions and situations. I think you should do it as much as possible to burn it into your muscle memory so you don't have to think about your action when the situation presents itself to you. But I don't think you have to drill something a specific number of times before you use it. If in competition and the situation arises to use a move … use it. We must always take what is given to us in a competition.

How should a student split their time between drilling & rolling/sparring? (Chris Visentin)
People who are competitive or want to be competitive, should drill about 1 hr and spar about 1.5 hrs everyday. People who just do jiu jitsu for fun or fitness can spend more time on drills and less on sparring.

How important is the mental aspect of jiu jitsu, and how do you prepare mentally? (Mitch MacDonald, Charlie Nbbjj)
For competition, the mental aspect is the most important --- maybe 70% of success is determined by how you handle the competition mentally. You can be physically prepared but your confidence and state of mind will have a huge impact on how you perform. Too many times competitors pay attention to so many things that affect their performance … “What is his record? He “looks” big or strong. He is from XYZ school...” It can make some competitors crazy, and they lose the fight before it ever happens.

Do you prepare any differently for specific competitions or opponents? (Paul McGrath)
For big competitions, the biggest difference in my training is that I push myself more. I train harder ... maybe 3 or 4 times per day plus more conditioning exercises. I will also study jiu jitsu vĂ­deos of competitors so that I have a better understanding of their game. Personally, I don't develop a specific strategy for each opponent, I just study them so that I know what to expect so that I can impose my game on them.

How do you keep things from stagnating or getting boring? How do you keep motivated? (Adam Wesolowski, Ben Thapa, Ali Seena Monfaradi, Joe LaRose)
No matter how good you are, you can always learn something. I try something different in practice every day - variations on positions, different ways to grip, all kinds of things. This makes me think and keeps it very interesting!

Success

What attributes do you think are most important to making a successful jiu jitsu athlete, like yourself? (Chris Visentin, Ramzi F, Jeremy Hatt)
As I indicated earlier, I think the mental aspect of sport makes the difference between great athletes and champions. There are many really GREAT athletes who do not perform up to their capabilities in a competition because of psychological barriers.

In order to make it to the top level of bjj how important is it to train at one of the top academies? (Derek Maguire, Michael Quiles)
The individual is by far the most important determinant of success, but it is certainly more difficult if you don't have instructors and training partners who can push you to improve everyday.

Teaching

Given the success of your students at the last World Championships, what do you think that you, Jacare, and the other Alliance instructors are doing differently? (Michael Chapman)
Our goal as instructors is to transfer all of our knowledge, including very specific (and critical) details, to our students. We spend a lot of time on little details that often make the difference between a move or position working or not. I teach everything I know. My goal is to give my student all of my knowledge and for them to be even better than myself.

If you could give one piece of advice on what it takes to be a good instructor/coach what would it be? (Nathaniel Fitzsimmons)
Like I said, I think details are critical. In each move or position there are many, many details that need to be explained and understood. That means that good instructors need to know and understand all these details themselves before they can effectively teach others.

Positions

What are your thoughts on the 50/50 guard ? In particular, how do you feel about its apparent use to slow down a match or concerns that it is being used as a stalling strategy? (Kris Novell, Tim Lukes)
The position itself is very nice. I have used it for a long time. There are many sweeps that can be done very well from the 50/50 guard. However, with the gi, that position is also very effective to just hold your opponent, slow down the match, and stall. Now, some people are using the 50/50 to do just that, and I don't agree with that use at all, and I do not teach it either. I teach my students to go forward, to try to get a good position, and try to submit. Jiu jistu is still young and has a lot of chance to continue to grow, but slowing down the fights and making them boring is not good for the athletes or the sport. At the World Championships this year, there were too many fights … including fights that I competed in … where the crowd booed. It was the first time in my career where people booed my fight. It made me very disappointed, but I don't blame them because those fights where people are locked in 50/50 for so many minutes is not fun to watch.

Do you believe the IBJJF rules should be changed in order to address the 50/50 position? If so, what? If not, why not? (Eduardo Capeluto)
Yes! Like any position that is used to stall, the referees should stop the position and give penalty or restart the fight. If the competitor re-establishes the same position for stalling after being penalized, he should be disqualified. I'm also interested in all of your opinions on the matter also, so I am opening a discussion within facebook. Please come and tell me what you think!

Should heel hooks (in the gi) be legal for black belts? (Ciaran Toal)
No. They are too dangerous with the gi, and we would have many athletes unable to compete due to injury.

Future plans/ goals

What are your future competition plans? What tournaments do you expect to compete in the upcoming year? (Eric Yu, Andres Perez Belmar)
I hope to compete in the ADCC this year (September). I have had so many words of support from all of my facebook fans encouraging me to compete in next year's World Championship to go for my 5th world title. That has motivated me very much and makes me want to go back to try once again!

Do you plan on doing any more instructional videos either gi or no gi? (Chris Visentin)
I do have plans to do more instructional both gi and no gi. I will let all of you know as we get closer to planning. I am also going to be posting some videos here on facebook – in fact, you can look for the first one in the next few weeks.

Have you considered writing a book? (Fabrice Le Mentec)
I have considered it. I do not have specific plans right now, but I have many ideas that I think would be good for a book.

Do you have any seminars planned? How do we get you to come to my school to conduct a seminar? (thanks to the many of you who have asked)
I do have some seminars already planned. You can keep up with those that get scheduled through my website: www.rubenscharles.com and they are also listed in the events section of my facebook page. If you are interested in me coming to conduct a seminar at your school, you can send an email to my manager at cobrinhacharles@yahoo.com.
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Miscellaneous

What do you do outside of jiu jitsu to keep yourself balanced? (Satoru Luke Chayavichitsilp)
I like to watch movies, I like to bake, and I like spending time outdoors. I don't have much time for things outside jiu jitsu, so thank you for reminding me how important it is.

What do you think about the compensation levels of the top BJJ athletes? It seems that they are not compensated properly, especially compared to athletes in other sports. (Dan Thomas)
It is still difficult for many athletes to find sponsors and the major tournaments do not pay anything. Top athletes spend a lot of time training and preparing themselves for competition, and they don't have time to work a regular job to earn income. It can be difficult financially today as a jiu jitsu athlete. The good news is that the sport is growing and little by little there is more money in some competitions. As the sport grows there will be more sponsorship money available – one reason it is important for us to keep progressing the sport. The other good news is that if you have good, attacking jiu jitsu, people will want you to conduct seminars and private lessons which is a source of income for jiu jitsu athletes.

In your travels outside of Brazil, where in the US have you found the best Brazilian food? (Sheena Barlow)
The best brazilian food in the US is at my home.

How do you keep your creativity fresh? How do you keep coming up with new jiu jitsu techniques? (Bobby VanHuynh)
I'm always trying something new, just to experiment and challenge my jiu jitsu. Sometimes things I try don't work so well, then sometimes I find something that does works.

What strengths do you think lighter weight fighters have against bigger opponents? (Anthony Nguyen)
Lightweight guys are usually quicker and more flexible and can take advantage of that against bigger opponents.

How do you always keep your hair looking so nice in competition? (Mike Harmon)
Just lucky, I guess.

What is your biggest weakness? (Gwen Howell)
Strawberry ice cream!!

Is there anyone you would like to compete against in a superfight? (Paul Moran)
There isn't any specific person I am eager to fight against. There are so many great competitors. I just want to fight against the best of them.

After the "cut the head off the cobra" incident at the Abu Dhabi World Pro, did you want revenge at the World Championships and how did you feel after beating him? (Tiago Alves)
No. I was eager to fight and felt very good to win but it was the same as all my battles. I was not looking for any revenge. You always have to control your emotions, and I don't think a revenge is good for the sport. I always want to be respectful and an example for other athletes.


I committed to sending one of my t-shirts to the person who asked the best question. There are so many good ones that is is difficult, but I've selected Chris Visentin because he asked some really good questions in several areas, and I'm also going to send a shirt to Satoru Luke Chayavichitsilp for reminding me the importance of finding time outside jiu jitsu to stay balanced.

If I didn't answer your question, feel free to point it out to me and I will try to post an answer on my Wall. A few of you asked questions about common mistakes, drills and exercises to help with jiu jitsu … some of which I am going to be addressing is a video series that I will be posting for my facebook fans. Look for the 1st one in the next few weeks.

Also, look for a discussion thread about the 50/50 position because I am very interested in getting your opinions on the use of the position and what rule changes would be good.

Again, I want to thank you all for the excellent questions. This was fun for me, and I hope good for all of you.

Muito Obrigado,
Cobrinha
07/02/2009


Copyright 2009
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