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Global Training Report


A Very Special Interview with 

Fernando Augusto Silva 




April  2015


From Drug Dealer to World Champion


"Jiu-Jitsu Saved My Life!" 


tererepic2.jpg (3836617 bytes)


from 柔術主 [King of Jiu-Jitsu]

(Originally published in Japan, 2004)

Original text by Marcelo Alonso

Translated by Roberto Pedreira

Q1. Tell us how you got started in jiu-jitsu. 

Tererê: I was born and raised in the Cantagaro [カンタガーロ] favela, between Copacabana and Ipanema, along with the other 40,000 people who live in it. For sure it was different from the "rich"  environment. Everyday, in Leblon on the street in front of MacDonalds,  I earned tips from drivers to watch their parked cars. It was the same everyday. I had no bright hopes for the future, nothing at all. One day, when I was 11, Otavio Ratinho Couto happened to be looking for a parking space. We exchanged some small talk and somehow he invited me to visit his academy.

Q2.  Ratinho, he was a student of Romeo Cavalcanti "Jacaré"  for sure, wasn't he?

Tererê: Right. At that time, Roberto Traven and Alexandre Paiva were together teaching at Strike Jiu-Jitsu in Leblon. Ratinho was an instructor there. He lent me an old kimono, me and a friend (or friends) made our first jiu-jitsu training. Ratinho was surprised that we had such a lot of sports ability ["運勤神経], and he told us that we didn't have to pay for lessons, just come everyday [レッスン代金はとらないから毎日通って来い。] Because we completely demolished the yellow belts there.

 Q3. At that time, it was the first time you put on a kimono? You mean that you put on a kimono for the first time then?

Tererê: That's right (laughs). For better or worse, we were kids from the favela. We grew up fighting day and night and  running away from the police. Thanks to this form of "training" our bodies were strong.  Children in the academy were nothing to us, no problems at all. With headlock, or hand over mouth, those sweet boys tapped right away (laughs). I think  it was really good that I could start jiu-jitsu at that time.  

Q4. Starting training and making a living is a different matter, isn't it? How could you become a world champion keeping on training jiu-jitsu under such a circumstance?

Tererê:  There were hard times to continue jiu-jitsu, more than to win in jiu-jitsu. In 1996 as a blue belt, in the Brasileiro, I became the champion. But at the same time,  my mother lost her job in a western clothes factory [ 洋裁工場での仕事を失い]our household finances were a  disaster zone [俺の家の家計火の車になっていた]. My father was a garbage collector and his wages were small, just enough to buy food for us. We didn't have money even to buy T-shirts.  In this situation, for a 17 to18 year-old favela boy, there was only one choice. That is to be a member of Commando Vermelho controlling the favela, and work under drug dealers.   Me and most of my friends,  naturally, were invited to work for them. The drug gang members looked cool and had money. Really, they were heroes to the kids of the favela. They were a symbol of wealth. In that work, you could make 20 dollars in one night. There was no other way to make that kind of money in the favela.

Q5. So you were able to live by doing that, right? But a life at stake was waiting for you there, right?

Tererê: Working with drug dealers means to carry the drug and  take out the buyers safely to outside of the favela.  The society of dealers was not controlled by one group. The gangs competed, and of course the cops were involved too. They had to be paid off or avoided. That was the biggest "turning point" of my life there at that time, I think, you know? Like everyday, someone lost their life [毎日のように誰かが命を落とす]. If it wasn't another drug gang, it was the cops. For real, almost all of my friends who were recruited as drug dealer assistants ended up dead. For me, I am grateful to jiu-jitsu. At that time, if Alexandre Paiva and Roberto Traven hadn't invited me to be an instructor ["インストラクターにならないか?, I might have ended up dead too, like many of my friends. Jiu-jitsu saved my life [柔術が僕の命をXすくってくれたんだ

Q6. Now you're walking down a new road, trying to show a good example, so more children are learning jiu-jitsu, right? 

Tererê: It is never easy for a man in the favela to live a rich life with jiu-jitsu. In my case, in the year after I won the Brasileiro, I competed in the Mundial as a blue belt and became the world champion. For the first time, I found a sponsor. I began to have some  confidence that I could make a living in this sport. The sponsor was the casual maker "Shikuro-ne". When I was walking in the favela in clothes of  Shikuro-ne, everybody looked at me with envy. Because only drug dealers put on Shikuro-ne in the favela. Wherever you grow up, once you become a world champion of jiu-jitsu, you can put on nice clothes. You don't need to be a dealer to eat. That is what I could show young favela kids by my own example.

Q7. Since then, you have kept becoming a world champion almost every year, right?

Tererê: In the 1998 Mundial I won in the middle and absoluto categories.  I was in purple belt at that time, but  in the academy there were black belts and I never lost to any of them in training.  Around the time when I became the purple belt  World Champion,  I was convinced that I could do well even in black belt. In 1999 I won the championship in brown belt and in 2000 I was able to become the black belt World Champion.

Q8. I remember it! It was your sweeping victory by throwing down Nino Schembri, wasn't it?

Tererê: In 2001, in the final match [決勝]   I was defeated by Shaolin, but in 2002 in the Copa do Mundo, in middle and absoluto, and in 2003 in the Copa do Mundo and Mundial, middle weight, I  became the world champion. Kids and my friends from the favela came down to the competition place to cheer me on. Other people complained that my supporters were too noisy, but it was such a great  moment as  to make me feel that my life was so fulfilled.

Q9. Exactly, your results are overwhelming others. And so you opened your academy in the favela for your supporters, right?

Tererê: From 1999 I began to hear voices telling me that they want to be a jiu-jitsu fighter like me, so I began to teach [指導する] jiu-jitsu in Cantagaro. I felt  that they wouldn't get into the underworld any more, because they had a new target, jiu-jitsu.  But my first project had a setback, because I started teach jiu-jitsu in São Paulo from 2000.  While I was in São Paulo I heard that five of my first students [元教え子] in Cantagaro entered the world of drug trafficking and lost their lives. 

Q10. That's horrible!

Tererê: So once again I re-opened my academy in the favela. I decided to make it my "life work". I sold the car that I got as a supplementary prize for winning the São Paulo State championship and I used the money to reopen my academy. It is called "Hill of Friends" [友人たちの丘].  Over 140 kids are training hard there, not sparing the sweat. 

Q11. Now, your life and base is in São Paulo, but in the favela Academy, who is providing the supervision, teaching, and leadership?

 Tererê: My student Geerson dos Santos is taking on the responsibility of teaching. 

Q12. It means You don't charge money from children for your lessons, right?

Tererê: Naturally. If they had money for it,  they should buy food (laughs). No one has money in the favela. But people have warm feelings there. It's the "Hill of Friends". Everyone cleans the academy, helps by stitching up tattered kimonos. Moreover, the academy is in the favela, so we don't pay rent and  the city helps with the electricity charges. We don't have to  pay taxes. It doesn't cost me much money. It would  be best if a world jiu-jitsu champion arose from among them,  and they would be able to make a living with jiu-jitsu.  Our project has spread to other favela too, so many people know about jiu-jitsu in the favela now. Do you know Otavio Duarte, don't you?

Q13. He was a student of Rickson Gracie's student Jorge Pereira, right? 

Tererê: Right.  He opened an academy in Rochina, the biggest favela in Rio, between Papa and Leblon with more than 100,000 residents. I hope that more and more jiu-jitsu practitioners like him will follow the same way.  Thanks to that I became the world champion,  I am economically well-off.    My parents don't have to work any more, and my younger sister can go to school. My younger brother is traveling around the world as a dancer.  Jiu-jitsu saved me. Thanks to it, I could give favela kids the  hope [希望]  for the future. That's what I'm most proud about. 

Q14.You made a big academy in São Paulo. This is one of the greatest academies in Brazil.  

Tererê: Thanks. We have a boxing ring and work-out facilities and gear. It's wide  like a temple [寺院].  But Macaco has an even bigger academy in São Paulo (laughs). It might be bigger than BTT in Rio. Maybe BTT is the only one which is bigger than this  in Rio. This is what I got from my 14-year-jiu-jitsu life only. Japanese jiu-jitsu practitioners visit here too, Kenichiro Togashi, a pro shooter from Parestera Hiroshima. Right now there are two Japanese athletes  here. Their work ethic is surprising. Without being able to speak a word [of Portuguese] they come from the far side of the world to train here. 

Q15. By the way, when you made this academy with your partner Eduardo Telles, you separated from  Master Jiu-Jitsu? 

Tererê: Yeah. We started a new team called Tererê & Telles (T&T). There was no problem with Master. We just thought the time had come to compete under our own names. We don't want to only emphasize jiu-jitsu. We also want to be able to boast that T&T are a team that can make champions in life (not only on the mats).  

Q16. Then, what would you do if you fight with athletes of Master in a tournament, such as Demian Maia, Jamelão, and Jacare, who are your good friends?

 Tererê: I fight to live. I'm a pro fighter. No matter how much someone is my good friend, in a tournament, I'm going to do what I have to do to win.  

Q17. You used to do "friendly fight" before, because they were from the same academy, right?

Tererê:  I've participated in many "fixed matches [八百長嫌いもどきの試合は嫌いだ] in the final rounds. I hate it.  For the future of jiu-jitsu as a sport, fixed matches are bad. There are 100 harms and no benefits [百害あtって一利なし]. Now in my academy,  my students, even thouh they are from the same academy, if they meet in a final match, they should go all out to win [真剣に戦う]. That's what I teach them to do. So if I meet a Master athlete in the next Mundial, it will be the same as when I met the Alliance representative, Marcelo Garcia, in the Mundial last year, you know. 

Q18. Only one man in the same class  was able to stop Marcelino Garcia who was remarkably growing up. That man was you, right?

Tererê: Me and Marcelino were both taught by Fabio Gurgel who is a great teacher and wonderful human being. When Alliance split up, I lost my teacher. I became like a  ronin 「[浪人] (a masterless samurai). It was like a hole opened up in my chest. I fell apart. Exactly, I lost to Chibawa in my first Vale Tudo and I entered Abu Dhabi Combat, My back was bad, but not only that, my mentality [ 精神] was so bad that I didn't know what to do. After that I met a student of Marcelo Behring named Baguneyu Mota [ヴアくネウ−モッタ]who was an ”Old Master”. Once again I could return to my best form. 

Q19. And you beat Garcia by submission [ー本勝ちした。]

 Tererê: Marcelino Garcia is a genius [天才].  In the last year's Mundial (2003) he performed without any mistake. He did what he wanted to do.  But I had an ability enough to follow his way to the finish no matter how he brought me in his favorite style, and conversely I planned to fight in his field.  I wondered if I should be under pressure entering the mat with the genius, as he was called. I felt no pressure being on the mat with him. Whatever he tried to do, I understood it already (I was ready for it).  So I passed his guard, and I could apply a three-corner choke when he panicked in an unexpected situation.

Q20. You managed to overcome Marcio Pé de Pano, despite his 40 kg. weight advantage.

Tererê:  I'm a middleweight, it was the first time to  win in absoluto for the world championship.  I believe that I will be able to make a jiu-jitsu style to match against big athletes. Anyway I did my best. What I have to do is to do my best for each fight, whoever an opponent is. As I told you before,  jiu-jitsu saved my life, and here I am. Jiu-jitsu gave a wonderful life to someone like me who was poor. I want to share such a great life with other poor people.  Environment isn't everything. If one keeps fighting and keeps keeping the faith, getting a new life is possible. I will try to communicate that to people through my fight performance.

* Thanks to 柔術王 for this interview and to Yoko Kondo for checking the translation.

Some videos of matches mentioned by Tererê in the interview:

Tererê vs. Marcelo Garcia:

Tererê vs. Pé de Pano:

Tererê vs. Shaolin:


(c) 2015 (this translation). GTR