Global Training Report
The Path to
By Felipe Costa
apartment I rented close to Corpo Quatro needed some minor repairs, and Ana, the owner,
or agent, said she would send her father Aureo to attend to it. When Aureo
showed up, he handed me a DVD. It was The
Path to Success by jiu-jitsu 2―times black world champion Felipe
Costa, who turned out to be Aureo's son-in-law.
The first part is
Felipe explaining how he went from being terrible at jiu-jitsu, really sucking
bad, as his brother says on the DVD, to world champion. Felipe emphasizes many
times how bad he was to highlight the big gap between the before and after. He
was 28 when the DVD was made and has been training since he had 12 year of old,
in 1991. In that epoch he would everyday pass on his way to school the academia
of Jacare (one of Rolls Gracie's original black belts) on Rua Visconde de Piraja
(no doubt Master Jiu-Jitsu).
He didn't know what jiu-jitsu was--no one in Rio did either, back then, Felipe says.
But he decided to do it. During his first three years he entered many
competitions. He NEVER won a single match. Footage from that period shows that
indeed, he was not a natural born superstar. If someone like him can become
World Champion, not once, but twice, than what is stopping YOU, Felipe seems to
It is more a
memoir than an instructional DVD, but it does have several educational sections.
The first is an analysis of errors that Felipe made when he was a blue and
purple belt. He thinks that blue and purple belts in general might benefit from
seeing these mistakes analyzed by experts, including Demian Maia, who has
himself recently been busting out in the jiu-jitsu circuits and word on the
street is that he has his own DVD coming out.
Michelle Matta dissects
how Felipe used his foot incorrectly when he played spider guard with foot on
the biceps which allowed his opponent to remove the hook and easily pass for
analyzes how Felipe executed the shoulder pass incorrectly as a blue belt, and
explains how to do it correctly. This is useful, because the shoulder pass is a
great pass, as long as you don't make the mistake that Felipe made.
Next Caio Terra
points out that when Felipe's opponent in a purple belt match put a triangle on
him, Felipe tapped fast. This is an interesting example. Felipe's position
wasn't that bad--he was in the center of the opponent's legs and could have
based up well. Once in base, there are many defenses, escapes, and counters to
the triangle. Assuming that Felipe didn't just panic, this suggests that
perhaps he didn't have a good enough command of the relevant escapes. He seems
to be a spider guard, half-guard type of fighter. Maybe he was so good at these
positions that he neglected some of the more pedestrian, ho-hum moves. It often
happens that guys focus on what they do well and neglect what they don't. The
difference between guys who never progress and guys who end up winning gold
medals in the black belts division is that some people don't boldly confront their
weaknesses, while some do. Obviously Felipe did.
Otero analyzes Felipe's wrong technique in the outside trip take-down. Felipe
put his head on the same side as the hook, which as Bezinho points out, usually
means you are going to smash your own face when you hit the mat (you should put
your head on the opposite side).
mistakes is a great concept for a DVD. Carlson Jr. has a tape like this,
although the mistakes are deliberately made just to illustrate what not to do.
If you are a really good musician, it is hard to play a bad note
deliberately---somehow it comes out sounding good. Lesser musicians will think
your mistake was a deliberate note choice and end up imitating you. No joke.
Music history is replete with examples. Likewise, when a good black belt
tries to demonstrate a mistake, his deliberate mistake usually isn't that wrong.
All of his training militates against him genuinely doing what he is trying to
do. Better is to have a real person really make a real mistake---like Felipe
did--and then show what he did to fix the mistake. It is a little on the short
side though--only four mistakes. If I made a DVD with an analysis of all the
mistakes I made in blue and purple belt, I would have material for a 5 DVD set.
shows five of his favorite techniques. Three involve taking the back from half
guard. Evidently, Felipe likes half guard. Coincidentally, I watched Ricardo
Vieira teaching the third of these moves at his own academy, and also observed
some blue belts doing them during rolling at Carlson GracieAcademy
. They aren't cutting edge in Rio
but they might be new everywhere
else. The third move is very gi dependent and a little difficult to see what is
going on. I asked one of Bolão's brown belts about the technique (as best as I could describe it).
But he said "no one here uses half guard...except one guy who does a guard
like this." He demonstrated what North Americans now call the X guard (when
Bolão created it, not anticipating that 20 years later people would be
selling DVDs explaining how to do it, Bolão
didn't bother to give it a name. I wonder how things would look today if he had
called it the Bolão
guard?). I'm not a big fan of half guard. But some guys are and have
a whole game from there. After all, if you do it right, you are half-way to the
opponent's back. Guys who are good at it, like Felipe, can make you feel very
unstable. It takes the fun out of having a half mount (although strictly
speaking it shouldn't be called half mount if the bottom athlete has his
shoulder off the mat.)
In the mistakes
section above, we saw Felipe having problems with the shoulder pass. Maybe
that's why he says he likes to "pass with distance." The last
technique he shows is a "pass with distance" that has a nice twist.
When you pass from outside and control the guy's hand very well, his option to
defend is to turn to the knees. But you will be dominating his sleeve, so when
he turns, you will roll to the other side, and then you will be able to take his
back. It's easier to see than to describe. Watch the DVD.
Being very good
at jiu-jitsu is not mostly a matter of buying more DVDs and knowing more
techniques, or even having a teacher with a famous name and many medals. What
makes you good at jiu-jitsu, and it is the reason so many good players emanate
from Rio, is the quantity and quality of the
guys you train with. They are the ones who are going to help you grow most.
Every time I go to Rio, I realize how true this is. Tapes
and DVDs are nice, and having a famous professor can give your self-esteem an
indirect boost (so can being a fan of a successful football team, for that
matter), but ultimately what is going to dictate the pace of the evolution of
your game is the
other guys you train with. As Bolão
said in 2006, one of the most important things in jiu-jitsu training is to be
friends with the guys you train with. And this is why loyalty to the team
matters to Brazilians.
But what if there
aren't 20 black belts for you to train with who will teach you everything you
want to know for free and indeed will try to bring you up to a medal winning
level to enhance the status of the team? Well, that's why God made US dollars
and DVD players.
This is a good
concept for a DVD. Instead of a collection of random, or even connected,
techniques, a proven winner, a sort of rags to riches jiu-jitsu success story,
in this case, Felipe Costa, shares his "path to success," including mistakes
made and infelicitous detours taken along the way, culminating with a
semi-instructional of his personal "go to" techniques. In other words,
an overview and dissection of his individual game and how it evolved.
English very well, having done a study-abroad year in an American high school in
the middle of nowhere (he explains he wasn't allowed to choose where to go),
where he also learned American wrestling. Apparently he was still too terrible
at jiu-jitsu to try to teach any one there at the time, or possibly no one
cared---since it must have been too soon after the first UFCs to have reached
the small towns of the
USA. Felipe was not the first Brazilian
jiu-jitsu guy to encounter American apathy or incomprehension about Brazilian
jiu-jitsu. The list is actually long and distinguished.
And then there was Rorion.
The DVD is English with Portuguese captions, which is useful if you want to brush up your
Portuguese in preparation for a training trip to
(c) 2007. Roberto
Pedreira, all rights reserved.
December 26, 2011.
May 30, 2020.