1. Hi Jake, can you please introduce yourself to the BJJ Community of Eastern Europe?
My name is Jake Mackenzie, i am 27 years old. I am from Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. I train at Gfteam in Rio de Janiero.
-3x Brazilian National Teams Champion (CBJJ)
-American National Champion (USBJJF)
-US Open Champion (USBJJF)
-Miami International Open Champion (IBJJF)
-Brasilia International Open Champion (IBJJF)
-2x Central Brazilian Champion (CBJJE)
-South American Champion (CBJJE)
-2nd place South American Championship (IBJJF)
-European Champion (IBJJF)
-Pan American Champion (IBJJF)
-World Cup Champion (CBJJO)
-3x Rio de Janiero State Champion
-2nd place World Championship (CBJJE)
2. What’s your Jiu-Jitsu story?
I started training jiujitsu when i was 12 years old. I started at small school in Truro, Nova Scotia. I am from a very small place with a population of maybe 10 000 people. I trained there until i was 16 years old, and then i begin to train with Kevin Taylor and Peter Martell in a school an hour away from my home, in Halifax, Nova Sctoia. I trained extensively with Kevin and Peter for 9-10 months out of the year, and i would travel to Brazil in the summers to train for 2-3 months in Espirito Santo. After 3 trips to Espirito Santo, i saved up some money to travel to Rio at the age of 19. I spent 6 months in Rio and trained 2-3 times a day and compete a couple times a month. On my first trip to Rio, i met Roberto Cyborg Abreu. He was opening up a gym in Miami and invited me to come down to train with him. I then began to spend 6 months training and living in Miami, and 6 months training and living in Rio. I started training with Cyborg as a purple belt in 2007, and i recieved my black belt from him in June of 2010. Roberto really developed and refined my game, he is amazing coach and mentor. In 2010 after he awarded me to black belt, Roberto wanted me to search out the best level of training in Rio, so that i could have a sucessful transition to black belt. I decided to drop into Gfteam when i got back to Rio in 2010, and i have been there ever since. Roberto was very supportive of me training and competing for Gfteam, and i still go to Miami every year to train and learn with Cyobrg. Now i currently spend most of my time training in Rio at Gfteam. Julio Cesar, has been a huge inspiration to me as a person and as an instructor. He has really helped me improve my all over game, i cant thank him enough. I couldnt be happier with the decision i made to train Julio and all the athletes at Gfteam, i am learning and improving everyday in training, and the support system at the gym is incredible. I am also very thankful to have such an open minded instructor such as Roberto Cyborg Abreu, who continues to teach and support me 100 percent!
3.You spend a lot of time training in Brazil. Please tell us about how you started integrating there, learning the language etc.. to the point of not being considered a classic “gringo”by Brazilians
I have been training in Rio extensively for close to 10 years now, and I have been involved in the Jiujitsu community in Rio since i was 19 years old. I dont know the exact amount of tournaments i have competed at in Rio, but i have close to 100 medals from all over Brazil, and the majority from Rio. It took me a couple years to learn to speak the language but that really helped me make a lot of friends and good connections. Competing in Rio is soo much easier once you know everyone. When i compete now, i know most of the refrees, i know most of the mat cordinators, score keepers, etc. Which makes everything soo much easier. I love Rio, i love the jiujitsu community there, and i am very thankful to get train, compete and live in such a beautiful part of the world.
4. In your opinion, what goes through Brazilian BJJ player’s mind when they see a foreigner stepping for the first time in their academy or in a competition mat? Did you feel that some Brazilians BJJ players may have not respected you as much, because you weren’t Brazilian and was training “their” sport?
At Gfteam we have people from all over the world come into the gym year round. The training is very hard and very intense at Gfteam, but Julio makes everyone feel so welcome when they come to visit. Anyone who comes to visit is treated with total respect by Julio and all of his athletes. The majority of my experiences visiting other gyms in the past have been great, i think sometimes it just takes time for people to get to know you, and being as respectful as possible helps.
5. You are a frequent competitor and compete all over. What is it about competition that you like so much?
I compete as much as i can year round, i usually do 20-25 tournaments a year. I compete simply because i love it, there is nothing that i enjoy more. If it wasnt fun for me i wouldnt do it. I would compete every weekend if i was able to.
6. Please tell us about training at GFT academy in Rio de Janeiro. How does it differ from other BJJ academies? How are the trainings with Rodolfo and the other beasts there?
I love training at Gfteam! Julio is a huge inspiration to me, and his gym has such a great atmosphere. The training is extremely hard, and the amount of talent in the gym is insane, but above all everyone is a family there. Julio, really encourages everyone to work together and for everyone to be united. Everyone is always trying to learn and improve as a group. It really helps to have so many champions in the gym, especially with everyone working together. Rodolfo Viera in my opinion is the best pound for pound jiujitsu competitor in the world, so to have him as a resource in the gym is amazing! He is always helping us improve and always taking time to teach, and make sure that everyone is always working hard!
7. Do you still rep Cyborg?
I am so proud to be a black belt under Cyborg! He really molded my game from purple belt to black, and i continue to learn so much with him everytime that we train together. Even though i compete exclusively for Gfteam now, i will always rep Cyborg. He has taugh me so much, and has helped me so much over the last 6-7 years. He is an amazing competitor, teacher and a great friend and mentor to me.
8. What are BJJ players that you admire, and why?
Some of the guys I admire most in jiujitsu are, Julio Cesar Periera, Roberto Cyborg Abreu, Rodolfo Vieira, Theodoro Canal, Denilson Pimenta, Leandro Lo, Eduardo Jamelao. There are so many more guys I am a fan of, but these were the ones I could think of off the top of my head.
9. What do you have to say to people that say that Southern California is now the Place with the highest level of BJJ (compared to Rio)?
I know that there is a ton of high level instructors and schools in southern California, but i totally disagree that the level highest level of jiujitsu is there. There is a lot of great champions that have opened up schools all over california in the past couple years, but that doest come close to the amount of black belt world champions that have been produced over the years in Rio. Rio de Janiero has produced more black belt world Champions from 1996-2012 than any other place in the world. Sao Paulo and Manaus are also huge power houses in jiujitsu, that are producing some of the best athletes every year. There are so many athletes from all over Brazil, that dont have the finacial support to compete at the big tournaments in California that never even make out of Brazil. Calfornia hasn’t produced 1 black belt world champion yet, so to say that they have the highest level of jiujitsu in the world is ridiculous.
10. You are famous amongst other thing for your half guard. How important is the half guard in Jiu-Jitsu and how have been working on refining it throughout your career?
The half guard is a very popular position in jiujitsu today. I am always playing with new things from the half guard to keep traying to evolve the position. At the black belt level, guys really know how to shut down the half guard, so to be able to use it sucessfully in competetion you need to be very technically sound. I am always trying to learn new variations and positions to constantly improve my half guard game.
11. What is next for you in 2012/2013?
The euros will be my first tournament of 2013. I am looking foward to competing as much as possible in 2013 and trying to do 25-30 tournaments this year. I am going to concentrate on learning and improving as much as i can.
12. Thanks Jake and all the best!
Thanks, all the best to you too!