Carlos Maia of Gracie Barra Slovenia, on training with the greats at GB Rio, getting his law degree and his black belt in the same year, and his schools in Slovenia & Macedonia

Carlos with Master Carlos Gracie Jr

1. Hi Carlos, can you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about your journey in Jiu-Jitsu?

My name is Carlos Maia, I am a 2nd degree black belt, from Jacarepagua, Rio de Janeiro. I embarked on my endless Bjj journey when I was 12 years old, under the watchful gaze of professor Carlos Augusto, who was at the time a black belt under Reylson Gracie. After just 5 months of training, my professor took me to my first tournament where my love for the sport was born. At the time a lot of my teammates stopped training or simply didnt want to compete. Roll forward a few years, to 1994, when I went to the Gracie Barra academy, with one of my professors and a good friend, Duda Galvao is his name, who trained there, and he was actually the one who introduced me to Carlos Gracie jr. From then on, I started training in Gracie Barra and I dedicated everything I had, my 105% to training and went to every tournament imaginable, sometimes winning, other times loosing, but all in all getting an unforgettable experience. This was all happening in mid 90s, when Gracie Barra had a tremendous team, and everything was localized, happening in a relatively small area, with all the legends training in the same spot.

Carlos clock choking his opponent

When I was 19 years old, I had a serious car accident. I broke my hand in several places and had a shattered knee. After my surgeries, the doctors said I should forget about the sport because I lost complete dexterity of natural movements in my wrist. That was a tremendous shock for me, only thinking about not returning to the mats was paralysing. But the story went on, I stayed out of training for about a year, and that was when, my first teacher, Carlos Augusto, asked me if I was interested in helping him to teach at his gym, mostly the morning classes. Thats how my teaching path started, which was incidentally the only way for me to be able to stay connected to the sport that I loved and respected so much. If it were not for him, we most certainly would not be having this interview right now.

After 9 months of rehabilitation, I came back to train, doing just specific training for the grip and wrist movement. After approximately 12 more months, I was back in Gracie Barra, training for the competitions. I divided my life between Bjj classes, competitions and also studying at the University of Law, where I graduated in 2005, incidentally at the exact same time when I got my black belt under professor Joelson Joe Souza, from Gracie Barra. After that I dedicated my full time to studying and teaching Bjj.

Carlos in his youth with legends of Gracie Barra like Roleta, Gordo etc…

In 2008 I came to Slovenia for the first time, held some classes and went back to Brasil, where I divided my time between classes in Jacarepagua and the main Gracie Barra academy, where I also trained and had oppurtunities to train with some of the UFC legends, including the champion Georges st. Pierre, whom I helped prepare for the BJ Penn bout.

In 2010 I came back to Europe, fought in the Europeans in Lisbon and came to Slovenia where I live now. I was accepted really nicely here, surrounded with great people and I feel very happy working hard to spread the lifestyle, philosophy and the overall benefits of the gentle art in this part of Europe.

This is of course just a brief summary of 23 years on the matts. I live many stories and I feel blessed to have the chance to train with who I train and fight with who I fought. As an athlete, here are some of my most noteworthy achievements :

2. Coming from the famous Gracie Barra academy of Master Carlos Gracie Jr, please tell how was it training with such accomplished champions like Marcio Pe de Pano Cruz, Marcio Feitosa, Roleta, Renzo Gracie, Pe de Chumbo etc.

Carlos was one of the instructors at GB HQ in Rio

I usually say that I had the luck to be in the right place at the right time. It is important to understand that at that time, we didnt have Bjj videos, we didnt have youtube, seminars nor the world wide web like we do now. If one wanted to gain knowledge of Bjj, one had to turn to a Gracie JiuJitsu school and no other. You had to get the trust of the masters and also the students and partners. I remember that if we wanted to fight in tournaments, we first had to fight in an internal, closed door tournament, which we called the SELETIVAS, which was usually much, much harder than the actual competition. Usually you had to fight your friends, teammates and everyone was motivated like crazy. At the time, the federation only allowed each school to have a maximum of 2 fighters signed up per category and nobody wanted to be out of the team. I remember I had to take 7 fights only to gain a spot to participate in the Brazilian Teams Championship. That was a time of much dedication, hard training and constant learning. Everyone pushed eachother to the limits everyday, and I have to say it was a great challenge.

So in these circumstances I was training with the masters you have mentioned, and many more. They were actually my idols. Just like for a soccer fan to go to the stadium and play soccer everyday with the like of Pele, Zidane, Messi, Ronaldo…I lived a dream, basically. Priceless. Being part of the that team and training with the Gracie family is one of the things in my life I am most proud of. Nowadays we live scattered across the globe, living our own lives, but I have great affection for all these memories about the guys that have smashed me on the matts everyday and helped shape me into who I am.

3.Please tell us how you ended up living in Italy and then Slovenia, and tell us about your life there and the BJJ scene there? How are you adapting to the local culture?

Carlos with some of his students in Slovenia

Actually, I never lived in Italy. I did a lot of seminars there, but I was always living in Slovenia. I came to Slovenia through a connection of my good friend from Brazil, Felipe Simoes. He came here to teach for a while and he invited me. At the time, Bjj of the true, Gracie curriculum hasnt existed at all in Slovenia.

In the beginning it was very hard. It was a cultural shock. It was preety cold, specially for someone that lived all his life in Rio de Janeiro where its very hot most of the year. I am now well adapted to the weather, the culture, the habits of the people, and I have met some great friends here.

At the moment we have 4 training centres. The capital Ljubljana, Koper and two other citites. We are working hard to make this sport more popular and show people that Bjj can be a great choice for everyone not only the fighters. That is currently our main goal.

4. Please tell us about your academies in Slovenia and Macedonia (what you plan to achieve there) and also about your most successful students (competition wise)?

GB Ljubljana

Like I mentioned above, we have 4 groups, where we offer classes for beginners and advanced alike. For us, competitions are not a priority, but I believe that the competitions help us develop our jiujitsu skills and prepare us even more for the challenges of everyday life. Competition is that place where we truly test ourselves, our knowledge, our condition, our strength and limits. We find out who we are under stress, for real. That is why, afterall, an athletes preparation for a competition in Bjj or MMA, requires alot of dedication, discipline, concentration, eating habits, working habits….etc. those are beneficial on so many levels… But alas, tournaments are not our main priority at the moment. We believe that the technical prowess, and development, the valor and the conduct of our students is most important. It is essential, it comes first. Everything else follows suit. I also have a school in Skopje, Macedonia.

5. How would you describe your style of BJJ (your personal style and teaching style)

It is hard to describe my style. I consider myself a technical and dedicated fighter. As a professor I teach by example and live the art as a very dedicated student. I was always skinny and weak which forced me at a very young age to accept that only perfect technique could save me. I consider myself focused on what I want to do and I believe that it helps me as a professor. But the Bjj way is full of study and the only thing I can say for certain is that there is a lot more to learn.

6. Your top 3 favorite BJJ players:

I find it hard to find only 3 favourite Bjj players specially because I see Bjj as an art and with all art, you are hard pressed to find who is the „Best“. I think that each and every one of us has an unique ability and style, just like in painting, music or literature. My teacher Marcio Feitosa was a hug influence on my Jiu-JItsu and I can’t forget him. But I can try to name a few names that inspire me, that I watched on the mats in person and are/were extraordinary fighters :

3 that inspire me all my life: Renzo Gracie, Nino Schembri, Alexandre Soca Carneiro.
3 that are still fighting: Roger Gracie, Celso Venicius, Lucio Lagarto Rodrigues.

7.Your top 3 favorite MMA fighters: 

Anderson Silva, GSP and BJ Penn.
But my biggest MMA idol will always be Renzo Gracie. On and Off the matts.

8. What are your bjj plans for 2012 (for you and your team)? 

Carlos winning the Milan Challenge in 2011

I had some injuries last year that prevented me from training the way I wanted to but I am getting better as each day passes and I cant wait to compete again, even though my students are my priroity now. Next week I am going to Brazil to see my family, friends, to train hard and of course, go to the beach and drink some acai. Here, my senior students will be responsible for the training, following our usual program but with more focus on sparrings. The competitiors have to work even harder to represent us and I beleive that BJJ will grow even more this year. Not only in Slovenia but all over the Eastern Europe.

Last year we had the first Bjj Open and it was overall a very succesive tournament, with more than 110 competitiors from 9 different countries. The fighters showed a very high level of technical prowess on all levels. This year we are aiming to make it even better, bigger and more polished. We, of course, count on all Bjj fighters and fans from all over Europe to participate, especially from the Eastern parts, where the sport is finally starting to get wind in its sails.

9. Carlos, thanks for answering these questions, we wish you and your team all the best for this coming year.

Thanks for the opportunity and for your wishes guys. congratulations for the page, keep up with doing an amazing job !!!
And For all Bjj fans and practicioners a big MATA LEAO and have a nice training. TREINO DIFICIL LUTA FACIL. Carlos Maia Bjj