Roberto “Gordo” Correa is an important and legendary figure of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. A part of the old school generation, he has trained under Jean-Jacques Machado and has received his black belt from the Gracie Barra president, Carlos Gracie Jr., back in 1993.
Today, he is one of the most sought-after coaches himself. But, just as importantly, he has made an extraordinary imprint on the way we see BJJ today – in his purple belt days, he developed the position we today call the half guard.
Read more below on why he developed it, about his BJJ beginnings and on what his current plans are!
BJJEE: Mr Lima, it is a great pleasure to talk with such an important BJJ figure as you are. To start our conversation off, would you mind sharing with our readers – what were your BJJ beginnings like? Who introduced you to it and did you see yourself as talented?
Roberto: I started in 1985, when I was 14 years old. I actually grew up with the Gracie family in Barra da Tijuca – with Ralph, Renzo and Ryan… It was them who, basically, brought me to the Gracie Academy that had just opened in our neighborhood.
I remember my beginnings very well. At the start, I was training with Carlos Machado, who was my first instructor at the Gracie Academy, and after my blue belt Jean Jacques was the main instructor. We were training every day, and I started competing very soon, as a juvenile blue belt… I was very dedicated and always loved to compete.
So, I fell in love with Jiu Jitsu very early on. And I’ve never seen myself as a talent. I see myself as a hard worker.
BJJEE: You are a part of the „old school“ generation, having started training in the 1980’s. Do you remember, what was the BJJ scene like back then?
Meaning, what was it like to train in your Academy? And what was the overall „feel“ in the Jiu Jitsu community back then? Do you see some things that are different from today?
Roberto: It was an amazing feeling to be training in the 80’s, because the Jiu Jitsu community was very small. We knew each other well and the competitions were very tough, full of amazing atmosphere. And as far as our own Academy is in question, Jean Jacques was and still is an amazing Master, from whom we always followed the steps of Renzo Gracie.
As far as the Jiu Jitsu scene is considered… In my opinion, it changed a lot from back then. It is growing a lot.
I mean, back then it was good to know one thing that just a few people knew in general. It felt good to know how to defend yourself when you are a teenager and always involved in some fights, one shape or another… Which leads to one of the rules we have in the Academy: we respect our opponents a lot and don’t allow trash talking, because if you can talk then you need to fight!
But, in the same way, it is very good to see how much Jiu Jitsu is growing and how many countries now have access to Jiu Jitsu! The best feeling, for me, is that I now know that I saw everything developing, from the beginning until today.
BJJEE: It must’ve been a privilege to see it all unravel in front of your eyes, to have witnessed much of the important parts of BJJ history. However, you’ve also directly played a very important role in the development of Jiu Jitsu yourself – as you are the one who developed the position and advantage of the half guard!
Would you mind telling us, how is it that you „came up“ with it?
Roberto: I was 18 or 19 years old when I twisted my knee in training and tore my ACL. The doctor asked me to stop training for a while and to surgically repair my knee, but at that time I didn’t want to stop and I wanted to go back to training as soon as I could.
So I started training again soon enough. I couldn’t move my knee well and I so started training from the bottom and I started using just one leg to defend myself.
I never thought of developing anything… I just wanted to train the best that I could, and with the help of my master at that time (Jean Jacques), I started to do some movements which led to them turning into an offensive half guard. It was a defensive position first and foremost and it became more offensive with some sweeps and submissions.
BJJEE: So the half guard came to fruition, essentially, because you started looking for ways to do your best when you were injured – talk about creativity!
You are also one of the world’s top coaches. What is the advice that you would like to share with our readers, that you think would help them become better jiujiteiros?
Roberto: First off all, I think it is important to train hard with an instructor that can help you. Good physical preparation is important, but you need to place Jiu Jitsu as more important at all times. What I mean by this is to focus more on grappling than strength training… This is also a good strategy to take on on the days off, before a competition takes place.
You should also try to understand Jiu Jitsu as self defence first and of it as competition second – one complements the other. Also, let your ego out from the mats and focus on training hard.
BJJEE: Thank you for sharing your advice with us. As our last question, we’d like to ask: what are your current projects? What are your goals at this moment?
Roberto: I am always looking towards the future and I always want „some more“. Currently, I’m growing my academy in south Florida, while keeping my academies strong in Brazil as well. Also, I am growing my association in Europe with Ben Polpeton.
My big objective is to put everything together and to create and lead some camps for the students and for any one who is interested in having a bit of taste of the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle.
I am also organizing R1ng – my new Jiu Jitsu competition team, together with my friends; like Soca, Tinguinha, Pe de Pano, Jean Jacques and many more!
We are looking to make a strong competition team… It’s our first year and it will take time, but we will be very strong.
BJJEE: Thank you very much for this valuable conversation, Mr Lima. It’s been a pleasure.
Roberto: Thank you.
For more on the high level half guard game from one of the most successful Canadian BJJ competitors in history, Jake Mackenzie, you will want to check out his “High Precision Half Guard and Reverse Half Guard” instructional here!