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Paulo Miyao and the key to live life strategically

Paulo Miyao is wearing our Hero Gi white. Photo: Jeff Chu


One of the most renowed Jiu Jitsu fighters in the world, Paulo Miyao sat with Graciemag and revealed his secrets about guarding and tactical planning, while also explaining the challenges of building a new team right in the heart of New York. The Braus Fight athlete also shared some advice on how Jiu Jitsu helped him to be better in and out the mats

Where have you been dropping more opponents, in the gentle art of Jiu-Jitsu or in the violent game of chess?

PAULO MIYAO: I learned to play chess in my childhood, the movement of the pieces and the rules, but I never understood the depth of the game. I started playing regularly after moving to the United States, about two years ago. For me, chess is the sport most similar to Jiu-Jitsu out there. As a beginner, I still rely heavily on instinct when playing, which leads me to make childish mistakes. I only just mastered the basics, but plan to accrue more experience so I can come back and really talk about it.You’re considered a tactical champion, calm and collected on the mats. Is it natural for the fighter to develop that strategic mindset?I believe strategic thinking comes with time. It starts to sprout from the understanding of the sport and the increase of the technical repertoire. You can’t expect a beginner to have well-thought strategies, as he has not yet understood Jiu-Jitsu deeply enough. He hasn’t reached a technical level that allows him to access the wide range of possibilities that the sport offers. I’ve always been a more instinctive competitor. Because of the many repetitions performed during training, performing the movements at the competitions was almost automatic. My training began to develop more strategy-wise after my first losses as a black belt. By that point, I started training all of the aspects of Jiu-Jitsu, not only my strategy of guarding and staying underneath. I wanted to have more resources against my opponents, and that mindset led me to start training other styles of the sport, such as passing or fighting on top.

How did that dramatic victory over Keenan Cornelius, at the brown belt absolute from the 2013 World Championship, change your mindset?

I believe that, internally, there were no drastic changes. I have always been simple, quiet, and observant, and those traits remained the same. But people started to think I was a superhero. I think that made me even more “famous” (laughs).

Is there something about life that you learned in Jiu-Jitsu instead of the books?

All book authors have shared their vision on how to live a life well-lived. I am grateful to them and for their point of view, but they’re not you or me. We have to learn how to live every day because no one accumulates experiences in the same way. That’s what I think is more magical, each person has a unique opportunity when living life. All that remains is for us to strive to benefit from those experiences.

In a recent post on your social networks, you taught that one of the most important goals in life – inside or outside the mats- is to be
happy now instead of waiting for happiness in the future. However, isn’t it necessary to heed the future at all times to live strategically?

Being happy now doesn’t mean not thinking about the future or living inconsequentially. It means living well and being grateful for everything you achieved, regardless of whether your plans have worked or not. In fact, what we learn throughout our lives is that most of our plans don’t go exactly the way we want them to. However, we can still see blessings and great lessons in everything around us. We simply need to pay attention!

Would it be a mistake to start training without a tactic in mind? Is there Jiu-Jitsu without a strategy, just for fun?

Of course, there is. That is the most beautiful Jiu-Jitsu to be seen, without worries and fears. Each person has their goals, and if the trainee’s objective is just to sweat, have fun and make friends, I can’t understand why his training would be wrong. Jiu-Jitsu is a very versatile art.

What strategy did you have in mind when you opened your school, Studio 1908, in Brooklyn, the famous neighborhood of New York?

Opening a school is not a good option for athletes who do not enjoy teaching. Not long ago, I didn’t feel that pleasure and wouldn’t have made this move if I hadn’t changed my mind. I think everything changed when I started teaching in a local gym at the request of my friend Rich, who owns it. In the beginning, I even found it a little weird to be enjoying it so much – I thought it was because this was something new. But over time, I liked it more and more. Today, I can’t wait to have a space to gather all my students and friends.

Throughout your competitive career, many criticized your berimbolo technique in self-defense situations. Will you teach self-defense beyond competition techniques?

Yes, we will surely teach it. The berimbolo in real combat situations, in MMA fights, I believe it really wouldn’t work the way it is today. Maybe it could be adapted.

What would you say to a new student who has just arrived and is already asking about berimbolo?

I believe a newcomer white belt doesn’t even know what berimbolo is. But if that happened, I would say that it’s more important to study the basics and then learn more elaborate moves.

What’s the best lesson you learned about the art of guarding?

Several things are important when guarding, but I think that the trick I most identify with is keeping the thighs glued to the chest. I believe that no guard can be done effectively without this principle.

How did your team’s mantra (“Bend, Resist, Rise”) come about, and what does the bamboo of the logo and the motto mean?

The Studio 1908 logo was created by the black belt Ronaldo Aoqui, from the BJJFlix channel. I identified with it at first glance, as it is a philosophy that can be taken to all aspects of life. First, we have to be flexible: not everything goes as planned, and bending is necessary. When situations don’t go as planned, we have the impression that we are not doing well, at which point it’s important to be strong, to resist. After that, we realize that all of it was important for our growth as people, and that’s when we get up. I carry that way of thinking inside my heart.

Was opening the gym a huge challenge? Were there any unfortunate surprises?

Of course, starting something from scratch will never be easy. Obstacles will always arise, that’s life (laughs). The important thing is to have a positive mindset and keep moving forward. I’m lucky that my Sponsor Braus Fight provides me with all the support I need. Braus has always kept my goals in mind, and I am very grateful to Renato dos Santos, co-owner of the brand. I believe that our partnership will grow and generate beautiful results, so keep your eyes peeled!

How has your brother João and this symbiotic relationship that you seem to have, even more as twins, have been strengthening you at this point?

Our friendship is very strong. Because we are twins, many believe we have the same interests and aspire to the same things, but the reality is that we have always been different and with very individual ways of thinking. Nowadays, for example, João still has that desire to compete.

I, however, am more focused on opening my academy and tending to students and affiliates. When leaving elite competitions, you look forward to training less and relaxing a little in your diet. It can’t be the same Spartan way of life, I think. When the goals are different, we cannot keep to the same routine.

What would be your universal strategy tip, useful for elite black belts and white belts with no desire to compete alike?

Train and do everything in life with a smile on your face. That’s what encourages people around you and drives away all types of negative energy from people who are not rooting for your success.