Seminar With Rafael Mendes (Athlete Journal 52)

Last week I had the chance to learn from BJJ athlete Rafael Mendes. I even got to roll with him and ask him questions over a sushi dinner.

Hey guys, guess what? This is entry number 52, which means I’ve been journaling for Breaking Muscle for a whole year!

I remember when I got the email that said I was chosen to be a jiu jitsu journal writer. I was in a hotel room in New Jersey the day before last year’s No Gi Pan Ams when I read it. I remember jumping up and down on the bed because I was so pumped to receive this amazing opportunity. It’s crazy how time flies.

Seminar With Rafael Mendes

I know my journals from the past few weeks have been a little boring, but I’m excited to announce that this week’s is epic because the legend himself, Rafael Mendes, graced Scranton MMA with his presence last Saturday. Rafa is an extremely successful and talented jiu jitsu athlete, but it turns out that he’s also a super cool dude. It was a pleasure and an honor to have him at our school.

My day started off pretty normally. I woke up, got dressed, and headed out the door to the school. I stopped for a hot cup of joe on the way there, because we all know a successful day always starts with a good cup of coffee. I got to the school early because I wanted to get some last-minute cleaning done. Everything was already clean for the most part, but I had to make sure it was perfect because I’m kind of a neat freak sometimes. Plus, I couldn’t let Rafa Mendes or our visitors think our school was dirty.

At three o’clock, it was time to start the seminar. The first thing Rafa had us do was practice a sweep from de la Riva (DLR) guard. This was our warm up and the prerequisite for every other move we did during the session. As I’ve mentioned in the past, DLR isn’t my strong suit so I had a little trouble with the sweep. It got better with every rep, though.

From there, he showed us the berimbolo. You may think you know the berimbolo, but until you’ve learned the minute details from the man himself, you definitely don’t know the bolo.

After we had enough practice with the berimbolo, Rafa taught us some other techniques from that position. I would rather not get too much into detail about everything he showed during the seminar. Those are his techniques, and it’s not my information to share. But if you sign up for the Mendes Bros. Online Training Program you can see everything that Rafa and his brother Gui teach at their school, Art of Jiu Jitsu Academy.

Rafa set aside some time at the end of the seminar for everyone to roll. It was great getting a chance to roll with different people who don’t know what my game is like. It gave me a chance to test myself against all levels of fighters. I didn’t take it too seriously, though. I had a lot of fun talking to everyone between rounds and meeting new people.

The best round I had, hands down, was with Rafa. We didn’t stop moving once while we were rolling. There was no stalling or waiting, just flowing. It was awesome. He gave me a lot of advance on techniques I use all the time. He helped me out a lot, and he was nice enough not to completely kick my butt.

After the Seminar

One of my favorite things about jiu jitsu events is that food is usually involved. We were all starving after the seminar, so we went out and got everyone’s favorite post-training food, sushi. While we filled our bellies with raw fish, we asked Rafa question after question after question, because when else would we ever get the chance? Luckily, he’s super nice so he didn’t mind answering our questions and giving us his opinions on certain matters. I sound like a nerd right now, but it was such an awesome time.

Rafa, if you’re reading this, thank you for making the trip across the country to teach us your techniques. We would love to have you back soon!

To everyone else, thank you for reading my journals for the past year. I plan on keeping it up as long as I can. Stay tuned for next week when I tell you about my performance at the No Gi Pan Ams. Peace out!

Jess Papi is a blue belt at Scranton MMA and also pursuing her degree in exercise science. Read her entries every week for insights on competing, training, and juggling BJJ and life.

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