Bernardo Faria Interview
We had the opportunity to interview 5x Black Belt World Champion, Bernardo Faria, you can listen to the interview below or read it as well. This interview is brought to you by bjjsuperdeals.com, bjjfanatics.com, BernardoFaria.com, and the new battle tested half guard DVD by Bernardo Faria! Make sure to subscribe to Bernardo Faria's YouTube page, Bernardo Faria BJJ, you won't regret it, so much world class content, and find Bernardo on FaceBook here.
The Jiu Jitsu: Can you tell us a little bit more about where you are from and who you are as a person, also what got you into bjj initially?
Bernardo: So I’m from Brazil, my hometown is called Juiz de Fora, it’s like 500-600 thousand people it’s in Minas Gerais states and its nearby Rio De Janeiro, like 2 hours from Rio de Janeiro so that was good for me so that I could compete in Rio de Janeiro from white to black belt. I started Jiu Jitsu when I was 14 years old in 2001. It was because of the influence of one of my brothers friends, he was probably the smallest guy in the group and every time we would play fight or something like that, this guy would beat everybody. So that’s why. I saw this and thought, man this guy knows some secret, and he knew Jiu Jitsu. Then he invited me to train and I started and I never stopped. So I started when I was 14 and after like 6 months to 1 year of doing Jiu Jitsu I was like, this is what I want to do for a living. I ended up finishing high school, I did college for business, but I only wanted to train, I wasn’t even focused on college, I just wanted to train. I ended up finishing college, as soon as I finished college at the end of 2008, I moved to Sau Paulo to train at Fabio Gurgel’s, and then I trained there from 2009 to 2013. It was very cool because it was like the prime time of the Alliance school. I remembered in the building that I was living there was 5 black belt world champions. It was me, Michael Langhi, Bruno Malfacine, Leo Nogueira, Sergio Morales, and everyone was living in the same building. It was a very special time of my life. Then in 2013 I moved to New York City to train and teach at Marcelo Garcia’s school under him and that is where I am now. After the Worlds this year I’m, going to open my school in the Boston area.
The Jiu Jitsu: How old were you when you realized that you really wanted to compete and do Jiu Jitsu full time?
Bernardo: It was when I was very young, I started Jiu Jitsu when I was 14 and when I was 15 I knew that’s what I wanted to do for a living. It was very hard at my house because my parents didn’t believe in Jiu Jitsu as a way of living, for them, Jiu Jitsu was just a hobby. I have 2 brothers older than I am and one of them is an engineer and the other is a doctor, so it was tough for me to decide that I would do Jiu Jitsu full time. My dad forced me to do college so I finished college and after I finished college my dad said now you can do whatever you want to do. So then I went to Sao Paulo to train under Fabio. I was already a black belt when I went so it was cool that I got all my belts from my first teacher, Ricardo Marques, when I went to Sao Paulo I had like 1 or 2 months as a black belt and that was when I started the “professional career” of Jiu Jitsu. It was very good to stay under Fabio for 4 years. I got to learn a lot from him. He is very good on and off the mat.
The Jiu Jitsu: You can see Fabio is an amazing teacher in the champions he has created, you, Langhi, Marcelo, etc.
Bernardo: Yes, in my opinion he is the best Jiu Jitsu coach in history.
The Jiu Jitsu: Do you remember your first tournament and what the experience was like?
Bernardo: I remember, I was a yellow belt, it was in a town one hour away from my home town, I had only one match that day and I won that match and I got crazy happy. It was a good start.
The Jiu Jitsu: What do you think was the belt level that you started to organize your game and put it together, for instance, you’re known for your deep half and over under, so when did you start to implement the deep half into your game and really mold the Faria half guard game?
Bernardo: Man I was very young when I started doing these techniques so I think what happened was I never felt that I had talent for Jiu Jitsu. All the positions that I used to learn were always hard to apply. I would learn and try during the drill and then when I would try it in sparring it was always hard. So I thought I didn’t have good talent, so any technique that I felt I would do good with I would stick with that position and I would try it over and over and over again. So I remember when I was a yellow belt when I was 15 years old, some guy showed me the over under pass in class and then I did it 1, 2, and 3 times and liked it, I was like man this works for me, and then I kept doing it over and over and over again. Same thing with the half guard, my first teacher Ricardo Marques was the type of teacher that would teach all types of techniques to the students, he would not just teach his game. One day he taught the half guard sweep, we can call it single leg, and I knew that this worked for me! So I took that position and started doing it over and over and over again. Then when I was a purple belt I started doing the deep half guard. So when I was a yellow belt I learned the over under, when I was a blue belt I learned the single leg half guard and when I was a purple belt I learned the deep half. Then I took those 3 techniques and I worked on these positions in every roll. Every roll I tried to get to these positions. I think In Jiu Jitsu we have thousands of techniques but if you try to become good at all of them, it’s going to be really hard to be good with all of them. At the same time if you pick 5 techniques, 3 techniques or 10 techniques and you try to become the best you can at those, you can become the best one in the world, because you’re going to spend so much time doing those specific techniques that maybe nobody else has spent that time doing those positions, I think that’s how Jiu Jitsu worked for me.
The Jiu Jitsu: So it’s like the Bruce Lee quote, “I fear the man who has practiced 1 kick 10,000 times more than the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once.”
Bernardo: Man I love that quote, it is one of my favorite quotes.
The Jiu Jitsu: You mentioned the single leg takedown that you do from half guard so often, you have excellent wrestling in Jiu Jitsu, some would say your wrestling is some of the best in bjj given you always come up on single legs and double legs from half guard, did you implement wrestling into your game as you were progressing or did this just come from doing the sinlge leg over and over from half guard?
Bernardo: I started doing wrestling in 2014 (already a black belt and world champion), and then coincidence or not, 2015 was my best year. Anyway I have done this type of half guard since 2003 until 2014 so I do not think the wrestling makes the difference but it definitely helps a lot. When I started in 2014, I felt that I was spending much less energy to finish the sweep compared to before so the wrestling is definitely a big help.
The Jiu Jitsu: Obviously we are talking about your game, the deep half, single leg, and over under, these are all staples in your game. If you had to give a tip to someone who plays deep half maybe like a fundamental or something important for the deep half guard, what is something you would say is important in that position?
Bernardo: I think in half guard in general my tip would be like for example, if you play spider guard, I would say you have to be a little flexible, if you play butterfly, I would say you have to be a little quick to get the underhook, control the sleeve, and do this and that. So when you talk about half guard in general one thing I would say is handle the pressure. Once in a while your opponent is going to place his shoulder on your face and he’s going to smash your face with his shoulder and you have to get used to handling that. If you’re the type of guy that when someone puts pressure on your face you give up right away, it may be a little hard to learn the half guard, but if you can handle the pressure and be patient it’s good for you. This is why I always say half guard is a very good game for the older grapplers. It is a pretty slowed down game; it’s not a very quick game or a game that you need to be flexible for. It’s a slow game, you’re going to lock your opponent’s leg and you’re going to go from there, or you’re going to go underneath for the deep half guard or you are going to go sideways to the single leg or to the dog fight so it is a pretty slow game.
The Jiu Jitsu: So you’re training with Marcelo Garcia now, Marcelo is infamous for forcing the half guard and passing half guard with the reverse underhook and a bunch of passes from half guard, has it helped your half guard training with Marcelo?
Bernardo: For sure man, training with Marcelo even if I didn’t have the half guard is always a help because he is so good. He has the best Jiu Jitsu I have ever seen. Of course there are some guys that I have competed with that may be tougher than him but only because they are like 230 lbs and much bigger and stronger than him. Talking about the “clean” Jiu Jitsu, Marcelo is the best one I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely a huge help and what you said is true, most of Marcelo’s passes are through the half guard, so for sure training with him has helped my half guard a lot. Especially because he has shorter legs, it makes everything harder; if I’m able to lock Marcelo’s legs in the half guard I might be able to lock other peoples too.
The Jiu Jitsu: We heard you talking with Stephan Kesting in your recent interview about how you’re 30 now and you’re not training as hard 12 months a year and you’re focused on just mundials. Prior to this, what was your training like and did you implement strength and conditioning and what is your training regimen like now?
Bernardo: It’s all about phases I remember when I moved to Sao Paulo I was a full time athlete and I would only train. I remember I used to do 12-13 classes per week. It was morning and night and some days were conditioning and there were days that I did Judo as well or some type of drill and this and that. So it was between, let’s say 10-13 classes a week. Then, I moved here to Marcelo’s and I started teaching as well and I was doing 10 classes per week, last 2 years I’ve been doing like 8-9 classes per week, but what I always say is, it’s not about how many classes you train. I see people say they train 4 times per day and I see that same guy training and he picks on blue belts and goes with the very light guys and then rest one round here and there, so it’s different. You can train 1 class really hard and pick the toughest guys on the mat and go with them one after the other, then do the same thing again on the same day, the next day you will wake up dying. That’s what I try to do, every time I train I always try to pick the toughest guys on the mat and then when I go to do physical conditioning, I try to kill myself in the conditioning so I always try to train very hard. Then I don’t need to train like 5 times per day, if I train twice per day its more than enough. This is pretty much what Marcelo does, but he doesn’t do conditioning, he does Jiu Jitsu twice a day every day.
The Jiu Jitsu: Marcelo is one of the people in bjj that is infamous for not implementing strength and condition but Marcelo is the exception, not the rule. A lot of people look up to him and say “Marcelo didn’t do strength and conditioning” but everyone is different, some people may need strength and conditioning and some may not.
Bernardo: I agree, there is no formula for success, you have to try everything. Marcelo has done physical conditioning when he was a purple or brown belt back in Sao Paulo and he saw that he hated it so he stuck with just Jiu Jitsu. So you have to try everything and find out your formula, always try to give your best on whatever you are doing. You really have to try everything and find out your formula. Some guys like to do Judo, other guys like wrestling, some like to do physical conditioning a lot, there is no rule, you know? I have seen a bunch of successful athletes and they all have different types of training. The most important thing is be honest with yourself that you’re doing your best. That you are not doing this or that because you are lazy, that is the key I think. Same thing applies to physical conditioning and anything. Sometimes I go to the gym and I see guys spend more time on their phone than actually working out. It all depends how hard your training is.
The Jiu Jitsu: What is your competition mind set like?
Bernardo: When I’m training I don’t care about losing at all, I just care that at the end of the training I can say man, I trained really hard. That’s how I want all my training sessions. When I’m competing I don’t want to lose, that’s my mindset. I don’t want to lose so if I get second I won’t be happy, if I get third place I’m not going to be happy, I want to win no matter what. If I sign up it’s because I want to win. I try to push myself really hard. If I’m competing it’s because I trained really hard and I don’t want second or third place. I won’t say, oh I fought well but I lost and be happy. In training, I don’t care at all if I tap, or if the purple belt taps me because I know that I’m there just to learn, I’m there to try to do everything and try new stuff, to train almost till I die so in the training I don’t care about losing, in the tournament I care a lot. When I’m there that is my mindset, I don’t want to lose, I want to win no matter what. That’s how I try to think.
The Jiu Jitsu: How do you deal with a loss?
Bernardo: I mean I know that it happens with everybody, I don’t know any athletes, especially in Jiu Jitsu, and especially the ones who compete a lot that don’t lose you know? Everybody loses, Marcelo lost, Roger Gracie lost, Buchecha lost, Rafael Mendes lost, everybody loses. Before when I was young, when I was a blue and purple belt, I used to get very sad, almost depressed, I used to be so hard on myself and say man I want to do this for a living, I can’t lose, I have to be the champ and I would be very very depressed. Nowadays when I lose I just say okay, I lost, let me fix what I did wrong and try better the next time. I try to understand why did I lose, there is always a reason, you know? Why was my opponent better than me? Why didn’t I train hard enough? Why did I make a mistake in the strategy? You have to find the reason and try to fix that reason. Not just, oh I lost, I’ll try next time. Say I lost, so what was my mistake. Let’s try to fix it, or maybe let’s change the strategy of the training, maybe I have to add some wrestling or some Judo or maybe I have to try another game.
The Jiu Jistu: Is there anything you’d like to say to The Jiu Jitsu competitor? What is something important or a good tip to give to someone who is trying to achieve what you have achieved?
Bernardo: One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is many times I see these guys who want to do Jiu Jitsu for a living, they want to become the champions, kind of lying for themselves, you know? They say they want to do this and say they want to do that but they don’t sacrifice enough in the training. Many times they have big egos; they say they trained 3 times a day like we talked about earlier. When you see them training though they never go against guys that will smash them, Then you have a guy for example, that’s a brown belt and another guys that’s a purple who could tap the brown but the brown belt will avoid the tough purple belt because he knows it will be a tough roll and doesn’t want to tap to a lower belt so he avoids him. I think you have to humble yourself in the training, and just train really hard. That’s my message. Don’t care about the training, might be good to train super hard get super tired and tap, and might make you better. That’s the tip that I always try to give to everybody! Train hard! There is a guy coming up from Brazil now name Isaque Bahmense, he won worlds at brown belt and got second in the open class, he just won the Copa Podio lightweight, I saw him training here in New York, and when I saw him training I told myself that this guy is going to win everything. After he finished a round with me, I turned around and he was training hard with Matheus and after he finished with Matheus (Matheus Diniz) he was training hard with Munch (Mansher Khera) and all those guys and I said man he is going to win. Now he’s killing everyone.
The Jiu Jitsu: Thanks so much for your time, Is there anything you’d like to say or anyone you’d like to thank like sponsors?
Bernardo: Yes, lately I’m putting a lot of work on my blog and on my YouTube channel, and on my instructional videos as well. Make sure to check out my website BernardoFaria.com, check out all the blogs I’ve been doing, I’m trying to help The Jiu Jitsu community as much as possible. Also my YouTube Channel, Bernardo Faria bjj where I post videos with different guests more than 2-3 videos per week, and also my instructional, I just launched a new one a few weeks ago, The Battle Tested Half Guard, that’s the first DVD ever where someone records themselves training and I comment what I’m thinking during the training, Its really cool because it gives everyone the opportunity to see how I’m thinking during the experience. Also I’d like to thank my sponsors, bjjsuperdeals.com, bjjfanatics.com and also thejiujitsu.com, thanks Aaron and thanks for the interview!
The Jiu Jitsu: Guys if you're bjj nerds like we are make SURE to check out all the links he mentioned above, there is unbelievable content, deals, and gear! Also check out Bernardo on FaceBook here and Instagram here !