By: Riccardo Ammendolia.

Recently, the world famous Mendes brothers (Rafael and Guilerme) visited the school where I train at in Ontario, Canada (PuraBJJ-purabjj.com) for a series of seminars and classes. I was amazed not only on the technical level the brothers had, but the depth of knowledge and amazing ability to teach demonstrated by the two. They went way beyond just showing us 50/50 guard (well they did and it was cool) but they emphasized so much more like the importance of proper posture, details, drilling and much more.

While they were here, I posted up on GrapplingWeekly.com’s Facebook group and on mma.tv that I would be interviewing the Mendes brothers and wanted to get questions from their fans. Here goes…

1- Where do I find the water that you guys drink to be so freaking awesome
at BJJ?

Rafa – Train hard! We train all the time. Since we
were 11 years old, we trained up to 4 times a day. So there’s no water, no
magic no secret, just hard training.

2. How do you guys prepare for tournaments and when did you start using
the 50/50 guard?

Gui – To prepare for the tournaments, we train all
year. We don’t stop training. We don’t train just for any particular
competition. Ramon and Thiago (physical conditioning coach) train us all year
round very hard. The 50/50 guard started as a strategy for the competition. It
wasn’t really one thing that happened or another. It just was a position we saw
and evolved.

3. How did you guys get involved with Fokai and what’s your
relationship with the Guam islanders?

Rafa – We were invited to go do a seminar in Guam
last year. We stayed one week teaching classes and did seminars. There we met
the guys from Fokai, they treated us very well and it was a pleasure to meet
them.

4. How is your training split up (ie. drilling techniques, positional
sparring, full sparring, weights, conditioning)?

Gui – We train 4 times a day. We have different
types of training. One time for physical conditioning, and the 3 others are
jiu-jitsu. We do the first one with competition class with a lot of drills and
a lot of sparring. So we get tons of mat time. In the afternoon we practice a
lot of attacks with everyone in the academy. And a night we do specific
trainings for particular positions we want to learn or practice.

5. Have you always played the same type of game since blue/purple, or
did it change a lot as they went into the higher level?

Rafa- We always had the game to take the back. We
train that a lot and always try to take the back from bottom or top. We did
that since we were blue belt, but we definitely added a lot of new techniques.
But our intentions always stay the same to take the back in training or in the
match.

6. Are you currently adding new things to your game?

Gui – We are always training to evolve our game. We
are always studying positions and trying to see positions that occur in the
fights. Every year there are new positions people end up in, so we always study
these positions to evolve our game.

Rafa -We thinks important to always try to improve
our game. This is very important to us. You can’t just think you know it all,
you have to always improve your game, add to your game and evolve.

7. What do you think might be the next big technique trend in BJJ?

Gui – That’s difficult to know.

Rafa – I think this is difficult because Jiu-jitsu
is a sport that any position can arrive in any event that people aren’t
familiar with. It’s easy for people to always create new positions that people
don’t know so it’s very hard to say at this moment.

8. What do you think about watching instructional videos or studying
competition footage?

Gui – This is very important. Part of the
evolution of the athlete is to know your opponent, so you enter competition
well prepared. We always do this when we compete against high level
competitors. We try to find fights (footage) of our opponents and always study
our opponents to help us find an easier way to victory.

Rafa – I think it’s important for people to see and
get used to new positions. But as well as studying instructional videos, you
need to be at an academy that is cool with teaching details and open to
seminars. Because sometimes people will see things on DVDs and they need
to practice it in order to evolve their game. Asking your instructor for their
input is also important. The problem is sometimes people see moves on videos
but then they can’t understand the important details about the moves. Like
correct posture or when such moves are appropriate.

Gui – What’s most important, is to train and
practice. It’s cool to watch and see the new moves but you have to
practice them. Some people just watch stuff to know, but they don’t practice
the positions so it’s important to watch and practice the things you see.

9. What’s happening with the supposed Atos gym in Cali and are you
moving to the US?

Rafa – For a while now we’ve had a lot of proposals
and offers to open an academy all over the world, but we feel we need to
continue the training with our team in Brazil, to stay at our level and to stay
champions. So it’s difficult for us to move to the United States and open
an academy. If it’s possible we want to move everyone in our academy to
move with us so we can continue the good training we do. However, at this
moment that’s impossible… So that’s why we cannot open an academy yet in
USA.

Gui – It’s definitely in our plans to open an
academy one day whether in California or United States or Canada (woohoo), we
don’t know yet.

Rafa – Now we have to continue our hard work, this
is our priority to continue growing our name and improving our game.

10. When will they compete at Grapplers Quest?

Rafa – When we get an invite to compete it will be
our pleasure. It would be cool we always hear good things about it so we
definitely would like to one day.

11. Throughout your BJJ careers, what have been your “bread and butter”
or go to techniques (this is, of course, excluding the obvious 50/50 guard).

Rafa – The easiest for us is to go to De La Riva to
take the back.

Gui – We always look to take the back, if we’re on
the bottom we go to De La Riva to take the back, it depends on what the
situation is but we always try to go to De La Riva to take the back.

12. Do you think your style of jiu-jitsu would transfer well into MMA
and do you practice self-defense.

Rafa – I think it’s totally different. MMA is much
different. I never trained MMA before but definitely I think I could transfer
my skills to MMA but I would need to train hard.

Gui – We practiced Self-Defense when we were younger
but now our jiu-jitsu, we practice is for competition. We trained self-defense
to get our black belt and of course we know the moves but now our jiu-jitsu is
more for the sport.

13. What is your favorite color/colors?

Rafa – Black and White.

Gui – Blue.

14. What’s the fastest way you recommend for someone to improve their game?

Rafa – Ask questions! Don’t have shame to ask
your instructor anything. Always be curious to learn more ask more.

Gui – Always try to improve your game in training.
It’s very important you get used to training hard.

15. What are your thoughts on people’s take on the 50/50?

Rafa – I think it’s their opinion and they can think
what they want. A lot of people talk, and not a lot train, or maybe they don’t
know what it’s like to compete at the Mundials or that level. What’s the
significance of the Mundials. There are lots of things involved when we
compete at the world championships. There’s times people say they don’t like to
watch the position. But it’s not just about that. For us this is part our life,
we train all day to arrive at that moment. We can’t allow ourselves to have bad
results. There are a lot of things involved. It’s not just that
they’re just watching and criticizing us at the tournament, this is our life’s
work, our name after years of hard work.

16. Besides physical preparation, what kind of things do you do mentally
pre-competition?

Gui – To be confident you need to train a lot. When
you train a lot you know you trained a lot and you’re ready and you know when
it’s time to compete, you did your part, and are confident. Of course good
results will make you feel more confident.

Rafa – I think this that’s important when you get to
black belt you can’t enter to fight a name of a person. There are tons of good
guys at black belt. When I got to black belt I put in my head, I would
never go fight a name, like “oh I’m going to fight Cobrinha!” No. I’m
gonna go fight a man, made of flesh like me. If you trained hard you can
win. The first time I fought Cobrinha, I sensed he was way more confident.
However I fought equal with him. The last times I fought him, I felt I was way
more confident than he was, and this made a difference. Cobrinha is a man
like me, someone who trained equally as hard. So you can’t think about a
name or his accomplishments.

19. What do you think about going to different gyms to train with
different guys as part of competition training?

Rafa – I think it’s a personal question. It depends
on the instructor, and the situation at the academy. There are some instructors
that are more open minded than others, that don’t care, but some don’t like
this. This is really a personal question it depends on the team this person is
with.

20. Before you were black belts, how you they support/paid tuition for
your training?

Rafa – We always trained together with Ramon.
We were his first students. We always helped him, so we never had to pay
to train. We worked at the academy. We cleaned the academy, the
mats we taught classes, so Ramon never charged us. When we travel, we
have people, thank God, who help us, who sponsor us, because we don’t have
money to pay. Our mother couldn’t pay. So we had lots of help and are
very grateful.

21. Why was Rafa super aggressive during ADCC 2009 against
Cobrinha, almost submitting him, but during the Mundials 2010, he decided to
play 50/50 guard?

Rafa – Mainly because the gi, and no gi fights, are
very different. They are totally different sports. No Gi, there are more
movements and different strategies. With Gi, I tried to attack him a lot.
I always look to finish him with foot locks but he is very flexible.

22. When you are on top, do you only think about the leg drag pass or are
you trying for anything else?

Rafa – This s a position I like to do a lot. When I
do it, it’s hard for the person to recompose guard.

23. How many years has it been since you guys were in the closed guard of
your opponent in a competition?

Gui – We actually train this specifically. We
train not to enter the closed guard of our opponents, because this position
only allows the person on bottom to attack. He can sweep, submit, so it’s
a bad position. We always train to stay away from the closed guard.