Rafael & Guilherme Mendes – on Top of the WorldApr 26th, 2011 by Budo Jake
This interview was conducted by Budo staff writer Erin Herle.
How long have you been training and how did you get started?
We started training jiu jitsu in 2001. Our cousin used to train us in a small gym in the city. He used to give classes in a social project for children so we started training with him. We stayed training there for a few months however he needed to stop giving classes so we began to train with professor Ramon Lemos, who during that time was giving classes with Professor Leonardo Santos. They always encouraged us to compete a lot. We always knew what we wanted to become since we started training and we dedicated ourselves to training. It was never just for fun; we always had goals to train and be the best at what we do.
Who is older?
Guilherme is older. We have a 1 year and 4 month difference only. Sometimes people think we are twins because the difference is very little, hahaha.
What is the best part about having your brother as your training partner? What is the worst part?
The best part of training together is that we are both very determined; we dont slack off in training. We always go to train and we both like to study positions and help each other in our evolution in all trainings. We always search for our evolution and that of our training partners. The worst part is that we are both very competitive, a lot of times the training becomes like competitions, hahahaha.
You both have accomplished so much already, what are some goals you have that you have not reached yet?
In our vision, to become champions is great but it isn’t sufficient. It doesn’t stop there. We really believe that our potential is to become the best, to break records, to make innovations in the sport and create positions that will be used by everyone for future generations.
Can you tell me about the future of the Mendes Bros Association?
We are very dedicated to the evolution of our jiu jitsu and to the people who walk together with us. We are always looking to improve and to be better. We want to make a difference. The idea of the association is to have people who have the same ideology as us. We are all part of Atos– Mendes Bros is Atos, but we would like to use the association with our name in front to have academies that like our style of trainings, ideas and objectives. We are having a lot of different ideas that can increase the way we accompany the progress of our affiliate, and already we are putting this into practice! We want in the future to have a different connection for all our affiliates so they can follow in real time the training with the Mendes Bros, independent of location.
Do you have intentions of moving to the United States to expand?
We have had a few proposals, but we are still studying them. We are very young and for whatever radical change in our lives it is necessary to analyze them prior to any action so we don’t make any mistakes. Our major focus right now is our training in Brazil as we have a team of black belts and lower belts who are very good. They are very focused and this gives us very good support so that we will have good performances in competitions. So we’re still thinking about it a lot, we don’t feel any pressure. If we move to the United States and we will be able to have a better life and still have good training, we can move for sure.
Do you think it’s possible for an active world champion black belt to be a professor/coach and run an academy as well?
Yes, but it depends on different factors. It depends a lot on the dedication of the teacher. The more tasks you have, the more you need to dedicate yourselves. To become a champion you cannot commit errors in training. You need to be focused and have a lot of determination. We believe that anything is possible depending on dedication and effort.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Have faith in God. Everything is possible when we are walking a path together with God. God is the way for us to have a better life and for us to be better people.
What is the best advice you could give to someone who wants to be a world champion?
You must dedicate yourselves to your maximum. You cannot evolve every month or in 1 week, you need to evolve each movement, each second you need to be better than before. Don’t be comfortable with defeats, you need to turn them to your advantage to evolve. However, don’t be happy to just be among the best. If you want to be champion, you must only be satisfied if you reach the top of the podium. People accept defeat easily or become happy when they are among the best and they change the focus and go through the trainings just to be at the podium. It is clear that it all depends on the objective in one’s life, but if you wish truly to be number one, this must be your focus. Never be intimidated by the name of an adversary, nobody is unbeatable or unsurpassable. Train hard and with dedication you can surpass anybody.
When did you decide you wanted to compete?
Since we started training, we always put our minds to be champions– that is our objective. We always wanted to win championships, have a name that is well known in the sport, so our future would be better. We love jiu jitsu and we dedicate ourselves to this so we want to be recognized for what we do. We have always had this idea and it is always our motivation. Competition is the esay part for the athlete; maybe there is a little tension but the part that is harder is the day to day suffering due to the hard trainings and diet. Fighting with tough guys is not the difficult part but fighting with tough guys every day in the academy is what’s tough, but we have gotten used to this. The competition is the happy part, its where we have the opportunity to show to the people and to ourselves how we have evolved and how we much we have dedicated. We were also always very competitive– we don’t like losing. We are born competitors, we enter the mats to win, and we don’t like to be “just another person”. Competition is war, and we enter the war with much joy, since we know how much we have suffered and how much we have prepared.
There are many moments where we have felt proud. The first Mundial title is unforgettable, maybe the most outstanding since in the beginning we always dreamt of it happening. The victory of Rafael in ADCC 2009 after 40 minutes of fighting against Cobrinha was very emotional; winning over a great athlete like him is a great reason for being proud. The victory of Guilherme at his first Mundial as a black belt was also outstanding since he had just received his black belt and winning the Mundial at black belt is not an easy task. These are the unforgettable moments in our lives as fighters; we are working hard to have more moments like these in our lives.
How do you stay motivated while you are training for major competitions?
We are very motivated, because our objective is not finished yet; we need to work more so it will be able to happen, so each competition we win adds even more motivation. We know we are on the right track. Also, we love training; we have never felt discouraged or unmotivated in training since this is our life.
Does the hard training, sacrifice and suffering to be champion all pay off? Is it worth it?
All the sacrifice is worth it if you truly love what you do. In our case we are extremely happy with the life we have even with the restrictions and diets. We do everything to have a life like this because for us, what’s important is our path until we reach our objective– to become successful people in what we do.