The day Mikey Musumeci and Caio Terra trained in my academy.
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO OF THEM ROLLING
Caio Terra and I have a friendship that goes way back; we have periods of very little communication and others of fairly good amount of message exchanges. Our friendship was consolidate during our teen years and it was not harmed, neither physical nor emotional, by the miles setting us apart. This year Caio Terra set his BJJ camp for his students in Rio, so that everyone could train and enjoy the city during their time off work.
Caio and Musumeci arrived in Rio a few days prior to his students, and contacted me because, as he has done in the past, he wanted to bring some of his students to train and check out my academy.
I told him, as I always do, that my doors were always open. However, I was recovering from an injury and I was getting ready for an upcoming seminar in New Zealand (from where I am writing this text), so I was not going to be able to roll.
He was disappointed and we regretted not having messaged each other in advanced to align our plans. Anyhow, Caio still wanted to come and train with my students and he wanted to bring "Mike" along with him. Although I announced to my students there will be a special training session that day, I did not want to be specific to avoid the academy from flooding with curios people and not to spoil the surprise.
Who is Mikey Musumeci?
I had not heard of Musumeci until he became a World Champion in the featherweight black belt division in 2017; my fault clearly, because later I came to discover that Musumeci had made a name for himself and he was already one of the best contenders to some of the best Brazilian BJJ fighters in the world. When I first saw him giving an interview after winning his World Champion title, I was dazzled by his physical appearance, because he seemed to be a very young athlete indeed.
This year he went back to winning another World Championship becoming the first North American BJJ fighter to win two world titles as a Black Belt, along with two other BJJ fighters that so far have conquered one gold medal each.
During his interviews, he appeared to be an enthusiastic young man who did not seem to be aware of the magnitude of his accomplishments.
First training session in Brazil Caio arrived to my academy when my students were all warmed up and drilling the technique of the day. Caio introduced me to Mikey and the first thing I asked this young man was "how is your Portuguese?", he answered in a funny accent "aprendendo, aprendendo (still learning)" with a big smile on his face.
I already knew from his Instagram feed that he was putting an effort into learning Portuguese, something I greatly value in someone that is dedicated to training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At the end, I was not as surprised with him trying to learn Portuguese but with the fact that, even when I spoke to him in English – whenever I felt the need to explain something more technical, he would answer back in Portuguese. He never, at any point, addressed me in English; for instance, during the second day of training, I saw he was thirsty but refused to drink water, since Caio had warned him about the severe consequences of drinking tap water in Brazil, arguing that it wasn't safe. I tried to convey in English “Hey, tap water is not safe, but from the fountain is fine, we have two filters”. He simply smiled back at me and said “tudo bem, estou bem” clearly lying to me. I knew it was Caio's fault.
The difference in age between Mikey and Caio is a little bit less than the one between Caio and myself. I imagine that because of that age gap, and for Caio guiding Mikey for the first time into a country so different such as Brazil, Caio may have overreacted about some facts, such as the one of the contaminated water, and also, about properly choosing appropriate sparring partners for Mikey, avoiding heavyweights.
I reminded Caio something that I am aware he already knows, that is, in my academy my students are forbidden to “hunt down” our guests and are constantly reminded to roll with them with respect and care.
Secondly, my academy is new – it has only been three years since we opened it, so none of my students is up to the level of someone like Mikey Musumeci.
Caio and Mike rolled throughout all of the rounds and some of my students had the pleasure of experiencing what is like to train with high level BJJ athletes at the peak of their physical conditioning, which is an incredible combination.
At the very end of the first training session, Mikey asked me to help me with some techniques, which I explained enthusiastically, but with a clear mind that his questions were out of courtesy as a way to “massage” my ego, because I don’t believe he actually needed those details from me. However, I was happy with his attitude, because either my interpretation was correct and he was being extremely polite, or, in fact, he benefited from those details, which showed how humble he is.
Later, I invited them to join our Lightweight Training session on the next day, the popular “Treino dos Leves”, in which I open the doors of my academy so that lightweight competitors can train irrespectively of their academies. Caio was busy setting up everything for his student’s arrival, so Musumeci came alone. The mats were packed with the regulars, but also with other people who came in for the occasion.
I asked him in English if he wanted me to select the sparing partners or if I should have any sort of care when setting him up with someone. As you can imagine, there were a lot of people, and I have become a master in dealing with situations where I felt like “a prey” when visiting other countries. I was careful enough to ask. He answered with a big smile on his face, and in Portuguese “não tem problema, não se preocupe (no problem, don’t worry about it)” putting an end to the matter.
I already knew he would face no difficulties when sparring, but I was merely asking out of politeness and to make sure he was feeling comfortable enough. The training session flowed marvelously; Mikey trained with several people, some purple belts and a lot of black belts. He had no issues with neither of them, and clearly took it easy with most of them.
Mikey managed to impress everyone that trained with him as well as those watching from the outside. He was pleased to answer doubts and to share technical details with everybody. At the end, I heard one of the black belts, a real “casca grossa”, saying to him “I already admired your Jiu Jitsu, but today, my respect for you acquired a whole new level. Not only because your technique is so good, but also because you are so humble”.
In fact, Mikey displayed a level of innocence and true enjoyment of being on the mats and imparting wisdom. I had the impression that, to a certain extent, Mikey is not fully aware of the magnitude it means to come to Brazil, the cradle of BJJ, at such a young age, and have a line of people waiting to take a picture with you, just because they want to document that moment in time.
*Thanks Maria Agus ( @mari.a86 ) for translating this from the original in Portuguese.