Rodrigo Vaghi Interview

Want to know a little bit more about Rodrigo Vaghi? Rodrigo sat down for an interview with Martial Arts Direct. Here is a copy of that interview which gives some information on who Rodrigo Vaghi is and what his training was like back in Brazil.

[Q] How did you get your start in the martial arts?
[A] I started at 4 years old in Judo.

[Q] You were the Rio de Janeiro State Judo champion for 5 consecutive years. How old were you at that time?
[A] 11 to 16 years old. From 1981 to 1986.

[Q] You were very successful in Judo, but then you started training in Jiu Jitsu and have been ever since. Why the switch?
[A] I was 15 when my father took me to Master Helio’s school, who was a friend of his. At the time, Alexandre, a friend of mine¬†(he was 15 too) and I trained together and he finished me 3 times with movements that I never saw before. I was very mad that day and all night, but the next day I was there to sign up. Since then, my life and friends are all related to Jiu-Jitsu.

[Q] You trained at Helio Gracie’s original academy in Rio de Janeiro for 13 years under the instruction of the now well-known names of Rickson, Royce, Royler, and Rolker Gracie, as well as Grandmaster Helio Gracie. Tell us what it was like training there.
[A] I started in 1985. It was a very special time. Very few Jiu Jitsu players enjoy this experience. It was my other family. We used to fight all the time. Sometimes we would get together 3 or 4 guys (all 15 or 14 years old) and attack Royce, Roller, or Rolker. It was a game of submission and a great time. I remember being the only kid allowed in Rickson’s class.

It was a great time as everybody was in the same school at that time. Can you imagine all together: Master Helio, Rickson, Relson, Roller, Rolker, Royce…? It was a special time.

[Q] Of those names listed, who would you say was the biggest influence on you and why?
[A] I can’t say just one because all of them Master Helio, Rickson, Roller and Rolker always helped me in different things and Rickson still helps me to understand better techniques.

[Q] You were also an instructor at the Academy, weren’t you?
[A] Yes, I taught in the Gracie academy in downtown Rio and helped with anything I could.

[Q] How long did you teach there?
[A] I think a year and a half.

[Q] You have been quite successful in your Jiu Jitsu career, too. Can you tell us a little about your competition achievements?
[A] My early times as a blue and purple belt was no doubt my best time. I won a lot of tournaments in Rio and Niteroi fighting in my division and the open division. At the time, these were the only places that had tournaments. In the brown I competed once and won.

After that I went into the stock market and competition and finding the time to train was very hard. I worked every day from 7:30a.m. to 8:00p.m. for 5 years. Finding the time to train was hard- to keep the motivation and to train hard- but the love of Jiu Jitsu helped me to get through it.

[Q] Do you still compete in tournament Jiu Jitsu?
[A] I plan to compete in no gi, but about a year and a half ago I injured my neck and after that it’s been hard to keep training with the consistency needed to compete. I always train when I can with my students and with my full recovery, for sure I will compete no gi.

[Q] Have you ever competed in Vale Tudo-type events?
[A] No. Only some disagreements and street.

[Q] You also have some students who have done quite well in both Jiu Jitsu and Vale Tudo/MMA haven’t you?
[A] Yes, I have a great group of guys who are very loyal and I love to spend my time with them teaching and traveling. Sometimes the problem is our location in St. Louis. Most of my guys are doing great in MMA. Tracy Taylor and Mike Rogers are the most active, but others are Todd Fox, Ed Shobe and Brian Guidry. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu there’s Mike R., Jonathan, Joe, Bill, and many more ranging from 16 to 54 years old.

We train hard. We’ve been doing great and winning most of the tournaments we enter. I wish one day to bring all of my students and get all the divisions. This is my dream. In Tennessee and the Arnold Classic we were close to that but I couldn’t bring some of my top students. Maybe half of my team. At the Pan American’s we had some champions.

[Q] How did you end up in St. Louis, Missouri?
[A] I was invited by another Brazilian and some police officers to stay.

[Q] What do you consider your greatest achievement in martial arts?
[A] I think being a champion is something special and a lot of work, but making champions is my most challenging achievement. I love to teach for the people who stick with me and see that they go all the way. I want to have the best students. I’m very dedicated to that.

[Q] Do you follow the Gracie diet? Or any specific diet?
[A] No. Only a healthy diet.

[Q] What’s a typical workout schedule for you?
[A] I work out every morning and train Jiu Jitsu Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

[Q] Of anyone in the martial arts world, who do you admire the most and why?
[A] All of the Gracies that I grew up around for their friendship, teaching and great memories.

[Q] What other arts have you trained in besides Judo and Jiu Jitsu?
[A] I did some boxing for 3 to 4 years with Claudio Coelho and Tortinho. It was very fun.

[Q] Do you feel that you will train in Jiu Jitsu for the rest of your life? And if so, why?
[A] Yes, for sure, because Jiu Jitsu is more than a martial art. It is a way of life and friendship.

[Q] What do you most want your students to get out of their Jiu Jitsu training?
[A] Submissions… Submissions all the time! Friendship, Respect, & Loyalty. This is the beauty of Jiu Jitsu.

[Q] What’s it like to roll with Rickson?
[A] It’s amazing! I really don’t have a lot of chances to be with him as much as I want. But to give you an idea, he has been here in the US since 1989 and doesn’t really have anybody good… good black belts to train with every day. But all the champions from Brazil, World champions and more – you can list the top ones up until today – and all get smoked and dominated with his technique.

[Q] One last question that I have to ask you – Have you ever made Rickson tap?
[A] I love to push the training and learn but I don’t feel any pleasure going after my teachers. Anybody else is hunting time.

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