On the mat with 9th grade red belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Master Mauricio Strauch
“Open your eyes. Don’t focus so much on one thing. Take a step back and look at the big picture. When you do … that’s when you’ll start learning Jiu Jitsu.”
These are the 9th Grade Red Belt words that Master Mauricio Strauch left me after my private training session with him.
It’s not often that you get the chance to meet a living legend who breathes, let alone train with one.
Understandably, he might have been a bit nervous when I walked through the door of his academy in Rio de Janeiro. After all, he is one of the few men to have reached such a high rank, and meeting him was an honor.
My Jiu Jitsu mentor had a mentor. Caio Terra is one of the best competitive BJJ practitioners in the world. To hear him talk about its instructor, frankly it made me a little nervous meeting him.
As part of Professor Terra’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Camp in Rio de Janeiro, we were fortunate to be able to do a training session at Caio’s instructor, Master Mauricio Strouch’s academy.
There were 35 of us. I think the whole group was on pins and needles that first day when we entered Master Strauch’s school. There was a narrow hallway to enter the academy, and we all entered the room in single file.
When he reached the front of the line, he was greeted with a very friendly handshake and a smile. However, that smile was disarming, because while it was welcoming, it served as a distraction for what came next. When everyone entered the room, after shaking his hand, Master Strauch gently tugged on his hand and the foot swept him away, causing him to lose his balance.
It was a friendly gesture intended to help him feel comfortable. He realized that we were all nervous and took the tension out of the room with this simple tactic. As each new person walked through the door, each of us who had already passed, had a big laugh as we watched the next person stumble.
This gesture says a lot about who this man is. While he is an amazing martial arts master and practitioner, he is a cheerful man with a fun spirit.
Do not misunderstand. While he is cheerful, he is a true martial artist who demands your best from you while in his class. He doesn’t let the little mistakes slip by and calls on you for nothing less than your best.
But, he’s also a little joker and Really loves what he does. As an example, upon leaving the academy, everyone was “ready” for the foot sweep. He summarily gave you a hug. As he did so, he pulled your hand to his chest and the wrist blocked you. It happens so fast that you couldn’t stop it. He’s so good at it, it doesn’t hurt. The smile on his face afterwards lets you know that he was just playing. Like I said, his smile is disarming.
As a group, we received some amazing nuggets of information from Master Strauch, which I am sure will benefit our entire Jiu Jitsu game when we return home.
After the session, we were informed that he was available for private lessons while we were in town. My wife and I immediately signed up for one.
Not knowing exactly what to expect, we were a little weak about the session when we arrived the next day. We arrived a little earlier, and when we entered the academy, there was a class. We were surprised to see a lot of people (about 15 people), all trying to submit to each other. Everyone was smiling and laughing, and having a great time. I remember being nervous for them, hoping that Master Strauch wouldn’t come in and catch them in the study, until I looked up and saw Hey He was the leader of the ring.
Later, the class had a small rubber basketball that they used to try to nail it over the top of a chin-up bar. If he did, he could choose a classmate, who in turn had to demonstrate a technique. They were drilling and having fun!
A quick look around the studio showed a life-size painting of Woody Woodpecker in a Jiu Jitsu gi, on the ceiling among all the diplomas and martial arts paraphernalia. That was emblematic of the tone and atmosphere that exists in his academy. His students are extremely good, but they really have a good time learning and training there … Unlike any other gym I’ve been to.
When the class ended, Master Strauch immediately invited us to go up on the carpet. I found it remarkable that this ninth grade red belt teacher of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu taught all of his classes. He taught them with amazing energy and enthusiasm. He’s having the best time of his life doing it, and his contagious energy is remarkable. He did not take a 15 minute break between sessions as expected. Rather, he immediately went to work with us and did the same with another couple immediately after our session. I have no idea how it maintains its energy level?!?
When our session began, he immediately began sharing incredible Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Portuguese, with one of his students as a translator. I’m 100% sure we didn’t need the translator, as Master Strauch’s Jiu Jitsu is so crisp and clean, all we had to do was try to emulate his movements.
We learned some really incredible sequences that day. But the most lasting impression I made were the words he spoke to me after class. First of all, I knew that he actually spoke English all the time. Second, it really did convey a profound message to me. I’ve always been too laser-focused a person. I struggle with relaxing and flowing. His words of advice served as a better lesson than any of the techniques he had learned that day.
Master Strauch is truly a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu master, but his mastery of the human spirit is even deeper. I was privileged to have met him. If given the opportunity, I highly recommend any Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner to make the trek to Rio de Janeiro and experience the incredible instructor that he is.