Yuri Simoes was kind enough to sit down with me for a few minutes for an interview to talk about his philosophy and approach to Jiu Jitsu. His intensity was the first thing that caught my attention when I became aware of him years ago, and really opened my eyes.
The Interview Transcript
Lucas: Thank you man. I appreciate you taking some time here.
Yuri: Thank You
So I imagine a lot of people know who you are already, but for the couple of people that may watch this video but don’t know, would you say a little bit about yourself and how long you have been training Jiu Jitsu and what you’ve done.
Yeah. My name is Yuri Simoes, I’ve been training Jiu Jitsu for about 20 years. Right now I am a teacher at Caio Terra Association in San Jose.
But I am also a competitor; I’ve competed at world championships, Pan Americans,
ADCC’s. I’ve managed to win some, I’ve lost some. But that’s how we learn.
So I read a story online about how you had started Jiu Jitsu, and there was this story online about how someone had bullied you. Is that kind of how you got into Jiu Jitsu?
Well kind of. Actually, when I was way younger than that, like maybe 5 years or 6 years old, my father was already training.
I already knew Jiu Jitsu from him. But it was more like just a fun activity. Every week or so we would learn a little bit here, a little bit there – some very basic stuff.
Little tricks and stuff?
Yeah. But I didn’t really know what Jiu Jitsu was about.
When I was like 10 years old, I used to get in fights in school. And then this one time, it didn’t end up so good for me, lets say it like that. And then I really wanted to try something so I could learn how to defend myself and do better under those situations.
I started Jiu Jitsu, to train Jiu Jitsu, with this mentality when I was 10, but then less than 2 years after, I began to change my mentality. Just because Jiu Jitsu is so much more than that. It is so fun. Finding many stuff in Jiu Jitsu that really attracted to me to do that. To be where I am today.
I’m glad though, I’m glad that I went there for whatever reason at that time. Of course, now I have a totally different view about Jiu Jitsu. So I started training for real like at 9 or 10 years, but like I said it’s been in my life since I was like 5 or 6, so almost my whole life.
I’m so jealous man. I started late. I’m so jealous of kids that started so young.
How old did you start?
I started like 7 years ago, I was like 27, I’m an old man already. I’m really jealous of the kids who started already.
I think of when I was a kid and wrestling around and how fun it was and if I knew some of this stuff, how much more fun could it have been.
Yeah, for sure. But it’s never too late.
Never too late man, start whenever!
Harnessing The Power Of Intensity
So when I see you train and compete, I always think of intensity. That’s one of the main things I think about. When you go out there, you really go out there and push the pace.
So first of all, going back in time, whenever you got in fights and things in school sometimes, did you have that same intensity then? Was that always part of your personality or have you had to sort of train that and build that over time?
I think it was something that I built, and I think that tournaments and certain situations kind of teach you how to be that way, if you like.
I’m also the kind of guy who likes to play Jiu Jitsu at the academy. Many people don’t know that but I would do crazy guards, inverted game and stuff. I like to have fun with Jiu Jitsu too. Its something I also use to take off my stress. Although it is my work too, I can go to the mats and have fun and play Jiu Jitsu just like everyone else.
I think that the intense part helps me, because if I just go to the big tournaments or something that I really plan to win or do well, with like a playful mentality, I might not get the result that I’m really expected to have.
I try to train once I’m preparing myself to something specifically, as real as the tournament would be. So I try to put myself in the situations I’m gonna be dealing with in the tournament. And I am trying to use the mindset I am trying to use at the tournament. Trying to give nothing to my opponent and take everything that is good for me. I think that’s where the intensity comes from.
I wouldn’t say strategic thing, but more like a mindset. I’m still developing you know, I’m still working. It helps me to go the tournament and do the best of my competitor game. If I have that mentality I fell like I can be a better competitor.
For sure. So something that I’ve kind of wondered about. It seems like, how I like to do it, if I’m getting ready for a tournament I’m more in that focused mind, and that’s like performance mode right?
And then there’s a different time now where I’m out of tournament time, now its time to build my game add new stuff, kind of be more playful. Is that how you do it too?
100%. I feel like there are many people that get stuck playing only the very same game. Then you see that happening all the time where after a couple of years there is a new guy. That main game the person was playing, not it is not new.
And that new guy happens to have a really good anti game for that game. What happens now that that person has nothing else to bring to the table?
They get shut down.
So like I always try to expand as much as I can and get into as many different situations as I can. So that, you know, I can always use different plans, different game plans at the tournament. If something is not working, I’m not going to be overwhelmed, I’m going tobe able to switch it up to something else.
Rather than if I’m just only playing half guard, or only doing double under pass or whatever. So yeah, I try to work it. Of course there are positions where I have a stronger game, but I don’t feel like I’ve ever been a one-dimensional fighter.
When I watched you train for Pans, especially, what I thought in my head was, you treated every session like it was a match at Pans.
And I hear a lot of instructors tell their students “there aren’t any medals being given out today, this isn’t the actual tournament.” But I can see the benefit of training in that way sometimes.
How do you balance that kind of intensity of training with injuries? Because I can see, especially at white and blue belt if people train like it’s a tournament for a month or two months at a time, you know for 4 – 6 weeks, the chance of injuries goes up higher and higher.
So how do you kind of manage that, keeping it intense, but also keeping it safe, so you are able perform at your best. Do you have any tricks you have kind of learned to handle that?
I think that 20 years of Jiu Jitsu have kind of given me some awareness of where I am, if it is safe for me. I kind of understand my body too. I know when I have to push and when I have to kind of slow down and rest. I’m not a kid anymore so I kind of understand how my body works I think that helps a lot.
At the end of the day, even though I’m going more intense, I’m not trying to hurt anyone. If I’m going to a tournament I’m trying to win, and I’m trying to leave the mats with the feeling that I’ve done the best of me to make that happen. In the training, I go pretty intense, but I know, I have in my mind that it is training, if anything goes wrong, I can stop anytime. Keep people safe.
I try to make it very real, but I’m always paying attention on my body and how I’m feeling. If something is hurting, if I will do something that will make it worse, I will try to avoid doing that. Not ignore my pain.
Some people mix it up, going intense with being dumb. You can be going even intense and be smart. Know what you are doing.
So would you recommend for a white belt or blue belt to try to avoid going like that until they know their body better? Wait until you are a purple or brown belt before you start training like that? Wait until you know what’s safe, or not safe?
For sure. First you have to learn, and get to a basic understanding level. Also, once you start to learn Jiu Jitsu you also get to learn your body and how it feels in certain situations – where you should push, and situations you should avoid.
I feel like the only way to do that is to just go and train and be humble in the beginning. You are not going to go and start beating everyone in the beginning. You have to be really having fun learning and go to the academy with an open mind and really try to learn.
And try to execute the things that you are learning. Because also, a lot of times, you see lots of people that are going every day to the academy, they are learning different things, but they are always stuck doing the same thing over and over. Because its working, they don’t want to get out of that comfort zone.
Maybe they are afraid to fail and only want to stick with what works?
Yes. My recommendation is if you are a lower belt and you have a weak point and you are always trying to avoid the weak point, maybe you won’t be able to avoid the weak point in the tournament, so you should just embrace it and try to make the weak point stronger in the academy.
Very cool. Thank you very much, that was most the questions I really had for you. I think this probably helps a lot of people figure out how to really follow this intensity.
Right before you step on the mats to compete, do you try to get yourself pumped up and ready to go? Do you try to keep yourself calm? What do you do so that the way you train carries over?
Because I know off the mats you are very relaxed, you are a very friendly easygoing guy. On the mats, in that mode, I can tell you are differently focused. So what do you do to try to make that shift? Or does it happen automatically because you practice shifting so much?
Yeah, I think it happens automatically when you get to tournament mode. At least me, I can switch that pretty easy, pretty quick. 0 – 100. I like to take it serious when I go to a tournament because it is a lot I put on the line. It’s a lot on the line to get to that point. I like to focus.
When I’m relaxed, I feel like my normal person is more relaxed, laid back, I tend to also not be so focused on the details. And in a tournament the details matter a lot! So I have to switch that , I have to be on it. And that’s what I do, I just get on it.
What’s Next On The Horizon
And you actually have your own affiliate under Caio’s affiliate starting up now too.
Yeah. We started that because CTA is getting so big. That way we can keep it more organized, we can help keep it very well looked after.
Thanks you so much. How can people find you online? If they want to find you online?
Thank you so much Yuri, I really appreciate it.
Thank you Lucas. Thank you guys.