At first look, Eduardo Rocha looks as if simply one other muscle-bound bald man, the sort you discover brooding on weight benches between units. At second look, he is intimidating. With copper-colored eyes that pin you to your spot like a memo on a bulletin board, Rocha would not seem like he has too many issues in darkish alleys.
At 43, Rocha is a fourth-degree black belt and a world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter. When not coaching for competitions, Rocha retains busy with a rapidly-growing academy, an much more quickly rising son, and the hobbies typical of a Libra: browsing, snowboarding, and avoiding battle.
Though a peace-loving nature could seem at odds together with his chosen occupation, Rocha’s lengthy years of combating have taught him to decide on his battles with nice care.
“Generally drunk guys need to mess with me,” he says. “And I feel Man, you don’t have any thought what you are doing. However I simply let it go. It is not value making an issue.”
Rocha’s Libran equilibrium is useful for extra than simply ripping waves and avoiding bar fights. The method of immigration requires browsing expertise of the soul. An émigré leaves not solely dwelling and household, however his sense of identification behind. Experiencing a brand new tradition, a brand new language and a brand new life-style means seeing the world by new eyes. The World turns into a 3D model of The place’s Wally, and you are Wally. It takes some time to seek out your new self together with your new eyes in your new world within the fixed cycle of studying and forgetting, departing and returning, connecting and letting go. Once you throw operating a enterprise and elevating a child into the combination, anybody may really feel overwhelmed. However Rocha appears to take all of it in stride.
“After I first got here right here, everyone stated to me, ‘Be careful, there’s some unhealthy neighborhoods right here.’ They by no means noticed the favelas in Brazil. This place is Disneyland.”
Born close to the ocean, Rocha’s old flame was the water. However when his household moved from the tranquil seaside city of Gavea to the gritty actuality of Rio, then-adolescent Eduardo found a brand new precedence: survival. So he traded his fins for fists and his goggles for a gi and commenced his lengthy love affair with the artwork of struggle.
Having began coaching in his teenagers, Rocha was awarded his black belt on the age of 27 by BJJ legend Royler Gracie. Now a fourth-degree black belt, Rocha has competed through the years in a seemingly infinite array of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments-with bewilderingly related names-both right here and in Brazil. Rocha has additionally competed in a self-discipline referred to as Vale Tudo, which interprets as something goes. Because the title implies, Vale Tudo is a no-holds-barred, knock-down drag-out whack-’em-with-a-chair affair integrating components of Thai Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and plain previous meanness.
Apart from the technical niceties of technique and type, Rocha’s preparation concerned numerous hours spent perfecting the beautiful artwork of taking a punch.
How do you be taught to take a punch?
Rocha smiles his crocodile smile. “You let someone punch you till they get drained. Then, you let someone else punch you.”
Evidently, Vale Tudo has a excessive price of attrition, and Rocha’s affection for his tooth ultimately received out over the doubtful sights of the testosterone-soaked poundfests of Vale Tudo. Since then, he has devoted his time and vitality solely to instructing and coaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Rocha’s life has had greater than its fair proportion of ups and downs, however he speaks of it with the even tone and emotional detachment of an accountant performing an audit. The eldest of three brothers, Rocha felt the load of duty at an early age. His combating spirit seems to have been inherited from a feisty Libra mother who saved her postmodern household in stability with a smile on her face and samba music within the background.
“It used to bug me,” says Rocha, echoing the feelings of each teenager since time started who has been embarrassed by a mother or father’s musical preferences. “Now, I see why she likes it. It makes you feel-you know-happy.”
Blood and betrayal, solar and shadows, divine intervention and evil spirits-all are a part of Rocha’s personal private Brazilian cleaning soap opera. Following a near-death expertise in a automotive accident, a battle that went the mistaken means and the beginning of a son, Eduardo Rocha determined it was time to begin pondering significantly concerning the future. Rocha got here to the East Bay in November of 2004 with a suitcase, a surfboard, and a dream of constructing one thing that might final for himself and for his household. His distinctive type attracted a direct following and Rocha grew to become their Prophet of Ache, on a sacred mission to free the true males of the East Bay from their interior sissies.
The obsessive-compulsive conduct BJJ conjures up in practitioners alongside together with his simple expertise have been a recipe for fulfillment for Rocha in Oakland. In a sport the place black belt instructors are handled like rock stars, Rocha is King of his personal model of Rocha ‘n’ Roll. The fanaticism accompanying the game can perplex those that haven’t but heard Jiu-Jitsu’s name, however those that have seem to assume and speak of nothing else. The conversations of BJJ fighters revolve round three issues: the submission they virtually bought; the brand new gi they did get; and no matter new type goes to revolutionize the sport forever-or till subsequent week, whichever comes first.
Eduardo Rocha maneuvers by the altering types and conflicting loyalties of the California Jiu-Jitsu scene with seemingly unflappable Libran aplomb.
When requested to elucidate his success, the crocodile turns into immediately coy.
“It is my charisma,” says Rocha.
Might be. However with a rosy future on the horizon, Eduardo Rocha talked to me concerning the previous.
Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
My metropolis, Rio, may be very violent. I wanted to seek out one thing to guard me and my brothers.
Why not a gun?
As a result of a gun will put you in jail, quick. There are a number of fights in Rio, however most of them do not contain weapons. The weapons are within the favelas. No less than, that is the best way it was once I began out. Now it is totally different. Now it is a struggle.
What’s with all of the combating?
If you would like respect in Brazil, you want to have the ability to show you are robust.
Wait a minute. Is Jiu-Jitsu a battle, or a sport, or what?
Jiu-Jitsu is the whole lot. A battle, a sport, and a sport.
In America we have now a saying: “It is not whether or not you win or lose, it is the way you play the sport.” What’s essential to you?
Profitable. In Brazil, there isn’t a house for second place. You are both the primary or the final. In Brazil we are saying: “Second place is the primary place of the losers”.
Is that why you moved to California?
I am in California as a result of a door opened for me on the proper time. California is the capital of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in America. I used to be right here earlier than for tournaments, and when the door opened, I walked in.
Jiu-Jitsu looks as if a reasonably macho sport. How does your college match into the various inhabitants of the East Bay?
There are a couple of macho guys within the East Bay too. Not very many, however some.
Can individuals who aren’t macho acquire something from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
My college is open to everyone, however Jiu-Jitsu shouldn’t be for everyone.
What’s your best worry?
On this world, sharks. Within the different world, unhealthy spirits.
The place do you see your self in 20 years?
On a giant boat, touring alone. The ocean might be my subsequent problem, once I cannot use my physique to battle anymore.
I hear there are sharks within the ocean.
(Rocha laughs) That is factor. I like worry. The adrenaline makes me really feel alive.
How about ache?
No. I do not prefer it, however you need to be taught to reside with it.
Your title means “rock” in Portuguese. Do you’re feeling like a rock?
I attempt to be robust like one.
Rocks are chilly.
They warmth up within the solar.
So do snakes.
All of us adapt to the scenario.
That is the unhealthy factor about rocks.
I suppose no one’s good.
Should you might be someone in addition to Eduardo Rocha, who would you be?
Someone who would not want anyone.
Like a rock?
Or a shark.
Should you may flip again the clock, is there something in your life you’d change?
Every thing. I made a number of errors in my life. I needed to be taught the laborious means. Generally you need to stroll by hell to seek out the best way to reside.
You’ve gotten a number of medals and trophies. What is the one you are proudest of?
Medals do not make the fighter. You’re what you might be. The factor I am proudest of is surviving right here, in a wierd nation. Exhibiting people who I can do the whole lot, not simply battle like a bull.
What’s your pet peeve?
Weak individuals. People who find themselves all the time in search of the straightforward means out.
What do you want finest about America?
The way in which Individuals do enterprise. Right here, you possibly can truly get one thing accomplished. In Brazil, it is all about having time.
How do you outline happiness?
Lovely ladies, my son, and a terrific day to surf.
Is there the rest Jiu-Jitsu gave you in addition to muscle tissue and a number of trophies?
Jiu-Jitsu gave me stability. It teaches you to outlive if you’re not on high, and find out how to adapt to unhealthy conditions.
What’s your major motivation as a fighter?
Do you will have a hero?
No. However I like Batman.
This interview was performed in 2006 in Oakland, California.