Nova Uniao USA President Gustavo introduces himself, and talks about his early days in Jiu-Jitsu.
Recently, Nova União held their first ever Invitational, an in-house Nova União team-only event held in Arizona. About 85 competitors came to compete at the family-friendly event. At the halfway mark of the tournament, Gustavo Dantas halted the competition to induct the team’s two greatest IBJJF champions, Robson Moura and Vitor “Shaolin,” into their newly created Nova União USA Hall of Fame.
Robson has known Gustavo Dantas for years and the two are the best of friends. “Gustavo was so happy when he was talking about us during his speech, and everything we’ve been doing since 1995,” Robson says, “He’s worked really hard to create this [Nova União] family. It’s the best school ever. It was really emotional for me to get this honor, to see him, and to have him speak about us.”
Robson and Shaolin had a great trip. They grew up together at the same Jiu-Jitsu school in Brazil, but now Shaolin is in New York and Robson is in Florida, so they don’t see each other as often as they’d like. “Sharing this time with him and Gustavo was a blast,” Robson says, “I’m glad I had the chance to be there. Gustavo does such a great job with his competitions. I learn so much every time I spend a few days with him. He wants to see everybody happy. He’s doing a great job.”
Robson, Shaolin, and Gustavo held a seminar for the Nova União students as part of the event. They worked diligently to pull something together their students would really enjoy. “We spent hours on the mats deciding what to teach,” he says, “We all had ideas, then we went to work on techniques, which worked out really nicely. Each guy showed a little bit of technique. We had about 90 students on the mats. At the end of the seminar, we were able to spar with them, from white belts to black belts. I don’t normally do that because there’s no time, but we did this time. It was great!”
Known to be one of the most technical and creative black belts out there today, Robson thrives on creating new Jiu-Jitsu techniques and then teaching them to his students. “Ever since I was a blue belt I’ve loved to create new techniques,” he says, “It’s hard for me to say why these things come into my mind. I can have a dream about a situation or new technique, and then wake up and create it.”
Robson says his greatest and most creative move so far is his Robinho cross-guard technique, which is now available on DVD. “I spent a lot of time creating every single detail about submission sweeps, taking the back, and everything else,” he says, “It’s really nice. I didn’t want to share it with people until I was sure it would work. I trained in it and worked on it every day. Now I know it works because I’ve created so many situations with it. It’s my signature move.”
Robson’s creative vision of Jiu-Jitsu, his love of learning, and his passion for the sport are a few of the reasons why he’s such a great practitioner and competitor. “Everything in life that you really love…if you give yourself to the sport or anything else, you’re going to do well. I was 10 years old when I stepped on the mats. Now I’m 33. I can’t even remember when the last time was that I took one week off. Jiu-Jitsu is everything to me. It’s my life. I can always learn more whether I’m teaching a class to my beginners, or sparring with high-level black belts. My mind is so open to learning…I don’t think I know everything. I’ve been a black belt for so long and a world champion, too, but I’m still learning and improving, and I can see what I can do to be better and better.”
It’s hard to imagine Robson getting any better when you look at his Jiu-Jitsu record over the years. In the year 1996, Robson held three belts: In January 1996 he won his first Worlds championship as a purple belt. He received his brown belt on the podium. From January to November he was a brown belt. He was the 1996 Pan American brown belt champion and a Brazilian National Champion. In November 1996 he received his black belt. He then dominated the super feather black belt division, winning Worlds championships in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. In 1998 he was also the Brazilian National Champion. In 2001 he was a bronze medalist at both the Worlds and the ADCC’s, and in 2002 he was the World Cup champion. Robson then took five years off from competing. Remarkably, he came back to the Worlds in 2007 and won gold in his division again!
When asked if winning tournaments came to him from learning through lots of losses, Robson laughs and says, “No, I won all the time growing up. I’ve competed my whole life, and fought in every single belt. I have 23 years competition experience now. I don’t have any nerves before a competition, but I used to put a lot of pressure on myself. I hated to lose…I still do, but after so many years competing, I’m really confident and know what to do when I step on the mats.”
These days Robson has a better understanding of his own competition style and the sport itself, but he still doesn’t like to lose. Once again, the superstar hadn’t competed since 2007 when he received and accepted an invitation to the 2011 ADCC’s. He ended up coming in 4th place, and although he couldn’t sleep for two or three nights after his competition, saying the loss gave him “bad dreams,” he was still able to give himself a break and acknowledge that he did a good job. “I’m always building to be a better competitor,” he says, “I was able to go to the ADCC’s and do a good job after many years of not competing. I haven’t competed at that high of a level since 2007. I was able to go and think, ‘I’m 33. They’re inviting me. I’m going to go and have fun.’ And that’s what I did. I’m really proud of myself. I will always do my best. I will always give everything I have. I’m there to win, but I know if I lose, I tried.”
Robson tries to share his competition philosophy and experience with his students. “I tell my guys, ‘if you want to be a competitor, I will be there to support you,’” he says, “I tell them, ‘every time you step on the mat, clear your mind, do your best, and do what you do in training. If he beats you because he’s had better training, go back and fix your mistakes and then go back for the next one.’ You have to know you’re going to learn and get better.”
The bottom line is, competition or no competition, Robson simply loves Jiu-Jitsu. “You can be a great black belt with or without the competitions or the winning,” he says, “I, personally, just love the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle. I’m big time on that. I know it can change people’s lives. It changed mine. Jiu-Jitsu is my life. I grew up in a bad place. Jiu-Jitsu took me from nothing to where I am today. Now I take care of my family through it. Jiu-Jitsu gives you confidence. Everything is better in life when you have confidence.”
Over the years, Robson’s been able to put his hard work, his love for the sport, and his passion all together to create a full and happy life. “Coming from what I came from, the only option I had in my life was Jiu-Jitsu,” Robson says, “I grew up close to nowhere. I had to take a bus and travel 1 ½ hours to train, I slept on the mats, I didn’t have money for lunch. Jiu-Jitsu was my green card to get a better life to help my family. I had to give everything I had and do the best I could do. I’m always going to love my job. Thanks to God that I was able to accomplish all this in my life.”
Robson loves to give back to others and he’s able to do it through teaching at his two schools in Tampa, Florida, and at his affiliate schools all over the world. “I teach and give seminars every weekend,” Robson says, “I have 22 association schools around the world. I teach at my schools every day, and then I leave Friday for my seminars, whether they’re in Illinois or Canada or Europe. I come back Sunday or Monday and then start teaching again. But I really like to teach a lot. I love seeing my students becoming better. When they tell me how much Jiu-Jitsu has changed their lives, it means a lot to me.”
Along with his love for Jiu-Jitsu, Robson also tried his hand at MMA, fighting for Shooto in Japan. “I had four MMA fights,” Robson says, “I won two, lost one, and had one draw. My last fight was in 2004. I still train in MMA and I still want to do it again. With Jiu-Jitsu, I close my eyes, and I’m so happy with all of it. With MMA I still think I still have something more to do there.”
With Robson so busy in his life and work, he still has more goals to accomplish in 2012. “I’ve met every single goal as a competitor,” he says, “But I’m not done. I still like to compete. I don’t plan competitions in advance, but if I’m training, then I will decide to jump on one when it comes up. So, maybe you’ll see me competing at the Worlds in 2012. For now, I’m going to continue to teach classes and seminars, and watch my guys improve every single day. That’s my goal…the thing I really enjoy. I want to build my new school and I want to get more involved in MMA. That’s on my mind for the next year. I’ve dedicated myself to the Nova Uniao association. I’m also going to continue to work on my website: robsonmoura.com. It talks about where I grew up, my history and my journey in Jiu-Jitsu.”
As for his long-term goals, Robson wants people to look at him and see that he dedicated his whole life to represent Jiu-Jitsu. “I’m not talking about my school or Nova Uniao,” he says, “I’m talking about Jiu-Jitsu. I want my name to come into people’s minds when they talk about it in general. I want people to follow me. When they go online to learn about competitors, I want my name to be there. I always want to be remembered as one of the best competitors of all time. Robinho was the guy who made history. I hope that happens.”
Gustavo Dantas and Steve Judson at GD Jiu-Jitsu Prescott located inside Captain Crossfit.
Nova União hasn’t been shy about voicing its ambitions. Their goal is simple: to return to the top of the Podium at the Mundials.
What’s not so simple is how they plan to get there. Without the aid of many of their top counterparts in Brazil, the team has to rely on its growing stable of US talent. Talent that has helped capture two IBJJF International Open titles for Nova União in just two weeks. Having played an integral part by leading the charge to victory in both Phoenix and Dallas, Gustavo Dantas black belt Steve Rosenberg is a shining example of how deep the talent pool is at Nova União’s stateside branch.
Having shown his mettle at earlier belts, through such achievements as winning the lightweight class in the 2009 Pan adult division as a brown belt, Steve is no stranger to competition. Belonging to what is considered one of the toughest weight brackets, he has been working hard to stand his ground as a black belt, a division predominantly won by Brazilians.
With the momentum from his back-to-back wins at the Phoenix and Dallas Opens, Steve isn’t planning on slowing down as he heads into the 2011 World Championship. Being only one in a handful of American black belts representing Nova União at the 2011 Worlds, Steve represents the caliber of the team’s US-bred competitors. Characterized by fierce loyalty, hunger to succeed, abilty to rise to challenges, and willingness to defend the team’s flag to the death, Steve has become the beacon of hope Nova União has been waiting for.
It’s the beginning of a new age for Nova União. With team unity playing a pivotal part in achieving its goals, Nova União is set to create a new squad of elite competitors to lead the team. Just as Robson Moura and Vitor Shaolin were part of Nova União’s elite during the team’s golden age, in the late nineties in Brazil, the team is ready to recreate its frontline with the American talents under Nova União’s main leaders in the US. Consider Steve Rosenberg ready for battle.
Watch the Dallas Open semifinal between Steve Rosenberg and Tony Tipton:
Ron Kruck continues his tour of “Inside America’s Gyms” at Arizona Combat Sports, where he talks to the Lally brothers about their connection with Arizona State University’s wrestling team.