Meet the Instructors: Joe Moreira Brazilian Jiu-jitsu coach

Taken from Mr. Moreira's website:

Born Jose Carlos Moreira on July 3rd, 1961, inside a taxi in front a of Rio de Janeiro hospital, Brazilian jiujitsu legend Joe Moreira faced difficulties right from the start.  His dark skin and blonde hair prompted the affectionate nickname of "Macaco."  By age five, Moreira's older brother, Marcos, influenced the youngster to start fighting in Judo.  His first title for the Gama Filho University team was won by age six.  Around that time he began his jiujitsu career under the tutelage of Mauricio LaCerda.  At age nine, he began training in jiujitsu at the school of the legendary Carlson and Rolls Gracie, where he was taught mainly by Reyson Gracie and Pinduka.  Across the street there was another studio owned and operated by Reylson Gracie, nephew and student of the master, Helio Gracie.  A chance visit to the studio resulted in Moreira spending the next 15 years under the tutelage of Reylson, who took a liking to the young fighter's style and groomed him to become an instructor.  During this period with Master Reylson, Moreira also learned to produce tournaments and championships.  This would later help him to organize one of the most important jiujitsu tournaments in Brazil, including the first international Brazilian jiujitsu event, Atlantico Sul.

Another respected jiujitsu master, Francisco Mansour, awarded Moreira his black belt in 1984.  By competing in the most important jiujitsu tournaments of the 1980s, such as Copa Company, Copa Lightning Bolts and Copa Cantao, Moreira's collection of titles grew.  His participation in such events garnered Moreira's respect and recognition as one of the toughtest fighters of his time. 

Around that time, the Gracie family was always looking for tough opponents to take on the undefeated Rickson Gracie.  It wasn't long before Moreira accepted the challenge to face his idol twice in the same competition (weight - category final and absolute) despite not having good partners with whom to train.  Although he submitted in both matches, Moreira gave the jiujitsu legend something he was not used to: a tough fight.  Following these bouts, a great friendship evolved between the two fighters.

By 1986, Moreira was a black belt in both judo and Brazilian jiujitsu.  The next step in his evolution came in the form of internships at Terry University, in Japan, and at Kobukan Academy, the traditional judo academy established by judo founder Jigoro Kano.  After four months of training with the Japanese Olympic team and completing a course with more than 1,000 black belt students, Moreira became vice champ in an international tournament: the Judo World Cup. 

After a year of invaluable training in Japan, Moreira returned to his Brazilian academy in Rio de Janero and produced his first tournament: the Atlantico Sul Cup, which saw the debut of world names such as Ryan, Renzo, and Ralph Gracie, SHOOTO welterweight champion Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro, UFC veteran Jorge Patino, Antonio Schembri and Marcio Feitosa, Cleber Luciano, Wander Braga, Wallid Ishmael, Jean Jacque Machado, Fabio Gurgel, Murilo Bustamante, Mario Sperry, Alan Goes, Liborio De la Riva, and others who helped to establish it as a premier tournament.  Nine Atlantico Sul Cup events were held between 1986 and 1994, produced with the help of his partners and friends, Claudio Franca (Claudio Franca Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Santa Cruz, California) and Marcus Viniclus (owner of the Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu club).

In the early 1990s, an invitation from Reylson Gracie prompted Moreira to sell all of his possessions in Brazil and travel to the United States to be a Brazilian jiujitsu instructor.  "He promised me everything," Moreira remembers, "but when I got there, it was pretty different."  Because of some financial disagreements, he decided to go it alone and forge his own path.

After two difficult months in the United States - and despite not speaking a word of English - Moreira teamed up with entrepreneur Cab Garrett to build his own gym, Joe Moreira Jiu-Jitsu de Brazil, in Irvine California.  During his eight-year partnership with Garrett, Moreira opened 30 branches of the school across the country. 

Moreira also founded the United States Federation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and played a major role in the dissemination of the art in America.  As president of the Federation, he created the first international Brazilian jiujitsu tournament, the Joe Moreira Cup, and organized the first edition of the Pan-American Jiu-Jitsu tournament with Carlos Gracie, president of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Confederation.  Those events launched the first top representatives of Brazilian jiujitsu in America - names like BJ Penn, Garth Taylor, Egan Inoue, Mark Kompayneyets, Chris Brennan, Eddie Bravo, Javier Vazquez, Ricco Rodriguez, and many others that later transformed the United States into the second jiujitsu power of the world. 

Even while being involved with his U.S. jiujitsu organization, Moreira kept on competing.  Following his long string of jiujitsu and judo victories, he decided to test his skills in mixed martial arts via the Ultimate Fighting Championship.  On February 16th, 1996, Moreira fought the six-foot-eight-inch, 360-pound Paul Varelans in the UFC 8 and lost by a narrow decision.

Following the appearance in the UFC, Moreira encountered his first controversy with the Brazilian jiujitsu world.  At a time when there was an unwritten rule that black belts were prohibited from teaching jiujitsu techniques to non-brazilian vale tudo fighters, Moreira started to teach his good friend, Kimo Leopoldo (who lost to Royce Gracie in UFC 3).  The Brazilian jiujitsu community was shocked by his breach of protocol and labeled Moreira a traitor.

Eighteen months later, following his first MMA victory over Uri Vaulin at the UFC 14, Moreira shocked the Brazilian jiujitsu community again by revealing that he trained with Marco Ruas to fight the Russian boxer - without the help of the Gracie family or any of the Brazilian jiujitsu community.  Seeing the good ground technique presented by Ruas, who trained in jiujitsu for 15 years, Moreira gave him a Brazilian jiujitsu black belt and caused a commotion among his fellow Brazilians.  These two important decisions helped pave the way for his cross training to take its now-prominent role in fight training.

Today, Moreira is married with four kids and lives in Newport, California.  The seventh-dan black belt teaches seminars around the globe and conducts private lessons.  Considered a bona fide authority on jiujitsu, Moreira has issued 30 black belts and released a total of 38 instructional tapes that are considered among the best available in the United States.

- Alexandre Lobo and Marcelo Alonso
Subeditor and editor of Tatame magazine (Brazil)

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