“Open your eyes. Don’t stay so focused on one thing. Step back, and see the big picture. When you do… that is when you will start learning Jiu Jitsu.”
These are the words 9th Degree Red Belt, Master Mauricio Strauch left me with after my private training session with him.
It isn’t often that you have the opportunity to meet a living, breathing legend- let alone train with one.
It is understandable that I might have been a bit nervous when I walked in the door to his academy in Rio de Janeiro. He is, after all, one of but a small number of men that have achieved such a high rank, and meeting him was an honor.
My Jiu Jitsu mentor, had a mentor. Caio Terra is one of the top competitive practitioners of BJJ in the world. To hear him talk about his instructor, frankly made me a little nervous to meet him.
As part of Professor Terra’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Camp in Rio de Janeiro, we were fortunate enough be able to do some training at Caio’s instructor, Master Mauricio Strouch’s academy.
There were 35 of us. I think the entire group was on pins and needles that first day as we walked into Master Strauch’s school. There was a narrow passageway to get into the academy, and we all entered the room in a single-file line.
When you reached the front of the line, you were greeted with a very friendly handshake and a smile. That smile was disarming, however, because while it was welcoming, it served as a distraction for what came next. As everyone entered the room, after shaking your hand, Master Strauch gently tugged on your hand and foot swept you-causing you to lose your balance.
It was a friendly gesture that was intended to help put you at ease. He could tell we were all nervous, and he took the tension out of the room with this simple tactic. As each new person came through the door, each of us that had already passed by, had a big chuckle while watching the next person be tripped.
This gesture spoke volumes for who this man is. While an amazing practitioner and teacher of Martial Arts, he is a light-hearted, fun-spirited man.
Don’t get me wrong. While he is light-hearted, he is a true martial artist that demands the best out of you while in his class. He does not let small mistakes slide, and calls you out on anything less than your best.
But, he is also a little prankster and really loves what he does. As an example, on the way out of the academy, everyone was ‘ready’ for the foot sweep. He summarily, gave you a hug. In doing so, he pulled your hand toward his chest and wrist locked you. It happens so fast you couldn’t stop it. He is so good at it that it doesn’t hurt. The smile on his face afterward lets you know he was just playing. As I said, his smile is disarming.
As a group, we received some amazing nuggets of information by Master Strauch, that I am certain will benefit all of our 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 exactly knowing what to expect, we were a bit tenuous about the session when we arrived the next day. We arrived a little early, and as we entered the academy, there was a class going on. We were surprised to see a pile of people (Roughly 15 people), all trying to submit one another. They were all smiling and laughing, and having a great time. I remember being nervous for them, hoping that Master Strauch wouldn’t walk in and catch them rough-housing in the studio, until I looked up and saw he was the ring leader.
Later, the class had a small rubber basketball that they used to try to dunk it over the top of a pull-up bar. If you did, you could choose a fellow classmate, who in turn had to demonstrate a technique. They were drilling and having FUN!
A quick glance around the studio showed a life-sized painting of Woody Woodpecker wearing 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 have been to.
When the class was over, Master Strauch immediately invited us onto the mat. I found it notable, that this 9th Degree Red Belt Master of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu taught all of his classes. He taught them with amazing energy and enthusiasm. He is having the time of his life doing it, and his infectious energy is remarkable. He didn’t take a 15 minute break between sessions as I expected. Rather, he immediately got to work with us, and did the same with another couple immediately after our session. I have no idea how he keeps his energy level?!?
When our session began, he immediately began sharing some amazing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Portuguese, with one of his students serving as translator. I am 100% confident that we didn’t need the translator, as Master Strauch’s Jiu Jitsu is so crisp and clean, that all we needed to do was attempt to emulate his movements.
We learned some really awesome sequences that day. But the most lasting impression I left with, were the words he uttered to me after the class. First of all, I learned that he actually spoke English all along. Secondly, he really passed a profound message to me. I have always been a person who is too laser-focused. I struggle with relaxing, and flowing. His words of advise served as a better lesson than any of the techniques I had learned that day.
Master Strauch is truly a Master of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but his mastery of the human spirit is even more profound. I was privileged to have met him. If given the opportunity, I highly recommend any practitioner of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to make the trek to Rio de Janeiro and experience what an amazing instructor he is.