Exclusive interview with black belt who busted robber with BJJ

Earlier, I posted an article about Cássio Barão’s incredible feat. It featured a BJJ black belt who busted a robber using BJJ. The BJJ black belt from Tocatins, Brazil had a rollercoaster of a day when he saved a student from a mugging in the middle of the street. A video surfaced that showed Barão on the aggressor’s back applying a rear naked strangle.

I knew right away that the story had something amazing to it, so I reached out to Barão. I wanted him to tell me more about what went down. Once we started talking, I noticed there was much more to Cássio than met the eye. Apart from being a total savage BJJ black belt, he’s also a high-level Muay Thai practitioner. He is skilled in gun and knife defense and is a police officer trainer.

He isn’t someone you’d want to mess with, as our robber found. I asked Barão if he knew the victim, if the robber was armed, and much more. I will include the transcript below.

The interview

GI: Cássio, what’s your story within martial arts?

CB: Brother, first of all, my name is Cássio Barão and I’m a black belt in BJJ and Muay Thai. I have specialized over the years in self-defense, especially in gun and knife disarm. We work mostly with women in my self defense courses, teaching them how to defend against sexual assault. I also work with the tactical forces in Tocantins, where I live. I worked as a policeman myself, so I know what it’s like.

The story

GI: What happened with the armed robbery?

CB: I was conducting a class to women due to “Outubro Rosa,” a campaign aiming to raise awareness on breast cancer in women. My gym is located on the second floor of a two-story building, and I was teaching at the gym. At the end of the class, one of our students came in to pick up her son, who is disabled. She had parked her car on the other side of the road and stepped out of the car to pick him up.

When she came out of the car, a guy from the street stormed her and demanded her to give him her car keys. She followed through, handing her car keys, cell phone and purse, she gave him everything she had. Once she gave him what he asked for, she turned and started running. The issue was that her car has a problem with the ignition, and you need to know how to start it.

So when the robber realized that, he went running after her. Unfortunately, she’s an older woman and she wasn’t able to outrun the perpetrator. When she noticed that he was catching up with her she started screaming for help. All while she ran down the street. There were lots of people in the street, but no one seemed interested in stepping up. They started filming on their phones instead of helping her.

How did you realize she was being robbed?

GI: What happened next? How did you go from teaching a class to the instructor who busted a robber?

CB: Our academy is on the second floor, so we didn’t hear her screams until she reached the bottom of the stairs. Once I heard her screams, I stormed down the stairs. When I reached the last steps I could already see her lying on the ground while the robber was hitting her violently. The guy had the gun in his hand and was blasting her with the other hand.

When he saw me he started running. I went after him down the street until he stopped and looked back. That’s when I realized I was running after a guy with a gun, and I thought to myself, if this guy points at me I’m running away. But he didn’t, he switched from the gun to a knife. In that moment my head was going 100 mph and I realized that the gun couldn’t be real. Who would switch a gun for a knife at medium distance?

BJJ black belt busted a robber carrying a knife

The gun was fake, but the knife wasn’t. How did you disarm him?

GI: And what did you do next?

CB: He stopped and came at me with the knife in his hand. He tried to stab me right away. Thank God I have extensive training and I was able to move my hips back and control the hand bearing the knife. I landed four elbow blows with my free hand. On the first hit I felt his nose break, and the rest of the impacts just roughed him up even further.

That’s when he dropped his weapon and defended himself by covering up. I quickly moved to his back and took him down, immediately establishing both hooks. That’s when everyone arrived and started beating him up. I think I even saved his life, because I was telling everyone to stop, that the threat was under control. One of my students, ‘Ninja’ came and controlled his arm on the other side. (Side note: That’s probably where people started filming the video that went viral)

Everyone wanted to pound on him, but I didn’t want them to hurt him further, as he was under control. I had to act on self-defense, when he tried to stab me the knife was coming straight to my stomach. I needed to somehow defend myself. In that moment, you don’t think clearly and you become completely reactive based on your instincts. Imagine watching someone hit a woman so violently and then aim a knife at your gut.

I was able to use my training successfully, thankfully. Some people react by freezing, others react by covering up and others fight back. Luckily I was able fight back and defend myself. I was lucky to have God by my side.

Lessons learned

GI: How did you feel after the fact?

CB: I’ve already posted a video to rise awareness on this. I don’t recommend anyone (ANYONE) to resist against an armed robbery. Even if they understand martial arts and combat. You never know if that gun is real or fake. If you get stabbed, even if you survive it can still damage you permanently. Just give them everything they ask for as quickly as possible.

I reacted on instinct, and I was lucky enough to be able to tell the story. But I don’t recommend anyone to try and react the way I did. When the guy turned around and tried to stab me, the people around us disappeared, it was just me and him. In the moment I felt I needed to defend my students, my academy and the women taking the class. But again, I don’t recommend anyone to react the way I did.

This provides us with a good instance to raise awareness. I think people should train any martial art that can help them defend themselves against an opponent. Only if there’s no other way out, of course. Especially women. The robber was attacking my student’s mother violently, and she couldn’t defend herself. If she’d known how to fight or at least how to defend against the blows, she would stand a better chance. She could’ve closed the guard, defended her face, control the arms, at least until I got there.

How he made something positive out of it

GI: What positive thing, if any, did you take from the incident?

CB: Well, besides being alive, I’ve also met a lot of people that have reached out to me due to the video. I had a small seminar tour planned, and luckily a few other gyms have contacted me. Repercussions were high, and it’s somehow conforting to see people put high value in the black belt and in my experience. I got a lot more students now, mainly female students. So I get a chance to offer more people a chance at defending themselves.

My dream is to travel outside Brazil and spread my knowledge to other parts of the world. Get to meet other academies and other professors. Get to know other places through the fight world. Fighting has saved my life, it took me off the streets. So if I can ever get the chance to travel because of martial arts, I’d be extremely grateful.

I’m running a social project right now, in which we work with 48 local families. Thankfully, children in the social project look up to me, and they see you can do fine without doing bad things.

Closing thoughts

All in all, it was quite the experience for Barão. He literally became part of the “black belt who busted a robber” crew.

He told me he was diagnosed with Rasmussen syndrome a few years back, a brain condition associated with inflammation. His brain was working at 50 percent capacity and he was in a coma for a week. He was an athlete at the time, and thought his career was over. After the incident he couldn’t speak and lost a lot of body capabilities.

When he was diagnosed he fell in deep depression, for obvious reasons. He feels God gave him a second chance and he was able to get through it. Barão slowly started recovering movement capabilities, slowly started talking again. He slowly got back to his regular activities, a battle at a time. He mentioned several times that BJJ and Muay Thai helped keep him motivated and also helped him with coordination.

Barão overcame all of that, living in the streets of Sao Paulo, his brain condition and the armed robbery. He now has one of the most successful academies in Tocantins, Brazil. And he keeps grinding every day to keep getting better.

I found it extremely gratifying to get the chance to chat with him — understanding how important martial arts were throughout his journey and his recovery.

How to get in touch with him

Barão’s academy is located in the city of Palmas, Tocantins. You can access the academy Facebook page here, and the instagram profile here. They teach Muay Thai, BJJ, self-defense and fitness. If you happen to visit the area or live close by, give their gym a shot. You know their program is legit based on this story alone.

If you want to contact him for seminars, you can DM him directly through his instagram. He’s an active MMA fighter and also an MMA coach. Currently, his most accomplished student is Gilvan ‘Ninja’ Lopes, another active MMA fighter from the Tocantins region.

If you liked the story or want to know more about it, you can contact me through my instagram here.

Michel Davidovich

Michel Davidovich is a BJJ Blue Belt from Montevideo, Uruguay. He trains under Mauro Lago, at Team MLDT. Specializing in mechanical engineering and being the BJJ enthusiast he is, his content tries to blend the two by providing an analytical and numerical perspective on the sport we all love. If you want to know more about the metrics used and how do we apply statistical analisys to grappling, hit him up on instagram or facebook!

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