Grappling Insider wants to introduce some of the best, world-renowned academies on the planet. For this first edition, we reached out to one of the Meccas of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, with one of the most well-known professors of all-time, Vinicius ‘Draculino’ Magalhaes, who created this place from scratch. Magalhaes was the founder of the first Gracie Barra academy outside of Rio de Janeiro — the famous Gracie Barra Belo Horizonte (GBBH).
The academy he created became one of the most notable places to train at in Belo Horizonte. It has hosted some of the biggest stars in BJJ. Think of Romulo Barral, Felipe Pena, Samuel Braga, Claudio ‘Caloquinha’ Mattos and Sergio Benini. All of them have made this place their home at some point during their career.
Here are two current GBBH leaders: Benini and ‘Caloquinha’ Mattos. Non-Brazilians may not be as familiar with these mat assassins, but they are legit. Check the GBBH instagram page.
My Experience With Them
I was fortunate to attend a three-day camp that they ran in Uruguay a few years back. Their technical details were next level of course, but their take on competition training amazed us the most. They talked about systematic training, specific sparring and first-to-score high intensity rounds way before they were cool. Benini and Mattos are extremely accomplished competitors themselves.
At the time I was intrigued by how this training helped their students. All I knew was that it was way more competition-focused at the time. In my inexperience, I couldn’t grasp the impact this type of training would have. Now, you see this purposeful training in virtually every high-level academy in the world. They were frontrunners in this trend.
‘Draculino’ Magalhaes created the Gracie Barra Belo Horizonte school in 1995. Benini and Mattos were students of his at the academy. When Magalhaes decided to move to Houston, Texas, they stayed first as instructors, and later as school owners. They’ve remained that way ever since.
The Interview – GBBH Intro And Classes
GI: How did you and ‘Caloquinha’ become the main instructors at the GBBH?
Benini: Me and ‘Caloquinha’ started helping ‘Draculino’ with his classes when we were purple belts. We used to help in the beginner classes. We would even teach regular classes when ‘Draculino’ traveled to teach seminars. When he moved to the U.S., Marcelo ‘Uirapuru’ Azevedo, assumed as the main instructor at GBBH. Then Azevedo moved to the U.S. as well and we assumed the roles of academy leaders in 2015 with ‘Caloquinha’. I thank God that our collaborate efforts were fruitful and we are extremely proud to be a part of our professor’s legacy.
GI: Who is running the classes now? How should people get in touch with you if they want to schedule a group or private class?
Benini: I manage my own group classes as well as my privates at Gracie Barra Belo Horizonte. If you’re interested in a class run by me specifically you can contact me on my instagram. For group classes and questions, you can also refer to the GBBH Instagram page or Facebook group.
Top Tournament And Training Academy Story
GI: Do you have any stories about the academy that you would like to share?
SB: In all this years I had so many special moments it’s hard to pinpoint one that stands out. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the GBBH academy is the place I enjoy the most. If I had to choose one moment, it would be one that happened relatively recently. That moment would be when ‘Caloquinha’ and I closed out the 2019 “Brasileiro” Championships. It was a very special day for everyone of us at GBBH. (Side note: The “Brasileiro” is the biggest IBJJF tournament in Brazil).
GI: What was it like training with ‘Draculino’ in that talent-stacked academy at the beginning?
Benini: I consider myself an extremely fortunate person, because I had the amazing opportunity to learn from ‘Draculino’ himself. Without a doubt, he is the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor and professor I know. We are keeping up with his standards, and I can tell you without hesitation that in the GBBH academy you will find some of the toughest training evironments in the world.
Notable students at Gracie Barra Belo Horizonte
GI: Do you have any staff or students at your academy you’d want people to check out?
SB: I have a lot of highly talented students and of course I can’t name them all, but I would encourage everybody to check out Filipe Carmona and Cláudio ‘Caloquinha’. You can also contact me directly through my instagram profile.
If you’re unsure about the savageness of these three instructors, just visit the GBBH instagram account. Just count how many podiums they have combined. I strongly recommend anyone living or visitng the Belo Horizonte area to try a class. It’s also a really welcoming gym to visit once this pandemic passes.
COVID at GBBH
You can’t post something about any academy today without talking about COVID-19. The pandemic has hit the grappling community particularly hard because of the close physical contact. This virus hit Brazil particularly hard. The South American country has more than 3.8 million cases and over 120k deaths from COVID.
On Aug. 27, the local Belo Horizonte government allowed the reopening of BJJ academies. The academy opened on Monday, Aug. 31 with reduced classes and they made this video about it. The building is in the Santa Lucia area, at Rua Hidra 401. GBBH is one of the best academies in Belo Horizonte and a worthy place to visit.