RealFighting
Interview with Marcus Soares

Marcus Soares has been practicing Jiu-Jitsu for thirty-two years and is considered one of the best instructors from Carlson Gracie’s team. He now heads his own team and teachers in Vancouver, Canada.

Realfighting
Hi Marcus, it’s a pleasure meeting you, thank you for giving us this interview.

Marcus
Thank you WR, for this opportunity, I know you are one of Renzo Gracie’s students and I would like to say hello to him, and state that he is one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teachers in the world. Hello Renzo!

Question
You started training in Jiu-Jitsu with Carlson Gracie when you were in your early teens, how did you get started there, and was the training focused on the sport aspect of Jiu-Jitsu or self-defense?

Marcus
I started to practice Jiu-Jitsu when I was 13 years old (1970). I visited Carlson’s Academy with my uncle Hermann Portes Gerber; he was Carlson’s friend, that’s how I was introduced to the art. I immediately realized that this was the right art, the right place, the right time and the right instructor. Not only because Carlson was the biggest name in the Jiu Jitsu scene in Brazil, was and a very nice person, but also because I felt the academy was a hard-core training environment. The students were real warriors…the best fighters in Brazil.

So, after all these years as a Carlson Gracie Team member, I have to say that Carlson is a very special friend, an incredible instructor and responsible for developing the skills of the best Jiu-Jitsu fighters of Brazil, for many generations. His academy in Brazil is recognized as “The Champion’s Factory”, and I am very proud to be a part of his team.

I started to learn the self-defense program and Jiu-Jitsu basics with Carlson’s brother Rocian Gracie during my first three weeks of training. After that, I moved to the big room to start training with the “serious” guys. Despite my age, I trained only with adults; I was very skinny; the only other kids in the school  were three years younger than me. The hard training made me develop my skills quickly and become a tough competitor in my own age group.

Most of the training was focused on the sport aspect of Jiu-Jitsu (tournament fundamentals) but every Saturday, training sessions were “no gi” and more real-fight oriented (strikes were allowed). Many people don’t realize that Carlson was an excellent boxer and quite often some boxing trainers (such as Heitor Fernandes) used to come to help us learn how to punch, and help us develop a good sense of distance and how to dodge (avoid punches). I guarantee that we were prepared to face any dangerous street situations.

Question
Are you teaching the self-defense aspect of Jiu-Jitsu today or mainly developing a top sports team? And how do you structure your classes?

Marcus
Once a year I teach the self-defense program, but normally, classes are four days a week sport Jiu-Jitsu (with gi), and 2 days a week freestyle no gi, (some students are professional fighters, training for the NHB fights, and others are bouncers or policemen). The classes are 2 hours long, and I divide them into: -25 minutes of intense warm-ups -45 minutes of demonstrating techniques and -45 minutes of sparring. I allow students to ask any questions in every class because the level of knowledge and skill is always different. I like to teach all the classes personally and only allow my purple belts to teach when I’m away for a student’s competition or seminar. That’s never lasts more than a weekend.

Question
Tell us how you teach your classes?

Marcus
I like to be present in all of my classes to ensure that everyone is training hard and learning the techniques correctly. I am very lucky because the instruction quality of my senior students is very high. I try to develop both good fighters, and good instructors. Right now, we have 10 schools affiliated with us throughout Canada and new ones are opening soon in Maine (USA) and Tokyo (Japan).

About my team: I am extremely proud of them, we win all the tournaments we participate in throughout Canada and the USA.

Question
You were also on the University Judo team; groundwork must have been easy, how did you like throwing? And what were your favorite throws?

Marcus
I like Judo, too, but the outcome of Jiu-Jitsu throws are different. In Judo, you don’t care how you end up in since you know the referee will stop the match as soon as you are on the ground. In Jiu-Jitsu, how you land on the ground and control your opponent is very important, because the fight is not going to be stopped. If you find yourself in a bad position, the takedown points that you’ve made won’t be worth it. The opponent can score points on you by taking your back, the mount or by sweeping you.

I tell my students it’s important to know how to take the opponent down and how to fight on the top, but you have to be careful with throws. Don’t make it easy for your opponent to counter you, or you’ll land in a bad position. I still teach Judo takedowns that are adapted for Jiu-Jitsu’s reality fighting, and mix it with wrestling techniques to avoid the shoot.

Every student has different abilities such as; strong grip, good balance, speed, coordination, hip movement, etc. I don’t push anyone to go for a particular takedown; instead, I teach them to have a feeling for the movement that starts the action, to have confidence, not to hesitate and trust in what you’re doing. We practice many different things in our stand-up training. It is not only pure Judo, we do single-leg variations, wizard variations and sacrifice throw variations. We prefer to show it in competition instead talking about it.

When I used to compete in Judo, my favorite throws were; o-soto-gari, deashi-barai, sode-tsurikomi-goshi, double and single leg takedowns.

Question
Technically, Judo has over 50 throws; most top competitors use only a few. What Judo throws do you consider excellent for the street?

Marcus
It’s hard to say if this or that throw is better for the street. It depends on what works with a given opportunity. A lot depends on the distance to your opponent, how you hold him, how he holds you, and what kind of grips you both have. Every situation is unique, that’s why you need to practice the techniques in all possible variations to avoid surprises.

What I really believe in is if you want to beat your opponent quickly and efficiently, you have to focus on his neck since the choke is the only submission that will put him out of action. Nobody can fight while asleep. If you’ve ever watched the animal programs on the Discovery Channel, you’ll see, in a real fight [to stay alive] animals go straight for the neck.

Question
You mentioned in the past, tough guys would show up at Carlson’s and offer challenges. Were these real fights with the potential for serious injuries?

Marcus
These fights were only real for the challengers. For us, it was just something to play with and have some fun because we weren’t allowed to strike them and they could do whatever they wanted. Our only goals were to avoid the strikes, take them down and submit them so they wouldn’t pose a threat to us. Some obstinate guys didn’t have enough the first time and we would give them as many lessons as they wanted. Our intention was not to hurt the guys but just to show them that Jiu-Jitsu is very good for defending yourself. It lets you put an opponent out of the action whenever you decide. Most of those guys ended up being new students and friends.

Question
Were there any close calls when a challenger proved too strong?

Marcus
Usually, strong guys have no stamina; they get tired after only two or three minutes. I remember Carlson always gave the weight advantage to the challengers, which made us rely on technique and conditioning. Also, that wouldn’t give anyone excuses to say, “This guy beat me up because he is bigger, heavier or stronger.”

Question
You were a fitness instructor and personal trainer in Brazil. What type of training regimen and conditioning exercises do you recommend?

Marcus
For fighters, you need a balance between strength and endurance. If you work out like a body builder or run like a marathoner, you will be a weak fighter. The balance, the hip movement and the grip are three of the most important components in Jiu-Jitsu. I think that localized muscular resistance is very important (especially the grip), but obviously, you will need to work on all of your physical abilities.

For endurance, I recommend running up hills, and increasing the pace and distance as you are able (carrying some weight is even better). If you want to workout to gain strength and LMR, I recommend light weights two to three times a week, high reps, and a pyramid series once a week for strength, but just the basic exercises. A good example of an exercise would be to drape your gi over a bar, then hold on with your hands, holding your body off the ground. This is great grip training. Also, never forget to stretch and work on your flexibility.

Question
What’s the minimum number of times someone needs to practice Jiu-Jitsu per week?

Marcus
The minimum that I recommend is twice a week, but for better results, at least three times a week. If the student wants to be a good competitor or a professional fighter, I try to show the importance of their conditioning training. They need to spend 50% of the time for training and 50% for conditioning.

Question
You state, there are three qualities that are really important to be a good fighter 1) developing a sense of standing and ground balance, 2) developing a strong grip and, 3) developing “live” hips on the ground. The first two seem clear, could you describe what you mean by “live” hips?

Marcus
Jiu-Jitsu is a fighting system based on leverage and hip movements. You can put yourself in a stronger position and the opponent off balance (and into a weak position), by utilizing space. Create space for yourself or avoid giving space to the opponent (this will make you stronger), I tell my students, if something is hard to do, move your hips or create space.

Another important aspect is the guard (the real name is “guard of legs”). Many people have no idea how important it is to work your legs if someone is in your guard; to keep your opponent away or close to you, to submit or to sweep, you always need to know how to use your legs in coordination with your hip movements as well as gripping the right spot. Also, strong abs and flexibility are really important for a good guard.

Question
Are these three qualities also the same for the street?

Marcus
First of all, I would like to say that I train my students to compete or defend themselves if someone tries to attack them. I am not a big fan of street fighters; these guys are the worst kind of low-life, especially in North America. They go out in big groups to find easy targets and beat them up for no reason. The worst thing is that they like to fight ten against one. No doubt they have serious mental disorders. They are cowards because if you make them fight one on one, they shit their pants (the underpants scribbler) or they scream like a baby begging for mercy.

If you have to fight on the streets, you need to have different priorities because there are no rules, time limits or referees, so take him down, take a mount and choke him out. I would say once again that fighting from the top is better and attacking the opponent’s neck to put him out of action immediately are the best strategies. Some guys can take a lot of strikes or even fight with a broken arm, especially if they are drunk or on drugs. It doesn’t matter what condition their in, when someone is choked out, they’re not a threat anymore.

Question
What’s the best way to learn the basics of Jiu-Jitsu…by drilling the techniques constantly or by emphasizing more of the rolling aspect?

Marcus
The basics are really important if you want to be a good fighter but especially if you want to be a good instructor. Knowing the minute details of every technique along with all possible reactions. Also the speed you use and the way you set the technique up is what makes the attack accurate and successful.

Sometimes students know how to execute the techniques but get lost trying to execute them during sparring. To avoid this problem, I make my students do “school training” which consists of both students sparring without using any strength, I supervise this training to find the mistakes they’re making. Uchi-komis (to repeat the movement many times) will also help your speed and coordination as well.

Another important point is to make the student understand that each opponent has different reactions, and they need to be ready for all of them. You have to train to avoid being surprised with unfamiliar techniques. The rolling aspect is very important, but it’s better to develop your skills by training with more experienced people. When you train with less experienced partners you should do a lot of different techniques and variations, be aggressive.

After many years of teaching, I realize that beginners need to focus on basics, the “school training,” and light sparing to avoid injuries. Intermediate students should keep practicing basics, positioning and hard sparring. For advanced students, spar really hard and for long periods of time. Pay attention to the details of every technique and work to achieve faster actions and reactions for each situation.

Question
You say you prefer to fight from the top, and that makes good sense, especially in a real situation. But in a street encounter won’t you prefer to stay on your feet as long as possible, especially if there is more than one protagonist?

Marcus
Once again, to finish the fight quickly, go for the neck. (from the standing position). Against more than one aggressor, you need to protect your back. If you take someone’s back, you will have a shield to protect yourself against the others. I can tell you that in fights that involve more that two people, if you choke someone out or throw him really hard, the other guys might think twice before continuing.

Question
Many people who study BJJ also supplement their training with boxing, kickboxing or both. Of course when you mix three disparate disciplines like this you need to adapt or customize them. For example, in boxing slipping a punch is quite normal, but combined with BJJ, you can get punched or a knee in the face. How do you adapt striking techniques to BJJ?

Marcus
BJJ fighters are not strikers; if you know how to avoid the strikes and you have good takedowns, you can perform really well against any strikers. Strikers need space to hit you and if you don’t give them space they need, they can’t hit you with full power.

I think fighters need to have a sense of distance within all ranges, outside and inside. In my opinion, boxing is a great way of achieving that. Boxing gives you great standing sense, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gives you that sense on the ground. I think that combination compliments both arts.

Question
It seems that most NHB or Mixed Martial Artists use mainly the same techniques (from the same styles) that is, grappling techniques from wrestling and BJJ, punching techniques from boxing, and kicking techniques mainly from Muay Thai. Do you agree that this formula is the most effective?

Marcus
The fighter who is good in his sport doesn’t have to be a good NHB fighter. To be a good NHB fighter, you need to be born with “the” instinct and dedicate yourself to the right training. Like I said, I like the BJJ/boxing combination and I believe that since 95% of the fights end up on the ground, BJJ is the most important discipline for MMA.

Question
Have you personally faced a dangerous situation where you had to fight? If so what happened?

Marcus
Yes, I’ve faced some very dangerous situations against guns and multiple opponents, but that was a long time ago, and I would need a book to describe all those events. Those are old memories now. Basically, almost all the fights (more than 90%) occurred because I tried to defend other people from aggressors; my brother, sisters, friends or even someone against ambushes or other cowardly attacks. Sometimes I had to defend myself from troublemakers who wouldn’t respect me, or the person with me, or they would pick on someone just to have fun.

I’ll give you two examples two big fights that occurred in Rio in the 1970’s. Everybody knows that Rio de Janeiro holds the best carnival in the world and that they have some very famous balls. One of the most famous is the “Baile do Hawaii” (The Hawaiian Ball). I was there with some friends I used to train with, when suddenly we were assaulted by the French Karate Team (that came to Rio to compete in the World Karate Championship). The fight involved over 30 people, even the bouncers stayed away due to the extreme violence. The ball was over way before the time it was supposed to finish because the fight was all over the club, including the swimming pool! In the end, many of the French fighters ran away or were unconscious.

The other fight was against the local surfers and started because Rolls was surfing in Arpoador (the best surf point at the time) and the surfers ordered him to leave the beach because as they said, “he was disturbing their practice and he wasn’t welcome to share the waves”. They suddenly started to threaten and push him. Rolls went back to the club, and we returned to the beach with some students and we told them that the beach is a public place. They felt confident because they outnumbered us and started a fight. We started to beat up the surfers badly, but something funny happened; all of the surfers asked us to stop the fight as one of the surfers was getting beaten up severely. After the fight, all the Jiu-Jitsu guys were welcome to surf anytime and the surfers started to train with us and became our friends.

Question
Thank you so much for your time Marcus.

Marcus
You are welcome; I thank you for the opportunity.

Best wishes, Marcus Soares

To contact Marcus Soares visit: www.Marcussoares-BJJ.com
Or email him at: marcussoares@hotmail.com
Tel: (604) 922-4865 cell (604) 618-6292 or (604) 861-9799
fax (604) 922-9714