For The Love Of Rolling : How Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Shaped My Life

 BJJ black belt and coach from Monarchy MMA, Bruno Barbosa, weighs in on how BJJ has helped shape him to the person he is today & why he loves the sport. 
Image credit: Bruninho Barbosa Jiu Jitsu Facebook Page

Professor Bruno Barbosa stands facing his students. His presence exudes respect. His students immediately stand in line, ready to “roll” in their Gi’s ( a kimono like outfit similar to the Judo uniform), the lapels neatly supported by their respective coloured belts, each colour indicating their rank –  mostly white (beginners) and Blue. Purple and Browns are rare, the complexity of the sport demands years of practice, dedication and persistence. Earning a new rank can take years. A black belt? 10 years, if you’re a consistent practitioner (perhaps why black belt’s are often respectably referred to as Professors) . A stickler for perfection and discipline, Bruno browses the room and quickly helps to adjust a beginners belt, once he is satisfied, he returns to his position at the front, nods at his students and bows, “Oss”. The students follow suit and the cry of “oss” rings out like a battle cry across the room. Class has begun…


Professor Bruno or Bruninho Barbosa has come a long way from his humble background in Petrópolis, Brazil to being the most sought after Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) coaches in Malaysia. The black belt maestro, currently coaches at Monarchy MMA ( Bangsar and KL Branch), and has trained and guided many of his students towards achieving podium finishes. Students who have trained under him include One Championship MMA fighter, Agilan Thani, Spartan athlete, Colleen Augustin, Mehdi Bagheri, Shaqueme Rock and more. Thanks to Bruno, Monarchy is now home to Malaysia’s top competition teams. 

Although, still a fairly new sport amongst Malaysians, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) – a breakaway from Judo- , has slowly gained traction due to the rising popularity of MMA competitions such as ONE Championship and MIMMA. BJJ is a combat sport system that focuses on grappling and on ground fighting. In comparison to popularly known martial arts like boxing, taekwondo, karate and muay thai, BJJ is a non- striking sport that relies on technique and leverage to overcome an opponent. Using these techniques would allow even the smallest and weakest person to defend themselves against someone bigger than their own size

PRIDE: (left) With Agilan Thani after his recent ONE Championship win in KL & (right) Colleen Augustin after winning 4 categories at the recent BJJ tournament in Singapore.

 … Class ensues, warms ups and light conditioning are completed. Professor proceeds to demonstrate the technique of the day, students surround him as he demonstrates the moves several times, “You control your opponent, not the other way around” he reminds everyone and sometimes he adds a touch of personal wisdom to inspire his students. Making sure everyone understands the technique, it’s time to begin … “Let’s roll!!”… 

A competitor himself he has accomplished a number wins under his belt, recently taking home gold and silver in 2 categories at the recent Tokyo International Open Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Competition, and will be participating in the upcoming Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championships in the UAE

We speak to Bruno about why he chose to pursue BJJ and what it has taught him about the importance of determination and hard work.

1.Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Bruno or better known as Bruninho which is a common Portuguese way to say “Little Bruno”. I’m 34 years old and I’m a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

2. How old were you when you started BJJ, did you do other martial arts prior?
My first experience with martial arts was with Kung Fu, when I was around 10 years old. I’ve also tried Capoeira, Judo and Aikido.I started Jiu-Jitsu when I was 16 years old.

3. How many years have you been practicing BJJ?
I’ve been practicing Jiu-Jitsu for 19 years.

Image credit : IBJJF

4.  Why did you choose to pursue BJJ seriously? 
Initially, my dream was just to win medals in competitions. I wanted to be like the olympic athletes.

5. What changed your perception? How did BJJ help you overcome challenges?
BJJ requires you to be mentally tough and that’s what I love about it. It has helped me overcome many challenges in my life. In fact, I choose to face those challenges as if it were a Jiu-Jitsu match, that if I were to give up, I would lose.

6. What was like being a coach in Brazil? Did you face any challenges? 
It’s not easy to make a living in any sport in Brazil, but my people are amazing, strong and hard working. Our resilience makes it easier for us to face any form of adversity. As a BJJ coach and practitioner, our main obstacle is not being able to teach or compete full time. It’s hard to get sponsors to support your career.

ALWAYS ON YOUR CORNER : Professor Bruno attends all tournaments and advises his students from the sidelines

7. I understand that you taught in Malaysia for a short while before returning to Brazil, why did you decide to return to Malaysia? 
I left Malaysia the first time because my wife was pregnant in Brazil. She was experiencing complications and had to go to the hospital regularly for check ups and it was getting harder and harder for her to do by herself, that’s why I decided to go back. But once again I found myself jobless in Brazil. But alas luck was on my side, as I got another chance to return to Malaysia to teach but this time I was able to bring my family.

8. Prior to returning to Malaysia, you had a one year stint in Kyrgyzstan. Could you elaborate more on your experiences in Kyrgyzstan? 
Kyrgyzstan was amazing, I was the first and only black belt in the whole country. I managed to bring grappling to a different level in just one year. However, I don’t deserve all the credit, the students worked really hard and were easy to teach, despite the fact that I couldn’t speak Russian at the time.

9. When is your next fight?
If everything goes well, I will be competing the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championships, UAE at the end of April. This will be one of my biggest tournaments since I left Brazil 5 years ago

A PODIUM FINISH: Proudly waving the Malaysian and Brazilian flag at the recent Tokyo International Open Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Competition

10. What is your pre-fight training regiment like? 
I’m not a professional athlete. I have to work, take care of my family and find time to train. I train whenever I can, most times during my classes with my students as long as I’m not busy teaching them. My family are my priority, after them, are my students. They are dedicated and highly capable. I’ve achieved many great results just by training alongside them. So if I don’t have time to train with professionals, that doesn’t really bother me. But of course, to achieve the best results I have to sacrifice my nap, and my Sunday’s to get into the best shape possible to be able to fight.

11. Do you have a favourite BJJ move? What is it?
My favourite move is the Loop Choke

12. Is there anyone you look up to, someone who inspired you?
The Grand Master Helio Gracie is my main inspiration in Jiu-Jitsu.

13. What do you like about teaching BJJ?
I like to share the wisdom I learnt as a BJJ practitioner. I want them to learn that giving up is not an option and that you can be whatever you want to be, you just need to work hard. Also, I want my students to understand that they can’t lie to themselves. To keep it real. To face challenges head on. Pretty much guide them “to be the hero of their own movie”

IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR: Bruno's family are BJJ practitioners. (left) With his wife Fabiana, a blue belt and (right) his two boys.

14. What’s next, what else do you wish to achieve?
I want more…hahaha… I want to share my love for Jiu-Jitsu to as many people as I can. They don’t even have to train with me, but if by talking to me they at least know the benefits of Jiu-jitsu and maybe become interested to try it out. Then I’ve struck gold. I know that as long as they train with someone qualified, someone who can show them that Jiu-Jitsu is more than just any martial art. I’m sure that is enough to impact their lives already. 

15. How do you hope to see BJJ grow in Malaysia?
Thanks to the success of our team in Jiu-Jitsu competitions and the rising popularity of MMA. BJJ is definitely getting more exposure now. I hope I can share my passion with everyone. In fact, my students work really hard on the mats during training and during competitions. So if Malaysian’s know who I am, or hear about be or even garner some interest in jiu jitsu, it’s 100% due to their hard work and commitment.

16. Why should we learn BJJ?
Jiu-Jitsu is one of the best self-defense martial arts as it advocates important life values such as humility, discipline and respect. It teaches patience; because you can’t skip steps when executing a good submission. That in order to get better, you have to embrace and love the process. This principle should be our way of life too – if we live by the jiu-jitsu way of life, we will learn to enjoy the process of living by being patient with ourselves and doing everything one step at a time.  

In addition to all these, you also get to build meaningful friendships with people who are also passionate about the sport.

Follow Bruninho Here: 
Facebook : @BruninhoBarbosaJiuJitsu
Instagram : @bruninhobbjj

Monarchy MMA is one of the top martial arts gyms in Malaysia, besides BJJ, other classes also include boxing, muay thai, wrestling, strength and conditioning and more. If you are ever keen on taking up martial arts or looking for a fun new way to keep fit. Then head to their branches in Bangsar or Wisma MPL, Kuala Lumpur for a ONE day FREE trial! 

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ash be nimble is an online journal that focuses on sharing real and relatable fitness stories of everyday Malaysians! We are your one stop guide to everything sports, fitness & health. If you have an inspiring story to share? Write to us at


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