Jiu-Jitsu Journey: Nuno Barbosa

Nuno Barbosa is a 39 year old, 3rd-degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) Blue belt under Roberto Maia (Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda -> Carlos Gracie Sr. -> Carlos Gracie Jr. -> Roberto Maia).  He has been training for 5 1/2 years and is an active competitor.  He currently trains at Renzo Gracie Staten Island under Professor Joseph Capizzi.

Nuno’s story is a powerful one and demonstrates the power that Jiu-Jitsu has on their physical and mental well-being.

Nuno is a disabled Veteran of the United States Navy.  With an injured back and weighing up towards 335 lbs, Nuno suffered from depression and high blood pressure before trying Jiu-Jitsu.


Below, he shared his Jiu-Jitsu Journey with us and we are pleased to share it with you here at HEAVYWEIGHTBJJ.COM.


Question 1. Please tell our fans your name and any Nicknames you go by and your current weight?

Answer: My name is Nuno Barbosa. I don’t have any nicknames.  My current weight is 220 and I compete at Super Heavyweight.

Question 2. What is your single favorite technique?

Answer: More a position than a technique, but the Spider Guard.

Question 3. Why did you start training Jiu-Jitsu?

Answer: I started Jiu-Jitsu because I needed something to get me into shape. I weighed 335lbs when I started. Being a disabled Veteran (U.S. Navy) with a bad back, it seemed impossible to do Jiu-Jitsu but I stuck with it.

When I started my journey I was extremely overweight and out of shape. I had high blood pressure and suffered from depression.  I no longer suffer from either of those ailments.

Jiu-Jitsu literally saved my life.

Question 4. Are you an active competitor? If so, what is your last tournament and results?

Answer: I was extremely active until 2013. After that I moved and had a baby boy. I am now currently getting back to a fully active competitor. Registered for Summer NY Open, Boston Open & will be competing in the Masters Worlds in coming months.

Question 5. How often do you train Jiu-Jitsu?

Answer: I train 4-5 times a week.

Question 6. How does your training for competition differ from non-competition training? What is your overall training strategy? 

Answer: I train the same if I am competing than if I wasn’t competing. High energy, high tempo. Drilling has become a major part of my training routine.

My training strategy is train hard so that competing is easy. We push each other to the max.  2 days out of the week I focus on drilling and sharpen areas of my game I know needs help or what my professor sees as weaknesses.

I believe what you do outside the academy is as important such as: Diet, mental focus, taking care of your body by doing yoga, etc.

Absolute focus on my offensive game. The mentality of takedown, pass, submit is how I train and compete. I don’t depend on advantages or points. If I get them along the way of going for the submission, that’s a plus.

Question 7. What BJJ Practitioners do you look up to the most and why?

Answer: I look up to Renzo first and foremost. He’s not only an inspiration but much more than that.

Others include Andre Galvao, Leandro Lo, Terere, Rodolfo Viera, Xande [Ribeiro] because of their pressure and attack. Always going for it.

The list could go on.

Question 8. Do you include Strength Training or other specialized programs in your training? What does a typical weeks training look like for you?

Answer: I do strength and conditioning 3 times a week away from the academy.  I mainly focus on conditioning and expending a lot of energy with small breaks between. Also work on grip strength and explosiveness.

I train Jiu-Jitsu 4-5 days a week in the evening with strength and conditioning 3-4 times a week in the early morning.

Question 9. What are your strengths and weaknesses in Jiu-Jitsu? 

Answer: My strength is my pressure. Every position I am in I apply heavy amount of pressure. Especially in my passing game. I look up to Ralph Gracie and his unbelievable pressure from anywhere.

My weakness would be my [offensive] takedowns. Work on them as much as I can to get better.

Question 10. What are your preferred methods of learning and/or teaching?  Do you incorporate any materials personally or with your students outside of the academy (e.g., Instructional books, videos, apps, etc.)? 

Answer: I learn by applying and drilling. Same way I would teach. I’ve been taught by many methods from different professors from “tough love” to relaxed atmosphere and I always thrived more in pressure, tough training. Perhaps it has to do with my military background.

I enjoy reading different books about the mental and philosophical aspects of the arts. Heavy into Judo books. I try and stay away from the internet when it comes to BJJ (learning).

Question 11. What are your thoughts on the Self-Defense and Sport Jiu-Jitsu debate? That is, do you think training exclusively in Sports/competition-based Jiu-Jitsu will carry over as much as a Self-Defense focused curriculum? Please elaborate.

Answer: I believe Jiu Jitsu is Jiu Jitsu. You cannot have one without the other. What you apply in a self-defense situation will come natural from your training and the basics you learned. I know that in a life or death situation, search for an advantage is not an option, I can differentiate between competing on the mats and a self-defense situation where I know what I need to use to diffuse the situation. How you apply that is up to the individual.

Question 12. Are you involved in any special projects that have a BJJ influence?

Answer: Unfortunately I am not right now, but we are in the works to teach BJJ to inner-city youth.

Question 13. What do you like and dislike about Jiu-Jitsu?

Answer: Other than Jiu-Jitsu saving my life, I like my team. It’s like a family.

I wouldn’t say I dislike anything or any particular style of Jiu-Jitsu, it’s the wonderful aspect of BJJ is that you can have your unique style or approach.


Nuno’s belt shows the hard work of his journey

Question 14. How has Jiu-Jitsu changed your life? 

Answer: Jiu-jitsu changed my life completely.

How I approach difficult situations in the regular world. The way I hold myself and interact with humans. The humbleness that comes from this beautiful art reflects how you are in every aspect of my life.

From my home life to my professional life, Jiu-Jitsu has had and continues to have a large impact.

This great gift I have been given, I give back tenfold to my community, to my team mates, my wife & children. It has truly saved my life in more than a physical way. I’d say mentally it has saved me more than anything.

Question 15. How can a general level BJJ practitioner get more out of their BJJ? In other words, how can they incorporate mat lessons into their everyday life and the lives of others?

Answer: First you must humble yourself and absorb this art, only then can you incorporate it into your other aspects of life.  The more you put into this art the more you get out of it. This does not mean you need to compete, be a monster and train 10 times a week. A person that trains twice a week can get the same lessons. Its all in how you approach bjj and expand your mind and soul into it.

Question 16. What are your personal and professional goals?

Answer: My goal is to continue my journey where ever that may lead. I don’t need a goal of reaching Black Belt or sponsors, I know with hard work all that will come one day if it’s meant to be. And if it doesn’t, you’ll still find me on the mats twenty years from now.

Question 17. Any parting words of inspiration or wisdom for BJJ enthusiasts?

Answer: Never quit. Never doubt yourself. If I did it, I know you can too!

Thank you for sharing your amazing Jiu-Jitsu Journey with us!

In Closing

We look forward to hearing about Nuno’s future competition results and continued Jiu-Jitsu Journey!

Takeaway #1: The power that Jiu-JItsu has to turn someone’s physical and mental health around is mind-blowing!

Takeaway #2: Jiu-Jitsu bleeds into the rest of your life in a positive way.  Like Nuno said, you deal with adversity better, you’re more helpful and caring and better able to thrive and survive.

Takeaway #3: Like he said, if he can do it, anyone can. This isn’t an exclusive club; Jiu-JItsu can literally help anyone.

What have you taken away from Nuno’s story?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.  

Hopefully his story will inspire you to share your story with us! Go to the Jiu-Jitsu Journey page, fill out the questionnaire, and we will do the rest! You can be featured in a future article, just like this one! Share your journey and help spread Jiu-Jitsu worldwide!


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