Championship Mentality

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By Chad Wesley Smith

Interview with 7 Time Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion Romulo Barral

Becoming a champion is about much more than talent. To truly be a champion requires tireless work, the type of work that makes people quit, the type of work that separates those with potential from those with accomplishments. It is the mental aspect of athletics and life that sets a part those who are called champions and everyone else. For the last several months I have been blessed to handle the physical preparation of Romulo Barral, the greatest champion I have had the opportunity to be around. Romulo has tremendous physical gifts, his strength, speed, power and endurance are undeniable, he is tremendously technical in his craft, but it is his mindset and focus that separate him from his peers. I sat down with Romulo to discuss his career, his training and what makes him tick…

Q: Give us an overview of your Jiu Jitsu career…

A: I am 27 years old and started training Jiu Jitsu in 1999. I moved to the United States in 2008 to further my training. I have won 7 World Championships, 6 with the Gi and 1 No-Gi and have been the runner up for the World Championship in the Open Weight Division three times.

Q: What is a typical week of training like for you?

A: I currently train 16 times per week, though I am working back towards 18 sessions per week, which is what I was doing prior to my knee injury (ACL surgery in June 2010). My weekly schedule looks like this…

Mondays and Wednesdays
BJJ from 9-11, Strength and Conditioning at Juggernaut 11:30-1:30, BJJ from 5-7
Tuesdays and Thursdays
Running, either for maximum distance in 30 min (PR is 4.58 miles) or 600-1000m intervals at 8:30, BJJ from 12-2, BJJ from 7-8 (all sparring)
Romulo has been know to train against up to 10 other brown and black belts, rolling against each for 1 minute for 10 plus minutes straight.
BJJ from 11-1, Strength and Conditioning at Juggernaut from 2 to 3:30, BJJ from 8-9:30.
BJJ from 11-1, Stairs sprints in the evening.

Romulo has a 1.5 hour commute each way to many of his BJJ and Strength & Conditioning sessions.

Q: What has set you apart from your competition?

Romulo's 7 World Championships have left him hungry for more.

A: Desire, not just to compete but to prepare. The day of the tournament is a day to have fun, but I know that is not the day I become a champion. Whoever trains harder will win more. Winning is a byproduct of great training.

There are five key traits I have picked out about Romulo that I feel are the areas that set him apart from others in his field and are prerequisites of anyone who succeeds at the highest level. Romulo discusses each of these characteristics below…

Commitment must happen in all areas if you desire to be the best. Your jiu jitsu, strength training, diet, conditioning work must all be the best, if you desire to be the best. You must bring a professional attitude to every aspect of your craft, not just a few, be on time, be prepared. There is nothing, with the exception of a serious family emergency, that will cause me to miss a training session. I represent many people in my jiu jitsu and I am committed to representing all those that support me in the best way I know how, by winning.

I have given my life for this sport. I left my family in Brazil, I sacrificed my youth. I know there are people that are just as talented as me, but they want to party, instead of train. I must leave no doubt in my mind that I have done everything I can to prepare.

There is an instance that jumps out me that encapsulates Romulo’s attitude about sacrifice. I asked him what his plans were for New Year’s Eve and he responded with the following,, “It will be fun for me, but not for most. I will go to dinner and church with my wife, and then come home to pray about the new year and rest. My opponents will party. And on Saturday (the day after NYE) I will train, but they will be too tired, and I will get better, and they will not.”

I have been competitive my whole life, and I don’t know where it came from. When I was young they had a ping pong table at my school and I would refuse to give up my spot if I lost, it didn’t matter if I had to play someone 20 times in a row to beat them. I want to win at everything, win the Jiu Jitsu, win the lifting, win the sprints, win the conditioning. A thousand silver medals aren’t the same as 1 gold. I want to win against the best, I want the biggest names in my bracket, that’s why my best performances are always at World’s, where the best guys are. If my coach tells me that I have a tough bracket, I think to myself, Why? There is no one who has trained harder than me. I’m not scared of anyone.


Romulo has used his knee injury as motivation to be better than ever. "Giving up is not an Option."

I know when I have gotten injured that there is no other option but to recover and move forward. I have given Jiu Jitsu everything in my life, so giving up is not an option. I have had a Labrum Tear/Nerve Damage, that left me with a 2 inch range of motion in shoulder for 1 year, I had ACL reconstruction and was rehabbing the day I got home from the hospital. If you are committed to something, nothing can stop you from that.

Romulo had ACL reconstruction in June 2010 and competed in February 2011 (6.5 months after surgery) to earn an invitation to the Abu Dhabi Pro.

Goal Setting
Without a goal, you lack a purpose. Your goals must be your own, because you can’t compete to please others. Without a goal, you have nothing to be committed to, nothing to sacrifice for, nothing to compete for and nothing to persevere for.

Romulo’s 2011 Goals include rehabbing his knee to 100%, Winning his 1st Open Weight World Championship and winning the Abu Dhabi Pro and ADCC.

Romulo’s commitment to his craft is a constant inspiration to me and hopefully you too can take something from him and apply it to your own training and life.

“I train everyday of my life as they have never trained a day in theirs”-Alexander Karelin

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