When Bruno Barbosa or fondly known as Bruninho first arrived in Malaysia four years ago, he was like a newbie walking into his first Jiujitsu class. He did not know what to expect. The Petropolis native spoke very little English but he knew he had to make it work.
Malaysia and Brazil are not only thousands of miles apart geographically but the two countries could not be any further than each when it comes to culture, food and identity. Brazil is a melting pot of western, Portuguese, African and indigenous people’s culture with over 60 percent of Brazilians being Roman Catholics.
Malaysia, on the other hand, is a Muslim majority country with a mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indian culture. The 3rd degree black belt’s first stint in Malaysia did not go as expected. He was constantly homesick and with a child on the way, he wanted to be with his wife Fabiana.
“It was my first time outside of Brazil and everything was different. I missed my family a lot and I wanted to be with them. I had to go back as my heart was at home,” he said, when he spoke exclusively to BJJAsia.com.
Despite only being in Malaysia for six months, Bruninho became very close to his students at Monarchy MMA and as luck would have it, he returned for a second go at developing a strong Jiujitsu team in the country.
“Once I returned to Brazil and sorted out things with my family, I got an offer to teach in Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. I decided to move there for a year to help spread Jiujitsu. After 12 months, my team in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan had over 100 students. I am proud of what we manage to accomplish there. I also started speaking Russian. As my time at Kyrgyzstan was coming to an end, Monarchy MMA contacted me and offered me a teaching role for the second time,” explained Bruninho.
This time it was different. Bruninho was given the opportunity to move his young family with him and he would have complete control over syllabus and teaching style. So, in 2014 Bruninho, with his wife and two children, moved 15000 kilometres (9320 miles) east for a new beginning.
Champion factory – BJJ Kuala Lumpur
Bruninho’s second stint in Malaysia is a huge success. Monarchy MMA has won a total of eight team titles in local events since 2015 and currently has one of the best competition teams in the country. Bruninho has approximately 80 active students doing Jiujitsu. “On a good day, I have 50 students in a class. 70 percent of them are white belts and we have about 15 girls who train regularly,” Bruninho said.
Besides developing and growing Jiujitsu, Bruninho is one of the primary coaches for Agilan Thanni, a homegrown Malaysian mixed martial artist who fought for a One Championship world title against Ben Askren earlier this year.
“My goal is to teach Jiujitsu to everyone. I do not run competition classes as we have people doing trials almost every day at the gym. I teach my students what I know and I teach them how I was thought. I treat students with respect and share my passion with them. They feed of my energy and that is why I always stay positive,” he added. Bruninho’s gives his mother credit for this mindset. He explained that is was his mom who instilled the power of positive thinking in him and the need to love everyone in our lives.
Having one the most successful teams in the country is bound to attract some rivalries and Bruninho welcomes them. “When I arrived in Malaysia, there were other BJJ schools and they were all doing very well. Healthy competition and rivalries are important. They help everyone grow,” he said. Bruninho added that he does not have a problem with any gym in particular.
Building from the top
Despite spending time to grow his team, Bruninho has found success competing around the world. He recently won gold at the IBJJF Asian Open (Black belt Masters 1) in Japan. Before that, he was one of the competitors at the Eddie Bravo Invitational (Bantamweight). Other titles include taking gold at IBJJF Manila International Open Champion for GI and No Gi this year and winning the Southeast Asian Grappling Challenge in 2016. Although he may not compete as much as he would like, Bruninho says his goal is to continue building his team and spreading Jiujitsu in Malaysia.
Bruninho in action
Bruninho EBI match: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VndmaobB6Fg
Bruninho Manila Open final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYhTnBnsDME