Local dojo gives the community more than self-defense
From the outside looking in, a revolving door of students from all ages, sizes and backgrounds can be seen gripping their partner’s lapel with one hand, pulling down their sleeve with the other, while choking them with their own arm until an escape or submission happens. Welcome to Guillobel Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in San Clemente, California.
On any given day of the week, owner/founder of Guillobel Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, author and fifth-degree world champion black belt Paulo Guillobel teaches students more than self-defense, he implements the art of jiu-jitsu in every aspect of their lives.
Since 2013, Guillobel BJJ continues to make an impact in San Clemente, California. Each year the San Clemente Times opens the polls for a ‘Best of San Clemente’ competition and Guillobel is on the move for their fifth consecutive title in the ‘Best Martial Arts School’ category.
While their competition grows around the city, Guillobel remains at the top.
On Dec. 6, 2018, Guillobel held a ceremony to promote his students who consistently train and progress in the martial art. 56 adult students of the dojo, mostly wearing their white kimono (or gi in jiu-jitsu culture), gathered on the mat to focus on their sensei as he began the evening.
“This is always special,” he said. “The dojo is getting bigger and stronger. A lot more people, variety, different points-of-view and more friends. Ultimately, I don’t see this as a place where I teach jiu-jitsu only. I see this as a community. It goes way beyond learning martial arts and if you’ve been here long enough, you already know that.”
“The level and quality of instruction here at Guillobel is second to none,” said Tom Jessop who earned the first degree for his black belt during the ceremony. “We have high level competitors that have developed winning strategies and techniques, each one of them pushing each other to higher grounds and bigger achievements. As we are all highly competitive in our practice and training, we never forget that we are partners and brothers first; mutual respect is important, and it thrives at our dojo.”
Jessop has been training with Guillobel for the last eight years. He also mentions, ‘Paulo has taken time even off the mat to discuss with me ways to further improve my jiu-jitsu game.’
During the ceremony, a handful of white belts viewed from the back of the mat while the others received a belt or stripe. Guillobel extended his gratitude to their presence as he included them in the flow of the evening.
“For the new guys, thank you for joining us,” he said. “You could’ve done anything and trained martial arts with somebody else, but for some reason, you came to us. I believe we have the law of attraction and the people that are attracted to us are attracted to us for a reason. My goal is that since you came to me, now I have to give something back.”
Jack Rose, a white belt who earned his second stripe during the ceremony, has been training with sensei Guillobel for the last six months.
He said, “Guillobel has great camaraderie and top-notch practitioners. It’s definitely pushed me to become better and I like the fact that sensei Paulo cares for each student individually. “
Guillobel said, “As a white belt, it’s tough and we all understand that. If you stay long enough, you will become good at jiu-jitsu and you’re going to get to a black belt level.”
As the ceremony progressed, more students took responsibility for their next step in the never-ending journey of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Mike Cobb is purple belt who has trained at Guillobel for the last six years. He received his fourth stripe on his belt during the ceremony.
“I train here because of the family that our master instructor Sensei Paulo has created,” he said. “I train here because our Brazilian jiu-jitsu lineage is amazing: Grand Master Rickson Gracie; Master Jorge Pereira, Sensei Paulo — Master Fabio told me a couple years ago at a tournament that I was in great hands and to never leave my sensei’s side — advice taken.”
The evening continued with more stripe and belt promotions.
Perhaps the greatest highlight of the evening, however, was when Homero Villa Jr. received his promotion from the purple belt to the brown belt.
“I remember when he got his blue belt,” said Guillobel about Villa. “He came to me and said, ‘Paulo, this is my purple belt. I want you to keep here for when I am ready for it — my grandmother gave it to me.’ So what does that tell you? One thing: that this guy is serious. He wants his purple belt. Then, he got the purple for training hard and did the same thing with the brown belt. Now, he becomes a brown belt tonight. So, that may serve for some of you as a way of doing it. It means commitment. When you give someone the belt, now they have a commitment.”
As Villa accepted the brown belt, the crowd cheered and encouraged him to give a speech. The room fell to silence when he began sharing the story through tears of joy about his journey, dedication to jiu-jitsu and gratitude toward his sensei.
By the end of the ceremony, it was clear that each practitioner sitting on the mat is truly dedicated to their training, the art of jiu-jitsu and all care and commitment sensei Paulo fosters to his dojo.
“To tell you the truth, my morning was terrible,” said Guillobel. “Terrible until we got here. This erases everything and much more. I knew the moment I got here, things were going to change.”
As the ceremony came to an end, the team gathered for a photo and even trained until closing.
The energy, loyalty and love displayed by students and staff alike sparked a question: What does Paulo Guillobel bring to the mat that differs from other dojo’s?
When a teacher of any subject can bring a grown adult to tears of joy, it is not hard to see there is something remarkable about the instructor.
In a separate interview, he shared the process of how his dojo successfully operates each day.
“Jiu-jitsu is a lot about the teacher,” said Guillobel. “It’s more about the teachers than everything else. I’m always studying, learning how to improve some techniques and how to improve the teaching skills. You know, there are two different aspects of martial arts and that is the technique, which is the style. And the teaching, which is educational. It’s the pedagogy.”
Guillobel draws influence from an array of instructors, authors and experiences. From his original sensei Jorge Pereira to the Gracie family, as well as the Machado family.
“I absorbed what I like and discarded what I didn’t like,” he said. “It’s a blend of influences, you know.”
His inspiration and favorite author is Napoleon Hill.
“If he was still alive I would find a way to hang out with him,” he said. “That’s the guy that I follow.”
Guillobel uses the teachings of Hill to influence his students. In doing so, he keeps track of his students progresses every week with his team.
“I believe that if you want to be successful in any endeavor, you have to master the basics,” he said. “A lot of people try to skip the basics and go for the new thing, the new shiny object that’s out there or what’s trendy at the moment. But that is going to leave a gap that can only filled if the person goes back to the basics again. When you have bad fundamentals, eventually it’s going to come out.”
This philosophy he adheres to goes across the board. In 2015, Guillobel authored “Mastering The 21 Immutable Principles Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: The Ultimate Handbook for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Students.” Through analogies and demonstrations of basic principles, the text propels the reader to have confidence in jiu-jitsu and apply it to daily living.
“Every time that I have a situation that wasn’t going my way or I have a little disagreement, jiu-jitsu gives me the power to deal with it,” he said. “To find a better way; to turn the situation to my side; or even to settle the situation in a way that was the best way for both parties.”
The dojo operates seven days a week and it caters to a diverse range of people.
“We are training every day,” said first-degree black belt sensei Andre ‘Pretzel’ Pontes. “Every morning, every afternoon and evening.”
Aside from Guillobel, Pontes teaches many of the classes. He began training with Guillobel in the early-aughts shortly after leaving Brazil. Guillobel brought him on as an instructor before Pontes received his black belt.
“We talk about how to motivate the students,” said Pontes. “In jiu-jitsu, you get hurt, you get frustrated and things don’t work out the way you want it to. So, we’re always trying to help motivate people.”
On Fridays, the instructors work on the curriculum, brainstorm marketing ideas and enhance customer service.
“A lot of the curriculum comes from me, but I collaborate with other instructors too that have more contact with a certain group,” said Guillobel. “They are the best people to give me the feedback on what the group needs to move on.”
The dojo consists of eight different programs for kids and adults. During each class, the instructor will lead the class with a warm-up exercise followed by teaching the technique of the day.
“Every technique you learn, that technique is a white belt for you,” he said. “Your technique will develop. It’s not like I am going to show a technique today and tomorrow it’s going to be a black belt.”
After an hour of warming-up, learning new drills and techniques, the students engage in multiple six-minute bouts of full training with each other. They bow as a sign of respect and bump fists to signal the training has begun.
“In jiu-jitsu, the moment you step on the mat, you are out of your comfort zone,” he said. “And if you are, you won’t be there for very long. Right? Eventually, somebody is going to show you up.”
Week by week, the students train with each other. Some show up every day, others once a week.
“There is no secret,” said Guillobel. “If you keep training, one day you’re going to be really good at it. It’s like a mountain — you’ll get on top. For me, it’s just climbing the mountain which I’m still climbing.”
Guillobel BJJ opened it’s doors in San Clemente, California to help the community and beyond.
“I do this because I want to contribute more because I know people do jiu-jitsu for many reasons,” said Guillobel. “Learn how to defend yourself, sometimes you want to work on your discipline. You want to work on your health or you want to work on your self-esteem.”
His purpose and mission statement prove themselves true in the students who train.
“I keep coming back to Guillobel because I feel better when I walk out of the academy than when I walk in,” said blue belt Arianna Barnes. “I feel more confident, relaxed and I just had an amazing workout.”
The dojo grows each month with new students signing up and committing their time and effort to learn the martial art.
“People come here for jiu-jitsu, but they end up having a family,” said Guillobel. “It’s a hidden benefit that nobody knows about.”
With nearly 300 active students, Guillobel knows a bigger facility eventually will be neccesary.
“My location is almost full,” he said. “Right now, I don’t have many plans of conquering the world. I have plans of slowly implementing and replicating what we have here.”
Guillobel also plans to write another book and put his teachings online.