Slowly, An­dre Gal­vao grap­ples his way through the room full of mar­tial artists, tap­ping each and ev­ery one of them whether white belt or black. While vis­it­ing the small New York sub­urb of Harts­dale to teach a sem­i­nar at Es­sen­tial Jiu- Jitsu, the new­est br


Meet An­dre Gal­vao, the New York–based mar­tial artist be­hind Atos -iu--itsu. Our East Coast cor­re­spon­dent claims Gal­vao is one of the most car­ing and most skilled in­struc­tors in the biz.

But un­like some grap­pling mas­ters who look to demon­strate their prow­ess by sub­mit­ting ev­ery op­po­nent as quickly and im­pres­sively as pos­si­ble, Gal­vao is kind, al­most lan­guid in his ap­proach. He gives all the par­tic­i­pants an op­por­tu­nity to feel as if they’re ac­com­plish­ing some­thing be­fore the in­evitable.

Dis­play­ing his trade­mark me­thod­i­cal style, Gal­vao even­tu­ally takes charge of each op­po­nent, care­fully im­prov­ing his po­si­tion un­til he’s placed him­self in full con­trol. Then he gen­tly launches a fi­nal sub­mis­sion hold. It’s a style that has led not only Gal­vao, with his five black-belt world ti­tles, to the heights of the jiu-jitsu land­scape but also his Atos squad to No. 1 sta­tus, win­ning the team ti­tle at this year’s “Mun­di­als,” the Brazil­ian jiu-jitsu world cham­pi­onships.


has fol­lowed the same me­thod­i­cal, in­evitable prog- ress that’s char­ac­ter­is­tic of his ji­u­jitsu. Win­ning the world cham­pi­onship for blue belts in 2002, he won the ti­tle for pur­ple belts in 2003 and for brown belts the year af­ter that. In 2005, af­ter only three months as a black belt, he took his first black­belt world cham­pi­onship.

“It was re­ally the train­ing time I put in on the mats,” Gal­vao said. “No one trained more than I did back then. I’d go to ev­ery class, I’d train week­ends six to eight hours a day — I was al­ways train­ing.”

It wasn’t just Gal­vao’s work ethic; his ta­lent was clear from the be­gin­ning. Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he be­gan with judo in 1992 be­fore tak­ing up jiu-jitsu in 1995 un­der Luis Dag­mar. Dag­mar soon spot­ted his nat­u­ral abil­ity and, own­ing a rel­a­tively small gym that didn’t have many high­ranked com­peti­tors, he rec­om­mended Gal­vao move to a ma­jor academy. To the stu­dent, it was an in­cred­i­bly self­less act, and he gives his first in­struc­tor full credit for it to this day.

Gal­vao signed up at the gym of a world cham­pion named Fer­nando “Terere” Au­gusto and thus be­gan his march up the jiu-jitsu ranks in earnest.


school later broke up, Gal­vao joined the suc­cess­ful Brasa jiu-jitsu team. Even­tu­ally, he and team­mate Ra­mon Le­mos de­cided to start their own squad, and in 2008 they formed Atos. The name is Por­tuguese for “Acts” and comes from the Book of Acts in the Bi­ble. Both he and Le­mos are evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians, and they wanted to start a team that would ex­em­plify their high stan­dards, both on and off the mat.

“Be­ing a Chris­tian af­fects ev­ery­thing I do as a hus­band, as a fa­ther, as a teacher,” Gal­vao said. “Ev­ery time I re­mem­ber what that means, I suc­ceed. When I don’t re­mem­ber, I fail. I fail a lot. But the most im­por­tant thing is to learn from those mis­takes.”

De­spite his deep be­liefs, Gal­vao said he’s care­ful not to use his po­si­tion as an in­struc­tor to pros­e­ly­tize to stu­dents. In­stead, he prefers to let his ac­tions speak for him. And as far as his jiu-jitsu ac­tions go, he’s clearly do­ing some­thing right.

Fol­low­ing a brief foray into the mixed mar­tial arts, he moved to San Diego in 2010 to start an Atos branch in a small gym that a friendly jiu-jitsu en­thu­si­ast of­fered for free. Re­fo­cus­ing on BJJ and no- gi grap­pling, he sought to win the one ma­jor ti­tle that had eluded him so far: the Abu Dhabi Com­bat Club Sub­mis­sion Wrestling World Cham­pi­onship.

Fi­nally, in 2011, af­ter spend­ing the pre­vi­ous year build­ing up his school and train­ing pri­mar­ily with his own blue and pur­ple belts, Gal­vao showed up at the ADCC event and went on an in­cred­i­ble run. He gar­nered the ti­tle in the 88-kilo­gram weight class and went on to win the “ab­so­lute” open-divi­sion cham­pi­onship.

That per­for­mance earned him a shot at de­fend­ing su­per­fight cham­pion Braulio Es­tima, and the two were sched­uled to meet at the 2013 ADCC com­pe­ti­tion. “I’d been wait­ing for this match since he beat me in 2009,” Gal­vao said. “This was my chance for re­venge.”


af­fair that saw the taller Es­tima use his length to frus­trate his op­po­nent’s po­si­tional game and launch sev­eral sharp leg-lock at­tacks, Gal­vao per­se­vered and man­aged to take his op­po­nent’s back. Es­tima fought wildly to shake him off, but Gal­vao hung on for life and fi­nally sank in a rear choke to fin­ish the con­test af­ter nearly 20 min­utes. It earned him not just the su­per­fight ti­tle but also recog­ni­tion as one of the best grap­plers in the sport.

He went on to de­fend his crown against Roberto Abreu at the 2015 ADCC cham­pi­onships and then added his fifth Mun­dial black-belt cham­pi­onship in 2017. This last ti­tle was par­tic­u­larly sweet, not just be­cause ev­ery­one ex­pected the com­pet­i­tive ca­reer of Gal­vao, now 35, to be wind­ing down but also be­cause it clinched Atos’ first world team cham­pi­onship.

“He sets the tone for ev­ery­one,” said Atos black-belt J.T. Tor­res, who earned the 2013 no-gi world cham­pi­onship un­der Gal­vao’s tute­lage. “Peo­ple thought you couldn’t be a top com­peti­tor and a top coach at the same time, but at th­ese world cham­pi­onships, he showed you can.”


of jiu-jitsu icons — in­clud­ing Tor­res, Rafael Mendes and Keenan Cor­nelius — Atos has be­come known as per­haps the most dom­i­nant and in­no­va­tive team in jiu-jitsu, though it’s not with­out crit­ics. Some ac­cuse its mem­bers of play­ing for points and not us­ing the kinds of tech­niques that would work in MMA or self-de­fense. Gal­vao doesn’t see such crit­i­cism as en­tirely valid.

“If I have to pro­tect my­self on the street, I can do that,” he said. “But this is a sport, and ev­ery sport has rules. You play within the rules and do ev­ery­thing you can to win. Ji­u­jitsu is dif­fer­ent than no-gi grap­pling, which is dif­fer­ent than MMA. Peo­ple choose what is best for them.”

ABOUT THE AU­THOR: Mark Ja­cobs’ most re­cent book is The Prin­ci­ples of Un­armed Com­bat. His web­site is writ­ing­fight­ing.word­

“Peo­ple thought you couldn’t be a top com­peti­tor and a top coach at the same time, but ... he showed you can.”

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