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.”
IN A BACK-ANDFORTH
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.”
FEATURING A HOST
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.wordpress.com.
“People thought you couldn’t be a top competitor and a top coach at the same time, but ... he showed you can.”