Furthering The Art: How The Mendes Brothers Plan To Revolutionize Jiu-Jitsu

The Mendes brothers Rafael and Guilherme are, without a doubt, jiu-jitsu's most influential figures under the age of 30.

An inspiration and influence to grapplers around the world, the Mendes brothers set a new standard in the sport both on the mat and in business. Their finely honed techniques are known as some of the most effective and defining of the current era, and their carefully crafted image and branding -- something unseen in the game until they arrived -- changed forever how athletes and jiu-jitsu gym owners present themselves.

nullIncredibly, Rafael and Guilherme both stepped away from competition at the height of their success. A four-time world champion, Guilherme (pictured right) has not competed since 2015, while Rafael's last tournament was in 2016 when he captured his sixth world title. Fans reminisce about the success and wish for their return on a daily basis. But the brothers have new goals for their careers, and it involves creating an army.

The Art of Jiu-Jitsu (AOJ) gym in Costa Mesa, CA, is one of the best-known academies in the world. Its stark, all-white design, punctuated by splashes of color from original artwork, framed photos, and medals, has been a beacon for aspiring practitioners since the Mendes brothers opened the gym in 2012.

Part of the Atos network, AOJ has always had a healthy competition team with a renowned squad of savage juveniles, but it has also quietly unrolled a new program called "Believe & Achieve" that is proving to be one of the most exciting initiatives in the sport.

"Competition has always been a part of our lives and it's exciting to see the students training and preparing themselves to achieve the same goals we were able to accomplish," Guilherme says. "We won the last five years of the IBJJF Pan Kids and last two years of the juvenile team title at Worlds. We definitely have a young generation of champions and expect to keep producing more and more high-level athletes every year. Believe & Achieve started as a program and it started getting much bigger. We have great plans for it and we will announce soon."

​Read more: Believe And Achieve: The Art Of Jiu-Jitsu Hit Squad

null
Guilherme Mendes offers some advice to AOJ / Believe & Achieve athlete Tainan Dalpra at the IBJJF 2017 World Championships. Photo: Mason Monsevais

The Believe & Achieve program operates by identifying prospective talent and offering these athletes sponsorship, tutelage, and training at AOJ -- but that's not all.

"We are more focused on helping them to manage their career and teach them what is necessary to succeed in the sport as an athlete and be able to work with jiu-jitsu," Guilherme says.

We see so many jiu-jitsu black belts and champions that don't know how to work and have a really hard time to make their living with jiu-jitsu, and we want these young athletes to learn it the right away.
If there is anybody who can offer valuable lessons, it is the Mendes brothers. Their combined 10 world titles, their growing academy, and their relationships with influential businesses and brands mark them out as savvy and calculated decision makers. Currently they are offering their experience to a new generation of competitors in regard to jiu-jitsu, but their own development and career paths are far from over. They are approaching this new phase of their lives with the same level of focus and commitments as they did their athletic endeavors.

null
Rafael and Guilherme Mendes teaching at their Art of JIu-Jitsu gym in Costa Mesa, California. Photo: Hywel Teague / FloGrappling

"We have a lot going on right now -- our life as a competitor was much easier than it is right now," Guilherme says. "Before, the only goal was to win a tournament, and we already knew the formula to make it happen. It was just a matter of putting work in."

The summer months after the World Championships are traditionally a quieter time with fewer major competitions. The AOJ competition team has been training and testing itself in small competitions while the brothers travel, teach, and work on our new projects. With no obligation to prepare for competition, they are working full-time on expanding the AOJ brand.

That means we'll be seeing a lot more from AOJ and the Mendes brothers. In addition to their plans to grow their team and continue dominating the competition scene, a new Southern California location is in the works and Gui promises he and his brother will teach in both academies.

The new goals are harder to accomplish and there is a lot of new things that we are learning, so it is more interesting for us and a new challenge. We are determined to become black belt world champions in business right now.
You may also like: 
Inside Art of Jiu-Jitsu: Training With The Mendes Bros Before IBJJF Worlds 

FloGrappling's hottest content, delivered to your inbox
Don't miss breaking news, feature stories, event updates, and more. Sign up for the FloGrappling mailing list today.

11 Must-See Black Belt Matches from Pans

The first day of black belt competition at the 2019 Pan Championships delivered the kind action expected of such a high caliber event. 

IBJJF Pan Championship: Live Updates of Black Belt Absolute Division

The 2019 IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship black belt absolute division will run on Mats 5-8, with men on 5 & 8 and women on 6 & 7. Watch the live stream here. 

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Pans Black Belt Live Updates: Saturday Morning Opening Rounds

Follow along as I recap the opening rounds of the male black belt weight divisions. The black belts start at 9.00am sharp with qualifying rounds and they'll work through to the quarterfinals (which go down tomorrow, Sunday March 23). 

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

PANS 2019: Women's Absolute Black Belt Brackets OUT NOW

The women’s black belt absolute has 14 competitors signed up and is remarkable for the fact that Gabi Garcia makes her return to gi jiu-jitsu. 

Pan Black Belt Absolute Division Brackets OUT NOW

The brackets are out for the Pan black belt absolute division! Get a look at them right here.

IBJJF 2019 Pan Male Purple Belt Standouts: Munis, Tainan, Meyram & More

null

The men’s purple belt divisions lit up the opening day of the 2019 IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Irvine, CA. Of the 10 available gold medals, nine were claimed by Brazilians while the Japanese grappler Hiryu Niwa took top spot in the roosterweight division. 

Road to Pans Gold: Pedro Machado (Gordo Jiu-Jitsu)

The medium-heavy purple belt division was filled to the brim with rising talents from around the world, but none performed more beautifully today then Gordo Jiu-Jitsu representative Pedro Machado.

Middleweight: The Most Competitive Black Belt Division at 2019 IBJJF Pans

The largest black belt division at this year’s Pans, middleweight also has a ridiculous amount of athletes with a legit shot of challenging for the title.  

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Lo, Kaynan, Gaudio: Why Heavyweight Is The Most Intriguing Division at Pans

The heavyweight division always offers plenty of entertainment, but this year we should see a three way race to gold between powerhouse athletes Leandro Lo, Patrick Gaudio and Kaynan Duarte. 

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

2019 IBJJF Pan Championship Purple Belt Viewing Guide

It's the eve of the IBJJF 2019 Pan Championships, and as per tradition, the event is set to run the adult purple belt divisions over the first two days of competition, bringing the sport's budding talents to the fore. 

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In