September 10, 2004

Fabio Santos, My Mentor, My Inspiration, My Friend

By Victor M. Sanchez, Jr.

My introduction to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu came one evening back in 1993 while watching the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. I saw a tall skinny Brazilian guy named Royce Gracie render helpless much larger and heavier men using only his family’s Jiu-Jitsu techniques. Being a larger and heavier man myself I could not believe my eyes!

One day a few years later I was driving my mother to my aunt’s house in Baldwin Park and I took a little detour to the Gracie Academy. I was surprised to see that the first person we ran into was Royce. He was kind and friendly, a little shy and very hospitable. He shook my hand and gave me a hug. I was amazed at how humble he was, with no ego. He invited me to a free introductory lesson.

I returned several weeks later with my brother Steve to take the intro class and we enjoyed the lesson. After several months commuting from Chula Vista to Torrance, I asked Royce: Is there a Jiu-Jitsu academy closer to San Diego? He said yes, go and see Fabio Santos! He has trained with my family for many years and he is a very good instructor. A couple days later Steve and I went to Fabio’s Academy. He was small in stature and very thin with salt & pepper hair. He welcomed us in and shook our hands and gave us big hugs; we asked him if the training was the same as the Gracie Academy and that Royce recommended us to train with him. Fabio was also good natured and charismatic. I remember the first classes my brother and I took at Fabio’s, he wanted to spar with us being both big guys 250 lbs+ and Fabio being around 155 lbs. It was like he was performing ballet on the ground, he would move with such grace and agility. Within 20 seconds or so he had me and my brother screaming like little girls when he applied an arm-bar on both of us. My brother and I were so impressed with his skills we decided to stay and learn more Jiu-Jitsu from Fabio! Throughout the years Fabio has help me so much with my Jiu-Jistu skills being overweight, having no balance and no flexibility.

If you could not perform the move the way he taught, you could always go to him for help and he would say: Vitor! (Portuguese for Victor), try the move this way, if that does not work for you try it this way, till you can do it comfortably. “Fabio would say to me: every-body’s Jiu-Jitsu is different, not all people can perform the same move the same way.” One of my greatest accomplishment in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu came when I defended the honor of the school and Fabio’s teachings, another instructor from another school came to practice with us and he had been training for several years and was a higher belt rank than I was. He started with the lower ranked guys beating them handily, soon I was next! I was bigger and out weighed him. But in my past experiences in Jiu-Jitsu that was not a factor. We started to spar and WOW ! This guy was like a tornado! He was quick and strong for his size, I could barely defend myself. After about 1 minute and 30 seconds I heard a saying in the back of my head that Fabio always told me: “Always keep your hand in your opponents collar.” So I did it and the instructor turn the wrong way and he fell right into a choke and I made him SUBMIT. Even I was surprised. I had submitted an Instructor from another school. I was not aware that Fabio and the whole class was watching.

For a few seconds the whole Academy was silent. I showed my respect for the Instructor and shook his hand and thanked him for the sparing. I looked over to Fabio and he was smiling. He said “Good Vitor, Good Vitor.”

My best accomplishment to date is when Fabio presented me my Purple Belt. I had heard from other students that the Purple Belt is being half way to becoming a Black Belt. This is the toughest of all the belts. I remember it was one evening after class and all of my classmates were sparring as was I, and Fabio yelled across the mat: VITOR, come here! I thought to myself, oh, Fabio sounds mad. I walk across the mat like a kid who just got in trouble. Fabio had a straight look on his face. As I approached Fabio with my head bowed down, he look at me with a big smile and reached in his Gi and pulled out the Purple Belt. Fabio gave me a hug and said: you deserve Vitor. At that moment the whole class started to clap and cheer. To this day I have to say this is the best award I have ever received. Fabio Santos can be reached at: Fabio Santos Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy. 4780-F Missión Gorge Pl. (619) 229-0022.

Come get your free lesson!

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