Rubens Charles “Cobrinha” Maciel with affiliate Dino Pineda (left): “What we teach on the mat is applicable for life: to persevere, to not give up on their dreams, and to be patient.”
Cobrinha & Dino Pineda combine strengths to bring Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Manila
GLOSS THE RECORD - Marbbie Tagabucba (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2019 - 12:00am

‘Jiu-jitsu is not just about self-defense. I want to jiu-jitsu to impact and improve people’s lives and Dino Pineda has experience in that,’ says Cobrinha

How does Gawad Kalinga mentor Dino Pineda keep his cool while staying fit? Exercising both the body and the mind. But not just any other approach: Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the answer.

The martial art differentiates itself from others because, essentially, it is about freeing the ego. By grappling and ground fighting, you obtain dominant control on the ground through leverage and resolve conflict by using submission holds. Because of this, it can also be used to deal with bigger and stronger opponents, making it a good method for self-defense.

As for the BJJ scene in Manila, “It is more experiential, like restaurants — or spinning. The luxury roll is here. People are enjoying its cerebral side while losing weight.”

But how one of the most decorated athletes in history teaches it compelled Dino to want to bring the skill home — and operate it with that upscale boutique approach his family is known for.

At the very top of the BJJ schools is Cobrinha Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the premier school led by Cobrinha (“little snake” in Brazilian) himself, Rubens Charles Maciel. Since being awarded his black belt in 2005, Cobrinha has won nearly every World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in which he has competed — a total of 13. In 2017, he became the first — and only — black belt in history to complete the Super Grand Slam by winning all five major tournaments (ADCC, World Championship, Pan Championship, European Championship and Brazilian Nationals) in a single year. He is considered the best featherweight in history and among the best pound-for-pound jiu-jitsu competitors in the world. Originally from Brazil, he teaches from his school in Los Angeles with affiliates around California, in Las Vegas, and across the globe in Colombia, Canada, South Korea, and finally in the Philippines.

“A lot of people wanted to bring him here, but he has one of the fewest number of branches for someone so well known. The best one came last. It’s not about him coming first; he’s selective about who he affiliates with — he has to share the same values with them,” says Dino.

Shortly after the Manila school’s opening, we sit down with Cobrinha and Dino to find out what makes Cobrinha’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu unique.

The Philippine STAR: Let’s start with how it all began. How did you both get into jiu-jitsu?

Cobrinha: I started with capoeira and did it for 14 years. A friend of mine invited me to come over to his academy and train in jiu-jitsu. When I went for the first time, there was a 17-year-old kid with a purple belt. We did a training session followed by sparring. He said, “Would you like to spar a little bit?” I said “Sure,” and then he was all over me. (Laughs) I had been doing capoeira for 14 years but I couldn’t do anything against the kid! I thought, you know, I’m tired. I’ll come back the next day. I’ll try again. But it was worse. That was in 2001. I kept coming back. I got hooked on jiu-jitsu.

Dino Pineda: I like intense exercise. I was doing kickboxing and I broke my arm. You get kind of dizzy with kickboxing because it’s about striking, so I was looking for another sport that was as intense but wouldn’t hurt your head. There was a team near my house, I went, and a 15-year-old “massacred” me, so I was like, “I want to know what he knows!” (Laughs) Turns out, it’s not just about strength. In the sport side of things, yes, that’s why they put you by category, by weight, by age, but the general plane is really cerebral. On the mat, you become equal and what matters is inside. I’m definitely bigger than him, older than him, and I think I’ve been to more fights than him, and he just humbled me. How will you step back up and get confidence again? That’s what gets addicting.

Cobrinha’s disciples: Dino with Derek Arculli at the Cobrinha BJJ Manila martial arts school at the Valle Verde Country Club

Dino, how did you meet Cobrinha?

PINEDA: I was in Los Angeles to visit my sister and my son who now studies there, and my head instructor told me to look for one of his former students who moved there, Stephanie Singson. Stefanie trains with Cobrinha. She was part of the competition team for three to four years and was one of the pioneers in his academy there. Cobrinha has a lot of Filipino-American students like the husband of Marianne Aboitiz Arculli, Derek from Hong Kong. He was always curious about the Philippines. We were finally able to bring him here two years ago. 

Cobrinha, what values were you looking for in an affiliate that you found in Dino??

COBRINHA: Dino has the character. And then I built a relationship first. Jiu-jitsu is not just about self-defense. I want jiu-jitsu to impact and improve people’s lives and he has experience in that.

Dino, what interested you about Cobrinha’s approach?

PINEDA: When I first stepped into the academy, he approached me, saying, “Hi, are you new here? I’m Cobrinha.” That’s the kind of welcome you get. For a top school, they take their time. When you begin classes in the academy, he greets everyone every day, and in the end, everyone says thank you to each other. There’s more goodwill than a yoga class where you just do “Namaste” and bow. Here, they ask how you’re doing every day. If you talk to our newer students, that’s the community feel you get. We’re not just here to compete or win but to win in life. “Let’s improve every day, not to prove.” When most people try to achieve something that no other person has, what would you do? You’d probably lock yourself away from the world to focus. He doesn’t. He continues to make more friends, do more classes, hold more seminars. Whether he’s achieving small or big, he lives it in a certain way. That’s what got me addicted to Cobrinha jiu-jitsu.

It’s also what matches my personality. Some people like to help different charities. It’s all good. It’s just that: what’s your flavor? And this is the flavor we like. I’m a hothead and this is part of what helps me. You decompress and when you walk out, it’s like you’re tired and at peace.

What are the Cobrinha Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu benefits?

COBRINHA: The physical fitness benefit is that you can decompress. The way the world is right now is crazy. Most people work, work, work. They don’t have anything to decompress. You also lose weight for sure.

It is one of the most effective self-defense martial arts. Most people come to us to learn how to defend themselves but what they learn is it’s a lifestyle, that you can defend yourself when needed, but you also need to change your environment and change your life. I’m not going to change people’s lives just because I won the Super Grand Slam. It’s personal. It was something I did wanting to prove something to myself, not to anybody else. But what we teach on the mat is applicable for life: to persevere, to not give up on their dreams, and to be patient. Jiu-jitsu is sort of like body chess — we solve one problem at a time. If you try to solve two or three at a time, you’re going to mess up.

The impact of jiu-jitsu on your life impacts the lives of the other people as well. I see men treat their wife and their kids better. I remember seeing our students’ children, we see their parents telling them be positive, never give up. It’s easy to say. In jiu-jitsu, we help reinforce what their parents say at home. It’s planting the seeds in their mind.

How did you select the coaches?

PINEDA: You have to be a purple belt to begin assisting. We have one main and two assistant coaches while two more are being trained. Cobrinha teaches the head coach, Mark Entrata, a brown belt, who has been trained for 14 years. As a franchise, we have a separate curriculum for them to teach which they access on a site. By using technology, the curriculum is always updated.

You were both very fit when you tried jiu-jitsu. Do first-timers have to be at a certain physical level to try it?

PINEDA: In our school, no, because of the format. We have classes for hobbyists, for those competing, and for children. At Cobrinha Academy we have competition jiu-jitsu, capoeira for jiu-jitsu, there’s self-defense, “anti-bully” jiu-jitsu. You choose from those classes. You will be with a group of people with the same values leaning on martial arts. To introduce you to jiu-jitsu, you’ll do drilling techniques for two months to build your confidence. You can then choose if you are learning for self-defense or to go to the other class for sparring. It’s very intimidating in the beginning. That one-on-one class for the first two months allows us to get to know the mechanics of a person’s body and build confidence.

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Cobrinha Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Manila is at Valle Verde Country Club, Captain Henry Javier Street, Pasig. Follow @cobrinhabjjmanila on Instagram for updates.

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