Featured Black Belt: Leo D’avila (Atos JiuJitsu)


Interview with Atos professor: Leo D’avila

10471024_775811609106450_3267413175212329339_nBy: Gregg King

Leonardo is an accomplished Grappler and coach. He is always out there helping his team and showing support. Not only that but is also a very active referee. You can see him at all local and International competition. He is also someone we are lucky to call a friend and always great to share time and discuss with. He has a solid past in JiuJitsu and is now training with one of the leading JiuJitsu teams in the world Atos JiuJitsu in San Diego. Here is more about Professor Leo after an interview we wanted to do with him:

GP:  How did you find Jiu-Jitsu or how did Jiu-Jitsu find you?

Leo: I started training very young, i was only 9 years old. As a child I always liked martial arts but never tried anything before. I found Jiu-Jitsu through school friends, when an academy opened next door to my school. At first I didn’t think of going far in the sport but i was hooked and decided to continue for the rest of my life.

GP: Please explain your journey in a few lines from start to now?

Leo: I started in a small team in my town in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, called Clube Condor under the master Benvenuto Antunes. Due to an injury of my professor, I began training with Professor Ze Marcello, as yellow belt, where I came to get my blue belt at just 14 years of age. After a while Ze Marcello left from Brazil, and this was when I returned training with my first professor. Later, as a purple belt, I started training together in my original team and at the same time at BTT (Brazilian Top Team), with the approval of my master, at the time when I was totally focused on competitions. Years later I returned to training exclusively again with my master and professor Benvenuto, who promoted me as a black belt when I was only 20 years old (in 2005), very young for the time. Three years later already training under the command of Master Luiz Paulo Baptista, 5th degree black belt, whom I received my two degrees I have on my black belt, I had the opportunity to meet the roots of Atos in Rio Claro, São Paulo, under the command of Professor Ramon Lemos. A few years later I would join the Atos Team, and start to be always part of the camps before the mains competitions in California, with my actual Professor André Galvão.


GP:  Is competition important to you? and why? Do you encourage Jiu-Jitsu students to compete even though they might be shy or not feeling like they need to compete nor the want?

Leo: For me, competitions are very important. I always say that’s what motivates me to continue training hard and thinking but also to evolve. I am very competitive in everything I do and always seek perfection. I Love the sport, Jiu-Jitsu, but competitions excite me. I always encourage students to try at least once in their lives. Even those who do not feel the urge to try, I try to spend a bit of my experience and show the good sides. Often those who have never thought about competing, entered the academy as a hobby or simply to do a physical activity or lose some weight, after the first competition they have changed the way to see Jiu-Jitsu and became an active competitor.

GP: What was your best moment in Jiu-Jitsu? your worst?

Leo: I’ll start with my worst moment in the sport, which unfortunately was when I had an serious injury in the meniscus of my knee, while I was in a seminar tour. I was in London and I had to go back to do a surgery in Brazil, I stayed for weeks without stepping my foot on the floor and it put me out of the Pan American and Worlds in 2011. About the good moments.. I had many good times in Jiu-Jitsu! Not only in competitions but to be able to make many friends around the world. It would be very vague if I talk about one or two examples of fights and competitions. What I really look as my best moments in Jiu-Jitsu are all the good things that the sport has ever given me and everything I have achieved through it! Today I know many countries, I have many friends all around the whole world and I lead a good and quiet life. This is a blessing from God!

GP: Who do you train and who do you coach in your team? What is your strategy for them to feel ready and comfortable on the mats?


Leo: I am very proud to be part of the team Atos Jiu-Jitsu, one of the best competition teams in the world. The results of the team and of the individual athletes speaks for themselves. Our team is like a family and everyone helps everyone during the training. About my participation as a Coach, for several times I had the pleasure of being in the corner in major competitions with my professor Andre Galvao, and, as well, with some of my teammates, as Keenan Cornelius, Guilherme and Rafael Mendes, among others. The Coach goal is, in addition to passing all security to the athlete, remind him before the fight all of the hard work that has been accomplished during the training, and also help him or her see what he  or she can not see from inside during the fight. Keep him always focused on the plan and tuned about the assaults of the adversary. That is what I always do.

GP: You train and are the right arm of Professor Galvao at Atos. What was your main goal when you joined the team? Describe how it is to train with such a great team.

Leo: I came to Atos in order to always evolve. As I said, my motivation has always been to compete, and when I met the team’s work on a visit to Rio Claro, I realized that everyone was very focused on the main goal: to be champion. I wanted to be training with the bests and I have always been a big fan of my professor André Galvão. Training with him and my teammates, several world champions of all belts, is very rewarding and magnificent. I believe in Atos San Diego have the best mat with the world’s best athletes together at the same time in a training. It’s fantastic!


GP: What do you tell someone that is coming through the academy doors for the first time and ask you what Jiu-Jitsu is about?

Leo: Besides explaining the sport itself, the concepts and objectives of the fight. I usually talk about the lifestyle. As you start to see everything with others eyes and start to see different in all situations. How the sport help you in your self-control, confidence, and in any sector of your life. Usually I also talk about the work that the team intends to do and our focus.


GP: What is next for Leo? What are your plans? Competitions? Opening your own school? What do you feel is your purpose in this sport?

Leo: I’m very focused right now for the season of competitions in the next year. I want great things to happen next year and I already started to plan! This year though I still have many goals. I will fight the No-Gi season now, PanAms in NY soon, Worlds here in California, and I also want to compete in the next ADCC trials. About opening my own school, that will come with a little more time. I want to dedicate myself as an athlete at the moment and in a not so far future I wanna to plan it too! My goal in the sport is to be recognized and an good example for future generations. So I have to work hard to stamp my name in the sport’s history and help in the future my students to always believe in his or her dreams, just as I believe in mine!


GP: Is this a lifestyle? a sport? a passion? All three? Please describe how you perceive Jiu-Jitsu to really be in your eyes?

Leo: The Jiu-Jitsu IS certainly all these things. It’s passion, sport, lifestyle… Jiu-Jitsu is awesome! It changes people’s life to better, and often put goals of a new sense of life for that person. Very important for kids, as in its disciplinary context and also in motor development. It is an excellent physical activity for those seeking a good fitness and healthy lifestyle. The sport itself is super interesting and intelligent. Everyone should try to practice!

GP:  Thank you professor Leo! Ossss!!!!

Leo: Thank you GP for this awesome interview and I love this website.



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