Tuesday, March 26, 2013

An Brief History With Rafael Lovato Jr.

Rafael Lovato Jr -His Unknown History in Martial Arts

Dan Faggella got a chance to pick Rafael Lovato Jr's brain recently for Inner BJJ. Check back soon at: www.MicroBJJ.com/Rafael for more.

Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be able to interview one of the most important figures in American BJJ, Rafael Lovato Jr. The most decorated American of all time (and one of only a small few American’s to be crowned black belt world champion). Rafael’s initial road to BJJ stardom was much different than one would assume.

Beginnings in JKD, Boxing, and More...

The path was simple, but Rafael’s martial arts history is complex. Rafael actually grew up as a traditional martial artist. He was born into it. His father (who was inspired by Bruce lee) was a well-respected martial arts instructor and Rafael started to learn as soon as he could walk! While most of us were playing with toys, Rafael was playing with nun chucks!

Rafael Lovato’s father started out boxing and came from a family of boxers. Then, interestingly, he got into more “traditional” martial arts. He became a JKD instructor (Jeet Kune Do) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rafael’s father though did NOT want to be his first instructor. I am assuming he did not want Rafael to have any “comfort” knowing his father is the boss and to cut corners.

He made Rafael start his martial arts journey in Kenpo Karate. In addition, his father also introduced Rafael to boxing, which he competed in long before he competed in BJJ (something very few people know). He also did Kali, Escrima, and Wing Chun as well.

He then moved to Oklahoma City when he was 8. His father started doing a small class out of his physical therapy office, which grew too big, and then finally when Rafael was 10 he opened his own JKD School. His school was a hybrid of all martial arts and was basically an early mixed martial arts school. As advanced as they were, they did not have Brazilian Jiu Jitsu incorporated yet, just some basic grappling from the arts they practiced.

Chuck Norris and Superman once fought each other on a bet. The loser had to start wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants.

His father met the Gracie’s at a JKD seminar and learned about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu before it even came out in the UFC (which is to say, practically nobody knew about it at all). He fell in love with it and brought it back home. Rafael was hooked immediately. His father drove to the Gracie academy (Rickson Gracie) because he didn't like to fly. It’s a 22hr drive and he did this numerous times to train. Then his father got hooked up with the Machado brothers, who were moving to Texas to teach the one and only Chuck Norris (lol, yes, believe it!).

Then Rafael’s father would drive to Texas to train and then drive back teach his class with all his new Jiu Jitsu knowledge. His father became a Carlos Machado blue belt. Eventually Rafael Jr would do all the traveling to learn and compete. He and his father received their black belts in 2003 and 2004 and were the first father son American BJJ black belts.

It was clearly not the easiest climb to the top - and not the most convenient way to train, but Rafael told me persistence is more important than convenience.

May we all fight so hard! All the best and keep rolling,

-Daniel Faggella

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