Plinio Martins Barai

Interview with Plinio Martins Barai, 2016 Gold Medal in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu 247’s ranking in the UK

Although ‘Plinio’ sounds like a Roman Emperor’s name, I discovered that he has nothing much in common with the Italian culture, except the fact that he works in a gourmet Italian restaurant, downtown of Liverpool. Plinio Martins Barai is a 25-year-old Jiu-Jitsu fighter from Portugal. In 2016 he ranked first in the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu 24-7 division, which is the largest institution of BJJ tournaments in the United Kingdom.

I met him at the Liverpool Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Lifestyle & Fitness gym in Prescot Road, in the inner area of Old Swan. The gym is housed in a small building near the Liverpool Fish and Meat Market. A large tatami, the traditional Japanese flooring used also in Karate and other martial arts serves as the ring for the athletes’ training and sparring, which, in the jargon of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is called “rolling”.

Just before the instructor Terrence Yu kicks off the training session, I find the time to ask Plinio some questions about this fascinating sport.

 What is the difference between the Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is very different. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu derives its method from the Master Hélio Gracie. The Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is not very common in Europe. Of course, there are some guys who play this. Some rules and techniques are very similar, but the style is completely different.

So which style do they use in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship (WJC)?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!

Is it in the Olympic Games?

No, not yet! We would like it to be, but we have to work hard for it.

Like many other martial arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a belt ranking system. How does it work?

When you start Jiu-Jitsu you start with a white belt. Then you have a yellow belt, blue belt, purple belt, brown belt and black belt. There is also the red belt, but it’s very difficult to reach it. You can spend all your life before you can get the red belt!

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Liverpool

My name is Plinio Martins Barai and I’m 25. “El Emperador” is my nickname. I’m Portuguese, but I was born in Guinea-Bissau, East Africa.  I’ve been living in Liverpool for the past 2 years and my dream is to be a champion!

Which belt are you now?

Now I am a blue belt.

 Wow, Not bad!

Yeah! Well, it is not the best level, but sometimes it doesn’t matter what belt you are. If you work hard, you can make the difference on the tatami.

How much time do you need before you can upgrade your belt?

Two years, but in some cases, you can upgrade even in one year if you are very talented. Some academies require a fixed period of training before you can reach the next level. You have to work hard. I used to train like five days a week, morning, night…It’s really hard.

When did you first start playing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

I started Jiu-Jitsu in 2013, in Portugal. Then, in 2014 I trained in Brazil, where there are a lot of Jiu-Jitsu schools, they are literally everywhere, at every corner! And it’s very good to practice in different academies every time because you can work out with different partners and improve your skills faster. I’ve been trained at the Vagner Boca Team in João Pessoa, Paraiba, in the north of Brazil. I stayed there for six months for the training…and for holidays as well!

Why did you choose Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Before I started with Jiu-Jitsu, I used to play football. One of my friends played Jiu-Jitsu and he asked me to come and see it. At the beginning, I was like: ‘No mate, I like football’. Then another friend invited me to attend a Jiu-Jitsu class. When I had my first class, it was really challenging, because in Jiu-Jitsu you need a lot of technique. So I tried it several times…Then, when I got back to training, I received my first gi (a uniform similar to the traditional Japanese kimono). It was when I started to train with my own gi that I said: ‘This is my sport!’. It was amazing.

Did you know this sport before?

Not really. Before I started practicing Jiu-Jitsu, I didn’t know much about it. But as I continued, I became crazy and excited about it. I spent weeks watching videos, tutorials, stuff like that.

Next plans?

I want to go again to Brazil in September. Probably for two weeks: one week to train hard and the rest for holidays.

Ok, thank you. Now could you please provide your personal details and clearly state what your biggest dream is.

My name is Plinio Martins Barai and I’m 25. “El Emperador” is my nickname. I’m Portuguese, but I was born in Guinea-Bissau, East Africa.  I’ve been living in Liverpool for the past 2 years and my dream is to be a champion!

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