Henrique Saraiva on the Future of Jiu-Jitsu and His Roots

5 min read
Interview with Henrique Saraiva, Head Coach Carlson Gracie Ireland

Henrique Saraiva helping a kid

Henrique Saraiva on the Future of Jiu-Jitsu and His Roots

Interview with Henrique Saraiva, Head Coach Carlson Gracie Ireland

location: London, England

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Photos by: Mara Keogh

The future of Jiu-Jitsu

“The most important thing for me is the kids. That’s what I believe will grow Jiu-Jitsu.” Henrique Saraiva doesn’t hesitate when answering the question, and it’s backed up with a lot of thought. For him, the answer to what will grow our sport and how its future will be shaped starts with the children.

“It’s growing a lot for the kids. Before, Jiu-Jitsu used to be more for adults, and the kids did Judo, but now there are more competitions for kids, the numbers are growing, and everywhere I travel, I can see the kids and numbers are growing.

It’s the future of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and even more so when people see how good it impacts [the kids]. It sets good examples; it educates them and builds their confidence.”

Photo by: Mara Keogh

Henrique’s roots in BJJ

And perhaps it’s easy to see why Saraiva feels this way when you take a glimpse into his past. Starting training Jiu-Jitsu in 1988 at the age of 4, he had a strong foundation from a very early age. Henrique’s father, Orlando Saraiva (now a red belt under Carlson Gracie), ran a gym in São Paulo where Henrique was able to train and began teaching in 2000.

Then, in 2015, he decided to move to Dublin, Ireland, where he had a friend who could put him up. Originally only planning to stay for 3 months to improve his English, Henrique is still there.

Looking back and comparing things to now, the other biggest change Henrique notes is the advent of the internet, “Whenever my father needed to learn new techniques, he had to travel to Rio to learn them. The internet has made everything easier. Now everyone can train and learn.”

“It also changed a lot after IBJJF. It started to be a lot more professional, competitions all around the world, and it’s still growing today.”

Photo by: Mara Keogh

Henrique Jiu-Jitsu competitive prowess

Speaking of competition, Henrique is no stranger to them. Starting at a very early age, his accomplishments include 11 times São Paulo Estate Champion, 7 times Brazilian Champion, 3rd at the Pan-Ams in 2000 and 2nd in 2001, 3rd at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships in 2001, and again 2nd in 2003, Jiu-Jitsu World Cup Champion in 2004, and Dublin Open Champion in 2015.

Henrique is currently the highest graded and most decorated Jiu-Jitsu practitioner in Ireland and has had the opportunity to train with some of the best,

“Braulio Estima, Cyborg, André Galvão, I used to compete with all of them. Robert Drysdale was also a teammate. The most brutal fight was probably Galvão.”

Photo by: Mara Keogh

How Jiu-Jitsu and grappling is growing in Irland

These days in Ireland, though, whilst the scene might not be the same, it’s certainly growing,

“[When I came to Ireland], the level wasn’t so high; we had more MMA gyms than Jiu-Jitsu gyms. Not much competition, or not that many, and the level wasn’t so good. Not bad, just not so good. Then when Conor [McGregor] beat Aldo, everything changed.

People start looking for something to train, but in general, people don’t want to get punched in the face, and everyone can train Jiu-Jitsu, it doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 50, and after that, the country grew and grew. Jiu-Jitsu is now very popular here; there are a few high-level guys competing not just in Ireland, but at the Europeans, the World’s too.”

As the sport has grown, so too have the gyms, and with it, the number of people that Jiu-Jitsu is impacting. It’s no secret that Jiu-Jitsu can positively impact everyone, not just by the fitness element but also through life lessons and friendships that can last a lifetime.

Self-Confidence and BJJ

“Self-confidence. That’s something that’s very important, and something Jiu-Jitsu can improve in people’s lives. It also helps you make decisions. You make a decision, you get it wrong, and you’re going to have to pay the price. You can’t hide from that. But that’s what makes you stronger. Even when you fail, [at least] you made a decision.”

“In general, people who struggle with decisions struggle with life, with their job, family, relationships. In a fight it’s the same. We pay the price, but you make a decision, and that helps you. You live by that decision.”

And that positive impact is for everyone, especially the children,

Photo by: Mara Keogh

The kids of Jiu-Jitsu 

“Now, the future is the kids. For them, it has to be fun, and it has to be Jiu-Jitsu. Some parents complain, but the methodology has to be Jiu-Jitsu for me. That way, if they don’t like it, then they don’t like Jiu-Jitsu.

Also, they don’t have to train to be a champion, but I would suggest that all parents have their kids compete. They might lose, but that’s okay. It’s important to experience that. They might cry, but they’re learning; also, they train every day and enjoy it, but lost one day and cry, so they’ll be okay. It’s more the parents that need to understand.

But either way, we can’t lose the basic concepts of Jiu-Jitsu. That’s the most important thing for me.”

Henrique is undoubtedly an amazing competitor, coach, and BJJ representative period, especially for the BJJ scene in Irland. If you would like to go to his GYM, check him out here on Facebook:

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