Life’s Greatest Mistake

12 min read
The Greatness of Jiu-Jitsu’s Leandro Lo and the Deep Sadness of His Passing

Leandro Lo in a photoshoot at a gym

Life’s Greatest Mistake

The Greatness of Jiu-Jitsu’s Leandro Lo and the Deep Sadness of His Passing

Location: South Florida

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Photo by: leandrolojj

Recently, a very tragic event has taken place. In Brazil, the Jiu-Jitsu world is trying to process the killing of the great Leandro Lo. He was most definitely one of the greatest Jiu-Jitsu fighters to ever step on a mat. A beautiful human being and an unstoppable force of nature on the mats. His list of accomplishments is long and practically unparalleled, and the way he was able to touch people was warm, kind, and generous. Many people today practice Jiu-Jitsu, go to tournaments, and then some don’t attend at all, yet others choose to make a living from the art form. The breadth and scope of the people who practice Jiu-Jitsu are immense. And Leandro was at the top, and he stayed there for quite a long time with an extraordinary array of Jiu-Jitsu accomplishments, practically impossible to duplicate. 

“Brazilian” Jiu-Jitsu

For me, what stands out about Leandro was the way he spoke to people. I’ve been around a lot of Brazilians, A LOT. I know them to be lovely people, roughly speaking. Sure, every culture has its problems but generally speaking, Brazilian people are fun-loving people, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu men are usually a different kind of people. They do have some of the wanna-be tough guys training in the art who sometimes aren’t even that good but attempt to project a persona. The muscles, the tattoos, the cauliflower ears, they puff their chest out, and all that narcissistic stuff. Leandro did not project this behavior pattern; he didn’t need to. 

Jiu-Jitsu’s top 1% of 1%

There are those who know their place in the hierarchy of the art, which certainly places Leandro Lo in the top 1% of 1%, formerly making him one of the greatest of all time, statistically alone, which is not to mention his extremely kind demeanor off the mats. He knew how to show tenderness, care, and concern for humanity. I personally have seen this in Leandro. His beautiful personality shines right through for everyone to see and benefit from, both as a student and as a human being. These are the kind of people that I’ve always gravitated toward in the course of the decades of my training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; Men like Damian Maia, Ricardo Liborio, and Marcelo Garcia, to simply name just a few. 

A true Jiu-Jitsu gentleman 

There are many examples of highly technical practitioners that will also treat you like a gentleman off the mats and in a separate setting from Jiu-Jitsu. Again, I can name many names, but the point is, a true gentleman, in my opinion, is one that can reach high levels of excellence and particularly in a violent way, such as a martial art, which in this case is Jiu-Jitsu, and then show kindness and humanity to others. I cannot stress this point and virtue enough. This, my friends, is the true way of the art. Yes, it is a warrior’s way first, but Jiu-Jitsu has become a culture of its own with all the little cool things that go with it, the surfing, the barbecues, the acai, the cool shorts, and yes, even the tattoos. Jiu-Jitsu formed into something a little different than other martial arts, especially in the past decade, with Mr. Leandro Lo leading the way and being a significant part of the positive nature of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

He was just an amazing ambassador for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and his legacy will undoubtedly live on. He was the kind of gentleman through his tonality and talking in a certain way that you would not feel threatened if you could have a conversation with him, and it was not in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu setting. He never spoke with an “I’m better than you” attitude. This is a generous man; just look at when he decided not to compete against Marcus Buchetta at the highest levels in the world championships so Buchetta could have his moment to shine because they were scheduled to meet in the finals. So, Buchetta won his gold, and Leandro sacrificed his. They were good friends, and that is an honorable and difficult thing to do, knowing what it takes to get to that point. That is a great example of his unselfishness and anti-narcissism. Leandro was one of the few that I do not believe has shown the way of the narcissist, which is a difficult task at his particular level. 

Bear in mind, Jiu-Jitsu is you; it’s just you; it’s always you. There is no team out there; you are alone. You may have some voice support, but you’re most definitely alone. Many Jiu-Jitsu practitioners are narcissistic on purpose, but many are this way by accident. With having this type of skill, accolades, and lacking narcissism as Leandro did, we have a rare individual at his top-tier level. 

The choice that changed everything

The night Leandro had the incident, a police officer, of all people, was physically restrained due to his provoking actions toward Leandro. Some of the details we may not know, but we do know that the officer was carrying a firearm, which is a BIG no-no around alcohol, as well as clearly illegal. It is common sense why. The world today is battling over the right to carry a firearm on your person as our society attacks police, badmouths them, and crime rates continue to rise. It is only natural for law-abiding people to feel they need a firearm, but it is obvious that it should never be near a dance hall with alcohol, where the primary focus is enjoyment. 

Brazilians, let’s face it, are good people, but they can be very emotional. The person who shot Leandro was a police officer that felt a wrong had been done against him despite him obviously being the cause of this tragedy. In a moment’s flash of aggressive brain chemicals, he chose to pull his weapon, one being carried illegally, and fire it at another man’s head. This is terrible, disgusting, and anti-human. Some rules and laws must be reviewed further and dealt with more stringently. If this person, a so-called “protector,” has done this act, how can we be sure he has not committed similar acts? We don’t know. But we certainly don’t want people like this protecting us; that’s unquestionable. He allowed his emotions to override his judgment, mixed in with the consumption of alcohol, most likely. 

Additionally, he was highly foolish enough to bring a firearm into an establishment that sells alcohol; he should know the rules better than anyone; he was a police officer, after all. What is going through a person’s head to think you could be armed, dancing, and drinking simultaneously? He wasn’t working and was not obligated to protect the people there. This is just a horrible event any way you look at it. 

You have to live life

However, this should not discourage young people from going out and enjoying themselves. Youth, meaning drinking age and above, 20’s, 30’s, and even 40s in age; these are times to enjoy yourself and laugh, talk to people, and all the things that accompany having a good ole’ time out on the town. It’s ok to casually argue with your friends about a sports team, local events, or music, as long as it stays respectful and doesn’t get too heated. 

A little bit about club security

I worked as the head of security for a Brazilian production company. On typical nights, we have over-capacity crowds, and many issues came about. We also had large concerts in other locations, sometimes being responsible for protecting up to 4,000 people, as well as having a police detail outside and armed on our big shows that amass thousands of people in total to help me if I needed them. We never let anyone inside the club with a weapon, including police officers. It’s just a bad look to be drinking and dancing and then to see a gun unless there became a desperate need for one. 

When we had hip hop nights, I would get irate at some of the stationed security staff in the front who were improperly performing pat-downs for weapons. This was per the owner’s request. However, the security in the front was not up to performing the task properly. This means searching women’s bags, which is often where the weapon is or touching men in a certain way to feel for steel. They would only casually check, which angered me, but I could not fix it due to the sheer numbers as it was my job to move about. I’ve seen a lot of violence, and yes, there was gunfire; I was lucky. There were times I’ve gotten hurt, but more often, I’ve saved many people from what could have been disastrous. 

Kinesthetic awareness for self-defense

The way to protect yourself and the people you care for is with body posture, awareness, and manipulation with language. When you go out, you must understand that it doesn’t matter if you are a 9th-degree black belt or a white belt who just had his or her 4th lesson; all of that is secondary. What is primary is to understand your physical surroundings; we call this kinesthetic awareness. This is FOR SURE the finer stages of self-defense. For women, it is knowing the obvious, getting to your car safely, keeping an eye on your drink, how you are getting home and with whom. For men, it is a bit different. Some men drink and get violent, sleepy, or become lovable because alcohol accelerates the mood that they are currently in. 

We cannot know precisely the night Leandro’s incident took place, what specifically was going on in the mind of the perpetrator of the crime, but we can learn from this by keeping keen and sharp awareness of our surroundings when we go out, but it’s not perfect. There are times we can do everything correctly and still have chaos erupt. I’ve seen it. I’ve been involved in it, and nobody is better off when a fight starts…. pride is usually to blame. 

Someone is “disrespected,” or at least to them, they find it to be disrespectful. A bump on the shoulder, a step on a shoe, a mistake in wording, or the theft of a bottle of alcohol, accidentally or on purpose, which seems to be the issue involving Leandro and the night he was killed. There is also the issue of talking to the wrong person in the wrong way; training can help you to be sure. You’re probably not going to need an omoplata, but what you do need is your ability to feel your surroundings. Jiu-Jitsu definitely teaches that. Every now and then, we cross a person who breaks the invisible rules of society, of righteousness, which I’ve personally experienced. 

It’s not worth it!

My cousin, years ago, had a dispute with a person. It ended with the man shooting my cousin in the back of the head and killing him. The man who shot him was a multi-millionaire in real estate, and my cousin was an eye surgeon. This wasn’t two thugs crossing paths in the night, but it was two hotheads arguing over a parking spot, a parking spot!? Can you imagine death over a parking spot? In Leandro’s case, it was death over alcohol and ego gone mad. How terrible, unrighteous, unruly. In a flash, the whole event occurred, and over what, a bottle of alcohol. Now, his family, the Jiu-Jitsu community, and the world mourns a beautiful human being. Many may have only seen the top-tier proficiency, excellence of his skill, accomplishments, and truly unparalleled success. However, I see a delicate human being with tenderness of heart that has a family. This was a great teacher, competitor, family man, and brother. Even his school had the word “Brotherhood” in it. You could hear in the tonality of his voice the tenderness and gentlemanly-like manner, but he was also a savage on the mats in Jiu-Jitsu fights. 

The pinnacle of martial arts

To be a monster of aggression and not use it in an unsanctioned way is the pinnacle of martial arts. In the future, when you go out, do not go out with fear, but do not go out to get blind drunk either; those nights never end well. You will not be able to use your finest Jiu-Jitsu weapon, which is your ability to feel for your environment. To know when to intercede with proper language, to know when to get the heck out of there, and, unfortunately, when to know it is necessary to defend yourself physically. Sometimes, it is truly necessary to apply physical force to defend yourself and/or others, but never honor; we do not use physical force to defend honor; that is the coward’s way. We do not train Jiu-Jitsu in self-defense to use it to be brute or just because we are able, and we certainly refrain from using it or any other martial art for honor. 

Roll with it

This is where the problem is often found, pride and ego get injured. These are technically invisible injuries. Defending honor is really a fool’s errand and a joke; you will be insulted throughout your life. If you were to stop and defend your honor, it might mean shots fired at every grocery store in the country and in the world. Do not look at things this way. People will always say inappropriate and untimely things; it is to be brushed away by the astute. This is not a movie where a samurai defends the honor of his empire on a Saturday night with a Michelob Light in his right hand pointing an index finger at someone’s head with the other hand. These are just movies and the past. Today is a sophisticated time, with nuances that need significant attention, the vast majority of which never come close to physicality. 

Be wise and seek peace

Do not get blind drunk and miss the nuances; go dance, go laugh, go hug, chit-chat, talk to the male or female you want to talk to, and have a good time. Remember, a moment of misjudgment can turn an entire generation upside down. Let us all work together as a people and as a Jiu-Jitsu community to see to it that peace is preserved. There is a time for violent activity, save that for the mat, competitions, or sanctioned events. Beware of the monsters among us who do not have control of their ego; it could even be a police officer. If you do your part and we all do our part, we can work to minimize, never eliminate, but minimize these types of life-changing events that, in a flash, truly can change history for the worse, and sadly, we cannot reverse such horrible events. 

We cannot end all violence in the night, but you can probably protect yourself and others to a great degree if we check our pride at the door. 

Be careful and bless Leandro Lo’s family, Jiu-Jitsu team, and all who cared for him. 




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