Jiu Jitsu can help open the door to many amazing opportunities and friendships that can span the globe. One of my favorite BJJ photographers out there is Lisa Albon who resides in San Diego and publishes her photos under LisaLisaPics. Back in 2015, I was traveling out to the San Diego area for work and with Lisa’s help, she coordinated a visit for me to her good friend Eduardo Telles’ school.
Eduardo Telles Nine Nine 99 HQ was located in a shopping plaza and as usual, I was very early. I waited for Lisa at the Starbucks across the plaza from the Nine Nine 99. Once she arrived, we chatted a bit about her work in education, publishing and how she got into the world of BJJ photography. I have always admired Lisa’s photographs because of their tactile quality. I get the same feeling looking at one of Lisa’s photos as I got the first time I ever saw a Van Gogh painting at a museum in real life. I wanted to touch it. Check out her work for yourself. Each of the photos included in this piece were graciously taken by Lisa Albon.
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While we were chatting, in walks Eduardo Telles getting a coffee before his class. We shook hands and he seemed almost shy as we chatted briefly and he told Lisa, that she had brought a big guy to train (me) and they laughed.
The class I took with Eduardo was an early afternoon class, which on that hot day only had about 6 students in it, which I was very happy about, because it made the session feel like a semi-private. The students were great, very friendly and the content was amazing. Eduardo covered a number of back take escapes. This was my first experience with the “Turtle Master” and as a purple belt at the time, his techniques made me feel like I did back as a white belt with my mouth open in disbelief when I viewed a technique.
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Looking back on that class and reflecting, there are a number of lessons that have stuck with me.
Learn the rules. Then break the rules.
Telles carried himself with a quiet, reserved energy that seemed to hide the battles he had to have faced in his time in Sao Paolo with Fabio Gurgel and later with his long time friend Terere. This was a guy who knew the rules of jiu jitsu and had decided to break them and to create his own path. A path that has sometimes caused him trouble in competition because of his unique style and mold-breaking techniques which almost defy being able to be scored. But in the end, he will be remembered as a creator who brought something new to the art.
It is extremely important to understand the fundamentals and the concepts that lie beneath those fundamentals. It’s even more important to know them so well, so that you are able to break those very rules when it is necessary. When no teacher in their right mind would advise their students to give up their back to an opponent, Telles has made a career that flies in the face of this advice.
You’re not stuck till your stuck.
No matter what position I put Telles in or I watched others put him in, he would always escape. Even when some of the higher belts seemed to have him dead to rights in a dominating position, he would squirm and escape, seemingly defying logic. His jiu jitsu felt like a magic trick, not just sleight of hand, but sleight of body and he would shrug and slip under the leg and out, while the opponent would simply be left empty handed.
Working escapes is an essential and sometimes overlooked skill. Exploiting the way out of bad spots is crucial to having a good offense.
Work hard to not work hard.
Eduardo Telles seemed to roll with absolutely no effort. No strength, no exertion of any kind. He seemed to just stay connected to the opponent and adjust to every attack, reversing or moving to a better spot while the opponent grunted, squeezed, and chased. Telles was so relaxed and unthreatened. Watching him calmly make modest adjustments that seemed to completely throw off the opponent’s game plan has stuck with me and is a state I’d like to manifest someday.
There are a number of great BJJ academies to visit in the San Diego area. Probably more than you could visit in even a month. If you get a chance to visit, do not miss an opportunity to reach out to Nine Nine 99 HQ and take a class with the Turtle Master Eduardo Telles. You will not be disappointed.
And until that time, check out The Turtle Guard Revisited from BJJ Fanatics where Eduardo Telles takes a fresh look at his classic turtle guard game. You can get it here!