The True Meaning of Jiu Jitsu… The fight for Andre Margutti
Recently, we had the pleasure of interviewing Andre Margutti. While Andre Margutti may not be household name within the BJJ community, his plight is.
Margutti was recently diagnosed with Lymphoma Cancer and the east coast BJJ community banded together to help him by opening up their schools to visitors and instructors for other academies. Gym owners up and down the East Coast are holding seminars to help raise money for his medical expenses. Note worthy competitors such as Ryan Hall, Hillary Williams, Jason Scully, Rick Macauley, Chris Moriarty, Mat Santos, Marcio Stambowsky, Abmar Barbosa, and many more volunteered their time to help with this fund raising effort.
For more information, please go to http://www.andremargutti.org
The below interview was conduct on 8/5/2010.
Charlie Liu: So Andre, this is Charlie from Submission Control, how are you doing today?
Andre Margutti: I’m doing pretty good, yes, hangin’ in there. Yesterday I had my second chemotherapy, but you know I’m hanging in there. I’m doing pretty good actually.
CL: Good, good. Can you tell our listeners a little about yourself?
AM: Well I’m originally from Brazil, Sao Paulo Brazil, I moved to [the] US in 1999. I started training with a Brazillian Jiu Jitsu brown belt. When I first moved to the US I trained with Gracie Barra Boston where I meet Kenny Florian. I trained with him for like a year or so. Then I moved to the Washington DC Metro area, where
I started training with the Yamasaki Academy and where I’ve been in the last ten years. For the past ten years, I’ve been with the Yamasaki Academy. I’ve pretty much work in DC. I have a contrsuction company in DC. My life has been pretty much just working and training Jiu Jitsu. That’s pretty much it.
CL: How old were you when you came to the United States?
AM: I was twenty years old.
CL: Twelve years old?
CL: Oh twenty. Oh, ok. How was it growing up in Brazil, what was it like?
AM: Actually… in Brazil, it’s like this, either you play soccer or you train or you do MMA or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Those are for like guys, either you fight or do soccer and I was never a good soccer player. I so, went to the mixed martial arts, you know the martial arts side of it. I trained capoeira since I was like 12 years old. And I did capoeria and then I started to train Jiu Jitsu a little bit over there when I was like 18. I trained with a brown belt under Minotouro in Bahia, because that was where I lived. I’m from Sao Paulo originally but my last year in Brazil I was living in Bahia, where Minotouro came from. So I trained a little bit over there, then I moved to Boston.
CL: What is the difference between the training in Boston, or the United States and Brazil? Do you find a difference?
AM: Well… cause over there it’s like… it’s because the people I train with here… I train with Fernando Yamasaki and they are all from there, you know I never really trained at a school where the black belts came from here. So [to] tell the truth I’ve never seen the difference.
Over there, what we do a lot… they do is a lot more sparring and the training session are like all day, like the kids over there train all day long, you know, like they get out of school they go to the gym. You know if you go at two o’clock on the afternoon in any of the academies over there, there are classes, there’s people training and they start way younger over there. I think now here, I think that’s how it’s becoming. You know, like you go to some schools in the afternoon, there’s a lot more kids training here than before. When I first started to train here the average age of people training at school was like twenties… middle twenties early thirties. Now a days you see a lot more kids, you go to tournaments you see like sixteen, seventeen years old kids training and they are doing pretty good. So, I think in a couple of years we’ll be the same you know like in Brazil… just like here in Brazil. The young kids are training more. I think that’s the difference. Over there the age, like people there start really early.
CL: Do you feel added pressure to perform better in tournaments and in your matches because you are Brazillian?
AM: [pause] Ummm, not really, not really no. I some times train… before maybe yes, like before you step on the mat, you hear people talking about it. You know these Brazilians… even though my whole Jiu Jitsu training was here, I only trained for like six seven months in Brazil and I was like a white belt, so it didn’t even count that much.
In Brazil, I started training with Minotouro before they were even famous, like eleven year ago. Nobody knew them and that’s how I got to like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And then when I moved to Boston I meet Kenny… Kenny he’s a good friend of mine.
He was also… he was a purple belt when I first met him and he was a very good instructor. We were training under Roberto Maia Boston Brazillian Jiu Jitsu and then I was there for only like seven months or so.
Then I moved to DC. Then I started training with the Yamasaki Academy, Francisco Neto, Mario Yamasaki and Fernando Yamasaki, they were like… they are like family to me right now. So I started training there… for like ten years and it’s like been great.
CL: Alright good. Can you tell me about your current situation?
AM: Yeah. You know I’ve never been like… Until like I was a purple belt, I was competing quite often. I did some Grappler’s Quest tournaments, I did some US Grappling, I have two MMA fights and I was doing it as a hobby, for fun. You know I love the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lifestyle. Then I was actually training a friend of mine, he was about to do his second pro fight and I started to feel this pain in my sciatic nerve. You know… myself and the doctor we don’t really get along; I don’t really like to go to the doctors. What happened was, I was kind of forced to go, because what I thought was an inflammation of my nerve or so.
So I went to the doctor’s and when I went to the doctor’s based on what I told them, they were like “oh yeah, you have sciatic inflammation” so they gave me some anti-inflammatories and some pain killers. I was like taking anti-inflammatories and painkillers for like two weeks. Once I stopped taking the medicine, the pain came back really stronger, until there was a day that my roommate had to call the ambulance… 911.
Even though I have the construction company, trying to run my business, I’m trying to grow my business, I never really cared. This is the thing, it wasn’t even about like you “don’t have money to pay the insurance”… this and that… no, it was like I never really cared about it. It’s like I’m young and training. I mean, ok I’ll do the insurance later, I’ll leave it behind.
Until this day like my roommate called 911 and they took me to the hospital, the do the MRI and they found stops… you know like cancer on my liver, on my spleen and on the sacrum area. There was like a big mass, you know it was like a big tumor. I’ll tell you like the first reaction, your whole life runs like a movie, like your mind goes crazy, like you don’t know like how are you going to do it. But I had to pull myself together, and you know I realized that I have to face that thing… I’ll have to look at the best side of it and take the lesson. So that was pretty much what I did.
So I stopped and started thinking if I have it, it’s mine, it’s for me, so it’s my fight to take the best lesson. And from that day on, I’ve been receiving a lot of support, from all my friends… from all over. Look at all the seminars they are running from their academy plus all the Brazilian communities in this area over here, they’re helping me a lot. I realize I have so many friends and I realize that there are so many good people around me that I can not even complain. I have to wake up everyday and thank GOD and thank all my friends because I’m so blessed for everything that is happening. And there was a lot of change for me, I see everything.
There’s no more… all these small problems, all those little things that happen in life, they’re so small, they are so small, you don’t have to worry about it, you don’t have to stress about it. Sometimes we get stressed about little things that you don’t really have to. That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned.
I learned to enjoy every single minute of my life. You know, don’t get mad about the little things… you know, that’s pretty much how I’m taking it and I know with all this help… with all my friends supporting me… with the strong mind that I believe I have, I’m going to go through this. I’m going to try to show, to teach the lesson that I learned to everybody else. So, that’s pretty much it.
CL: WOW! That’s a very powerful message Andre. How has the cancer changed your life style, your habits? Are you still training?
AM: Yeah that’s the hardest thing. I cannot train, I cannot even jog. Yesterday I went to the doctors and I asked my doctor, if I… you see, I believe a lot in the power of your mind.
Ever since I started this treatment, I’ve had seven sessions of radiation therapy and yesterday, I had my second session of chemotherapy and I also got diagnosed with Hepatitis C. So because I spots on my liver, they [the tumors] are the same size, they are the same size even though I had the chemo… this is the second session of chemo.
But on the other hand, the one on the spleen, it disappeared and the big mass I had on the sacrum area also disappeared. I did the chemo, I did the radiation, but the doctor… even the doctor was surprised, you know like “how come?” they were here and not they are not. So now that found out that it’s because it’s a lymphoma cancer, that’s the one that I have, so I found out that I have some new spots on my spinal cord. So now that’s the doctor I’m going to see today to have a better diagnosis, but you know, I believe I’m taking this day by day.
Sometime I feel tired, like yesterday I did chemo, today it’s natural that I would feel a little bit tired. So I just tried to take it easy, try not to do much, but I’ll tell you, I’m not feeling any side affects… my hair… well I’m already bald, I don’t even worry about that. My body hair is falling, you fell your body changing, but the side effects, like I’m going to be like nauseous, I’m going to be like this… I haven’t felt anything. I haven’t felt anything. Like I wake up… people would say you are not going to feel like waking up… I tell myself, I’m going to wake up and that’s it. Or they say you are not going to feel like eating, I say no, it’s time to eat, I’m going to eat. I doesn’t taste the same, but so what, I have to eat.
I give all this credit to my behavior to Jiu Jitsu, to the martial arts, because sometimes you don’t have a choice. Sometimes you are inside of a cage, somebody’s punching you and you need to stand up. So that’s how I’m taking it right now, this thing is punching me and I need to stand up and I need to react. So this is how I’m trying to do it… and I’m doing it.
CL: You are being very mentally strong about this. I guess that’s what is really helping you through a lot of this. What is your greatest fear moving forward right now?
AM: To tell the truth, I don’t even think about that. I don’t even think about it. Like I said in the beginning, you say things like “oh what’s happening?, why do I have this?” and then, you get a little bit afraid, you get scared, because my whole family live in Brazil, now my parents are here to visit because of this situation, so they are here trying to give me some support.
That’s the thing, what I was afraid of is… I think if everything I try to do… like move away from my parents. I moved here, I love this country, tried to build my life here, and then in the middle of your plan, the middle of your life, you have something. You find that you have a disease… and then I was like “what if everything I did was [not] worth it?” That’s the fear that you have, “I did all this? For what? For what?”
At that point, that’s when you start changing, that’s when you start taking a different way, everything I do now, who is getting a benefit out of this? Am I helping somebody? What ever I do, anything… anything, you try to do your best everyday, because you need to do something that’s worth it. Not just for you, but for somebody else. That’s how I’m thinking. I don’t even think about the bad side. I don’t think about… oh what if I die, what if I… this or that. No, I don’t even thing about it, I just think about living my life the best way I can everyday.
CL: Who started this idea of these benefit seminars?
AM: That was actually… um when I got diagnosed, I went to the hospital, and then Fernando came over and then “Rock” David Jacob, he started the seminars. So he talked to all the black belts that he knows and all the people from other schools that he knows and they all liked the idea, they all started the seminars. Then Fernando Neto, he has a student over there that is a web designer, so he put the web site together. There was like a whole group, but “Rock” was the main guy for the seminars. Then Salvatore came up with the t-shirts and then there was another student, Eric, Spritz, he came up with the bracelets, so it was like a whole team.
That’s why I was so surprised, like “Oh my GOD, these people are going to kill me with a heart attack, not that I will die from cancer.” (chuckle).
CL: But it’s good that the whole entire Yamasaki is… and also other Black Belts in the community are standing behind you.
AM: Yeah, I mean, one promise I made… I’ll visit every single school and I want to meet everybody. There are a lot of people that I don’t even know and they are helping me. So this is a promise I made, that I will visit every single school, I will train with everybody every single one of them. I want to tell all their students how a good man they are [sic] and how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can change their life and can help you to do things that you don’t [sic] imagine.
CL: You have people like Jason Scully, Rick Macauley, Chris Moriarty, Hillary Williams, Mat Santos, and 7th degree black belt… red and black belt actually Marcio Stambowsky running these seminars. Of the 24 seminars, you are running… well the organization is running, between July and September will be attending any of these?
AM: You know, I would love to… that would depend on my condition. There was a Grapplers Quest tournament in Connecticut and I was talking to Brian Cimins, he would give me a booth so that I would have some t-shirts and some stuff at the tournament. In the same week, I had an infection on my lungs, I had to stay fours day in the hospital. So you never know. For example, I did chemotherapy yesterday, I’m feeling pretty good right now, but I need to stay inside, because my immune system is not really good right now. So doctor told me not to stay in enclosed places where a lot of people gather, where people are exercising, but if I can, it would be a pleasure to go.
CL: Are there any plans on extending the duration of these seminars? For example, expanding to the west coast or going into October or November or things like that?
AM: That’s up to Rock. Any help that we can get will be welcomed and this is one thing I’m planning to do. After I cure myself, I have been talking to a lot of associations, like help research for cancer. Somehow, I don’t know how I’m going to do yet, but I will try to use all the community, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community, the MMA community to do something… to keep helping. Because it is amazing how much I have been receiving and then I will have to give back. Somehow, I don’t know. I still have to think about ways to do it. If it’s seminars, selling t-shirts, if it’s doing whatever I have to do… I will do it. To answer your question, if they are going to keep doing the seminars, I don’t know. I think Rock is the one in charge, I believe he would know better.
CL: You said that the funds over your deductable to pay for your medical expenses, you will give to charity. Do you have any charities in mind?
AM: I’ve been talking to McCormick County Cancer Association, they help people that don’t have insurance or people that don’t have money to buy medicine. They are one of my options, I have two more actually, I’m suppose to receive an email for somebody from there, but I have to go take a look at it. But I don’t have any place yet that I would say, “ok this is the place we are going to work with”… you know, I really don’t
CL: Any final words for the people out there?
AM: I’m very very thankful for… it’s even selfish to say… or some people may say like “this guy is crazy” , but the cancer came to my life, this came to my life and I believe… I’m taking it, I’m trying to see the good sides of it. This whole thing would never have happened if I never had this.
So, it was a good life change for me and what I have to tell people everything in life there is a good side of it. Everything there is a good side. Even if you think this is the end of the world and there is no way out of this… there is always a way out of it. If you keep your mind strong, your body will follow your mind.
I’ll tell everybody this is what I learned, this is the real meaning of the martial arts, the real meaning of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If you have a strong mind, you’ll push your body. That’s what I have to tell everybody. Always look to the good side of it every day… everything there is good side. If you look at the bad side, you’ll say “oh my life my life is… you know, I’m dying, I have this, I have that… I have no reason to do anything.” If you look at the good side, “ok I have cancer, I have to fight, oh I have a lot of friends, there’s a lot of people supporting me.”
And then I met so many people worse than me. Ok, how can I help these people? Now I know, now I know how they are feeling. So, I’m going to get out of this somehow, I will. I just have to take the lesson… learn the lesson.
CL: Ok guys, that’s it for the interview. If you want more information about Andre and his fight, go to http://www.andremargutti.org or check http://www.submissioncontrol.com every-so-often, because we’ll post more interviews with Andre and with Dave Jacobs and look for a DVD of these seminars for those who cannot make these east coast seminars. Thank you Andre.
AM: Thank you.
For more information on Andre’s fight, and also to donate to the cause, please visit: