GB Motivation: Prof. Carlos Lemos on Inspiration and Overcoming Obstacles

Meet Prof. Carlos Lemos Jr., a 5th-degree black belt under Master Carlos Gracie Jr. and the head instructor and owner of Gracie Barra Downers Grove, Illinois.
“I was the first one to get to the main school of Gracie Barra and I was the last one to leave.”
This week, Gracie Barra talks with Prof. Carlos about overcoming obstacles in his early days at Gracie Barra and what keeps him motivated. Enjoy the passion and words of Prof. Carlos!
GB: What is your motivation to challenge yourself in Jiu-Jitsu? What obstacles have you overcome during your journey to black belt?
Prof. Carlos Lemos Jr.: My motivation, back in the day when I first started Jiu-Jitsu was to beat that guy who took my girlfriend haha!
That didn’t last for very long. Eventually, he became a great friend. I continued with Jiu-Jitsu and he stopped, unfortunately.
The obstacles are many. The first obstacle was where I lived. I lived in the southern part of Barra which is called Recreio. I lived part of my life very close to Gracie Barra Matriz, and part of my life very far from GB. I lived on a ranch far away, I had a horse, raising dogs, birds, and even turtles. I lived far away from the main school.
The obstacles were incredible. Firstly, at the affiliate school that I trained at, the training was only Mon-Wed-Fri in the evenings. Two or three hours of hardcore training. There was nothing in the morning. Back in the day, I didn’t have a car yet, until I was a blue-purple belt. But before that, it was busy rides. I had a motorcycle but Master Carlos made me get rid of that.
Tuesdays and Thursdays the training was at Gracie Barra Ipanema. A 2 to 3 hours bud ride each way. That was really tough. I ditched many of my high school classes to go to GB Ipanema on Tuesday and Thursday when my school didn’t have classes.
I used to get there in the morning with all of my books and my bag, and food packed for the day. I used to train in the first class in the morning at 8:30 am, then at 12pm. Then sleep on the mats, wake up and train at the 6 and 7 pm classes and then go back home. Arrive home very late. The next day wake up and go to school. The next training was a little closer – maybe a 40 min bus ride from my house. I think that was my very first challenge.
Then when I moved to the main Gracie Barra school, I had another challenge. The guys over there, the aces, the guys who made history in Gracie Barra started when they were 5 or 6 years old. I didn’t start Jiu-Jitsu until I was 13 or 14 years old. By the time I get to the main Gracie Barra school, I was about 17. These guys were like aces! They were like black belts wearing blue and purple belts! All teenagers. They were my age but so much superior in skill to me. So I had to train 3 times as hard as everybody else to make sure to catch up to them. There are many times that I trained so much…don’t get me wrong.. training a lot doesn’t mean training with a lot of intensity. It means that you do the same thing every day… every single day. You don’t stop. You are there. You are tired? You are there. Your body aches? You are there. You don’t feel like training? You are there. It is raining? You are there. It’s hot or cold? You are there. And don’t slack on training.
I see some students, sometimes they cheat on the warmup, they cheat when it’s time to drill techniques. They cheat throughout the whole process. That’s not real training.
I see others, they go so hard! When they spar, they go so hard. That’s not real training. That’s how you get hurt.
I was there every day. I was there so often. I was the first one to get to the main school of Gracie Barra and I was the last one to leave. And many times the janitor that cleaned the school, used to wake me up on the mats because I was so tired, so dehydrated, so hungry after all of that I used to pass out on the mats in my soaked gi! I couldn’t even move. My whole body was in shock. They used to wake me up “Man, we need to close the gym!” He used to put his hands to shake me and wake me up. I used to go home and come back the next day for more.
My main motivation was to be good for Gracie Barra and to make Master Carlos proud of me. But I had a lot of catching up to do. That served me as a motivation.
I also was a late starter. I heard a lot of criticism of me behind my back. Like “oh, he is not talented. His skills are limited. Oh, he is not flexible enough, not fast enough. His guard is not good…” I overcame each and every one of their comments. And I overcame each and every one of them in skill too. It’s funny, the guys that never really criticized me were the best in the world, are still around to this day. Still around in Gracie Barra. Some of the kids were champions, some much better than me. I heard a lot of criticism, a lot of whispering.
I proved all of them wrong. The Jiu-Jitsu that I learned in Gracie Barra proved them wrong.
On His Motivation
Today my main motivation is my children. I want them to remember who their father is. I want them to be proud of me. Along with my students. And obviously Master Carlos. I always wanted him to be proud of me and to know that in me he had a real soldier, a warrior who would always be ready to protect his name and defend his flag.
My kids are coming to an age that they are starting to understand what legacy means. What the other sacrifices that we made means. All of the great leaders of Gracie Barra. All of the sacrifices that we all did for Gracie Barra. They are starting to understand the importance of that.
I want to be around for them. So we can still train hard, travel together, training together, eating healthily, competing together. I can’t wait until they can start giving me a tough sparring session. They are getting there. They are teenagers now. Also, I have a little 8-month-old baby now. This is really about the legacy that I’m keeping alive for my family and my kids.
I have great students and role models around me. My students here are an incredible source of inspiration to me. Every day some of our students, our leaders keep inspiring me to become a better teacher, a better leader, a fighter. I think this is my source of inspiration today.
GB Values: Jiu-Jitsu Culture
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia