Meet Airam Nogueira, the passionate Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Instructor who teaches martial arts as a way of life.
Hi Airam. You have a very unique name. Where are you from originally and how did you end up living in Jakarta?
Hi! I am from São Paulo, Brazil. I used to teach in Integração Jiu Jitsu Santos under the Master Élcio Figueiredo and Teco Shinzato. My teammate, Almiro Barros, called me to teach with him in Singapore at Evolve MMA, which was a great experience. While in Singapore I made good friends and the opportunity came to come to Jakarta to teach at Arena MMA Indonesia.
At what age did you start practicing martial arts, and in your case Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
I started practicing Judo very young, maybe at the age of eight years old. After many years practicing Judo I naturally changed to Jiu Jitsu when I was 17.
What does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teach you? How would you encourage someone who has never tried, and may not feel comfortable with the idea of ‘grappling’, to try Jiu Jitsu for the first time?
Jiu Jitsu taught me many things and I think all that I am today is because of Jiu Jitsu. Practicing this martial art has made me learn about discipline, how to respect people, respect my body, has given me self-confidence and how to keep my mind strong and healthy. To encourage someone is hard if the person is not open to the challenge. Jiu Jitsu is a very fun and smart martial art – you get out of the gym routine, you work your cardio, your strength, your flexibility, and your mind. If the person doesn’t like the grappling idea they can try to get used to it or try a different martial art that has no grappling on the floor.
What does it mean to have a black belt in any martial art?
The black belt shows your effort, your determination and your hunger for knowledge. But the black belt, at least in Jiu Jitsu, is only the beginning, as you keep learning every single day. It doesn’t matter if you are black belt in any martial arts because if you are not a good person it doesn’t mean anything. Martial art is for you to learn to be a better person.
Can you tell us about your achievements in the discipline of Jiu Jitsu?
In Jiu Jitsu I won many tournaments in Brazil: I was state champion in São Paulo a few years ago, Circuito Aberto Paulista gold medallist in 2008 and 2010, Circuito Aberto Paulista silver medallist in 2007 and 2008, Copa Brasil silver medallist of 2004, and many others. But my greatest achievements with Jiu Jitsu are my friends. I have many of my closest friends around the world because of it. One of the best achievements is being able to see how Jiu Jitsu changed the lives of my students and watch them in competitions. To see my son and my wife training with me is also great.
What sacrifices did you have to make (or maybe you still make them) in order to become as good as you are at Jiu Jitsu?
All fighters make sacrifices – train hard, lose weight, hard diet, get injured. I’ve had surgery in my knee because of a Jiu Jitsu tournament and some broken fingers. Sometimes you don’t have a social life to keep the focus for the fights. The body and the mind gets tired. Combining training with work and diet is hard, but my biggest sacrifice is staying away from my son so I can support him from here.
Tell us a little about Arena. When did it first open, how many instructors and students are there and what mixed martial arts can we learn there?
Arena was opened in early February and our students are growing as the days go by. At Arena you can learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) with me, and with our brown belt teacher Deddy Wigraha, you can learn also Muay Thai, Boxing, and other MMA. At Arena we also have programs for kids, BJJ ABC and Muay Thai ABC. And we still offer weekends programs for family, BJJ Family and Muay Thai Family. At Arena we also teach private classes.
Are beginners allowed to join? And women?
Beginners and women are always welcome -most of our Jiu Jitsu students are beginners. We have a great program for those people who are just beginning. We still don’t have many women training Jiu Jitsu at Arena, but it is a very interesting martial art for them especially because of self-defence. Women who train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu learn how to defend themselves and also get in shape. Anyone can train, the skinny, the overweight, ladies, kids – Jiu Jitsu is an art that can place every kind of person together, it’s an art that goes beyond the colour, money, and religion. When you step onto the mat everybody is the same.
What do you believe is the key to living a healthy and balanced life?
Determination and willpower are the keys. It’s hard nowadays to work and exercise and eat healthy food. You must have discipline and a strong mind to combine an active life with exercise and a healthy diet.
How do you find inner peace in an extremely hectic city like Jakarta?
It’s hard because in Brazil I used to live at the beach, which is so much calmer than here. But I love what I do for a living. Teaching makes me feel good, seeing my students evolve, talking to my students, going out with them also, and when I’m training I feel good with myself. Exercise makes the body and the mind stronger and healthier. And I also have my wife with me, which makes everything better. I have my inner peace all the time.
Do you watch any Mixed Martial Arts fights in Jakarta? The UFC is planning on staging their first event in Indonesia this year. Are you a fan of this championship and what do you think it would mean to fighters in Indonesia to have a chance at joining this championship?
I still didn’t have the chance to watch a MMA fight in Jakarta. I’ve being here for only four months, but I hope to get a chance soon to watch a fight. I’m a huge fan of MMA championships and I always watch UFC when I can. I’ve heard about the UFC coming to Indonesia, it’s a great opportunity for Indonesian fighters to show their abilities, as there are so many hidden talents in Indonesia. In Asia there are also many events that look for Indonesian fighters. It’s just about keeping the focus and the hard training, and very soon we’ll see some Indonesian champions.
Thank you for your time, Airam.