Home Articles How Jiu Jitsu Changed Jackson Sousa’s Life

How Jiu Jitsu Changed Jackson Sousa’s Life

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Training with Jackson Sousa for a week was a humbling experience and as I got to know him better I began to realize that he is a perfect example of how Jiu Jitsu can be used to completely change your life for the better. With the recent release of his seminar at the BJJ Library, I’ve been thinking a lot about the experiences that I had and the lessons I learned from his life.

Now I don’t mean to say that quitting everything and focusing on jiu jitsu is a good way to make money, because it’s not. And I can’t say for sure what’s right for your path in life or where it should take you.

But there is definitely something we can learn from Jackson’s quest in life, something we can all relate to.

Jackson used jiu jitsu to create his own rags to riches story. He was raised in the slums of Cantagalo, a favela nested into one of the many mountains in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There’s a negative stigma about favelas that doesn’t go unwarranted as the areas are often plagued with the type of drug problems, violence, crime, and poverty that just can’t be found in the United States. The residents of these communities live by a different set of rules than we do, the rules of the favela lifestyle. It’s rare and difficult for someone born in the favelas not to get mixed up in the wrong things and find a way to escape a lifetime of poverty.

Jackson first discovered jiu jitsu through Rico Vieira at a charity gym that was founded by Rico. Rico is a black belt world champion himself and is one of the founders of Checkmat, one of the largest jiu jitsu associations in the world. Believing in Rico’s life story of having gone from rags to riches by embracing jiu jitsu and becoming the best, Jackson went from white to black belt under Rico’s guidance and followed in his footsteps to win the IBJJF Black Belt no gi world title in 2013.

This gave him the credentials he needed to finally move out of the slums and find a job in the USA as a grappling coach at the American Kickboxing Academy, a renown MMA gym located in San Jose, California. It’s a rare occurrence for someone born in the favelas to escape a lifetime of poverty let alone change his life in such a spectacular fashion.

Sometimes in life, regardless of whether it’s about a career, having a family, or pursuing a hobby; whether it’s about making money or spending it all; you have to have passion to find meaning in what you’re doing.

I’ve found in most cases that having a strong drive and passion for something is the best way to find true purpose in your life. And that strong drive or passion can be anything really. It could be the series of art projects that you started a long time ago but haven’t finished. It can be about creating perfect sushi and becoming the only 3 star michelin rated sushi restaurant in the world. Or about finding new homes for puppies.

For Jackson it happened to be about jiu jitsu.

And although it’s hard to find people who create lives out of their “hobbies” or build a lifestyle in nontraditional ways, it’s nice to read about them once in a while.

There’s no secret recipe as to why Jackson is where he is today. There’s very few people, maybe nobody, who is as dedicated and passionate about his purpose. And even less people who trained as hard as he did (and still does) to achieve his goals.



I’m so happy to announce that Jackson Sousa recently relocated to San Jose only a few months ago to begin his new life as the head grappling coach. He continues to train hard and will be fighting at the World Championships later this month to achieve his life goal of becoming a black belt gi world champion. If you happen to be in the area, be sure to stop by his gym for some really tough world-class training.


Jackson Sousa is the 2013 black belt no gi world champion and a very accomplished grappler who has recently risen to the black belt competition scene and is creating a buzz. He received his black belt only a year ago but really tore up the circuit as a brown belt having placed first at multiple tournaments like the Brasileiros, Europeans, and the prestigious IBJJF World Championships. He’s looking to add the IBJJF Gi Black belt World title later this month. In the seminar that I filmed with Jackson, he shares a series of his favorite spider guard sweeps, some back attacks, and his favorite judo takedown.


If you haven’t already, come check out Jackson’s seminar at the BJJ Library and sharpen your spider guard skills with a world champion! Here’s a quick breakdown of the spider guard sweeps that he teaches.

jackson sousa reel


Be sure to check out this fantastic documentary about Jackson Sousa’s life that BJJ Hacks put together! These videos highlight his training regimen, his BJJ lifestyle, and his roots.



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