Mauricio Costa, Rickson Gracie Black Belt

Mauricio CostaI was organizing the contacts in my cell phone a few weeks ago and came across the contact info for my first BJJ instructor, Mauricio Costa.  I first met him over 10 years ago when I first became interested in BJJ.  At the time he was a brown belt under Rickson Gracie, who at the time, and probably currently still is the most respected and skilled Gracie practicioner.  In the BJJ community he’s regarded almost mythically and conferred a god-like status, with a reported undefeated record of over 400 – 0.  When I was young and impressionable (as opposed to being old and impressionable now) I idolized him.  After seeing the effectiveness and efficiency of BJJ displayed by Royce Gracie during the early UFC days, and then hearing that he considered his brother Rickson 10x better than him I had to learn more.

I went out and picked up the movie, Rickson Gracie: Choke, and watched it over and over trying to soak up as much as I could (it’s still sitting on my shelf).  I couldn’t wait to learn BJJ and if possible, study under Rickson.  Unfortuntely due to location and cost (I was in college at the time) I couldn’t make it out to Rickson’s academy, so I found Mauricio who was the next best thing.  You can see him at the 2:49 min mark on this clip from Choke.  It’s funny, now that I just re-watched that clip, I noticed Luis Heredia in the locker with Rickson too!

I ended up training with  Mauricio off and on for a few months but I wasn’t able to continue training BJJ after college because life got in the way.

So when I came across his name recently I experienced a bit of nostalgia and decided to call him up.  Luckily his number hadn’t changed and I was able to get in touch with him.  After I stopped training with him he received his black belt from Rickson and helped teach some classes at Rickson’s academy.  Since I was in town and he had some free time we decided to schedule some classes together.

Today was my first class and the first thing I noticed was that he hadn’t changed in 10 years!  BJJ is like the fountain of youth… at least for Mauricio.

We went over some of the warmups that he used to have us do that I had completely forgotten about such as the ‘four point base‘ drill.  Then we did some flow rolling with him giving me pointers here and there, focusing more on me being on the bottom of the guard.

Some notes in no particular order:

  • To establish a stronger mount, keep knees close to opponents sides, squeezing my thighs together, with top of my feet on the floor.  My face should be above his face, with my weight on my knees, and hands off the ground (so he won’t have anything to grab).  This will also help the attack to catch an armbar or americana.
  • When he rolls to his side, follow and ride him so that one knee ends up behind his head and the other is trapping his stomach.
  • From here, if I want to go for an armbar I need to remember to plant my right hand in front of his face before throwing my right leg over, to establish a sound base.  If I want to be meaner, I can plant my hand on his face instead.
  • If they defend against the arm bar I can go for a collar choke by reaching my right hand around his head to grab his left collar, and then reaching my left hand around his left armpit and behind his head, bringing elbows together and pulling for choke.
  • If they defend against this choke and prevent me from reaching around his armpit, then I can simply use my left hand to grab his right collar, planting the fist on the ground and finishing the choke with my right hand.
  • From the bottom of the guard he helped clean up my cross collar choke (I seem to need to relearn this choke once every few months!  I’m always amazed at how deceptively complicated and nuanced it actually is!).  I have to remember to push the collar back while I’m establishing the first deep grip, creating space for the other hand to reach under and grab the other collar.  If there isn’t enough space, I can use my first elbow to push his chin and face away to open up some room.
  • When going for the triangle, an important step I’ve been forgetting is to extend my hips to keep the opponent from coming in and stacking me.  I have to remember to keep my knees as far away from my nose as possible.
  • He liked my omo plata.
  • I have to be more patient, and remember to establish position before submission (ie remembering to plant my hand before throwing my leg over for the armbar from mount).
  • When trapped under side control, need to use my up shoulder to prevent him from flattening me out on my back, and at same time hip escape my hips back.  If he’s grabbing onto my legs, kick them out to release them, and resume hip escaping.
  • When I have his back, I need to switch my seat belt to prevent him from reaching his head to the ground.
  • When he is in the turtle position and I’m behind him (with no hooks or seatbelt), keep my chest on his lower back/hips, with my legs sprawled and wait. The moment he tries to turn and recover guard, I can follow him and establish side control.
  • When I have his back and he is prone, I need to keep pushing my hips into the ground while keeping my heels together to take away any possible hip movement of his.
  • We went over some takedowns as well.  If I have a bear hug around his hips from behind I can try to lift him, but if he counters by making himself heavy, I can sit my butt down, make my left leg straight with my heel against his left heel and bring him down, throwing my right leg over to establish mount.
  • If I shoot in for a double leg takedown and he counters by sprawling, I can use the motion from the four point drill by escaping my head to my left and then stepping through with my right leg, opening my chest to take his back.
  • We went over the upa and hip escape from under the mount.  I need to remember to create a strong frame against his hips if I’m trying for the hip escape, and only do upa when I can trap his arm.

One of the encouraging things he said is that the blue belt is the most difficult belt.  It’s when you have to relearn all the basics and you get frustrated because you feel like you forgot everything.  On top of this you’re still getting beat up by all the higher belts and sometimes getting beat up by the up and coming white belts.  These are all experiences I can certainly relate to.

I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings.


8 Responses to Mauricio Costa, Rickson Gracie Black Belt

  1. Andy Hawkes says:

    I have been trying to find Mauricio’s contact info for a number of years. I also studied under he and Luis in 95-96(West LA Karate on Pico.) I love that guy. Great teacher and funny as hell.
    Can I get his info? Or I can give you mine to pass on.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Sure thing, It’d probably be better if you gave me your info to pass along. You can email me at

      His number hadn’t changed since back in the day! I used to train under him when he was at the dance studio above the karate school close to Beverly Glenn.

  2. Andrew Keefe says:

    I’d also appreciate it if you could put me back in touch with him. I was a student of his since Pico (1997). I saw him at the Metamoris II last weekend but couldn’t catch up to him. I been looking for his number in my old records for three days but cannot find anything. I’ll email, too, but I wanted to add a post for something of a high-five = )

    Mauricio taught me tons. Thanks!

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Sure, send me an email and I’ll give you his number.

      Been training with him recently and it’s been great!

  3. Patrick says:

    Thanks for putting this up. I also trained under Mauricio and Luis at Pico. I trained on and off since at Rickson and even Torrance but have recently started back at the Gracie Academy Beverly Hills and was feeling nostalgic and did a search and this page came up. A great guy.

  4. Ron Cicero says:

    Thanks for posting this. I just realized I still have Mauricio’s number in my phone! Glad to know he hasn’t changed. What a great guy.

    Btw, we must have trained together…I started at Pico, moved to the space upstairs and then the Karate Studio (downstairs?). Unfortunately work and travel got in the way but definitely have fond memories of that time.


    • BJJ Caveman says:

      We might’ve crossed paths! Do you remember those green mats? We had to set them up and take them apart each time! The upstairs space was shared with a dance studio… ah.. the early days of bjj!

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