Art of Jiu-Jitsu has very quickly started to become one of the most successful BJJ academies on the planet, but they are not an overnight success by any stretch of the imagination. The academy was started by Rafael and Guilherme Mendes, two brothers who established themselves as elite competitors very early on in their professional careers. They both left the competitive side of the sport at a pretty young age as well and likely could have achieved much more had they continued throughout their athletic prime. They founded Art of Jiu-Jitsu in 2012 and it’s taken almost a decade before the gym was able to find the highest levels of success on the international stage.
This slow-burn was by design though, as Art of Jiu-Jitsu has always focused heavily on children and the Mendes brothers have managed to build a foundation that will see the academy sitting comfortably among the most elite gyms in the world for the foreseeable future. The last few years have seen the first crop of elite talent emerge from Art of Jiu-Jitsu and the age of their top competitors ensures that the gym will find success at the highest levels for at least a decade or more already. Of course, this first generation of talent is nowhere near the last either and the Mendes brothers will almost certainly be leading an elite competition team for far longer than many of their peers.
Their first success stories came in the form of the Tye and Kade Ruotolo, who trained with Art of Jiu-Jitsu (AOJ) up until the age of 14 before moving to ATOS. At the time, AOJ was closely affiliated with ATOS and it was seen as a natural progression in the careers of the brothers, but a reasonable portion of their early success can be attributed to the Mendes brothers as opposed to Andre Galvao. It was only a matter of years after this that AOJ formally severed ties with ATOS and began to develop their children into adult competitors by themselves instead.
In 2020, the AOJ kids program produced it’s first black belt in nineteen year-old Jessa Khan. She has been with the Mendes brothers since they first opened the gym and as a result she had already managed to register eight years of mat-time before she even hit her twenties. She quickly won a bronze medal at the IBJJF world championships and will likely earn at least one gold medal at some point in her future too. She was quickly joined by Tainan Dalpra who received his final belt promotion on the podium of the Pans in 2020 after winning gold at brown belt.
Dalpra immediately rose to the top in the following year as he won every IBJJF tournament he entered, including the world championships. In his first fifty competitive matches at black belt, Dalpra only lost a single one and only by the thinnest of margins in a referee decision. He quickly set himself up to be one of the top competitors of his generation despite being just 20 years old at the time of his black belt promotion. Khan and Dalpra aren’t alone, AOJ now has several top competitors like Johnatha Alves and Mateus Rodrigues too.
The success doesn’t start at black belt for AOJ athletes either, as Cole Abate burst on to the scene in 2021 by competing against adults as a sixteen year-old blue belt and defeating much more senior athletes. Then he did the unthinkable and actually won the 66kg division of the ADCC North American East Coast trials, becoming the youngest athlete to ever do so. Competing as a purple belt adult for the first time, Abate was unable to register the same level of success at the IBJJF Pans 2022 but he will certainly be a force to be reckoned with for any lighter competitor over the next 10 to 20 years.
Through these competitors alone AOJ has secured a presence in high level competition for the foreseeable future, but the story doesn’t stop there. As we speak, the Mendes brothers and their more senior students are passing on elite-level Jiu-Jitsu knowledge to children who are barely old enough to start school. By the time those children actually hit sixteen and get promoted to either blue or purple belt, they will have had the same amount of years in the sport as the average person has when reaching black belt and will definitely have spent more time on the mats than the vast majority.
For anyone looking to learn from the success of the Mendes brothers at Art of Jiu-Jitsu either in person or online, click here for more.