The weekend of May 20th-22nd marked another feather in the cap moment for DEFTAC Pilipinas, winning the overall championships at the 2016 Pan-Asian Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament.
And early this month, two of the team’s feistiest female competitors ended with podium finishes at the recently concluded IBJJF World Championships in California. Kim Custodio bagged the silver medal for the women’s galo division for white belt, while May Masuda took home the bronze medal, also for the women’s galo division for purple belt.
These were feats that were nothing new for the team. But as an old adage goes, success in life can never be an accident. Champions are not the people who never fail, but the people who never quit. And like any other distinguished group of individuals, DEFTAC had its own share of struggles during its infancy.
With it roots going back to the more colorful scene in the 90’s, when street brawls were a common occurrence, conventional martial arts had a more underground nature to it. As shared by the team’s chieftain Prof. Alvin Aguilar, it took a lot of time and effort to clean up the mess.
When the negative stigma was finally eradicated, it was when the true beauty of the art of Jiu-jitsu began to surface.
“What happened was, when the stigma was taken out, a lot of people started joining. They saw we had something to offer. And ever since we’ve been changing lives. We produce the most national and international champions in MMA and jiu-jitsu combined in the whole of Asia. And we’re going to keep going.”
Prof. Aguilar himself was no stranger to Manila’s mean streets back in his heyday. Having been there and done that, he instead chose to share the knowledge that was imparted upon him by the best instructors in the world.
But it was when he stepped inside the gym of Saulo Ribeiro in San Diego that became the ultimate eye-opener.
“In Saulo’s gym, everybody wants to be a Mundial champion. Everyone wants to take it to the next level. It just so happened, when I went there, we were all training for the Mundials also.”
“He really brought me to the next level. And because of my exposure there with Saulo, I rolled with a lot of World Champions. Now, I’ve rolled with a lot of people who are name guys. I’ve done pretty well with it because of the training I got there. And I want to keep going for it.”
Prof. Aguilar mainly attributes DEFTAC’s success to Ribeiro’s mentorship, crediting him for the having a deep understanding of the techniques.
“Until now, we’re still the Pan-Asian champion. Ever since we were with Saulo, every year, we win it.”
To date, a good number of DEFTAC gyms have been established all over the archipelago, and the talent level has been at its peak, to say the least. It has produced a long list of champions and medalists from almost every age group.
As far as the continued triumphs of the team goes, Prof. Aguilar says it all boils down to the camaraderie that runs deep.
“The bonds you have in jiu-jitsu are something else. I mean, people think now that you’re on the mat by yourself. No. What you are on the mat, it’s what all of your training partners made you. The whole team made you. So that’s just an awesome, awesome thing.”
“We’ve changed a lot of people’s lives for the better. A lot of people are more confident in their lives. They’re achieving more in their lives because of jiu-jitsu. They’re not afraid of anything, which you shouldn’t be, because there’s no such thing as mistakes. There’s only lessons.”
“In the end, we always get along. We always back each other up. And once you’re DEFTAC, you’re always DEFTAC.”