Darlynson Lira is the first general of the Darcio Lira Jiu Jitsu Clan and continues his father's traditions and lineage. He’s a 6th Dan BJJ black belt with a lifetime of experience on the mats and leads the Lira Jiu Jitsu Clan in USA. This interview showcases an effective style of jiu jitsu that includes many character developing techniques. His teachings are lethal, his students are loyal. Learn from one of the most humble, yet wise teachers of martial arts.
Full Name: Darlynson Marques Vidal Lira
Belt Colour: Black Belt 6th Dan
Professor: Master Darcio Lira
Short Term Goals:
I don't spend a lot of time focusing on short term goals. My idea about life is to invest and put effort into things that you can build slowly with strength. Staying healthy, teaching, training etc. They take time, dedication and commitment to build things in life. At least the things that are worth building.
How long have you been training jiu-jitsu?
I was first introduced at 6 years old. Having a father that was a jiu jitsu teacher gave me and my brothers the opportunity to have jiu jitsu in our lives at an early age. Therefore, back then we were taught more of the self defense aspect of jiu jitsu, that was my father’s first concern. We were growing up in Brazil, which could be very dangerous even for kids.
Dheyne Lira (Left), Darlynson Lira (Middle), Damokles Lira (Right)
What was the experience like growing up in a martial arts family in Fortaleza, Brazil?
In our family everything started with my father. When he was about 12 years old he was introduced to Judo and Jiu Jitsu. Through his passion for the martial arts other people in our family also trained. For my brothers and I it was part of our daily routine.
I remember when I was living in the Hodonea North part of Brazil, my father used to get me and my brother Dheyne to move all the living room furniture and have us fight each other, while he was watching and coaching.
Fun Fact: My father had some unusual ways to push the best out of us during these training sessions.
For example if I got my brother in a mount position and he couldn't get out my father would tell me spit on your hand and wipe it on your brother's face. And of course I was happy to do that. But that was the motivation my brother needed to get out of the position. Reverse situation would be the same advice.
As we were growing up Jiu Jitsu became more and more of a habit for us. When I was 16 years old we moved back to a big city, my hometown Forteleza, and then training was longer and more often.
We had an academy in the backyard of our home and spending hours on the mat became a common thing. About this time our other brother Damokles (the youngest) was 6 years old and started training jiu jitsu. Having a dojo in the backyard really helped us to improve our jiu jitsu.
Do you prefer training in the jiu jitsu gi or no-gi?
In my opinion Gi and No-Gi are both important, for different reasons.
The Gi training tends to give you more control on grips, gives you more tools to work with. Also the Gi requires more technical knowledge to be able to play the Gi game.
On the other hand, facing the reality of the streets, the No-Gi training is important. It forces you to adapt grips and position control as well as submissions to be able to play the No-Gi game.
If I have to pick one, the Gi would be my pick.
In my experience training and teaching Jiu Jitsu a person who just trains no-gi will feel lost if they fight with someone in the GI. If a person just trains in the Gi and you take away his Gi and he needs to fight No-Gi he can do fairly well.
What are the qualities of a good martial arts student?
Loyalty - above all. A student should be grateful to the person who is showing you the way: “Sensei”. To me Jiu Jitsu is not just a sport it is a martial art. It is important that the trust exists in the relationship between teacher and student. I would never teach someone that I don’t trust. Doesn’t matter how much they pay me.
Commitment - The commitment is what makes progress happen. If you do not have commitment you do not progress.
Respect - You should always show respect to the people that you are training with. Respect for your teachers. Respect for your teammates. Respect for all the belt levels. Without respect there is no trust.
Another thing that makes you a good martial arts student is the capacity to push yourself to the limits and to recognize those limits in such a way that you know how far you should go and when to go
My tough girls...OSS!
What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?
That’s a very never ending question. There are so many lessons Jiu Jitsu has given me and is still giving me today. I have learned to respect everyone regardless of how they look. I have learned how to recognize problems and find the best solution without getting desperate. I have learned to always be humble, never think that you are the best. There is always somebody better than you.
Being humble helps me to really avoid being disappointed when finding someone better than me. This is a common mistake that I see often in young people that become champions very fast.
Jiu Jitsu gives you a humbling perspective about yourself and about who you think you are.
Me and Jessie. The toughest kid in the entire tournament! An example to all of us about facing limitations. There's NO EXCUSES want you really want to do something.
My respect and admiration Jessie!
How often do you teach BJJ?
6 times a week.
For those that don't know, what is the Takeo Yano Lineage and how did your father discover their teachings?
Takeo Yano was sent to the northern part of Brazil to a military base to train people. He spent several years there and that's where my fathers Master Franciso Vieira e Sa met Master Yano. Master Sa was enlisted on the base and he trained several years with Takeo Yano. Master Sa received a black belt from the Japanese master. My father, Darcio, met Master Sa when he was a young man. Then my father started training with Master Sa.
Our Lineage Goes: Kodokan Japan, Takeo Yano, Master Sa, Master Darcio Lira, and Me
Back in the day there were not many academies that had black belts in jiu jitsu in Brazil. At some point all the Masters would cross train together and Master Sa trained with other masters such as: Biusse Osmar, Nilo Veleso, Helio Gracie, Evan Gomes and many others.
What made you want to continue your father's legacy by becoming the head instructor of Darcio Lira Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu & Martial Arts School?
My father since he started Jiu Jitsu always had a different vision of the art. Back when he started, the Japanese tradition was being completely ignored by all the teachers and my father saw that as a flaw.
All the other martial arts such as Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, even Judo (which came from Jiu Jitsu) were spreading throughout the world with their traditions and ceremonial practices. Only Brazillian Jiu Jitsu no longer had that. There is a historical reason for that but I will leave that to another day.
My father decided to take a different approach on the matter. For my father the technical level is important as much as the respect for the tradition and the ceremonial aspects that belong to the Jiu Jitsu roots, but unfortunately were forgotten by the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community.
I lived the boom of Jiu Jitsu from the 80s-90s in Brazil and I was a witness to all that was happening. Having very strong moral discipline and traditional education I saw the importance of what my father was trying to rescue in the art of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community. The pitbull Jiu Jitsu generation was based on fear, bullying, and disrespect.
For my father discipline, respect, hierarchy and traditions should be the foundation of Jiu Jitsu training for everyone. I truly believe in all the things my father defended and tried to rescue for the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community. That’s why it’s my duty and my mission to continue in his footsteps and pass his vision to my students.
Your students seem very passionate about your style of teaching. What makes Lira Jiu-Jitsu different from other martial arts schools?
Master Darcio always had a different vision about jiu jitsu and how jiu jitsu should be part of his students' lives. My father always says that:
“more than a sport, jiu jitsu is a martial art that engulfs the philosophy and principles that should guide our lives.”
In our schools we make it clear to our students that competing and winning metals is not the most important part of jiu jitsu.
The Samurai before being a warrior was well prepared to fight and kill, and still had the commitment to bring positive benefits to the community where he lived. During the war times they were ready to use their swords and to do battle and during peaceful times they were people that helped their community in many different aspects…. Science, agriculture, etc. For example Miyamoto Mushashi developed a big irrigation system in his village to help produce rice.
In our school we see jiu jitsu not as a sport, but as a martial art and we teach our students to always be responsible with their lives on and off the mat. When you become part of the Lira Clan you are representing the clan wherever you go and whatever you do. Which demands that you always bring a good image to your Master, Sensei’s and your academy.
In our Clan we have a moral code to always be there for each other and help each other in whatever way we can.
On the technical aspect we are different because we see jiu jitsu as a martial art system, we teach our students the entire essence of jiu jitsu. The stand up game, the ground game, as well as, striking and self defense. All those skills must be achieved for belt graduation/promotion.
We do not hand belts depending on tournament results. We actually have a very long and hard belt test system. This system every single student must pass to be promoted, each time.
The belt test consists of:
- Written test: where the student must show their knowledge of jiu jitsu history, knowledge of our lineage, technical questions, as well as some personal growth questions.
- Cardio Conditioning: for us it is important that with the technique that the endurance and cardio be on point. A person out of shape for as technical as they may be, they would not be ready to display good jiu jitsu.
- Ukemi and Naga waza: falling/standing….since we do a lot of throws it is important the students know how to fall.
- Ne waza: all the ground techniques will be shown….triangle, armbar, sweep, guard passing….etc.
- Goshin waza Jitsu: self defence...it goes from simple hand strikes all the way to disarming weapon attacks.
- Atemi waza: striking techniques...Students need to know how to throw a jab, a hood, low kick, knee, and elbow to have a minimal stand up striking understanding. In case they need it on the street.
- The rolls: we have the student fighting with gi and no gi, in short matches with different body types ages and sizes. The very last part, we do an open hand striking no gi jiu jitsu rolling. Where open hand slaps are allowed and “encouraged” LOL, this for adults and kids.
The objective Master Darcio Lira included this last part of the belt test is to take away the fear of being hit by someone. As I experienced several times in my life (in Brazil), I saw Jiu Jitsu practitioners that were champions completely freeze up on the street after getting hit in the face.
The points above are just a small part of what makes us different, we have many other things that make us different.
What was one of the most important lessons your father taught you about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
To learn to appreciate the traditions and the hierarchy in the martial arts. During the early 90’s in Brazil, jiu jitsu was feared by many people because of its lack of discipline, respect and code of conduct. Those qualities are very important to give you self control and self discipline.
What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?
The exchange of energy between the practitioners
and the possibility, through the technique, of controlling your opponents actions. Jiu Jitsu is a real life chess game.
What has jiu jitsu done for your physical health?
Since I started training at an early age Jiu Jitsu kept me focused on taking care of my mind and my body. Helping me to avoid bad influences and bad habits. Due to that fact, I always had concerns about my training performance. In my neighborhood drugs and alcohol were common and popular among the young people. Jiu Jitsu kept my brothers and I away from that.
Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?
Jiu Jitsu through the years gave me the mind set that I needed to become a successful person in life. I learned that the mind aspect of a martial artist’s path is just as important as the physical aspect. We learn in Jiu Jitsu that in the hard moments you must stay focused and calm.
Getting desperate and panicking during bad situations on the mats won't help you to evolve, same with life.
If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?
Yes. I would have competed more. I didn’t compete as much as I should have. I wish I would have been able to compete more, but there just weren’t many tournaments, and a lot of politics.
My father had a federation and we would run tournaments. The politics would cause other schools from our city to avoid bringing their athletes to our tournaments. Then we would not go to their tournaments either.
What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?
Start TODAY! Don’t wait to get in shape, to improve cardio, to lose weight, just come and let Jiu Jitsu do the rest for you. If you start doing jiu jitsu it will influence you to make the changes you desire, modify your habits and make you feel comfortable.
Have you seen your students change for the better through martial arts?
It is often when I see kids come in the first time through my doors shy, don't talk, insecure, afraid all the time and as the time passes and training happens they change for the better.
I have many examples when present and former students come to me and thank me and the art for all the benefits and blessings jiu jitsu brought to their life.
The self confidence, self esteem, self control, respect and the way they face challenges in life is completely improved by the jiu jitsu training and life experiences we have and share on the mats.
What’s your favorite BJJ move?
Paper cutter. If it's not my favorite it's definitely something I like to do.
If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?
Leading a GANG! I would be a leader of something for sure, it's my nature to be a leader.
Jiu Jitsu has enhanced my natural leadership qualities. But it's very important to say who I am, what I have, what I built and where I am. It's all because of Jiu Jitsu and my FAMILY.
As someone that has traveled all around the world to help grow the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, how has the sport changed over the decades?
Since the big boom of Jiu Jitsu in 1994 with the start of the UFC it has become more noticed by the martial arts world. That definitely made Jiu Jitsu grow in many other places around the world, not just in Brazil.
Master Pinheirão, an icon of the roots of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
(Fortaleza Ceara Brazil)
With the increase in numbers of academies and practitioners the sport aspect of Jiu Jitsu was largely expanded. I think the sport aspect of Jiu Jitsu can be a good thing and also a bad thing.
Good: the sport aspect attracts more people to get to know the art and have the opportunity to prove themselves against each other in competition, in a safe way. Jiu Jitsu is a dynamic and captivating sport, it is easy for companies to use that platform to promote their events that attract thousands of people.
Also, on the business aspect, it's great to promote companies and businesses due to the number of people watching the events. With the technology today we can have access to events and top level athletes any place in the world at any time.
Bad: seeing martial art only as a sport limits the training to being based on the rules of competition. Which many times put aside a lot of techniques that the athlete is not allowed to use in a tournament.
From my point of view the real JiuJitsuka (jiu jitsu practitioner) should be trained to learn and master the full knowledge of Jiu Jitsu, independent of one’s age and belt.
I know some academies where the whole jiu jitsu training is taught only based on competition rules, in my opinion this will dilute the full potential of the art. In consequence the technical skills of the JiuJitsuka are lacking.
I encourage all my students to compete, but always make clear that competition is just one part of the whole art.
Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?
Definitely. It is sad to me to not have jiu jitsu already as an Olympic sport. Because Jiu Jitsu was before Judo and Karate. Those 2 arts that came from Jiu Jitsu have a better, more organized structure and because of that they were able to surpass Jiu Jitsu on many levels.
Have any of your bjj training partners or students pushed you to reach your full potential?
Many times. All the time. The evolution and self improvement is a never ending cycle and having the opportunity to trade energy with my students is, to me, a blessing. But I always like to joke with my students saying until my 55th birthday, 48 now, I am gonna do whatever I still can to kick their ass, and they will never have an easy way out with me.
I tap! I tap!
With my niece Ananda Lira after my last training session with my Clan in Brazil. The third generation are being prepared! Oss!
When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?
It took me a long time to accept, understand and master the bottom game. For me it was easier to fight from the top than the bottom. At one particular tournament as a new purple belt I got completely dominated by an opponent due to my lack of skill on the bottom.
I knew I could win if I took him down, but I couldn't take him down. With that particular opponent I should have easily won, but I underestimated the bottom game. After that I spent most of my time as a purple belt training and improving my bottom game.
Nowadays even though I am a stocky big guy 5’7” 230 lbs, I feel pretty comfortable playing guard.
If you could roll with any bjj practitioner, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would love to have rolled with my fathers Master, Francisco Verea Sa as well with two people that for me are pillars in the Jiu Jitsu World. Rickson Gracie and Ricardo De Le Riva. Of course I can’t forget my father, Master Darcio Lira, which I still have the privilege and honor to train with every time that I go and visit my home town.
Master and disciple. Father and son.
If you had to describe Jiu-Jitsu to someone that's never heard of it before in under 5 words, what would those words be?
lethal dynamic humbling physical mental
What has been the most memorable moment you've had on the mats so far?
That’s a very hard question, because I have spent most of my life on the mats. I have lived and shared so many experiences, which makes it hard to pick one.
If I have to pick a moment, Every time that I have a chance to be on the mat with my brothers and my father, training, trading energy with them...that is my paradise. I have been blessed to have my father as my teacher, not only me, also all my brothers on the mat training together motivates me.
However, a moment in the future that I will not forget would be seeing my daughter Dellah, who is 4 years old now, stepping on the mat for her first competition in jiu jitsu. Just thinking about that makes my hands sweaty right now….LOL
What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?
I came from a family of warriors and men of honor. Through jiu jitsu I learned so much about others and myself. I was able to live and grow in a dangerous area without being bullied or disrespected.
The Jiu Jitsu philosophy and training as well as my family education was crucial for me to become the person I am today. After receiving so much from Jiu Jitsu and my family, it is my time to give it back.
I am very passionate about what I do and people can see that through my actions and my behavior towards jiu jitsu and that's because I am representing my family. My mother Celia Lira, who is in heaven now, and my father Master Darcio Lira….honoring them is my goal.
Was there a difficult moment in your life where jiu-jitsu helped you get through it? If so, please explain.
When I lost my mom in 2005. She was diagnosed with cancer everything went so fast from when we found out she had cancer until the time she passed was only 3 months. She had been the only woman in the house. She was an important link in our daily schedule. Losing her it was hard and took a little time for us to get back on track, but because of jiu jitsu I was able to keep my mind busy and connect even more with the art.
Where Can people connect with you further and learn more about your academy?
facebook: darcio lira jiu jitsu california-usa
Personal FB: darlynson lira
What would you like to say to everyone that has supported you on your journey?
First of all I am very thankful to my father, Master Darcio Lira, my brothers, Dheyne and Damokles for always being there for me and for their support in my entire life. They are columns for me.
In my life I have made a lot of good friends and some close friends all connected to jiu jitsu. My students believing and trusting in me.
When the journey is over, how would you like to be remembered?
First of all I hope to be able to stay on the mats until the last day of my life and I pray to god to keep me strong and give me the energy to do so.
I would like to be remembered as a friend and as a leader who led by example and was always there for his students. I really love teaching jiu jitsu. It is something that pushes me and motivates me to stay on my toes independent if I compete or not.