As one of the most decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitors of all-time, Caio Terra needs no introduction. The 35-year-old has a long list of achievements on the mats, including winning 10 consecutive IBJJF World No-Gi titles from 2008-2017. In addition to his medals, he also set a trend by competing in open weight divisions as a roosterweight, taking first place in the absolute division at the European No-Gi Championship in 2013. Terra recently sat down with Virus to discuss his proudest moments on the mats, why he no longer competes, and what he still has left to accomplish in BJJ.
You cannot tell the story of modern Brazilian jiu-jitsu without Caio Terra. From his humble beginnings on the mat all the way to winning ten straight IBJJF No-Gi titles and competing in the absolute division as a roosterweight, Terra has done it all. Known as one of the most technical grapplers in the sport, he’s now transitioned to a coaching role with a focus on developing the next generation of champions like Rudson Mateus and Yuri Simoes.
For such a storied career, Terra’s introduction to jiu-jitsu in 2002 came out of everyday pragmatism. His mom enrolled him into BJJ class for the self-defense aspect as he was getting bullied in school. He recalls first hating the sport due to being forced to attend class. Ironically, he discovered how much he loved BJJ after he initially quit, realizing there was something missing in his life.
The self-defense soon became a passion, which turned into competitions, trophies, and influence.
Terra has an interesting relationship to competing, especially considering his success. The idea of competition is at odds with his inherent nature. He explains that competition requires an athlete to be selfish and put themselves above all distractions, including friends and important life events. Those sacrifices may have been easier at a younger age, but Terra today has a simple perspective when it comes to his jiu-jitsu: enjoy the process.
“When we want to be successful in competition we must put ourselves first and when doing that, oftentimes we miss on what’s truly important, our friends,” says Terra.
“In order to compete, you need to go on another state of mind and it’s why I don’t enjoy competing as often anymore - I want to enjoy every moment I’m on the mats”
These sorts of tradeoffs in lifestyle are well-known to competitors at all levels. In addition to missing out on important relationships, Terra also wearily admits that he has “dieted way too many times.” His response adds another layer in his decision to enjoy the process as he examines the relationship between chasing titles and achievements against what an athlete is willing to sacrifice off the mats.
“I prefer to eat whatever I want for as long as possible so I can compete motivated, rather than to compete miserable and not caring about the outcome of the match because I don’t enjoy my life anyways,” adds Terra, refocusing the conversation.
After all, it was this same enjoyment and love that drove Terra to become a champion in the first place. He began the sport with no expectations, only driven by his happiness when he was on the mats. That passion drove him to train several hours everyday, with each training session slowly building up a champion. It’s this same level of commitment and attention to detail that led Terra to partner with Virus.
“The lessons you learn on the mat can be applied to your daily lives. Jiu-jitsu built my confidence when I needed it the most”
Beyond the titles and individual accomplishments, Terra’s proudest moments in BJJ have come as a coach. He especially enjoys the surprise of the coaching journey as he guides and pushes his students to levels that they themselves didn’t believe was possible.
His understanding of the importance of mentorship makes sense considering Terra himself is a byproduct of great coaching. He cites Paulo Mauricio Strauch as his most important mentor, not just for the lessons in jiu-jitsu but also for what he taught him off the mats. Terra simply says that “I am who I am today, and where I am today, because of him.”
“My proudest moments were as a coach, where I could work together with my students to accomplish something they weren’t sure was possible”
Terra has also taken several lessons from the gym to his personal life, emphasizing that BJJ is “problem-solving martial art.” The physical and technical benefits are obvious, but the sport also helped him grow on an emotional level. Learning BJJ gave him confidence, while teaching to a wide range of students and abilities made him a more patient person.
He also insists that he continues to grow and learn despite his mastery, remaining open to what the future may hold. His belief in his hard work gives him confidence that he will be able to find his way and problem-solve any situation the future has in store, whether on the mat or beyond.
“I don’t know what my future will be or what’s left to accomplish, but I do know it will be amazing because I put in the hours,” says Terra.
“When I first started, I wouldn’t have even dreamed of one day becoming a black belt world champion. I become one because I fell in love with jiu-jitsu and I was happy every time I was on the mats”
Tournaments and competitions are a place for athletes to test their ability, but they can also be a distraction. Lost in the desire to win titles, get sponsorships, and rack up accolades are the simple joys that come with rolling, teaching, and improving each day. That message is especially powerful coming from Terra, whose place in BJJ is unquestioned. But whether you’re a beginner or a champion, he reminds us that the most important principle is to remember why you started in the first place. You must enjoy the process of jiu-jitsu, and appreciate the people you meet along your journey.