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Press Democrat Article Featuring GBRP’s Professor Aparecido ‘Bill’

Creating a second home on the training mat

Saturday, September 7th, 2013 | Posted by Nick Walden Press Democrat’s Rohnert Park + Cotati Correspondent

Program Director Ross Hardin with “Professor Bill” Aparecido Faria (Nick Walden / Press Democrat)

By NICK WALDEN / Rohnert Park Correspondent

Aparecido Faria, or Professor Bill as he is known in the community, is a 4th degree black belt in jiu-jitsu under the tutelage of Carlos Gracie Jr. of the well-known Gracie family. While some people might have a preconceived notion that martial arts is an aggressive sport that condones violent actions, what Professor Bill has fostered in his studio is a combination of self-defense, life lessons and a sense of family.

Professor Bill, 38, discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu in his native Rio de Janeiro when he was 7 because he was being bullied. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is its own art that was founded by Carlos Gracie and his brother Helio in the early 1920′s. It promotes the concept that a smaller or weaker person can defend themselves against a larger person using leverage and technique.

Along with being a martial art, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a sport taken very seriously in Brazil, a method of physical fitness and way of life.

“After I learned jiu-jitsu,” said Professor Bill, “there was no more being bullied.”

In Brazil, jiu-jitsu is very competitive. Professor Bill excelled in his training and eventually became a five-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu national champion and two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion.

He spent time traveling around and offering instruction and learning about the world. In a small academy in New Orleans he began to learn English and about American Culture.

In March of 2006 Professor Bill was living in Brazil. At the time he was not happy with what he was doing and the direction things were going and he decided that he didn’t want to teach in Brazil. The competitive nature of jiu-jitsu in Brazil meant that instructors were usually the best fighter in their gym. Some instructors would keep techniques to themselves to ensure that they remained the best fighter.

One day he found a website based around martial arts and put down in the classified section that he was a Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor looking for business opportunities.

“I went to work and when I came home I had lots of proposals from Europe, Japan, Canada and the U.S.,” he said.

After studying the various proposals it came down to two proposals, one of which was in Rohnert Park and the other in Costa Rica. Professor Bill asked a few friends in the U.S. but nobody had heard of the small town in Sonoma County.

“I always like the U.S. and believed that I should follow my dream here,” he said.

He started with a seminar and was then introduced as an instructor in a local academy; however after a short period the owner of the academy opted to move in a different direction. Professor Bill then opened his own studio under the Gracie Barra flag in December of 2007 in the Padre Town Center.

Soon enough his business grew and he expanded his academy, taking over the space in a vacant suite in addition to his current spot.

“People don’t know what I am teaching,” Professor Bill said about BJJ, which focuses on instructing the fundamentals first.

“This is an art to protect yourself. People should not be afraid or intimidated,” he added, noting that this is something that is excellent for women especially to learn for self-defense.

The name “Professor Bill” is something of an honorific title, built on the idea of respect for him as a teacher and instructor. Over the years it is how he has become known within the local community so much that almost every address him that way, even his wife at the studio in front of students.

“She calls me just Bill at home,” he said with a laugh.

While some people associate jiu-jitsu with things such as Ultimate Fighting and mixed-martial arts, Professor Bill is quick to dismiss that.

“What you see…that is not Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Those fighters are true mixed-martial arts fighters and do many things such as boxing and kick-boxing and have to follow certain rules.”

Professor Bill during a recent seminar.

Professor Bill during a recent seminar.

While Professor Bill has trained with many great fighters, such as BJ Penn, who have made a name for themselves in the UFC and he does have a training cage in his new facility, his primary focus lies in his passion of jiu-jitsu.

“If you love to do something, do it. Learn and experience as much as you can. You only have one life.”

As an art, Brazilian jiu-jitsu takes much longer to master compared to other disciplines. It takes about 7 years to earn a black belt according to Professor Bill.

Part of the Gracie Barra philosophy is that you are joining a large, extended family and Professor Bill has embraced that idea within his academy where students have become close friends.

There is also a focus on forming character in addition to learning techniques. Professor Bill often includes talking about his own life to provide examples to students.

“I have seen a lot of stuff and learned a lot of life lessons that the kids and adults both listen to and seem to really understand.” Some of that relates to growing up in rough neighborhoods and using discipline to get where he is now.

Earlier this year Professor Bill moved his academy to the University Square Shopping Center on Snyder Lane, taking over the 6000 square-foot space that was once occupied by Bradley Video. With now over 200 students and a staff of instructors, all of whom started as students, Professor Bill finds himself truly living his dream.

“I get to wake up in the morning and play with my daughter, come here and train with people who are my friends and help do what I can to make a positive impact on the community.”

Professor Bill often finds ways to give back to the community such as offering weekend seminars to students where the payment is made in the form of food and clothing donations which he then takes to local charity locations.

His daughter, who recently celebrated her second birthday, has her own training gi and participates in the warm-up exercises. Professor Bill expects her to join the kids’ classes in a few years.

Part of his ideology in developing instructors from within his students is to ensure that the people he entrusts with teaching have the right character and understand the way in which the training a philosophies of Brazilian jiu-jitsu should be taught so that everyone will learn the right way.

“I am so appreciative of the people here. They are helping make my life and are part of my jiu-jitsu family. I get to help people and get involved…that puts me in a place where I feel happy.”

Gracie Barra Rohnert Park is now a proud member of the Rohnert Park Chamber of Commerce!

GB Rohnert Park

Vera, Program Director Ross and Prof. Bill

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