William Vandry on the History of the Machado Brothers – BJJ in my Eyes

BJJ in my eyes July 2010 article – William Vandry on the history of the Machado brothers

I was recently talking to my mentor Master Carlos Machado on the phone.  We started talking about all the old times when I first met him in Texas, and of all the good times, tough times and goals we discussed in the BJJ world.

In 2006, I had an interest in developing some type of documentary.  The documentary started as a subject about me; but my intent was to develop an idea and history about the Machado brothers, their origins and BJJ history.

Their story goes back a long way.  I remember when I was a white belt, I was enthralled, and like a kid at a camp with marsh mellows under a campfire telling stories, I listened to many stories and historical events that happened.  I have yet to ever see a full, good, informative article or discussion on the world famous Machado brothers from Brazil.  The documentary from 2006 had John and Carlos Machado in it, and there is in the works another documentary that may be out before the end of this year that chronicles many of our community, and a lot with the Machado brothers in it.

My career in BJJ has been very gratifying, and fulfilling to this day.  I have been training in this martial art almost 15 years.  I cannot believe how time has flown by so fast.  When I teach, I love my trade, to teach.  I enjoy training each day with my students, and to help develop their own game not just technically, but emotionally, psychologically and sub-consciously as well.  Jiu-jitsu is an art that in the Rickson Gracie documentary “Choke”, he discussed BJJ and I came to understand it as soft art or gentle art as the Japanese interpretation is known.

From day one, I always learned that it’s ok to explore your ideas, but you just need to have a basic understanding first.

I met John and Carlos Machado in October 1995.  They taught a seminar in Austin, Texas, and at that time I lived an hour away.  After watching the UFC, I was very intrigued, and asked who these guys were.  The host told me they were cousins of the Gracies, and were just as good.  I agreed to attend, and it turned out to be one of the most eye opening experiences in my life.  I had never witnessed two young guys in their twenties and early thirties showing us kids (at the time even younger) an amazing display of their science.  They both sparred with everyone and just played with all of us.  They had no problem, and I learned something interesting that very day about them.  I noticed that John and Carlos could have both really hurt anyone they trained with, but they just played with everyone.  The gentle art.  No one got hurt, and everyone got submitted in a humane, friendly way while sparring.

Carlos Machado, William Vandry, John Machado – 1995 Seminar

Carlos Machado, William Vandry, John Machado – 2006 Seminar

I heard that Carlos Machado was moving to Dallas in January 1996.  I began my start of learning this wonderful art and science.  I trained each week in Dallas, and took the day class, scheduled a one hour private lesson and at times I would try to get in a half hour or so of the night class before driving back four hours to my hometown.

Carlos brought down his brother Rigan for a seminar soon after.  Rigan was the top dog of the Machados, and I learned a lot about him when he told me about his history, his experience in competition and his philosophy.  So here starts this month’s article, and I am going to talk about the brothers, but more importantly, about my personal experiences with them, and something about that awesome team.

Carlos Machado, William Vandry, Rigan Machado – 2009 Seminar

Carlos Machado, William Vandry, John Machado – Seminar

Master Carlos Machado (8th degree Black belt BJJ)

Carlos is my chief instructor and mentor for 15 years.  When I started BJJ, I trained with him each week, and in my weekly private lesson, he would do half an hour of technique and spar with me the other half.  It was great.  I learned so much and it set a pattern for me to understand teaching methodologies for the future.  When I was a blue belt, Carlos brought me with him to Chuck Norris’ 1996 UFAF (United Fighting Arts Federation) seminar where I assisted him with the BJJ clinic.  I had a great time, and got to meet Bob Wall (O’Hara, Bruce Lee’s opponent in the movie Enter the Dragon), Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis (famous Karate champion), and was fortunate to sit and meet Professor Wally Jay of Small circle Jiu-jitsu and his wife among many other people.  I also noticed that despite how relatively low key Carlos was, he commanded the seminar with an enormous amount of respect.

William Vandry, Carlos Machado at Chuck Norris 1996 UFAF convention teaching BJJ

Carlos Machado and William Vandry actor Bob Wall in back Chuck Norris 1996 UFAF

Carlos was a great champion.  He was Middleweight state champion in BJJ in Brazil from 1982-90, National champion from 1983-89, and I remember when he had a super fight against one of Rickson Gracie’s top Black belts and won handily.  Carlos competed and won the world in 2000, and in the Abu Dhabi, submitted a Russian wrestler by triangle choke.  This man has earned his respect not simply as a champion, but a diplomat of our art of BJJ.  He operates his academy in Dallas, Texas, and has taught more seminars than anyone else in Texas.  I was fortunate to receive my Black belt in BJJ from him in 2002, and to this day when I host him, he shares information of his new developments, and strategies.   I enjoy learning something new every time I see him.

Professor Roger Machado (4th degree Black belt BJJ)

Roger has a great angle of teaching.  I was very fortunate to have trained with him back in 2001.  I took notes of everything he taught me in privates, and I also listened to his philosophy.  I said in an interview years ago that Roger was meant to be a teacher.  This was his destiny.  I really enjoyed listening to him, his approach and his calm demeanor.  Roger was State lightweight champion in BJJ from 1982-90, national champion from 1983-90.  Roger teaches in California, and had come to Texas earlier this year.

Roger Machado and William Vandry

Master Rigan Machado (8th degree Black belt BJJ)

Rigan is a talent.  He is one of the greatest BJJ competitors of all time.  Everyone has seen when he was 18, he gave Rickson Gracie a run for his money in a tournament.  Rickson did help him when he was younger to develop his BJJ.  Rigan told me about his start in the USA.  He started his BJJ teaching with five students if I remember correctly. Rigan told me a neat story when he surprised all of us and came to Austin with Carlos in December 2009 at my quarterly seminar.  Rigan told me a great story of when he was a teen, he won the kids division and the adult one too I believe.  Ahhhhh, I could tell so many stories he told me but we only have so much time to read.  Rigan was undefeated for 13 years in competition.  He was State champion in BJJ from 1982-88, National champion from 1982-88, and told me about the time when he competed in Sambo.  Rigan won the National and Pan American championships in 1992-94.  He told me in 2001 a fascinating story about his California State Light heavyweight Greco Roman championship.  Rigan did not every participate in formal tournaments, rules and the like.  He was interested in testing himself.  He told me he read the wrestling manual of rules and points and entered and won.  Wow, we should all be so talented.  Rigan competed in Abu Dhabi and is still hailed as one of the premiere Brazilian Jiu-jitsu masters to learn from.  I have trained with Rigan many, many times.  In 2001 he taught me one of my favorite moves, which is the twister and of course helped me develop a lot of my x-guard, half guard and many strategies.

Rigan Machado, William Vandry and Joe Moreira at Rickson invitational 1996

Rickson Gracie and William Vandry at Rickson invitational 1996

Professor Jean Jacques Machado (6th degree Black belt BJJ)

JJ of course is known as one of the most talented BJJ practitioners of all time.  JJ had such an unorthodox game, I remember when I watched he, John and Rigan in Sambo and Judo tournaments, and I wanted to do that same game.  JJ is great on leglocks, and I remember in 1996 when he almost got Jamelao, a Carlson Gracie black with a kneebar.  I got to talk with JJ when Carlos and I came to California to see John and Rigan compete.  I rod with JJ for about 40 minutes in his car, and of course I asked poor JJ about every single question I could about him, his competitions, etc.

JJ told me some great tales about his competition, his strategies, and some neat stories I will always keep to myself about his training in Brazil.  JJ has won BJJ state championships from 1982-1992, national champion from 1982-92, Sambo national and Pan Am champion 1993-94, and won the Abu Dhabi and got a silver in the open class.  JJ is talented, all the brothers are, but in his documentary, you see a true champion with no excuses, just training and developing.

Jean Jacques Machado defeats Fabio Santos in Superfight at Rickson Invitational 1996

Professor John Machado (6th degree Black belt BJJ)

John has been state champion from 1982-90, National champion from 1983-90, and Sambo National and Pan champion 1993-94.  John has been in movies with Steven Seagal and along with Rigan, was in Kickboxer 4.  John has a good teaching methodology, and I have trained with him many times.  John showed me some good sweeps years ago, and also had some awesome stories about tournaments and his BJJ career.

Carlos and Jean Jacques in John Machado’s corner for superfight

Carlos and JJ advising John Machado attacks from the guard

John Machado giving coaching advice to William Vandry at Pan Am world tournament


So who are these guys?  What makes them so special?  Well, from my perspective, they are five brothers that have showed many others and me what its like to keep a bond.  They are brothers that develop brotherhood, and like Knights, have a code of honor amongst themselves.  They do not bicker, argue, backstab or fight amongst themselves.  Now this may seem like an interesting point, but if you look at the BJJ or even martial arts for that matter, how many times do you see family hold its bond for over 40 years since their childhood?

Students come and students go, but the ones that cultivate your relationship become your family.  They have all treated me as so for 15 years, and with goals and projects here and there, its always the way you perceive a philosophy and covet it.

When Carlos assigned me to teach in 1996, he told me he wanted me to help him spread Jiu-jitsu.  Notice he didn’t say he wanted to make money, or be famous, or crave idol worship or even more fanfare.  No, Carlos Machado told me he wanted to spread Jiu-jitsu in Texas.  I personally have held that philosophy as my number one goal as an instructor in BJJ.  I was already a businessman, and had a different career.  I didn’t start teaching to find a vocation.  I was told to help spread BJJ in Texas.  To help spread BJJ.  Not to shamefully desire to ‘just want to make a living’, or to peacock and want students who know nothing about the art to worship you, or want people to idolize you.  No, I think I got set for the right philosophy back then.  To spread the art.  I really like to be part of a huge accomplishment in that area that I want to make note of.  Many associations or organizations in different areas of business have representatives or people that do business with each other.  But many do not know each other, or names or even what they look like.  I again not only believe in my creed, but I also pass that to my students and reps as well.  For instance, here in Texas, we have 9 associations under me, yet any of these association representatives know each other by first name.  And they all have had conversations, talks, laughs, training and also spread that to their own students.  All of them have sat and ate dinner with each other and me over the years.

I have had some reps that may have a student here or there that don’t work out, or perhaps they don’t adhere to our particular philosophy we uphold.  In a sense, I usually tell them that those particular types of students need to find a path somewhere else until hopefully he or she captures the essence and meaning of what they are there for.  A philosophy or a selfless mentality is not something you can teach or even share with everyone.  The Machados have that, and that’s why they command respect and honor wherever they go.  I myself have always stressed practicing the art of practicing unselfishness.  Now many people may not understand what that truly means, so let me define it.

unselfishness – the quality of not putting yourself first but being willing to give your time or money or effort etc. for others; “rural people show more devotion and unselfishness than do their urban cousins”.

What does this encompass?  Many things.  And it doesn’t matter if those you help don’t become wiser.  I have heard of so many people Rigan would help, let stay in his house over the years.  Maybe those types are selfish by nature but those cannot change your selfless philosophy.


Back in December last year, I wrote an article on Achieving Your Black Belt and the Responsibilities that go along with it.  I discussed these, and many other subjects in my three-part article.

Master Carlos Machado posted two comments on me back in December last year.

“I enjoy seeing my student such as Mr. Vandry really grasp the concepts of being a better human being, instructor and mentor. Not many people have that luxury!”

“Mr. Vandry has followed in my footsteps and to this day has never faltered in his faith in the Machado’s philosophy! He has proven to be one of my most loyal and true friends. Viva Vandry BJJ!!!!!”

Wow.  I really enjoyed reading that, but not as some usage of a self promotional gimmick many people may desire for some type of gain because a guy like Carlos Machado endorses or promotes you.  No, many people crave that, would pay for that, desire that, grab a camera for a quick pic, but one thing a lot don’t do.  A lot don’t earn that, or don’t bother to ask for that.  That’s what this game is about, and that is something I have learned from the Machado brothers in the martial arts trade.  You have to earn it, plain and simple.

I read and reread it.  Notice that Carlos doesn’t say I am a better competitor, or fighter or the next Rickson Gracie or tougher or anything in that area.  What does he comment on?  Being a better human being, instructor and mentor.  He points on his second post about my following their philosophy.  Aha, there we go again on being a philosopher.

I have seen many young guys come by my academy claiming their goal is to fight in the UFC.  I have had Dads bring kids in because their goal is to get them to fight in the UFC.  My God.  Where did this come from?  Do it yourself Dad.  Many people look at fighting for a few reasons.  One to instant glory and fame, and two, for money.  Both of these are very hard to obtain.  Many famous fighters such as Anderson Silva, Fedor or the like are paid well, and have a decent living, but most do not.  So what is the other reason?  Oh yeah, glory and fame.  Unfortunately there are times fighters that fight a fight just to claim they are a fighter.  It seems that it doesn’t matter whether they have not a lick of fighting skills or athletic ability or even technique, it seems to be more of an angle.  And just because some endure punishment or get beaten by a superior opponent is nothing to be ashamed about at all.  I personally thought one of the most noble and admirable fighters I have ever seen is the great Damian Maia.  Damian I think is technically the best ground fighter in MMA.  Of course he is still grooming and developing more striking skills and keeps getting better.  When he fought Anderson Silva, he absorbed a lot of punishment.  I noticed there was something around round 3 that I really admired about him.  He mentally reminded himself that not only is he a great champion, but a great technical grappler as well.  And punishment or not, he did not give up, and he did not submit.  He wanted to fight to the death.  He dug deep inside his core and decided to fight like a noble warrior.  What an admirable fighter, and my hat is off to him.  And interestingly enough Anderson did not engage as much, and Damian kept going after the attack.  Salute to you Damian, for your honorable warrior spirit and showing your true creed as a talented BJJ black belt and as a martial artist..

This is back to what is an understanding on philosophy.  Its not a title, fame, glory, it’s a testing each day.  I myself go through this each class when I teach.  I spar my students each week, and my top guys I always work bad positions against them.  I remember when I was a white belt my instructor Carlos Machado used to do that with me.

I work with my guys and my senior students do that as well.  It’s the trickle down effect.  I work with them, and they work with other students.

If you look at the pictures of the above photos, look at four out of five Machado brothers.  When Rigan fought a superfight, Carlos, John and Jean Jacques were all in his corner.  Look at Jean Jacques and Carlos Machado advising, and keeping attention advising their clan member and fighter and brother John Machado.  Nice.  Awesome.  I find it so ironic that these five brothers are stronger and bond better than armies, sports teams or even martial arts teams, lineages or federations.

These brothers have all bonded for over 40 years, since they were babies.  I personally have been to dinner, sparred, learned, took private lessons, talked til’ the wee hours of the morning, laughed and kept my bond with these brothers for almost 15 years of my life.  I know when I first trained BJJ, each of these brothers had the answers.  I remember one of my first private lessons with Carlos, in which he told me that if he does not know the answer to a question regarding BJJ, give him a week for him to break it down and problem solve.  Look at that humble approach.  He didn’t try to peacock or act as if he had all the answers, but being a scientist in BJJ, he could eventually find one similar to a mathematical equation or a statistician does with details.

So what do the Machados do in this day and age?  After all this time, they have restarted Machado brother camps together, Rigan and Carlos came to Austin last December and I enjoyed every moment of it.  Rigan told me he was touring, but wanted to spread his knowledge more.  Carlos and John have been here many times as well, and it always is a great exposure and learning about philosophy.

None of the brothers ever fought in the UFC.  But that certainly does not invalidate their particular talent and capabilities.  They have wen through a mentoring in our community and have touched people they may never even meet.  I remember when I first met Carlos, there were four Machado affiliates in the USA.  John, Roger and Rigan were in Redondo beach at that time, JJ was and still is in Tarzana, Carlos just moved to Dallas and Marcos Santos was an affiliate in New York.

Look at the change.  There are so many school associations now.  Back then it was a black belt or brown belt, and now its more blue and purple belts or associate members.

I have 9 schools, two are black belts under me, and the rest are brown belts.  This shows this great never ending desire to learn and progress in BJJ from my students, but this philosophy engrained in me and passed to my students were definitely given full credit to the Machado brothers for all of their mentorship and still today I receive.


Absorb, and think.

Professor William Vandry, (3rd degree Black belt BJJ)

Vandry BJJ Academy: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Muay Thai Boxing & Judo – Austin, Texas