Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), known for its ground fighting and grappling techniques, has seen its popularity surge in recent years. Athletes and instructors are continually pushing the sport’s boundaries in terms of skill and technique. This martial art requires a distinctive blend of physical prowess, technical know-how, and mental strength.

Enter Santiago Furlong, a respected BJJ instructor and seasoned athlete who has carved out a name for himself in the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. With a profound understanding of the sport’s technicalities and sharp insight into the mindset required for success, Furlong has become a sought-after coach for athletes aspiring to compete at the highest level.

Furlong stands out due to his unique perspective on coaching, informed by his own personal triumphs in the sport. Having refined his skills through years of training and competition, he brings a wealth of experience to his instruction, providing his athletes with a competitive advantage.

As we speak with Furlong, we aim to delve deep into the technical aspects of BJJ and the mindset necessary to succeed at the pinnacle of the sport. His expertise will illuminate the intricacies of techniques, the strategies deployed in high-pressure situations, and the mental fortitude needed to surmount challenges on the mat.

Furlong, as a coach, advocates for a holistic approach to training. He acknowledges that physical preparation is only one piece of the puzzle, emphasizing the significance of mental preparation. By nurturing both elements, he enables his athletes to deliver their best performance and overcome hurdles during competitions.

In our discussion with Furlong, we plan to investigate his coaching methodologies, his strategy for developing technical skills, and the tactics he uses to foster a winning mindset among his athletes. We will delve into his personal journey in the sport, revealing the moments that defined him as both an athlete and a coach.

Through gaining insights from Furlong, we hope to offer aspiring BJJ athletes and enthusiasts a deeper comprehension of the sport. Regardless of whether you are an experienced competitor or a passionate novice, the knowledge and experiences shared by Furlong will inspire and guide you on your path to success in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

People are clamoring to hear from you, Santiago. What was your personal journey like as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete, and how has that influenced your coaching style?

My journey as an athlete was both gratifying and incredibly rewarding, albeit long and challenging. In training and competition, things often don’t pan out as planned. That’s why the significance of discipline, perseverance, and mental fortitude throughout this journey is paramount. As an instructor, I always underscore these points to my athletes and students.

At the outset, training sessions can be difficult, both physically and psychologically. Every time you step onto the mat, you might find yourself being controlled and tapped out repeatedly, but this is part of the learning process for such a complex sport and martial art. Competitions can also be intense and nerve-wracking, but they offer an opportunity to test your skills and learn from your mistakes.

BJJ demands considerable physical and mental strength, and it can be tempting to give up or become disheartened along the way. You’ll often encounter challenges such as injuries, setbacks, and losses. However, by persisting through these obstacles, you’ll cultivate a profound sense of resilience that will permeate other areas of your life. You just have to keep showing up to training and keep striving for improvement.

As a coach and instructor, my personal journey as a BJJ athlete has significantly influenced my coaching style. I understand firsthand the dedication, effort, and commitment required to become a proficient athlete, and I aim to instill those same qualities in my students. Because I have experienced the journey’s hardships, I can relate to my athletes in a unique way.

Can you describe a specific moment in your own competitive career where you were able to use technical skills to overcome an opponent, and how has that experience shaped your approach to coaching?

One specific moment that stands out in my competitive career as a jiu-jitsu athlete occurred when I faced a formidable opponent in the semifinal of the Sao Paulo International Open, one of Brazil’s largest competitions. I knew my adversary was a skilled wrestler likely to attempt a takedown and dominate from the top position. As the match commenced, my opponent shot in for a double-leg takedown immediately, but I managed to sprawl and counter with a guillotine choke, a submission move I typically didn’t employ.

My opponent fought vigorously to defend against the choke, but I maintained the hold, forcing him to tap out. This victory was significant for me as it showcased the effectiveness of my technical skills and my ability to execute a strategic plan.

As an instructor, this experience has shaped how I teach jiu-jitsu. I stress the importance of technical proficiency and being a well-rounded athlete, as well as the capacity to adapt to varying styles and situations. My students need to be prepared to adjust their approach and devise the best strategy depending on the opponent. Therefore, it’s crucial to be a technically well-rounded athlete and not solely rely on a limited set of positions and techniques.

In what ways do you draw upon your own experience as an athlete to motivate and inspire your athletes to achieve success?

One way I accomplish this is by sharing my personal journey with my athletes. I discuss the challenges I encountered and the lessons I learned throughout my career. Additionally, I emphasize the mindset and work ethic necessary for success in jiu-jitsu. By sharing my story, I aim to inspire my athletes to overcome their own hurdles and setbacks.

Another method I use to motivate and inspire my athletes is by leading through example. I train alongside them, pushing myself to my limits and demonstrating that hard work and dedication yield results. Moreover, I share my training techniques and strategies, providing insights into what has worked for me and what might work for them.

I also offer individualized feedback and support to each of my athletes, adapting my coaching style to their unique needs and goals. By providing personalized attention and guidance, I assist my athletes in building confidence and developing the requisite skills to excel in jiu-jitsu.

What lessons did you learn as an athlete that you have carried forward into your coaching career, and how have those lessons influenced your approach to coaching?

One of the most critical lessons I emphasize is the importance of discipline and hard work.

As an athlete, you must fully commit to the sport, dedicating countless hours to training and practice to hone your skills. I quickly realized that there are no shortcuts to success and that achieving your goals requires hard work. As an instructor, I underscore this mindset of discipline and hard work to my students.

Another lesson I’ve learned is the value of perseverance and resilience. In jiu-jitsu, you will inevitably face setbacks and obstacles, whether it’s a loss in a competition or an injury that sidelines you. However, it’s vital to keep pushing forward and not give up. I consistently encourage my students to persevere and not abandon their goals, no matter how daunting the journey may appear.

Lastly, I’ve understood the importance of strategy and continuous improvement. Jiu-jitsu is a constantly evolving sport, with new techniques and positions emerging regularly. As an athlete and instructor, it’s crucial to remain open-minded and adaptable, always seeking to learn and improve. Having a strategic approach is also key. You will win or lose some matches based on whether you approach them with the right strategy, especially at high levels where skill sets can be evenly matched. 

The right strategy can make all the difference. I urge my students to adopt this same mentality, emphasizing the importance of continually seeking to improve, evolve their skills, and always be mindful of how strategy can tip the scales in a match.

How has your personal success as an athlete helped you to establish credibility and gain respect as a coach in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu community?

As a jiu-jitsu instructor, I firmly believe that personal success as an athlete significantly contributes to establishing credibility and gaining respect within the BJJ community.

My personal success as a competitor has played an instrumental role in earning the trust and respect of my students and peers. By competing at a high level and achieving commendable results, I’ve demonstrated the requisite technical knowledge, physical ability, and mental toughness necessary to excel in the sport.

Moreover, my experience as a competitor has provided valuable insights into the training and preparation required to succeed at the highest levels of competition. As a coach, I leverage these experiences to guide and motivate my students toward achieving their own goals.

Although being an insightful teacher and effectively communicating technical concepts is vital to students’ technical development, I believe that personal success as a black belt-level competitor provides a critical foundation. It aids in building confidence, recognition, and respect from the BJJ community as a whole.

How do you balance your own competitive aspirations with your dedication to coaching and developing the skills of your athletes?

As a jiu-jitsu instructor, it’s vital to balance my competitive aspirations with my dedication to instructing and fostering the skills of my athletes; this balance is integral to their success.

I firmly believe these two aspects can coexist and reinforce each other. By helping my athletes achieve their goals, I simultaneously push myself to excel, creating a mutually beneficial cycle that promotes continuous growth and development both as a coach and a jiu-jitsu practitioner.

However, my athletes always take precedence. 

I ensure I invest the necessary time and effort to help them attain their goals. This involves constant studying and analysis of their performances, identifying areas for improvement, and crafting training plans to help them realize their full potential.

Simultaneously, I recognize the significance of my competitive aspirations. As a coach, I serve as a role model for my athletes, and I believe demonstrating hard work and dedication is crucial. This commitment means I continually strive to enhance my own skills, compete regularly, and stay abreast of the latest techniques and training methods. 

To balance these dual priorities, I ensure my athletes always come first while finding ways to integrate my training and competitive goals into my coaching schedule. This balance could involve setting aside time before or after training sessions to refine my skills or identifying competitions that don’t interfere with my coaching responsibilities.

In what ways do you continue to push yourself as an athlete, and how does that drive and determination impact the way you coach your athletes?

As a jiu-jitsu instructor, I understand the necessity of constant self-improvement. To be an effective coach, I must lead by example. This commitment requires discipline, motivation, and an unending desire to refine my skills.

There’s always room for improvement and novel techniques to learn – an aspect that keeps jiu-jitsu compelling after many years. One way I challenge myself is by persistently studying and analyzing competition footage, and actively training to enhance my skills. This self-improvement allows me to attain a more profound understanding of the sport that I can then pass on to my students. I set specific goals for myself concerning certain positions or techniques I aim to improve within a set timeframe.

My drive and determination to expand my knowledge and skills as a practitioner directly influences my teaching skills. The more I comprehend the martial art and the sport, the better equipped I am to assist my students in realizing their full potential. I encourage my students to set goals and work towards them, mirroring my approach.

Ultimately, I believe successful instruction requires not only technical knowledge but also the ability to motivate and inspire students. By continuously pushing myself to improve, I aim to set a precedent for my students and instill in them the same drive and determination to achieve their goals.

What advice would you give to aspiring Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes who are looking to achieve success at the highest level of competition, based on your own personal experience as an athlete and coach?

It’s crucial to understand that achieving success in jiu-jitsu demands substantial hard work and dedication; there are no shortcuts. You must commit to spending time on the mat to improve and reach your goals. This commitment includes countless hours of training, drilling techniques, situational sparring, free sparring, conditioning, and testing your skills in competitions.

If I had to specify, there are three critical elements:

  1. Set Training Goals: For faster improvement in jiu-jitsu, you need a clear idea of what you want to focus on during your mat time. You can set specific short-term goals for a few techniques or positions you want to refine, and concentrate on these during your sessions. These goals could span a week or a month, and once you improve on those, you can proceed to the next item on your list. Having specific objectives for your training sessions will expedite your progress.
  2. Consistency is Key: Regularity is one of the most vital aspects of training. Consistency in your training schedule, diet, and recovery is essential. Showing up for training regularly, even on days when you’re not in the mood, sets successful athletes apart from the rest. Bad days, injuries, setbacks – they’re all part of the journey, and it’s crucial to maintain regular training.
  3. Learn from Your Mistakes: Mistakes are an integral part of the learning process. Don’t fear making errors or taking chances during your training sessions. Analyze your matches and training sessions to identify areas for improvement. Subsequently, devise a plan to work on these areas and monitor your progress over time.

Remember, achieving success in jiu-jitsu requires hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn and grow. With the correct mindset and approach, you can accomplish great things in the sport.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here