When I was a purple belt, back long before Facebook and Instagram were a thing, I had the immense luck of meeting Marcio "Macarrao" Stambowsky.
He was one of these guys that I heard many many stories about from both close family members and friends alike. He was this mysterious guy that everyone I knew talked about and respected him.
I did my research on him, and found out that he one of the very few people that received their black belts at the hands of the legendary Rolls Gracie; furthermore he was this amazing guard guy who revolutionized the closed guard, triangles, and leg locks. I absolutely love guard work, therefore I immediately was interested in learning from him, this was going to be the guy that takes my Jiu-Jitsu to the next level.
However much to my avail, Grand Master Stambowsky was incredibly elusive, no footage of him anywhere, no contact info, no anything. Mind you back then social media was in its infancy. Luckily however my father, a friend of Stambowsky's, ran into him in a tournament in New York and was able to obtain his contact info.
Immediately I started campaigning to bring him out to teach a seminar at our school. It would be such an incredible honor to finally meet and learn from this guy even if just for a few hours. Soon we set it up and he came out to teach this seminar at my school.
So the day arrives and I get to meet Stambowsky.
He started the seminar with some Ginastica Natural, if you have never tried it you should give it a go its an incredible workout. Me in my naive purple "beltness" thought the entire time there's no workout out there that can even make me sweat. I was so wrong, he killed us, there were things I couldn't even do. The kicker was that he did them all with us.
Once the 1 hour long "warm-up" ended he started teaching the seminar... and.. I can say that everything he showed me was new or contained details I had never seen before.. Needless to say I was just mind blown at the level of teaching and technique.
The seminar ended we grabbed dinner and next day he went back to Connecticut..
I couldn't wait to see him again and learn more. He had been such a game changer to my Jiu-Jitsu style, I needed to see him again.
A couple months later I called him and asked if I could come and train with him for the summer. I told him I was a poor college student and I would sleep on his mats and help in any way that I could if he would allow me to train with him that summer. He told me that he would love the company.
So I flew out there, he met me at the airport with a most warm welcome. As soon as we got in the car he was like you wanna roll? Immediately I was like yes please. He called he's top guys at his school at the time. I got there and Marcio had us (me and his students) roll hard for an hour. After the hour was over, he didnt even put a gi on, he said okay lets go get some food.
We picked up fresh fruit and cheese from the market and we went to his house, he made fresh juice and we drank it for dinner, I was beat. Took a shower after dinner and went straight to bed. Next morning before the sun was even up, he woke me up told me to get ready and back to his school we went. He taught classes from before the sun was up to long after the sun went down, from privates, to kids class, to group classes (he still does that today). I participated in all his classes, every single one, even if it meant just being a dummy for his private students. After a very long day, we went home had juice again. This time after dinner we played chess. Then I showered and went to bed.
Before sleeping I was realizing how sore I was, it felt great to be sore as I didnt get sore very often back then and I missed the feeling. I slept.
Again before the sun was up we left to train. We trained all day, and again I participated in all the classes. That night we watched one of his old fights and played chess. I showered and went to bed. I remember thinking there is no way he can keep this up every day, but if he can so can I. We trained everyday all day for my entire stay, we would often train just the two of us if we had breaks between his classes.
That summer my Jiu-Jitsu grow immensely, more so than any one other period of time. On my way home I kept thinking of all the techniques I learned and sharpened and improved while I was there. But what really stuck out to me wasn't even the Jiu-Jitsu i had learned. Rather it was whom Stambowsky was. He taught me that one should always be positive and kind to everyone from every walk of life, taught me that the best way to improve on any facet of life is to just work hard, taught me that kindness and passion are the keys to teaching and influencing your students and people around you to better themselves. He lead by example, and made me want to strive to do the same. He taught me that respect must be given and earned in order to be received. He showed me that being "tough guy" on the mats, and/or being technically sharp aren't equivalent to being a good teacher, to be a good teacher one must focus on your students with equal passion as one may have when one is training and improving oneself.
I landed home and immediately wanted to return to Connecticut and train again and learn more about Jiu-Jitsu and about life.
I repeated that summer trip every year for several years and I still try to visit him at least once a year, even if just for a weekend. I met my cousins Neiman and Deborah through those trips, as well as my "aunt" Carla. Through those trips I was able to take my Jiu-Jitsu to a whole new level. But my growth in Jiu-Jitsu had nothing on what Stambowsky taught me off the mats.
Like I mentioned before I was able to meet Neiman and get to know him, he's a most excellent person, friendly, hard working and honest; all that on top of being a great fighter. I truly appreciate Neiman's growth in Jiu-Jitsu and in MMA he represents the family in the best possible way both on and off the mats.
I got to meet and know Deborah, whom much like her brother and father a very much a happy soul. Deborah has become a great instructor and currently teaches in UAE and her team is becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Lastly Carla is no different than her husband and kids, is a very compassionate soul who cares deeply for family and those around her. I particularly enjoyed learning my own family's history from her, she has a lot of stories I had never heard before.
One of my proudest moments in my Jiu-Jitsu career was the first time Stambowsky invited me to teach a seminar at his school. It was a great honor to share my little bit of knowledge at Stambowsky's school as he is one of the greatest minds of Jiu-Jitsu.
Over the years I got to see how Stambowsky has grown his school in Connecticut and the surrounding areas. He does this by through his passion of Jiu-Jitsu and through his passion of teaching. His hard work and positive and happy energy is contagious and it shows through his teachings. If you ever want to take your Jiu-Jitsu to a place beyond where its currently at you must make the time to train with him at least once.
This Saturday, April 2nd, he'll be at our academy to teach a seminar (open to all schools and affiliations). Don't miss this opportunity. Check the link for more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/446634188874867/