Pedro Brandao Lacerda
By Sijo Bruce Corrigan
Pedro was the first Black Belt Professor of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at PMA, and my teacher of this art.
I met Pedro purely by accident when I was training with another Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor. At that time, Pedro was a very young guy barely able to speak English, had nothing in his pocket, owned a broken down car, and was on the verge of becoming an illegal alien. After having spent my life training in the martial arts, and leading young men and women in the United States military, I recognized the same drive, motivation, and warrior characteristics in Pedro that I had seen a thousand times before in many young Americans - but he needed some help.
With that in mind, and the purely selfish thought that I could receive some of the best training available, I told him if he would stay - I would help him out. No one could imagine what would emerge from this young guy, and how he would develop into a teacher, a fighter, a champion, a hard working individual, a husband, a Dad, a productive member of the United States, and finally - one of the elite defenders of our nation.
My relationship with Pedro developed beyond him teaching me, and me helping him - Pedro became as close to me as a son. I know his skill in Jiu Jitsu, and his abilities as a teacher benefited me more than I could ever hope. I also know that many times I frustrated Pedro the same way my Dad frustrated me when I was a young man and he didn't answer questions the way I expected. However, we hung together as he developed my Jiu Jitsu, and I watched him formulate what he wanted his future to be.
Pedro had a promising career as a Jiu Jitsu Competitor, and as a fighter - few would dispute that he was among the best. However, Pedro had something else in mind. What many don't realize, is that a foreigner can't just come to the United States and join the U.S. military. On the contrary, it takes a lot of time, a lot of legal work, unbelievable documentation, security clearances, and finally - that most sought after thing - the "Resident Alien Green Card." Pedro faced a lot of hurdles, and jumped them all. And finally, when he made his decision to pick a military service to join, he chose the Army because he knew for sure the Army would most likely send him to Iraq. Pedro completed Airborne training, the Ranger Indoc Program, and Ranger school - becoming one of America's finest Special Forces Soldiers. He also became a citizen of the United States.
It has been a long, long road forme and Pedro - an old martial artist learning new martial arts skills, and a young man learning about life in America. I hope I influenced Pedro as an example of what the military creates in a person. My Dad served in the U.S. military before he was a citizen of the United States, and so far, two ofmy son's have served their country. I'm very proud that Pedro is part of this legacy.
Pedro will always be "The Professor" of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Progressive Martial Arts, and his Jiu Jitsu skills will live on not only through me, but more sothrough his brothers Patrick, Nick and David.
In May of 2010, Professor Pedro Brandao Lacerda passed away due to a brain aneurism.
Brain Aneurism Victim Pedrinho Brandao Lacerda
by Deb Blyth (GracieMag)
The sum of a man’s life is not measured by the words he says or the promises he makes. It’s calculated by the actions he takes; the values he lives by; the character he demonstrates; the honor he portrays; the integrity he possesses; and the kindness he shows to the world.
If Pedrinho Lacerda Brandao was judged by these tenets, then his life would be deemed a success.
Brandao had the heart of a lion. He was a warrior; a soldier; a fighter; a competitor…he was all those things and more. He was a Gracie Barra black belt; an Army Ranger; a husband; a father; a brother; a teacher; a mentor; and a friend. He was fearless in life, which he lived to the fullest. His young, accomplished life was suddenly and tragically cut short, but the legacy he leaves behind runs long and deep.
Brandao’s journey in life began in Rio, and was molded by Jiu-Jitsu and the friends and family he made through it. “I started training BJJ because of Flavio (Almeida),” Brandao said, “We lived next to each other and surfed together. Flavio, Marcio (Feitosa), Piu Piu (Marco Joca), and I were all friends, along with my brother Marcelo. We trained under Master Carlos. He was my mentor growing up.”
Brandao said he did not have the easiest childhood, but Master Carlos was always there for him, and Brandao always listened to him. “He always helped me out,” he said, “He got me focused on Jiu Jitsu and he kept me straight. I will always be thankful to him because he gave me BJJ and it opened all the doors for me. He gave me something that no one can take away from me. It’s in my blood now.”
Later in life, Brandao moved to the States and met Bruce Corrigan, another man who changed his life. Corrigan owned a martial arts school in Tennessee and hired Brandao to work for him. Corrigan not only gave him a way of life, but also helped him get his green card so he could stay in the U.S. “Bruce was like my family in the States,” Brandao says, “When I had nothing, he gave me a hand. He gave me the chance to teach in his school. He always supported me and gave me a life here. He was fair with me. He’s a good guy.”
As you can see, Brandao lived an exemplary life of gratitude. He never took anything for granted and he worked hard for what he got. He appreciated what people did for him and also what they meant to him. This was evident when the time came that he decided to do something meaningful with his life. “I decided to change my life,” Brandao said, “I wanted to do something for the country that gave so much to me, so I joined the Army Rangers.”
A person has to be extremely physically and mentally tough to be in the Army Rangers. Brandao said training Jiu-Jitsu in his youth made him mentally strong and taught him the discipline he needed to be successful in the Army.
Brandao ended up being one of three, out of 60 who made it through Basic Training and Airborne School, then he went on to the Ranger Assessment Selection Program and passed that as well.
Brandao eventually became an instructor with the Army Rangers. He said he trained 150 kids at a time, but only an average of 40 to 50 guys made it through his program.
Brandao was in the Army for 5 years but had plans to stay longer. He said he really liked his job serving the country he’d grown to love so much.
Brandao competed in Jiu-Jitsu a lot as a kid and his record was impressive. He won the Pan at blue, purple, and brown belt. He took 3rd place in the Worlds at brown and purple belt and was a two-time Brazilian Nationals Champion.
Brandao’s presence at the 2010 Pan was made on different terms than his past attendance at these events. This time Brandao led a team of U.S. Army Rangers to the tournament, for the first time in IBJJF history. It was also the first time the Army had ever sent a Jiu Jitsu team to any Jiu Jitsu tournament, all because of Brandao. “I kept pushing for it,” he said.
Brandao said his team did ok at the Pan with the amount of training they were able to do beforehand. “BJJ is like chess,” he said, “You make one little mistake and you’re done. But this is just the beginning. The only way we can go is up. The only way to get better is to keep fighting.”
And fighting is what Brandao did best. “It takes a lot of discipline to be able to do my job,” he said. “It’s hard to stay sharp at all times. But you don’t quit. You keep moving forward no matter where you are, no matter where you go. The Rangers always lead the way.”
Even in death, Brandao continues to lead the way. He lived an honorable life and that is inspiring. He was a respected member of his family, his GB family, his circle of friends, and within his Army team. He will be remembered for the valiant, gracious, and respectful way he lived his all-too-short, but very powerful life.