Action Movie Talk with Rigan Machado

Action Movie Talk with Rigan Machado

There’s something about a really good action movie that makes you feel like you can conquer the world. I can’t remember what movie I watched that got me pumped up enough to take my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, but I am forever indebted to it.

Two years ago, I walked into The Academy scared sh*tless, but determined to take my first step in learning Jiu Jitsu. Now I have the best teacher in the world: 8th Degree Red and Black belt, Rigan Machado.

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Rigan began his jiu jitsu training at an early age along with his four brothers. All of whom have gone on to compete and win at the most renowned jiu jitsu competitions worldwide. Rigan himself is an 8th degree red and black belt and holds various championships under his belt. After moving to LA and focusing on training students, Rigan opened up The Academy with Martin Wheeler. If you take a scroll through his instagram , you’ll see that he’s trained almost everyone in Hollywood from Chadwick Boseman to Demi Lovato.


Everyone knows about your love for Jiu Jitsu, but you also have a HUGE passion for movies. Where’d that come from?

My father. He loved to take me to watch movies. When I was a kid, he’d take me to go see movies starring Clint Eastwood, Charlie Bronson and Paul Newman. I’m one of five boys, but every chance he had, my father would take me with to see them. It was something special between us. Little by little, I fell in love with movies.

What are your favorite action movies?

I love movies like Escape From New York, The Godfather films, Star Wars. My favorite actors growing up were Charlie Bronson, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen.

How did you become the go to trainer for Hollywood actors?

It was an accident. It wasn’t something I tried to do. I think it’s because of our location in Beverly Hills. The first actor that trained here was Ashton Kutcher. Then other actors started trickling in. Since then, I’ve had over 100 actors who’ve been through my training.

The only way I can teach celebrities, I have to sponge out who they are. They are all human beings, I have to get to know them outside of them being famous. I look at them as students and I focus on teaching them how to be a martial artist.

Some students are more passionate about training, other students want to train just enough to do certain moves on films. Only a few of them really fall in love with Jiu jitsu and want to do it for life.

What are actors’ biggest fears when they start training?

Getting hurt. It’s a big issue. I have to be very careful when I teach. These actors are filming movies and tv shows, they can’t pull a muscle or get hurt. I have to be very technical. My number one priority when training them is take out the risk of getting injured.

Out of everyone you train, who do you think could be a professional fighter?

Ashton Kutcher, Joel Kinnaman and Charlie Hunnam.

Is it hard for you to watch bad fight scenes?

Fight scenes for me are like a dance. Bad fight scenes are like a bad dance. The action and reaction are out of place in cheesy fight scenes. When you watch them, you can see 100% it’s not well done. But today, UFC, BJJ and martial arts are becoming very popular and have more influence. Filmmakers have to pay close attention and be more responsible to sell the action well.

Whose fight scenes do you love to watch?

I love Jason Statham. I love his style of fighting and facial expressions. He’s a great athlete and you can tell when you watch his scenes.

For people that want to be action stars, should they start training now?

You see people like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. Bruce Lee was the pioneer of mixing martial arts in his films. He trained a lot. You see a little Judo, a little jiu jitsu. He was ahead of his time in mixing martial arts in his fight scenes, that’s why he was the best.

It’s interesting to see fight scenes now compared to twenty, thirty years ago. With the evolution of mixed martial arts around the world, we see it more in films. Like in John Wick, there’s a lot of grappling on the ground, a lot of standing fights, a lot of throws. A mix of styles of martial arts will get an actor to the next level.

I’m going to interrupt the interview here to tell you guys a quick story. Last week, I joined one of Rigan’s private classes where he trained a group of actresses for an upcoming action movie. Rigan brought in a teacher to show some muy thai and capoeira moves. Though I’ve been training in BJJ 3-5X a week for the past 2 years, stepping into another form of martial arts was a whole new world. In Jiu jitsu we flex our feet, in Muay Thai you point them to strike better. In jiu jitsu, you spar on the ground, in muay thai you fight standing up. Jumping from one style of fighting to another is not easy. However, if you can do it fluidly, it gives you opportunities to mix fight styles in a scene. That only makes the scene more dynamic and visually interesting.

You’re starting to act in movies now. Did you get bit by the acting bug?

Yes, but it’s a process. I’m an athlete crossing over. So now, I’m playing characters that are close to me like the tough guy characters. But I’m starting to study, take speech lessons, acting classes. I’m putting the hours in. It’s just like when I go into a fight. I have to get ready for it.

I can’t end this interview without asking a Jiu jitsu question. What’s your favorite submission?

I like the armbar. It’s my number one technique.

You said in class once that only 10% or 5% of the students you train make it to black belt level.

For every 1000 people I train, only 3% make it to the black belt. Getting a black belt is a marathon. Some people train to go along for ride, but don’t care about the end goal. A lot of people quit. The ones who come focused, have a goal in mind, want to accomplish something. Those are the ones that get a black belt. But it’s very rare.

Whenever someone opens up an academy, 70% of the students are white belts, 15% are blue belts, another 10% are purple belts, and for brown and black belts the numbers get smaller and smaller. The more time passes, the more people quit for a thousand different reasons.

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Last Show You Binged? Sons of Anarchy. I started training Charlie Hunnam and thought maybe I should watch his show, everyone kept talking about it. I watched every episode of all seven seasons. It’s a great show.

Last Movie You Saw In Theatres? The Predator.

Favorite Movie You Watched This Year? Solo. I’m a big Star Wars geek. I love the new Star Wars generation.

Favorite Romantic Comedy? No Strings Attached

This is Us or Game of Thrones? Game of Thrones

Die Hard or Lethal Weapon? Lethal Weapon

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Thanks Rigan!

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