FAITH & FAMILY
“Every time I prepared myself for a major world title, I prepared myself spiritually as well. Because I knew that afterwards, winning or losing, God would use me to praise and glorify His name, so that others will know the benefits we could all have if we seek Jesus first.”
Faith has played a major role in Andre’s life from the beginning. “I’ve always searched for God. Ever since I was little, I believed that God exists. I always tried to have a relationship with him, even before I knew how.” Born in São Sebastião, São Paulo on September 29, 1982, Andre was the second one of six children of Paula and Luiz Galvao. He grew up in a small town, riding horses, climbing trees and playing soccer barefoot in the streets. “My dad took care of us well. We weren’t wealthy, but we didn’t lack anything.”
At the age of 12, he started training judo and BJJ twice a week in Sao Jose dos Campos. But two years later, his family fell on hard times when his father lost his job. Andre made the decision to quit training to work at a pharmacy (Drogaria Sao Paulo LTDA), to help support his family. “I was always someone who thought a little different than the rest. When my family was passing through hard times, they would look at the “bad” side of the situation. But I always thought, ‘We will get through this and at the end everything will be okay.’ I think this is a faith that I had before, even before I started having a relationship with God.”
The experience proved to have a profound impact on his character. “I believe that everything that I went through, was for my own good. I think those hard times that I had really helped me. I think God made me pass through all of that so that I could become the successful person I am today.” The responsibility of having a job and supporting his family taught him discipline, focus, respect for others, and an openness to learn.
When he returned to jiu-jitsu nearly three years later, he knew he was going to make his life through the sport. Despite all the struggles and sacrifices it would take, he was going to make it happen. “There were some days that I didn’t have protein to eat; it was just rice and beans. Most days I would mix butter into my coffee, just so I could have enough calories to keep training.” His hard work paid off. Still a white belt, he found his first sponsor, a car dealership called Vinac Consorcios, which paid him almost three times what he was making at the pharmacy, and giving him support to all trips to tournaments.
Even from the beginning, Andre’s jiu-jitsu career was nothing short of spectacular, winning numerous major titles, including the World Championships at blue (2001), purple (double gold 2003), brown (double gold 2004). In September 2004 (on his birthday), he met his future wife, Angelica, who was a blue belt at the time. In February 2006, already a black belt World Champion, he married the love of his life. It wasn’t long after that Andre found his faith in God, when he was invited to a church by his new mother-in-law. “I cried the whole service. I was already world champion and everything, but that day I gave my life to Jesus. I stayed up the entire night reading the Bible.” It was during this time of renewed faith that his daughter, Sarah, was born, on July 5, 2006.
In October 2008, Andre founded the Atos Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team with his friend Ramon Lemos, with whom he shared a deep faith in God and an intense passion for jiu-jitsu. The chosen name was significant. “Atos” is the Portuguese word for “acts”, referring to the Book of Acts in the Bible, which is based on the based on the belief that “God can do amazing things through ordinary people, when He empowers them through His Spirit.” Two years later, a friend by the name of Bryan Perry called him, urging him to move to San Diego and open a gym. It was a big decision, and with a wife and small child depending on him, he wasn’t sure what to do. “So, I told my Pastor, ‘I don’t want to go if that’s not going to be my purpose in life.’ We prayed for about 21 days, and my Pastor said that I should go, that God is going to open the doors for you.”
The second he stepped into the space that would be the first Atos Jiu-Jitsu Headquarters, he knew he was supposed to be in San Diego. In fact, “in 2007, I had a dream that someone gave me an academy. And in my dream God was showing me the place, and it was blue and black. I had forgotten about this dream. It was like God was using Bryan to tell me to come here.” Three months later, Angelica and Sarah left Brazil to join him.
In less than ten years, Andre and Angelica created one of the best academies on the planet, with affiliates in 14 countries around the world, all while competing and winning multiple IBJJF World Championship and ADCC titles. Throughout his career, Andre has maintained a strong relationship with God, to whom he attributes his success. However, he never subscribed to the notion that his faith alone would put him on the top of the podium. “Even though I have God, and I have a relationship with him, I always believed that I still needed to work really hard for what I wanted. I always made sure I deserved to win something, on and off the mats. Every time I trained, I did so with that in my mind. It’s one thing to ask something from God, but you have to make your own move, too. You must do what you can do, and God will do what you can’t do.”