By Guillaume Huni
Muslims go to Mecca, Christians go to Jerusalem, Taekwondo practitioners go to Korea, Karatekas go to Japan… You basically get the point, if you train Jiu-Jitsu you should really go at least once to visit the motherland of our art: Brazil!
I went just once to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil back in the summer of 2002, with about 10 guys from my BJJ academy in France. Most of them stayed for 1 month, but I stayed for 2 months (since I was a student back then so had long vacations). I trained at Alexandre “Gigi” Paiva’s from Alliance Jiu-Jitsu’s old academy in Ipanema. It has since moved to Leblon. It was seriously the best vacation of my life so far (and I’ve travelled all over the world), for the simple reason that it combined everything that I was looking for in a vacation.
Here are the most important and best points of a trip to Brazil for any BJJ player:
-Where else in the world will you get so many brown, and black belts in a same class to train with?
Some guys might say that all the best champions have moved to the States. That maybe be true in some ways, but apart from the top champs, all the other guys are still in Brazil. When I was training at the evening class, with my lowly blue belt I was ashamed to share the mat with such studs are Terrere, Leo Leite, Alexandre Paiva, Orla Junior, Claudio and Felipe Moreno etc…I was getting tapped out left and right by all these guys, it was ridiculous. They were even bored from sparring me, since i offered no danger!They say that the first thing you learn is defending, well I can tell you that after 2 months getting my ass kicked, my defense was much better for sure!
-The possibility to train 4 times a day.
The first class is a 7:30 AM, then the second 11:00 AM, the third around 17:00 pm then the last training at 20:30. Each class has different profiles of guys. I would usually train between 2 or 1 times per day.
-The rolling style is different.
These guys were kicking my ass, but they were kicking my ass with technique. Most guys would roll real light, and explode only in transitions. Also there didn’t seem to be too much bother about who tapped who. It was just training. But of course this rule didn’t apply to me. Nobody wanted to get tapped by the blue belt gringo 🙂
-The atmosphere in class is more relaxed
(unless it is training before a big tournament then it’s intense), a lot of the older black belts would come in like 30 mins late do 3 rolls then walk back out. I also feel that the guys have mnore a love and respect for Jiu-Jitsu than outside of Brazil. The whole BJJ culture came from here after all.
-Competing in Brazil is an amazing experience
I competed in the Mundials as a blue belt. Back in those days foreigners could just sign up and join but the Brazilians had to be selected to compete. So you only had the best Brazilians competing. Needless to say The level was ridiculously high. I lost my first and only match against some regional champion. The winner of my weight class (-94,3) that year in blue belt was Vinny Magalhaes and third place was Rodrigo Cavaca! The atmosphere at the Tijuca Tennis club (were the mundials were heald, and now the Rio Open and Masters ans seniors) was incredible!
-The food is fantastic
After training we would be drinking coconut water and the most amazing thing I had ever tasted: Acai (If you’ve never heard about it google it please). For lunch, I would eat at a churascaria (a restaurant with all you can eat food with all types of meat but also salads, sushi etc) or a restaurant with only orgamic and micro biotic food. Needless to say I came to Brazil weighing 88 kilos, 2months later after training all the time, lifting weights and eating Acai, and meat and salad, I came back to Paris at 93 kilos of muscle (ok a bit of fat hehe).
-You will meet lots of BJJ stars
You will basically be rubbing shoulders with all the BJJ and MMA stars that you follow on TV and the internet and all of them are super friendly and appreciate your support. One cool incident is when I was in a store asking the cashier for something and she didn’t understand so BJJ and MMA superstar Jorge “Macaco” Patino happened to be there and helped me out and translated for me. Super friendly guy.
-You will make new friends.
Brazilians in general are super friendly. I did however get the impression from some guys like “this is our sport, we invented it, you gringo don’t know anything” but that was probably because I was just a blue belt back then, and I seriously didn’t know anything anyway. But a lot of guys were really open, and would always show you new techniques or correct your game. I was hanging out with my Brazilian coach from Paris, so he would take me out all the time to visit Rio.
-You will learn a great new language
Portuguese is such a cool language. Especially Brazilian Portuguese sounds great. If you already speak any latin language like spanish, Italian or French then it is easy to understand and learn it.
-Great beach culture and lifestyle.
After lunch time training, I would usually sip on coconut juice, eat Acai and watch the girls on Ipanema beach, then go for a swim (I was single at the time hehe). Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle baby!
I went out sometimes at night but not that often as I wanted to focus more on my training. Rio has so many great nightclubs, and many party neighborhoods. And yes the women are so beautiful here. Some people told me that Brazilian girls didn’t like guys who train BJJ but I didn’t notice that. I think like everywhere in the world if you are interesting and not too bad looking and if the girl finds you attractive, then it doesn’t matter if you train oil wrestling, some girls will like you no matter what!
There are surely other points which I’m forgetting, but seriously it’s really worth every penny to go to Brazil. you will have the best memories for the rest of your lives!