When one gets the chance to step foot in the “Marvelous City” that is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the beauty and vibrant culture of the country might leave one starstruck. With a vast amount of things to do and places to see, a tourist visiting for only a few days will have to plan carefully. Of course, if you are a regular Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu practitioner, you can’t leave the country without making a stop at a local gym. After all, it is the birthplace of Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu.
Last week, I was lucky enough to have a chance to spend 3 days in Rio. With the short time that was allotted to me, I had to find time and make plans to make it to at least one training session at a local Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu academy. And that’s exactly what I did. Before I left for my trip, I asked Andrew and Trey about an affiliate of our team in Rio. The name of the academy was Nova Geracao, run by a fourth degree black belt by the name of “Toco.” I contacted Toco by email before our arrival and I made arrangements for a visit to the gym for my friend and myself.
Centro de Lutas: Nova Geracao. That was the name that we told our taxi driver. It was a relatively easy location to find, being in the more affluent neighborhood of Leblon. As soon as we stepped into the gym, we were greeted in Portuguese by the front desk secretary. Class was just starting; the black belt instructor glanced over and noticed our unfamiliar faces. Without a word, he threw us two pairs of gi’s and pointed to the room adjacent to the mats. As soon as we changed, we bowed as we stepped onto the mat. We quickly joined in on the warm up. The class was running like any other Jiu- Jitsu class in the States, except the instructor named Marcelo, was shouting out the warm up drills in Portuguese.
As soon as the warm up was finished, Marcelo started showing the moves that were to be drilled for that class. It was a series of variations of the Kimura from side mount and arm bar from full mount. He showed the series in tandem fairly quickly and of course, the instruction was all in Portuguese. The beautiful thing about Jiu- Jitsu is that one can understand the majority of what an instructor shows, regardless of whether his mother tongue is English, Portuguese, or Chinese. After Marcelo’s instruction, the class drilled the entire series for about half an hour.
After the drilling, like any other Jiu- Jitsu class, it was time for sparring. Sparring ran pretty similar to what we are all used to in the States. Naturally, my friend and I had expected all of the students to be extremely formidable as we held the stereotype that all of the Brazilians that practice Jiu- Jitsu in Brazil are generally at a higher level than we are. Quite contrary to what we expected, the skill level was pretty standard to any Jiu- Jitsu gym one might visit in the States.
The great thing about travel is that many prior mental constructs one has about a place are usually wrong and that is okay. Many people, including my friend and me, have the conception that Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu is on a grander scale as opposed to anywhere else in the world. What we found was that our schools in the States are fairly comparable, which points to the great job that most instructors in the States do in holding true to the essence of Jiu- Jitsu in promoting and teaching the art. Of course, I have to include the disclaimer that I only had one training session for one day at one school. To get a better perspective and experience, one definitely needs to train for weeks or months at a time at a few gyms in Brazil. The moral of this story is that you definitely do not want to pass through Rio and not get a good training session in!
Author: Brian Truong, Revolution BJJ Blue Belt
If you are interested in seeing what adventures Brazilian Jiu-jitsu classes can lead you to, then check out Revolution BJJ’s 8-week intro program.