I think everyone who train BJJ has dreams of one day to travel to Brazil and train in the homecountry of BJJ. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to do this three times now, and hopefully I will return many times yet. I would try to describe what it’s like to train in Brazil, at least my way of seeing it, I’m sure there are as many opinions about it as there are practitioners of the sport. Here is mine:
The first time I was in Brazil was in July 2007 with my friend Shanti club. She had been nagging at me, and since I for once could afford it, I decided to go with her, a decision I will never regret, actually one of the better ones I have made in my life.
It was four weeks of hard training, dieting, beach days and even more intensive training, culminating with the gold /silver to both Shanti and me at the Copa do Mundo in the bluebelt category in both weight class and open class, we closed them both.
Now I’m back for the third time, so far alone, my teammates and coaches from Denmark will arrive in a few weeks. And hopefully, we will travel to Sao Paulo to participate in CBJJE’s Copa do Mundo, but it is not certain yet, the website for the competition is only in Portuguese, and you cannot sign up online. It is not really anyone who knows how to register, Rico doesn’t not know, and the e-mails we’ve sent to the federation doesn’t get answered. The final day to sign up is Wednesday, so I guess only time will tell whether we will be competing or not. Only in Brazil, it is possible to organize the World Cup and only have information about the competition in Portuguese and not English.
There is training four times a day for those who wish, which is too much for me, I stick to two times, it is enough.
A typical training session begins with warm up, running if the instructor feels like it, otherwise it’s an easy warm up with just light stretching and movement, and 150 situps, and I can say that for me who is used to make 0 situps, so I am pretty tender in the belly now, having done 300 situps a day for 5 days in a row. : (
After that, it is techniques, the theme for this week has been half guard, sweeps, and how to get the back. After that, light sparring from the half guard, the guy on top trying to pass and the guy on the bottom working his sweeps, but still light sparring, so that you can work out the timing of techniques, well that is whole point anyway, but depending on who you spar with, it will be either just as it was meant to be light sparring, or war where it is only about winning. Fortunately, most of the guys at the academy belong in the first category. Finally, it is free sparring, if there is space, everybody train at the same time, but if there is too many people there will be sparring for points and the winner stays in, loser goes out to the line.
Roughly the same thing happens in the evening.
This sounds like paradise for most people, and I can only agree with that. When I am not training, I am lying on the beach, or just walking around looking at things and enjoying life before the next training session begins. It is a full time job just to taking care of yourself and doing exactly what you feel like doing. In my case: Train BJJ: D
Sparring here is great. The problem at home when you are “small” (if one can call 67 kg for small) is that all the other guys (nope, not many girls training BJJ in Denmark) are bigger and stronger, I think Scandinavians are among the biggest people in the world, but I could be wrong. Anyway, my point ist that it’s not always fun to be the smallest and weakest. In Brazil people are on average slightly smaller than in Sweden / Denmark, which means that I have lots of guys to spar with, and I can spar on my own terms, without giving away 15 kg each and every time. That does not mean that I do that much better, the guys here is both faster and more technical than at home, and I learn a lot just by sparring. Hopefully I will speed up into their tempo soon.
Most people have a good attitude to sparring down here, there are always idiots everywhere, but most people take care of each other when they are training, it does not mean they are not going hard, most of the sparring is nearly 100%, but it is 100 controlled %. If you compare how hard the sparring is with how big the risk of injury is, the frequency of injuries is rather low.
As with much else in life you decide for yourself how you want to be treated by thinking of how to behave yourself. And often it means that you get the same treatment back as you give, if you take it a bit easy in the beginning when sparring, usually your opponent will do too. And if you go in and try to tear apart your opponent, then it is not at all impossible that you should make an appointment for a cruciate ligament surgery right now.
There is also a downside to it, there is almost no one in Rio who speaks English, especially not at the academy. Fortunately the coach, Ricardinho Vieira speaks English, so when he shows techniques, he explains in both Portuguese and English. Sure, you can learn the techniques just by looking at when he shows, but it becomes so much easier to learn, when you understand why he does what he does, what is important and what to think about. Another problem is when you train techniques, well it works, but it is not optimal. When I train techniques, I prefer that I can discuss the techniques with my partner while we train. We can help each other with how to hold, where to press, etc. All this communication is lost when you cannot talk to each other.
But despite the lack of verbal communication, so you can train together after all, for several hours, without really having to talk to each other, with a smile and a little humility you can get very far. People here want to understand, and try to help you and show when you make a mistake. If it has to do with the fact that I am the girl or not, I do not know, but anyway, I have been very well treated and received. So to all of you who dream about coming to Brazil to train jiu jitsu and, do, do it, DO IT! It is an experience of a lifetime, something to sit in the chair and tell your grandchildren in about 50 years, the time when Grandma was young and went to Brazil to train BJJ.