By Martin Kocandrle, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – With the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and the prominence of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Rio has become a mecca for athletes from around the world. Often fighters come to train for months at a time, but it is also possible to fit it into a shorter trip, regardless of skill level.
After Judo was introduced in Brazil the renowned Gracie family began to adopt many of the techniques to help create the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu style of fighting. The inclusion of it in mainstream MMA fighting techniques has elevated the status of the sport and drawn attention to the practicing professionals in Brazil. There are now countless schools in Rio de Janeiro that offer classes for any skill level.
Raphael Abi-Rihan achieved the status of Brazilian Medium-Heavy Weight champion, and despite his intimidating size, he amicably explains, “I have worked with people from all over the world; from England, Sweden, and America for example. People of various levels and ages come to train at my gym, mainly they are looking for experience in Jiu Jitsu.”
Abi-Rihan is currently working on developing a Jiu Jitsu training camp for foreigners at his gym, Club Monte Lagoa, he describes it as “not only Jiu Jitsu but other activities such as; yoga, natural gymnastics, trails and nature walks, no-gi training, city and gastronomic tours. All with airfare and hotel in Ipanema included. The idea is to provide a unique experience through foreigners by Jiu Jitsu, physical activity and leisure.”
It is not necessary to have experience in Jiu Jitsu before training in Brazil, although it can help as the level of training is much more intense. Tony Barker an ex-Special Forces soldier who has trained in the U.S. and Brazil expounded on his experience training in the two countries, “The difference is like night and day, although the level of the teachers is the same, the other students that train here are much more skilled.”
In speaking about the language barrier foreigners encounter, Barker explained that, “Before I spoke Portuguese well I could understand the instructors but it was like being shown the broad strokes without learning the fine details.”
To get started in Jiu-Jitsu one needs to first find an “academia”, or gym, they are comfortable with. There is a wide range of schools so choosing one with a good reputation, history and experienced professors is important. It is necessary to buy a Jiu Jitsu kit (uniform) which can cost from R$150-200 depending on the quality and brand.
At a gym it is normal to be charged one time enrollment fee of R$50 in addition to the monthly fee which can be anywhere from R$80-170. The prices depend on the number of classes you attend per week, and how many months you plan to train. Some schools offer class three times a week while others offer classes six days a week and three times a day.
It is always good to have a look around before signing up as there are many around. A good place to start, if just for the caché , is at the Gracie Academias,the family credited for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with schools around the globe.
Brazilian Top Team is an academia located beside the pristine Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. This academia is also famous for having trained many professional fighters, including UFC fighter Murilo Bustamente.
According to Gil Martinez, a coordinator of there, many foreigners come to train during the Brazilian summer. They also offer a training camp once or twice a year for visitors to Rio which includes placement according to skill level, training, city tours, and football games. This year’s training camp is taking place in July with spots still available.
Ricardo Viera’s academia in Copacabana, on 36 Rua Francisco Sa, is in a great location for many foreigners, with high quality professors, and gringo students that compete professionally. If you are serious and show respectful enthusiasm, the professors will be happy to perfect your fighting style.
Training in Brazil is a great way to learn new skills and get in shape. There is no discrimination; classes are made up of people from various social classes and countries of origin. If you show a genuine interest in learning Jiu Jitsu students and professors will be happy to welcome you to their academia, although expect a good thumping.