This week every Brazilian Jiu Jistu fanatic is looking forward to the biggest gi competitions in the world, Mundials. I’ve been lucky to attend a few training camps and roll with some excellent people. There are also a lot more Brazilians around these parts than before. So I thought it very fitting to share some of the images I caught in my first leg of travels in Rio de Janeiro. Rio is unlike any other place I have ever been. It contains a feral beauty that is completely unsurpassed where it is not uncommon to find a crocodile in your backyard. Stunning and completely insane, like that crazy ex who you will never forget especially after they tried to set you on fire while you were peacefully sleeping next to them. Needless to say, living and training in Rio was a life changing experience, complete with it’s own visit to the hospital.
I loved training there. Eat, train, eat, train, eat, do laundry in my sink and sleep. Fresh coconuts, acai and feijado. After I left Kyra’s camp, I lived with a Catholic host family for the first month and a half which was a big culture shock for me, since I moved out of my mom’s at 18. I have found that in most other countries children don’t move out until they are married. They were a very sweet family, and it was a really good change of pace for me. Athos was the eldest son, and he took me to Theodoro Canal‘s school in Barra da Tijuca, part of the GF Team schools. I had the incredible honor of getting to train there and at Julio Cesar’s. GF Team was the most welcoming of schools I went to in Rio. They always took time to teach me things and roll with me as well as treated me with respect. I was allowed to roll with the black belts on occasion and their women’s team is phenomenal. They invited me in as a part of their family and I proudly where their patch on my gi.
I left Barra after about a month and a half, moving more toward the downtown. I ended up in Copacabana which is the dirtier tourist area and not as expensive as Ipanema. I like things on the cheap and dirty side, but it’s not as cheap as you think. Rio is the richest city in South America and the prices mirror those of urban US of A. Don’t expect to save any money there, especially if you don’t speak Portuguese, Carioca-style. I did find a great place doors down from De La Riva Academy which is must more trafficked by tourist. I was able to train up to 3x per day. Perfection. It’s clean by BJJ standards but the high volume of tourism makes it slightly less home-y for visitors. However, Maestre De La Riva is one of the kindest and perhaps deadliest of men. After almost a month of training there, my foot got broke. I was grappling with Suelen who might be the strongest woman I have ever met. She in fact wins every Championship down there and is quickly on the rise now as a purple belt. I expect to see her tearing it up at ADCC and World’s sometime soon. The good thing about all this is that the Rio General hospital is very fast and free (& Brazilian muscle relaxants + cheap scotch)! They taped my foot to my flip flop and I was on my way. No one wants to wear a cast to the beach, which by the way is like a flea market where you can buy anything you could dream of and if you are wearing a bikini you have about 5 minutes before some dude tries to make out with you.
So basically if you love BJJ, you are required to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at least once in your life. While you are there, you need to stop by Bar do Oswaldo and have one of their special drinks (or 4 and then running naked into the ocean which is never a good idea since the waves are over 6 feet high ALWAYS). Rommel runs the place with his dad and he is a kick ass black belt at Evolve. You should also go out to Lapa on a Friday night get a cheap Caiparihna and wander through the streets jumping on random buses and then trying to find your way back home on a 4 hour bus ride watching the sunrise. This is how I spent my weekends. I also recommend Castelo das Pierdas to catch some of the best Baile Funk in Rio. If you go on the weekend, you’ll see the suburban kids in polo shirts with bottle service since it has become a popular party spot despite it’s favela location. If you go on the weekdays, it’s a little more interesting with more local kids partying in bikinis and drinking cheap beer. (NOTE: DO NOT DRINK BRAZILIAN WINE — it is worse than Japanese wine.) By the way, don’t be a jack-ass if you go out, take your bling off and carry extra hidden money when you ride the bus and just relax. Time is on the slower side there and that’s part of the magic.
Love & Respect,
Shawn K Tamaribuchi