Friday, December 27, 2013

Carioca Christmas

Me: Whats the baby oil for?

One of the things that I was looking forward to the most when moving to Brazil was the complete and utter lack of Christmas. Yeah I’m not going to lie, I HATE Christmas! Most people think I’m weird for this, but while you’re sitting with your family nice and cozy in front of a fire place opening presents, I’m driving all over the place in the snow (or worse just cold, slushy weather), visiting one family member after another. So needless to say I was elated about hiding out in the Connection Rio house and avoiding Christmas in its entirety last year.
Somehow my plans went horribly awry and here I sit, next to a shiny Christmas tree, writing my Christmas blog.

The first problem with my master plan to avoid Santa Clause was that I moved in with a Peruvian family two weeks before the dreaded Dooms days. As a matter of fact, the day I came to see the house here in Cantagalo (Ipanema), my new 7yr old little brother was clinging to his moms leg begging to set up the tree.

The second problem with my plan to avoid Christmas festivities was el Super Pollo. Super Pollo (and about 50 other places all with the “pollo” in the name) are Peruvian chicken restaurants that are scattered all throughout the DC metro area. You can generally smell the tantalizing aroma of rotisserie chicken and yuca from about 3 miles away… The stuff is AMAZINGLY delicious and is always served with the white and green Peruvian mystery sauces that NO ONE can explain.

Where am I going with this? Well, Peruvian chicken is amazing, Peruvian cooking is delicious, and there was no way in hell that I was going to miss a Christmas dinner of Peruvian turkey (complete with a yellow mystery sauce that apparently they don’t even know what it is, it’s some Incan pepper!).In South America, or at least in the Spanish speaking countries, not sure about here in Brazil, Christmas is usually celebrated on the night of the 24th. That night we ate turkey, salad, and panettone, a popular cake served around Christmas time here.

I think the best part of Christmas was that Thiago, the smallest of my new siblings, was begging for a Chess board from Santa Claus. Why a Chess board? Well I came to Brazil to train Jiu Jitsu, however, the majority of my time off the mats I spend playing chess with Connection Rio Sponsored athlete and good friend Nabas. We spend about two hours a day playing a minimum of 3 games of chess (the majority of which I lose). Now that I’ve moved out of the Connection Rio house my chess games are what I miss the most. Yesterday we played two games on the beach and two games up on the mountain Pedra da Gavea. Well, Thiago saw us playing one day and asked that we teach him. He’s only 7 yrs old and he wanted to play chess so bad that he begged for a chess board for Christmas!

So I spent the 24th in the house with the family but on the 25th I ventured out to Barra da Tijuca to visit the Connection Rio house and my fellow Gringos. Before leaving Ipanema I met up with an X guest from the house in a swag little apartment that he was renting from someone he trains with at De La Riva. We went to the beach enjoyed the sun (and a little Jiu Jitsu) and then I headed out to Barra. I was supposed to be there at 6 P.M. to meet Nabas. I got there at 7 P.M. and he got there around 8 P.M. That’s how Brazilian time works.

A little Jiu Jitsu @ Ipanema beach

I rang the bell, walked in the door, and froze halfway down the path. I’ve never been to a frat party, but I’m sure they result in the kind of devastation that I saw in the Connection Rio front yard. About 20 mats were stacked up at the corner of the pool right next to a table full of empty beer, liquor bottles, baby oil (yeah that’s right, baby oil). The house was empty except for the person that opened the door. The unusual silence created quite an appropriate post-apocalypse vibe. Apparently what started off as a wholesome breakfast of maple syrup, good old American pancakes, and mimosas warped into baby oil. Wrestling singlets, and two or three things that are inappropriate to put online. The debauchery was then taken to the beach, which explained the nearly empty house.

When they did finally get back we proceeded to celebrate Christmas like we celebrate everything else at Connection Rio: with a BBQ (and um yeah there was more cachaça… and chess). Compared to the afternoon, the events of the evening were a lot calmer, however, the singlet did come back out again. I tried to get a picture when my chess game was interrupted by an inebriated wrestler but he declined (which was a smart move because the picture would definitely be posted below if I had one).


This is me, trying to write my blog... but I'm not 
while on the way to see the doctor... which I didn't
Instead drinking a Capivodka

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What happens off the mats...

Praia Brava

Nicole: can you drink and drive in this country
Me: it’s Brazil… (Therefore, a stupid question)

As a 26 year old, aspiring athlete I strive to act as professional as I can both in person and on social media networks. Ok more on social media networks than in person, but I do try. I’ve spent the last three months training 2-4 times a day, EVERYDAY with breaks on Sunday and the occasional Saturday off. I don’t have a job, but I still wake up at 6:30 AM every morning, drag myself out of bed and head off to the gym to train, whether I want to or not. The past couple of weeks getting to the gym has involved an hour to two hour long bus journey over a mountain. While I have never been confident in my ability to fly, the bus drivers here in Brazil seem to be functioning off the belief that if they accelerate and take a corners and speed bumps at neck breaking speeds they may be able to fly through the air like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. While I have yet to see a bus flying through the air, I have, on multiple occasions, thought we would go flying of the mountain and plummet into the ocean below. (Note: if you'd like to hear more about the dangers of Brazilian transportation check out my friend's blog Tales from Deep Half) 

After three months of this and three competitions, I felt the need for a little break.

Lies. I was supposed to compete this weekend in Arraial do Cabo (3 hours north of the city), but the tournament was canceled so I ended up on a forced vacation instead.

No matter what the reason was, this past weekend I was in Buzio, Brazil with Nicole, the only other female in the house. Three months in Brazil, and this was my first time out (I means seriously I don’t even go out around the house except to get Acai). 

The first thing we did when we got to Buzio on Saturday was get coffee (I had been up for the past 24 hours, but that tale goes in the untold stories of Brazil). Immediately after that we walked down to Centro. Centro was a lot bigger than I expected with a ton of hostels, places to eat and more Argentinians than Brazilians. We got some cold beers and sat on the beach for a while before watching some break dancers in the Plaza. I don’t even think we had dinner, we should have had dinner because there was definitely several Caiprinha’s consumed that night.

Note: Caipirinha's are a popular Brazilian drink that has Cachaça, lime, and sugar. Basically, it’s a glass of hard liquor with a ridiculous amount of sugar.

Me in my burge

On Sunday, we rented a Burge (small car or big go-kart, however you want to look at it). For R80  (about 40 bucks) they came and picked us up from the hotel and we were able to keep the burge for 24 hours. What they didn’t explain to us before paying was that it was a 4 gear stick shift. Thankfully, my first two cars were both standard so I was able to pull away without completely embarrassing myself (in front of the cute guy that was showing me how to use the thing). After mastering the burge (because the clutch was crap, emphasis on the clutch being crap and not my skills as a female driver) we hit the main road (the only paved road) in the burge with a couple of beers and headed out to the beach. It was my first time driving out of the country and I have to say I’m pretty sure I was the only female in Buzio that was behind the wheel! We made our way to Praia Bravia a beautiful secluded beach with pink sand and…. More caiprinha’s. Perfect place to relax and enjoy a book. So being me I went three hours away to a town with beautiful beaches only to refuse to get into the water! According to Nicole the water sparkled and it looked like you were swimming in gold. That in combination with the pink sand made it a pretty awesome beach to visit.

However, while leaving the beach we discovered:
1. We were lost
2. We needed gas

Which leads us to exhibit A: 

Exhibit A: policia federal (not MY policia but policia all the same)

Exhibit B: answer to the question "can you drink and drive in this country"
Let this not be confused with the act of drinking. stoping. getting in a car. and driving. 
This would be drinking WHILE driving

It was at this point when we were somewhat tipsy and lost that I pulled over a cop car to ask for directions. Not only did I get a personal escort to the gas stations (again managing to NOT embarrass myself behind the wheel), but I also got a phone number, and a “date” if you will for when Mr. Policia Federal got off work later at 11 p.m. (note exhibit B).

After this experience I kind of understand guy’s fascination with nice cars… that definitely wouldn’t have happened had we been walking around with no need for gas or directions!!

Further exploits from Sunday night will be censored due to the fact that, “I’m a 26 year old, aspiring athlete that strives to act as professional as I can both in person and on social media networks”. Let’s just say the night involved several more police officers a trip to two private beaches outside of Buzio and a return escort back to our hotel at an ungodly hour of the night! Oh yeah there was 5 Argentinians in there somewhere as well...

Monday was a day for recovery we got up, enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and then headed out to Tortuga beach before returning the burge. Tortuga was another quiet beach located next to some very posh hotels and restaurants. We had a cup of coffee at a nice table the over looked the water (which was filled with people snorkeling). Afterwards we had to return the burge and return to our mundane lives as pedestrians! The fact that we were actually able to drive around definitely made the trip a lot more fun since were weren’t confined to any one particular beach/area.

Sunset from one of several overlooks 

Another random beautiful spot were these guys were fishing 
(never seen a spear gun before)

All in all it was an amazing trip and a much needed break from living in a house with 20 guys all of them time. Well actually, I don’t live in a house with 20 guys anymore, I live in Ipanema but that is a story for another blog post! 

Praia Brava (with the pink sand and golden water

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cem Kilos: Size matters!

If one more person tells me to shrimp out from under someone that has an extra 20 kilos on me I’m going to snap. After getting a taste of what it is like to fight with someone my own size I’m so over laying on my back and getting crushed from cem kilos. Jiu Jitsu is definitely a sport were small people can dominate someone larger than themselves, but seriously, technique can only get you so far before your being crushed. It’s impossible to shrimp out if you have 100 kilos bearing down on your measly 60 and an arm the size of your legs blocking your hips. “Try to shrimp”, they always yell at me. “I’M TRYING TO BREATH”, I want to scream back.

After three months of repeating this process every day I’ve come to the realization that trying to shrimp out is impossible. The only way to get out is to patiently wait for them to leave and opening (and stop yelling at me to “shrimp out”) and capitalize on it. All over possibilities lead to a waste of energy that eventually will result in me getting arm barred. Recently, I spent a whole seven minutes getting laid on, trying to catch my breath, and then defending the arm bar. When he couldn’t get the arm bar he switched sides and repeated the same process. For seven minutes I just laid there on my back. Complete waste of time.

The first time I rolled with people my own size it was like discovering a completely different sport. Jiu Jitsu is completely different when you don’t just lay on your back apparently. The techniques that they show you in the beginning of class aren’t just to tease you with stuff you will never get to do because you’re well… laying on your back. When you roll with people your own size they actually have to use Jiu Jitsu against you. They can’t just pick you up and well… lay you down on your back. They can’t just do a sit up when you’re in cem kilos and… you guessed it, lay you down on your back. Those techniques that they show you in the beginning of class, you can actually try them and see if you they work or not.  Amazing.

To make a long story short: size matters. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Copa AlphaBarra

First time on the podium with Connection Rio athletes, 
Abdhallah Nabas and Andrew Morris

I've been in Brazil for two months and I'm now he proud owner of two shinny medals. 

The first medal I got last weekend after... well basically after doing nothing. Lost my first and only fight to a girl from GFTeam and won a silver medal.I was competing at the weight class above my normal weight (Not going to lie I was eating cake the day before the tournament) and I managed to not embarass myself so all in all it was a victory for me. Especially after everyone in the house had me stressed out about take downs (which I suck at) and pulling guard (which I have never, ever done in my life).

Repping my home school Renzo Gracie

Yesterday I competed for the second time at Copa AlphaBarra. After being registered in the men's division, and then being moved to the women's blue belt division, I was finally able to get myself sorted out and on the brackets for the women's white belt division were I thought I would have one fight... guaranteed silver.

They call my division, I go down to the mats, the first two girls fight, a girl from Gracie Barra wins and thinks she's done. Nope she has to fight me still, so we wait around some and to our surprise some other random girl from Nova Uniao shows up. So, I step on the mats to fight Ms. Nova Uniao, take her down with the guard pull thingy that I drilled maybe 10 times two weeks ago, and get a nice armbar. Nothing like a victory via submission.
One of my "magical" training partners

Afterwards, I wait around to fight the winner from Gracie Barra who is chatting it up with me about social projects. Ironically, she goes to  project Drive-In, a BJJ social project that I was planning on visiting sometime this week. So we exchange information and decide to trian together.

Just when I think we are about to step on the mats, they call me over and tell me I have to fight the girl that got beat in the first match. She pulled guard, but I passed mounted, and finished her in the first minute with a mounted triangle. I don't even like the mounted triangle but... hey it was there, so I went for it.

I step off the mats and the guy asks me if I want to rest. Rest? Who needs rest? Straight to the finals!

Well maybe I should have rested a little bit.

The girl from Gracie Barra was the biggest and the strongest of the three. I took her down and won on points. I couldn't have been happier, I went from what I thought was gaurunteed silver medal to fighting 3 times for a gold. Not only did I win the gold but I had the support from Master Weber, his wife Camila, my coach Perninha, the kids from Gordo's social project, Terere, and all of my friends from the house. I can't wait to get back on the mats tonight and prepare for the next competition in two weeks!

Leaving for my first competetion last week

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What NOT to do for your first competition

I'm competing in my first BJJ competition today. 

Apparently there are a few things that you should do before your first competiton. 

1. Choose a gym. 
Being the genious that I am, I started training at Terere's gym in Ipanema with some of my friends from the house this week. In a couple of months I will probably end up moving to Ipanema and training there full time. Its an amazing gym to train at with great people and more importatnly... with small people. They have a big competition team, so they were the ones that helped me register for this competition. BUT how am I supposed to explain the fact that I'm fighting for a different gym to the people from Gordo's.

Training with the girls from Gordo's social project 

2. Choose a Kimono.
Second dumb thing I did this week was put patches on my favorite kimono from Terere's. I'm pretty sure its a requirement to compete for them but and they lured me in with these pretty, pink patches that match my Kimono perfectly. Now I have a Kimono with two patches from Terere, one patch from Renzo Gracie, and NOTHING from the school I've been training in for the last two months. Needless to say, I highly regret putting ANYTHING on that kimono and I'll now be competing in a different one that I don't like as much.

Training with 5x World Champion Terere

3. Choose a strategy.
Take down or pull guard? I've always considered myself to be pretty shoddy at take downs so pulling guard seems to be the logical choice for me.... EXCEPT I don't know how to do it. Never drilled it and as a matter of fact have never really seen it until last night (the night before the competition). At the house everyone is questioning what I'm going to do. If I was at home at MiKiDo that wouldn't be an issue at all. At MiKiDo we don't entertain doubts, its just a matter of stepping on to that mats, doing what we do, and bringing home what's ours.

4. Choose your company. 
All of this stuff has been stressing me out over the last 24 hours and I highly wish that everyone would stop bringing it up and just let me keep my head clear and focused on the competition. Unfortunately, when you live with 15 people it's somewhat hard to get some peace and quiet. Last night I had to get a little reprieve, so I went over to Gordo's to talk to Master Weber (who wants to see my compete tomorrow). Everyone advised me NOT to tell him about the competition since I'll be competing under Terere, but in my opinion, when the black belt that has been going out of their way to help you for two months wants to know something, you give him a straigh answer.

Ana marias (somewhat like twinkies) = Comfort food

On the bright side, I'm 2 kilos underweight right now so I'm going to get breakfast, drink my second cup of coffee, and enjoy the fact that even if I do lose my first match, I still get a bronze medal (because apparently they give out two bronze medals). So, win or lose, I can pretend that I'm a serious badass who medaled in Brazil and no one in America has to know

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Short Lived Victory

Gringo Squad @ Gordo's

I FINALLY tapped someone out yesterday, as a matter of fact, several someones! 

Afterwards, I sat around during the white belt class with the black belts talking and going over some positional questions that I had. After almost two months of being in Brazil, it feels good to be able to sit around and communicate with people in Portuguese. Being a white belt and a female in a house full of guys, in a gym full of guys, in a country that’s not your own can leave a girl feeling somewhat ostracized. It's nice to feel accepted. 

The president of Koral stopped by the Connection Rio house

Anyways, I left the gym feeling like a complete Brazilian badass. I went home and told my friend at the house and he looks at me completely unexcited and says, "What? You haven't tapped many people since you've been here". Victory short lived. 

Considering I'm almost 20 kilos lighter and at least 5 years younger than almost anyone that trains at my gym (with the exception of our gringo team), I most definitely have not be going into Gordo's and destroying anyone. In fact, my training experience there has consisted of a lot of drilling and a lot of me trying to throw arm bars on the incredible hulk. Trying to break someone’s guard feels like trying to break through a brick wall most of the time, so needless to say, I'm getting really good at getting crushed and then patiently waiting for the wall to open up a little, so I can transition and continue to get crushed from a different position. 

Repping Renzo Gracie PA!

I've considered switching gyms and going somewhere where they have more females or just lighter people, but loyalty is important to me. This gym is where I started and it’s associated with Renzo's back at home so it would be incredibly hard for me to leave.

I can't wait to compete in a couple of weeks so that I can let all of my frustration out on someone that is my belt level and my weight. I figure with the amount of time I spend training and the size of the guys I train with, I will destroy anyone that is my size. I went to my first BJJ competition last week and saw some of my friends compete, now I can't wait to step on the mats and bring home some medals. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

One month down... many more beatings to go

My first month in Brazil has been everything that I wanted it to be. My first week I met Claudhina Gadelha (by met I mean I starred at her and tried not to jump up and down and scream like a little girl) at Nova Uniao. Hopefully in December or January I'll be able to pay for two gyms and I'll be able to start going to Nova Uniao in the evening to do BJJ and MMA and Gordo's BJJ in the morning.

Nova Uniao

My second week I started volunteering at a social project called Tropa Thai in the Tijuquinha Favela. The kids there are pretty bad ass, I mean you have to be to run around and do Muay Thai on an asphalt basketball court. They have a about 20-30 kids in their 7:30 class that I get to hold pads for, then aftewards I train for an hour. Well I'm supposed to train for an hour, but sometimes one hour turns into two and I just don't understand enough Portuguese to fully understand why I'm hanging out in a favela at 10:30 at night.

Soccer game in Tijuquinha

My third week, Nicole and I, started going to the gym around the corner to lift weights. She is my only female solace in a house of 16 plus guys so it's nice to get out with her. We go into the gym and get some serious work done, unlike most other Brazilian females that seem to go into the gym and get a lot of talking done. Working out with her a couple days a week brings my average number of workouts to 4 a day (Morning BJJ class, lifting, two evening BJJ classes or Muay Thai). 

This past weekend we celebrate children's day (October 12th), so the owner of Tropa Thai organized an event which was pretty cool. They had music, soccer games, trampolines and other cool stuff for the kids. The same day I got to go to Kyra Gracie seminar at Gordo's, the gym I normally train at. It was Kyra Gracie that told me about Connection Rio. I probably wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for her. She taught a lot of cool stuff, but I spent most of my time just starring at her amazed that I was actually seeing her in person. In Brazil its not rare to see UFC fighters and big names in BJJ, but either way I was pretty damn amazed.

Kyra Gracie and I

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Nova Uniao- There's a thin line between protein and steroids

That awkward moment that you get paired up with this blue belt girl that looks like she is a professional body builder and you think you about to die. Yeah I just survived that moment with half the gym watching expecting me to get my ass handed to me. Apparently my BJJ game is on POINT when I think I'm about to die. 

Today I took a trip to Flamengo to train at Nova Uniao home to great fighters like Jose Aldo and Claudinha Galdelha (One day I will actually speak to her, I swear I will). I had just finished an hour and a half of (hard) drilling with Connection Rio owner Dennis Asche and dropped into the last 30 minutes of the of class just in time to enjoy this little treat. I managed to pull guard on her and she proceeded to spend the next 6 minutes grinding her knuckles into my chin. Apparently that's BJJ for an EZEQUIEL choke (never seen that before). She initiated the choke my slamming her fists into my chin (in Muay Thai we call that a punch) and grinding it incessantly. As I was holding on for dear life I saw a huge group of people huddled in the corner watching me get my ass handed to me. 

Unlike most of my rolls I started this one thinking of it as if it was a fight and seriously trying not to die (this girl had ridiculous muscles) and it actually worked out for me.I may not be good a BJJ but I am a good fighter. Not only did she have a hell of a time trying to choke me, I actually swept her in the process of getting my chin rearranged. I've found nothing pisses off a higher belt more then when they can't tap me... or when I swept them with my "dummy sweep". So, needless to say she got pissed and actually tapped me in the last twenty seconds, but in my defense, the only reason was because I tried to get an under hook and couldn't defend with both hands. All in all, I consider that a victory despite the fact that I now have a huge bruise on my jaw and a lump on my head. 

After class she told me that I was pretty damn strong. One of the spectators (another blue belt girl) that was eagerly watching me get my neck wringed even told me that my Jiu Jitsu was "good". 

After rolling with the beastly blue belt, they asked me if I was tired or if I wanted to roll again with another white belt. I said that I did even though I was tired as hell. (I live by the saying never give into defeat, not even when defeated). Well they could all see I was tired and some smart ass was like "she doesn't even understand" and they proceeded to make fun of my gringo accent for 5 minutes before starting the time. Then they proceeded to tell him what to do... leaving me to fend for myself. 
Well, JOKES ON YOU BRASILEROS, I DO understand and was able to use their advice for him to win the match. By winning I mean I was:

A. On top most of the time

B. Not the one bitching about how tired I was

Needless to say, I walked out of the gym after having completed 5 hours of training feeling like quite the bad ass. In fact, I'm going to take the next 24 hours off to bask in my greatness....and clean all of my gis, since they are all dirty.

Monday, September 23, 2013

I am NOT a rest round: Week 1 in Rio

Training at Nova Uniao with some of the boys from Connection Rio

Being a girl in a man's world has never been an easy feat. I realized this six years ago when I first started kick boxing. Every sparring round was proceeded by my coach yelling across the whole gym, "GO EASY ON HER SHE'S A GIRL!". As if I wasn't trying to compete like everyone else, as if I didn't need to be pushed as hard as any other guy before stepping into a ring with another girl ready to take my head off. Most guys avoid pairing up with me, in both kickboxing and jiu jitsu, and when they do they expect an easy 5 minute rest round before going back to work with the "bigger" guys.

This has happened consistently for the past six years with one exception, my boxing coach Matt, from Renzo Gracie PA. On my first day sparring at Renzo's, seconds before the bell rang, he called out from the ring to my partner, "Punch her in the face hard! I don't care if she's a girl, HIT HER IN THE NOSE!!!". I have nothing but love and respect for that man for treating me like one of the guys. There is nothing that frustrates me more then sparring with a guy that won't hit me hard or, even worse, well spend a whole round without throwing a single punch because I'm a girl. Fortunately for me I don't come to the gym to play, and most  will give up their chivalrous attitude, especially when they're getting beat in the face by my pretty pink gloves. Never the less, there are always a few people that insist on wasting my precious sparring time by re-enacting a punching bag round after round.

Despite the fact that this is hands down the most frustrating thing I've experienced while training, I must admit, I often find myself treating new girls the same. Its rare to find a lot of girls in this sport, so I try not to scare them away man handling them. After all, it takes some time to find joy in a thorough beat down without getting discouraged.

I've been in Rio for a week now, and training at Gordo BJJ has not varied much from my normal experience. Being new to the world of BJJ, I am generally always the lowest belt and the smallest person in class. On the bright side, this generally means that who ever I partner up with does nothing but try to help me. I do all the drilling and they do all the correcting, which is good because any white belt needs all the drilling they can get, especially considering the number of higher belts and skilled athletes in Rio. There is only one other girl that consistently trains at Gordo's, and she is no where near my weight class or skill level. As a matter of fact, she is one of the black belt instructors wife, so needless to say, she can whoop me at will. However, I was somewhat dismayed to find that she was scared to "machucarme" or crush me.

Weber and his wife Camila (center) at Copa Ciclone with their son.

Lucky for me I was saved from being treated like a little doll for two reason:

1. I actually understand Portuguese unlike most "gringos" that come to Rio.
2. I used my broken Portuguese to tell a joke to Master Weber about how I've heard that he destroys my fellow Gringos on the mats.

This immediately got me in his good graces. Nothing feels better then a sense of belonging in an unfamiliar place, so I was very happy after finishing my second class and having Master Weber come up to me and TELL me that I needed to be there training EVERYDAY with him. This also meant that he was not having it when his wife Camilla was too scared to crush me.

One of the boys from the house training with Mario Sperry as he prepares for ADCC.
At Gordo's BJJ in Barra Da Tijuca

"She's not going to break!" he told her as he slammed me down into a knee on belly, "She's a fighter, she can take it!"

Its reassuring to know that someone is going to make sure that I get some proper training while I'm here. Eventually all this "babying" that I'm getting from my rolling partners is going to help me to develop all the technique I need to tap out some of the bigger guys (not the Weber sized guys I'm not that delusional).

The view of Rio from Pedra da Gavea (ship rock) which is
in front my house. 

The view of Pedra da Gavea from the beach which is
right behind my house!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

You know your a gringo in Brazil when....

You know your a Gringo in Brazil when you are standing at the corner of every nice restaurant trying to connect to WiFi. 

After 13 hours of travel I finally arrived in Rio de Janeiro this past Sunday. I arrived at 7:30 in the morning and was greeted by a taxi driver who had a sign with my name. It took about 45 minutes to get to Barra da Tijuca from the airport which was surprising because I was expecting close to a 2 hour drive. The taxi driver spoke English so he gave me a nice tour of Rio on the way and let me play with his shower.

I arrived at Connection Rio and was greeted by a closed door. I rang the bell and no one answered. I rang again and still no reply. I thought we might be at the wrong place, but some guy drove by and confirmed that this was indeed Connection Rio and told me to keep ringing because they were probably asleep. After a few minutes of incessant ringing someone hit a buzzer and the door swung open revealing some guy in boxers and the front yard that I had seen so many times in pictures (There was no guy in boxer in the pictures, just the pool and the beautiful view of Pedra da Gavea). The guy disappeared right away leaving me alone for the first 20 minutes to explore the house on my own. 

The view of Barra beach from Ship Rock

After discovering that my IPOD had been run over on the road in front of my house and borrowing someones ice cold water from the fridge, I was finally greeted by the house managers, Torryn and Nicole. It seems that there was a scheduling error and they weren't expecting me til tomorrow, which is why no one was there to answer the door. They showed me around the house and then took me with them to breakfast and a farmers market where I was able to get some fresh fruit and veggies. 

All in all it was a great first day, except for the devasting loss of my IPOD.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

2 Strips: Holding on for Dear Life

"There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, 
the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it"
~ Napoleon HIll

It's been six long days since I've been to the gym so it felt good to get back. Today was the first day of the new schedule at Renzo's. They added all of these extra classes and made attendance and uniform requirements a lot more strict. I was worried I would only be able to take one class because now white belts need permission to attend the more advanced classes. Rich (the owner) gave me permission before I even had to ask which was a relief.

Today in the advanced class we went over moves from cross eye. For once, I was able to shed my normally confused disposition because I knew exactly what we were drilling. I've gotten a lot better in the month that I've been training up here, and today it finally paid off. At the end of class, me and two other white belts got strips. I got two strips and one of the others guys got three. They told him that he needed to work on his grips more.

Speaking of grips..

I found it kind of ironic he should mention that because I'm going through a phase where all I want to do is hold on! I'll grab onto anything in hopes that I won't get swept (as easily). I'm generally not sure what I'm doing, but either way I'd say works about 60% of the time. Whether it works or not, it definitely allows for better positioning.

Grips are not only good for grabbing onto your opponents gi, when it doubt, curling up into a ball and holding onto yourself is apparently good for defense as well. Seriously, this has kept me from being swept, kept people from getting hooks in on my back, and saved me from numerous chokes, and arm bars. Since training at Renzo's a feel like some of the guys are prepping me for a Ronda Rousey fight.

In the last month I think I've defended about 500 arm bars, so, needless to say I've become very adept at arm bar defense.  I'm pretty sure that it is a flaw in the arm bar technique (mainly that they are not squeezing their legs together as they fall back) and not my own Jiu Jits prowess that makes this escape so successful. Either way it works for me and every time I successfully escape from a higher belt it feels just as good as a submission.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

No Days Off- open mats

Closed Gym. Open Mats. 

In class you don't just learn from the instructor, you learn from a lot of the people in class as well. Especially, the people you drill and roll with a lot. Most of the time the girls stick together, and if there are no girls, they work in with the smaller guys (if there are no smaller guys they generally stop coming!). 

 Today they gym was closed but the NoGi instructor was there for open mats. Jackie, my usual rolling buddy, was unexpectedly absent leaving me to fend for myself with about 5 other purple and blue belts. Luckily, I've now been training at Renzo's for 3 weeks now and I knew all of the guys there, so even though they were bigger then me, I didn't have any problems working in with them. Sometimes it can be intimidating working in with a bunch of big guys that all have 50-100 pounds on you when there is no instructor there to pair you up. I've learned, or been advised, that there are several different types of people that you may encounter when stepping onto the mats. 

My fellow white belts/ lower belts: I've been told to stay away from them when going live because they lack technique and can be rough, whether intentional or not, I, on the other hand, like going against them. I find it a lot easier to practice the drills we do in class on people who have no idea what's going on before trying it on the higher belts who generally anticipate your move and stop you.

Higher belt: your typical partner that rolls with you. Hopefully they have enough consideration to use more technique then strength because they generally outweigh me.  Sometimes they like to tap you out (over and over again)  and other times they just like to transition from one position to another. They generally move at a slow pace that lets you see what your doing wrong so that you can learn from your mistakes. You leave your arm in the wrong place, you get an arm bar, but they let you escape it. You escape it wrong and end up in the triangle, they explain to you how to defend the triangle because you forgot... And so on. Eventually the stuff you drill sinks in.

Teachers: these are the people that will flow nice with you and actually stop to explain a certain technique or point out something your doing wrong. It's almost like a 5 minute private lesson and can be very helpful.  HOWEVER, there are people that want to teach you when you just want to roll. 

Badass: this is the person that shows you what a bad ass you can be if you train hard by making you tap in ways you can't even explain. This will generally continue about 3x per minute no matter what you try and happen so fast that its very hard to learn much other then how to tap effectively. The other day I heard a blue belt tap and it was then followed by, "what the hell!?!?", and I knew immediately that it had happened it him; the guy I was rolling with confirmed it. Apparently they both got caught in something that had to do with a dangling hand that resulted in a vicious choke. Rolling with this kind of person is good for practicing your defense (against all the chokes and arm bars you will probably be forced to tap out to) and if your quick you can pick up a few nasty tricks. They rarely "give" you anything, so if you do gain position, you know you earned it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Packing. 23 days away

Make sure to bring running shoes to climb Pedra da Gavea
Located in Barra de Tijuca

When I decided to move to Brazil I didn't realize what a monumental task it would be to condense my life into two 70 pounds suitcases. In addition to that, I had to move ALL of my stuff from Virginia (VA) to Pennsylvania (PA) unpack it, live for a month, repack it, then i'll have to take it back down to Virginia to live for a week, repack it again, and catch my flight to Brazil. I'm flying out of VA because flights turned out to be a lot cheaper from there, although I have not confirmed exactly where I'll be staying or who will be taking me to the airport yet.

Overall, the whole packing experience has been more painful than training. Luckily, I have some idea what to expect from the Connection Rio Blogs and from previously living in the Dominican Republic, but this time I'll be traveling for an undetermined amount of time.

 So far I've got:

  • Several long sleeve shirts
  • a bunch of tank tops and t-shirts 
  • Jeans and a few pairs of shorts
  • BATHINGSUITS (I keep forgetting I'll be at the beach)
  • a Ridiculous amount of work out clothes
  • Medical tape and prewrap for training
  • 6 months of contacts, and two pairs of glasses
I still have to go to the store and buy:
  • Peanut butter (expensive in South America)
  • Toiletries (tooth paste, razors, face wash, hair stuff, etc)
  • Feminine products (hard to find all the same brands in South America)
  • Protein powder and vitamins
  • Headphones (to block out the other people in the room in necessary)
  • Bugspray and sunscreen
I also want to get Brazilian money so that I have money to pay the taxi and other random fees that ALWAYS pop up at the airport. Since I speak Spanish I've managed to weasel my way out of random visa fees in Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, but I'm not going to push my luck with my broken Portuguese. 

Shoes have been another hard part. I'm a tomboy at heart so you would never think that I would have so many shoes, or be so sentimental attached to the ones that I do but I proved myself wrong as a loaded box after box of shoes into my Uhaul truck. I've broken it down into 
  • Running shoes (possibly two pairs sense I've had a pair destroyed by mud on a mountain before)
  • Two pairs of normal shoes
  • 2 pairs of sandals (nice)
  • Two pairs of flip flops (for wearing the the gym, the beach, and in the shower)
  • a pair of high heels
The goal is to have one of my two suitcases packed by next week because I have to go down to Virginia to teach some private kickboxing lessons (I'm using the money to pay for my private Jiu Jitsu lessons). This way I won't have to lug two heavy suitcases on the bus and the metro when I make my final trip to Brazil Via VA. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Private Lessons

Packed gym despite the fact that we were closed!

I got in a lot of BJJ this week. On Wednesday morning I met Jackie at the gym to grapple a little bit. She is training for a tournament in September, so she wanted to get in some NoGi in the morning. There is a decent group of people Jiu Jitsu students that show up when there is open mat time to get some extra rolling in.

I scheduled a private meeting on Saturday and also arranged to roll with Jack afterwards since the gym with closed because of Jordan Stiner's fight (he won his 5th professional fight that night making his record 5-0). The private lesson was with Mike, a Brown belt that has been training at Renzo's for 6 years. He's relatively small which makes him a nice person a drill with. We worked on some guard passes. After an hour a whole bunch of other people started showing up to roll. I tried one of the guard passes on a purple belt about three times my size. It didn't work, he just smiled and told me that I did had at least done it right.

For being closed for the day there were a lot of dedicated people that wanting to get time on the mats.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Kyra Gracie on October 12th

I am officially going to the Kyra Gracie seminar in October. I'm siked. I have a little over a month before I move to Brazil. I will be buying my plane ticket tomorrow as well as finalizing my reservation at Connection Rio. I'll get there on a Sunday morning. Before I buy my plane ticket I want to confirm that they provide transportation from the airport to the house in Tijuca. I wonder if they have class on Sundays...

New Rashguard from Renzo Gracie PA

I've been living in Pennsylvania for a week now and training at Renzo Gracie PA. The owner Rich Latta has been doing be a real favor helping me get my Jiu Jitsu ready for Brazil. It's nice to finally get to know people in class. A lot of the blue and purple belts are really helpful so I've learned a lot from them. I'm in there everyday, but they only have BJJ classes there Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. I do boxing, Muay Thai, and Nogi in between. Despite the fact that I'm clearly better on my feet, I've really been wanting to roll more. I've definitely been getting better in the short time that I've been here. 

I wonder what classes in Brazil will be like. I'm used to working out twice a day, but I always switch up my routine. It will be interesting to transition into doing nothing but BJJ for three months. Starting off my trip with a Kyra Gracie seminar is like a small dream come true. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

New State. New Gym

So, I finally moved out of Virginia (and out of my cubby at MiKiDo) and I made it without crying! Before leaving I stopped by the gym one last time because I forgot my Bo staff. I got a chance to say goodbye to Umaer (one of my trainers), and my title belt, that is now hanging on the gym wall.  Then I had to drive a Uhaul truck all the way up to Pennsylvania by myself, which I was not happy about! Well I broke all the stereo types about women and driving. Not only did I make it up to PA in great time, I backed the truck into my driveway in my narrow one way street!! Needless to say, I feel pretty accomplished. 

I left VA at 1:30pm which gave me enough time to get to PA park the truck, unload a few bags (i.e. unleash chaos in my room),  and make it to Renzo Gracie PA in time for their 6:30 Jiu Jitsu class. 

This happened, but I found rashguard 
and compression shorts!

I got in a nice hour of rolling. We went over the arm bar, how to finish the arm bar if your getting stacked, then triangle and triangle escapes. What I like about their Jiu Jitsu classes is they teach a series of techniques that flow together over a week or two period and continuously reinforce those specific techniques. The end results is a lot more drilling and technique perfection then I normally get. At other gyms they drill arm bar for 10 minutes then go live. Then the next day they'll drill another unrelated technique and go live. As a smaller person, I need all the technique that I can get because there is no way I'm going to over power a guy thats got 50-100 pounds on me!