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.