Friday, December 12, 2014

Black eyes and Blue Belts

Enjoying my new blue belt and the view from my roof!

I walked out into the pharmacy around 5 0'clock clutching my beloved Iphone 3 that contained the picture of the atadura or wraps that I just bought to tape my hands in a couple of hours. I was livid as I popped in my headphones and walked to the beach to catch the bus to BarraShopping.  From BarraShopping I would need to take a taxi (R50) to my fight. I expected the whole trip to take about 3hrs, and I was right, I didn't arrive at the venue until 8:30-9PM

This is what Joe is for. At MiKiDo I would have never had to catch the bus by myself to go to a fight because we have a Joe, also known as the boy, who does.... well he does everything. So yeah, I was pretty livid as I walked to the beach thinking about how I could/should be riding easy in a hybrid on my way to my first MMA fight. I miss 1st world problems.

While fight day is normally a time to relax and focus, I woke up with a lot of problems to resolve.

Problem 1: Sponsors
After weigh ins yesterday, I managed to land myself a supplement sponsors thanks to Tiguerinho, one of my MMA coaches. I came home with a bag full of  protein, BCAA, Glumatine, and some other goodies thanks to Vitafor. The only stipulation was that I need to compete  the next day with their logos on my fight shorts and work out shirt and the academy was currently out patches! whomp whomp.

The people who I have begged to bring me should understand 
how much a supplement sponsor means to me <3

That's why at 11 A.M. on the day of my fight, instead of chilaxing in bed, I was at the gym picking up patches from my boy Jhonata. I then had to haul my butt back to the favela to find someone that could sew the patches on right away, which is not an easy feat!

Problem 2: Corners
My second problem was that I was suddenly without any corners. Finding two people to yell at you to keep your hands up and put a chair out for you to sit down was supposed to be the easiest part of the fight... or so I thought.

Corner #1 was supposed to be Claudinha. Which would have been all sorts of bad ass to have here there cornering me. Not only is she an undefeated MMA fighter now living it up in the UFC, she also is my only friend with a car (this fight was REALLY far away), AND she speaks English (This was important since I misunderstood something VERY important that cost me a gold medal at Rio Open). However, on top of training for her fight this Saturday, cutting weight for said fight, getting ready to travel to the US for a month, arranging my fight, AND coaching me during sparring sessions... she also had to take her finals because she is in college. So, corner one was out, physically at least because she was still sending me texts and encouragement to keep me motivated as I battled it out on Rio's public transportation. She eventually had to send me two new corners as well!

Corner #2. Where as I knew a week in advance that Claudinha might not be able to make it to the fight. Corner number #2 informed me a couple of hours before I needed to leave that he was working. Go figure. I might have been pissed if he wasn't the reason I am now sitting pretty in a blue belt with a shelf full of supplements again! (The story of my blue belt is another awkward tale for another time).
Did I mention that I FINALLY got my blue belt! 
and this amazing Kimono thanks to Cascagrossa

So there I was, the day of my fight at 5 PM walking out of a pharmacy with no ride and no corners and heading off to my first MMA fight. #DOLO

Thank god for Small Miracles

My small Miracles arrived on a motorcycle around 9 P.M, one hour before the fights were supposed to start. Poliana, one of my sparring partners, and Rubens, my boxing coach from Nobre Arte came to corner and keep me company after a last minute text from Claudinha.

Side note on Nobre Arte:
Nobre Arte located in my neighborhood here in Cantagalo and is run by Claudio Coelho, apparently one of the most famous boxing coaches in Brazil. While most academies have strict no cross training rules, Nobre Arte trains a lot of people from all of the top gyms in Rio including Nova Uniao, Brazilian Top Team, Blackhouse/Xgym, Rio Fighters, and apparently most of the Gracies have passed through there as well (Yesterday I met Carlson Gracie Junior).
I prefer training boxing at Nobre Arte because they don't take any BS. Where as you may be able to half ass your way through a boxing class at Nova Uniao, Rubens and Claudinho are quick to kick you out of training the second you slack off. Since losing my fight I have been invited to their sparring sessions by Claudio. This is an incredible honor and made me feel like a 5 year old on Christmas morning. Sparring under the watchful eye of Claudio will definitely improve my stand up game. 

Back to the fight...
Rubens and Poliana arrived in time to warm me up, find someone to tape my hands, and corner me.
After losing my fight, Rubens stayed true to his no BS style. I was given ice, told to sit down, and then sent right home to rest. I originally planned to go hang out with my fellow gringos at Connection Rio, but he wasn't having any of that business, instead he found a truck to throw his bike on and we headed home. On the way back, I was yelled at for a good 30 minutes about how crappy my boxing was.

Oh snap, you were in the UFC
and problem number 3!

So, once I got to the fight i discovered problem number 3: I didn't have anyone to warp my hands (This is what Rob is for!). So Rubens found this skinny guy, with an arm sleeve, and some wild hair to do it for me. He was with my other friend and fellow gringo that would also be fighting Torryn Heffelfinger (while as I got my ass whooped, I walk out of the pit clutching my icepack just in time to see the legs of Torryn's opponent flying in the air as he gets thrown down, I'm going to train private wrestling classes with him on hopes of getting on his level). I know who Torryn is, I used to live with him at Connection Rio, his friend on the other hand, was an unknown face to me.

So he is taping my hands and strikes up a friendly conversation in English it went something like this.

Him: What's your favorite position (PHRASING!!!!!)
Me: Eh, I'm a kickboxer I like stand up. What about you?
Him: I invented the Anaconda Choke.
Me: ....seriously? What's your name?
Him: Milton
Me: (looks at his shirt, and my friends shirt, and about 6 other peopls shirt which says RIO FIGHTERS/ MILTON VIEIRA) "Oh shit your Milton Vieira!"

Its not uncommon for me to meet famous people here without having any clue who they are (i.e. Glover Texeira, Kit Dale, Terere, Roberto Leitao, Yan Cabral, Carlson Gracie), but this was the first time I did something so stupid as to ask who they were to their face!

On not recognizing people.
I spent a good 3 months thinking Yan Cabral was a look a like named Liam. I even googled images and tried to match up identifying tattoos with no avail... probably because Yan falls into the 10% (90% of Cariocas* tattoo huge names accross their forearms. I'm not a big fan of the style, but it makes it every easy to identify people). 

*Carioca: native of Rio de Janeiro. 
Easily identified by their lack of clothes, accent, and propensity to use curse words. 

I may have lost my fight... but at least I kept it classy, with my hands wrapped PrideFC style by the inventor the of Anaconda choke (Pride is like Japan's UFC).

You Can't Do Epic Shit With Basic People
I saw this on IG marketing a brand called DRUGS (do right you gain success)

I definitely learned a lot going through this fight camp and I have to thank the following people:

Dede: Whether Brazilians know it or not, Nova Uniao has a reputation for not being Gringo friendly. If it weren't for Dede I wouldn't be training at Nova Uniao at all, let alone doing it for free. I may be scared as hell of him, but he is the one letting me live the dream!

Claudinha: Thanks for arranging my fight, helping me through training, and making sure I always have everything that I need whether its fight related or not. I wouldn't have had this fight without you and you did it all while preparing for one of the biggest fights in your own career.

Poliana: Thanks for always being there during training, helping corner me during sparring sessions, kicking me in the head a million times, and risking your life on a motorcycle in the rain with Rubens (who is known for being a scary driver).
Obrigado por sempre me ajudar nos treinos, por me chutar na cabeça um milhão de vezes (me ensino apanhar muito kkk), e muito obrigada por arriscar sua vida em uma motocicleta na chuva com Rubens (que é conhecida por ser um motorista maluco!!!).

Rubens: Thanks for cornering me, showing up, and being one of the few people that keeps it real with me. With so many trainers at Nova Uniao it is easy to get confused or misguided, but you always have the right advice to help.
Obrigada por me salvar na ultimo minuto e ser uma das poucas pessoas que me da papo reito. Voce sempre chega com os conselhos que eu mais preciso e me ajudou muito evoluir meu boxe!
View of lagoa from the Brizolao in the Cantagalo Community 
where Nobre Arte boxing school is located. 

Amilcar: I was left all by myself the day of the fights, but you made sure that I got to and from the weigh ins with no problem! I wouldn't have been able to do it without you! Plus, I got to take my weigh in selfies with that iphone 6!!!!
Voce fala ingles assim nao vou traducir pra tu!

I was half a pound under weight and my opponent was
2 pounds over weight. I agreed to fight either way.

Tiguerinho: Thanks for all of the prefight pad work and always checking in on me. Not to mention the supplement sponsor that you helped me get even though you were running around in between classes! Even more thanks for my blue belt I can't wait to go over to Delfim and get in some training at the new Nova Uniao affiliate!
Obrigada por todo o trabalho de monapla e por sempre cuidar de mim. Obrigadao por me consiguir o patrocinador de suplemento, mesmo que você estava correndo entre as aulas deu tempo pra mim! E nao posso esquecer de te agradecer pela faixa azul! Nao vejo hora de ir pra Delfim a dar um treino com voce!

Jhonata: Thanks for lending me the patches that
I needed and for being small! Without you I would have no sparring partners! 52k all the way! haha
Obrigada pelos pats de patrocinio que precisava tanto e por ser tao pequeninho! Sem voce nao teria com quem treinar!

Naam: Thanks for being an amazing fan and supporting my fighting career in Brazil. There is nothing like a care package from home to lift the spirits! Plus your always there to give me advice... Thanks for giving me a name for my social project too!

My MiKiDo Family: Thanks to the Hess family and everyone else from my MiKiDo family that watched the fights and/or sent me messages. I miss you guys so much and it definitely wasn't the same preparing for a fight or going into battle without you guys by my side!.

There were lots of other people from the team that were also constantly supporting me and asking about the fight but I don't have the time to thank everyone individually.

Rocking a black plastic bag to cut weight! 

weight cut!

                                           Team Nogueira Academy in Recreio, Rio De janeiro

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ms. Fat Booty and Other Fun Stereotypes

Sunday Conditioning (females only!!)with Renan Barao's personal conditioning 
coach here from Nova Uniao Kimura to help train him for his next fight.

Gringos think it's the Brazilians that are juiced up but Brazilians are convinced that American's are the ones with the cutting edge drugs. It's like the some kind of "he said, she said" act on Jerry Springer were each month fighters are spitting out new accusations and even dumber fighters are getting caught up with dubious drug test results. So what is the true story about steroids usage among top MMA athletes in Brazil?!?!

Your reading the wrong blog to get that answer...
I don't know what the true story is behind the big names and steroids, but I will lay out my own experience with the stereotype. I will also admit that, yes, everyone in Rio thinks Dillashaw is using. No, we don't accept that he is pure.

Gringos are always accusing Brazilians of using steroids. We often joke around saying that everyone is on juice because its the cheapest option. And it actually is, you can get a 6 week cycle of Winstrol for $US80 bucks where as 3K of Gold Standard whey protein costs $US 151. And then there are additional costs when you consider that Gold Standard only accounts for muscle growth and not recovery so it needs to be combined with BCAA, glutamine, most times a pre-workout/recovery (UFC regulations only allow for one kind of pretraining, beta alanina, which if taken consistently aids in recovery) and sometimes creatine although I prefer to stay away from that one. Then if your a professional athlete and you work out 4 times a day and you are competing against someone that may be on juice you are probably going to want to get one of those Malta or Dexo supplement things too. These are meant to replenish carbohydrates and aide recovery.... I think. I lost track of the total cost, but basically if you are buying nationally you are looking at $US 300+  per month for full supply of supplements.

Long story short. 

Yes. Steroids are RIDICULOUSLY cheaper than protein.
This should also explain why I am always trying to hit people up for things like protein and vitamin C (vitamin C costs US$40).

Eternally gratefull to Naa the Mighty for sending me vitamins and
medicine! I love my MiKiDo Famiy <3

While we are on the topic of steroids we might as well delve into some other popular Brazilian stereotypes. Take, for example, the famed Brazilian booty. People from all over the world flock to Brazil once a year to see sensual Brazilian women flaunt what their mama gave them during carnival. The hypersexualization of Brazilian women, and I guess men as well, has become paramount. While some Brazilians have become offended about this degrading image of the Brazilian women, others are working their asses off to achieve it...

And I mean literally working their ass off! or on.

The Brazilian booty is not a natural phenomenon. No, in fact the average Brazilian is born with no ass, just an extended back. They acquire their voluptuousbacksides through years of what Brazilians call "malhando bunda". For an American this term is so unfamiliar that its even hard to translate! malhar being to lift weights and bunda being your butt, so  malhar bunda would be like lifting for your butt. While American women are hitting up elliptical machines and stairmasters to get their desired measurements, Brazilian women are strapping massive amounts of weights to their ankles and working their butts out.

As a professional fighter I consider myself to be in incredible shape and more than capable of lifting some heavy machinery around. But Brazilian women are amazing specimens, and relentless in achieving their fitness goals! Its not uncommon that while I'm deadlifting massive kilos in some basketball shorts I get distracted by a tiny little blonde in a workout onesies with no back and her boobs popping out who comes waddling by with the same weight that I'm deadlifting strapped to her ankles. She will then procede to climb up onto some ledge drop one heavily weighed ankle over the side and proceed to squat her way to the infamous Brazilian booty.

In addition to squats, leg lifts from all fours is also a popular booty builder! While, I find this exercise nothing short of hilarious/ highly embarrassing, I've got to admit, these girls be lifting a serious amount of weight. Way more than my tiny ankles and American gluts could handle!!!

For those that can't afford to go to the gym to malhar bunda there is also the natural alternative: favelas. Its virtually impossible to live in the favela without going up and down a stupid amount of stairs at least 20 times a day. Whether you knew it or not, the stairs and hills of favelas are also designed to create the desired hypersexualized imagine of the Brazilian fat booty!

If you're not achieving the Brazilian backside you can just revert to Stereotype A: steroids.

Steroids aren't just for athletes, its used by anyone trying to get the idealized body to show off at the beach. I've been told that steroid usage in the country increases 3fold right before carnival as Brazilians try to get into their best shape for a week of drinking and partying on Rio's beaches.

Carioca Flow:
Rio is definitely filled with some cool street art and graffetti!

A pillow case that I found at a local craft martket

Once stores clothes and they roll down the metal doors there 
is a lot of art work that is revealed!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reality Check: Why Brazil?

As far as my MMA Career is concerned it's pretty safe to say that Brazil has probably reached the point of diminishing returns. For all you non-economics majors, that means that going home to tear girls up in the cage all along the east coast (and where ever else I could get Brent to travel to) would be far more productive then me waiting around and not fighting in Brazil.

When I came to Brazil a little over a year ago, my goal was to improve my Jiu Jitsu and transition to MMA. I got to Brazil after a month's long crash course in BJJ at Renzo Gracie PAand arrived in Brazil knowing little to nothing about the Arte Sauve. For 5 I woke up at 6:30-7 AM, crawled out of bed, found my kimono, and headed off to the gym to get my ass handed to me 2-3 sessions a day.

Now, 13 months and 13 medals later, my Jiu Jitsu is definitely on point! In January, I transitioned from training Jiu Jitsu full time at Terere's academy in Ipanema to MMA training at Nova Uniao.

MMA training was definitely a big change from the lackadaisical "Jiu Jitsu Lifestyle" that I had been living. Check out previous blog posts if you want to know more about just how badly MMA training at Nova Uniao hurts.

So I often get asked the question: Why Brazil? Isn't it easier to do this in the US?

So here are the top reasons why I live in Brazil:

1. Clothes.... or lack thereof.... This may seem like a joke, but seriously, Its mid-October and I'm wearing a sports bra and shorts waiting to go train boxing at 11AM in the morning. If I was in the US I would be fully clothed, probably somewhere screaming at/teaching kids in DC waiting for 3PM where I could hit the road and head to the gym. And its not just the clothes per say, its the lifestyle. Everything here in Rio is more laid back and chill, this is what I call the Carioca flow (Cariocas are natives to Rio de Janeiro). On my way to morning training, Cariocas are coming down from the favelas to wheel beach chairs and coolers out to the beach  on bikes the weave impossibly through the 3 blocks of traffic to get to ipanema beach (this is their job, they're going to the beach to relax). If i'm lucky I can even catch a glimpse of an 80 year old man in a speedo before hoping onto the metro to get to training. Rio has an energy that you just don't feel amongst the angry politicians of D.C.

2. Terere. You may not know who he is (because I sure didn't before I met him) but apparently he was a bad ass Jiu Jitsu competitor back in his day. He is known for his unique style, his aggressive guard passing, and his sporadic dancing and rapping. He still has an amazing Jiu Jitsu game but is not as big on the competition scene anymore. He is also my old teacher, my friend, and someone who has become like a brother to me here in Brazil. I live in Cantagalo, the favela/community where he was born and over the past 8 months that I've lived here it's become a home for me. Not only has the guy provided a home for me, he also changed my Jiu Jitsu game. Terere is not only an amazing competitor but he is an extraordinary teacher. He doesn't just teach you Jiu Jitsu, or try to impose his style on you, he teaches you to take any technique you learn from anyone, analyze it, and make it your own. All around he is a dope, charasmatic, and chill guy to be around and I'm glad that my homeboy Moz introduced me to him. There are no Tereres in the US that could have done this for me and my experience in Brazil would definitely not be the same without him!

Wouldn't have been around for the filming 
of this if I was in the US

3. The number 2. By #2, I mean the number 2 strawweight in the WORLD. Technically, she should be the #1 strawweight because, seriously, who the hell is Jessica Aguilar (if she is not fighting in Invicta or UFC does she really count in life?). So, yeah, my first goal in Brazil was to get better and BJJ, and my second goal was to train with Claudinha Galdelha (at Nova Uniao). Not only is Claudinha the #2 strawweight, but Nova Uniao is the #1 MMA gym in the world.

Have you ever tried training with UFC fighters or top level BJJ black belts in the US? If you have let me know how much money that cost you before you eventually went broke! In Brazil, you can't take 5 steps without tripping over a black belt or running into a UFC or Bellator fighter. At Nova Uniao there are too many UFC fighters to keep track of. While many gringos flock there to take pictures with people like Junior Dos Santos aka JDS aka Cigano, I actually have to make a conscience effort to avoid the hell out of him!

Boxing with Claudinha and Master Claudio Coelho
One of the best boxing coaches in Brazil

Why do I avoid him? Well because I am one of the more serious people on the team, where as he is often prancing (yes PRANCING) around the gym, singing in English, and announcing his upcoming UFC fights until BAM, he stops, faces off with someone, and starts growling in their face! He is also one of the biggest people on the team and I am one of the smallest, so frankly there is nothing more terrifying then training next to him. One wrong move and that could be a lot of weight falling down on my teeny- tiny frame! The other day we were training submission, sweeps happened, and then my partner and I landed REALLY close to him and his victim. Jiu Jitus tradition calls for lower belts to heed space to higher belts, so naturally, I went to back away, but before I did, I made the mistake of looking up. And there he was, just staring at us, with the intense look of a bear about to maul down a helpless rabbit. So, I lightly tapped my partner on the back and we SLOOOOWLY scooted back without losing eye contact!

Nova Uniao Crew... With Glover Teixeira
I actually didn't recognize Glover, who is in Rio to fight Phil Davis 
This weekend. I had to descreetly ask why everyone was taking pictures wtih 
the man and then of course hopped into this post training selfie!

So long story short. I think that fighting is more organized and there is more opportunity to build a name and a record in the US. Had I been in the US this past year I would have fought at least 5 times and I probably would have had several title shots! BUT, if you're looking for top quality sparring partners for affordable prices, Brazil is definitely better for that!

In respects to BJJ, Brazil is the place to be if you want to get better, no matter what level, but in respects to MMA, if you don't need to improve your ground game, stay in the US, establish a name for yourself, and then come to Brazil to train with the best. It will make your life so much easier. Trust me there is nothing easy or fun about going up to Dede Pederneiras and being like.... "So, I have no MMA record, only an AMMY muay thai recod, a bunch of BJJ medals as a white belt (so that practically doesn't count for anything), and no money to pay your gym fees. So I want you to let me on your team, give me free training, and just trust that one day you will be able to put in a pro MMA fight to make you some money".

So, if you're goal is to come train MMA in Brazil and you want to get into the top gyms, I highly recommend you bring a record and some Portuguese skills and be prepared to both kick and kiss some ass.

If your goal is to come train BJJ in Brazil. Just know that no matter how much you train at home, they train more here! No matter how good you think you are at home, your conditioning is going to suck here. And no matter how sick your game is at home, watch out for the damn yellow-green belts! It doesn't matter if they haven't hit puberty. This is their country, it's their sport, and they WILL berimbolo the shit out of you, take your back, and make you feel like a twat (thats British for stupid) if you're not careful.

Networking apparently involved a lot of good/free food!
with BudoDave, Churrasco guy, and Terere after day 1 of filming...
Yeah I'll explain that later...

4. Autonomy. This point definitely has its positives and its negatives. I live in Brazil because I have the freedom to do what I love. I've trained fulled time for over a year and went over a year living off my US$$ without working. Now, my moolah is gone and I generally have only 100-200 dollars to my name at any given point. I could be living in the US with a couple title belts on my wall at MiKiDo and have money stacking up in the bank. But then, I would also be teaching full time during the day, probably still going to school, and working and training at night. Instead of training 4 times a day I would train 1-2, but I would have a job, financial stability, and all those nice things like health insurance.
Translating for Budovideos

But I chose to stay here. I don't make that much money but I'm the director of a social project. I get to train full time and barely teach English now and then in between training sessions. I have also gotten to meet and work with a lot of people in the BJJ community from BJJ hacks here situated here in Rio to Budovideo who came to film a 9 DVD technique set with Terere. I've sacrificed a lot, But it has definitely been worth it!

Part 2 of the BJJ Hacks Mini Documentary 

Translating for Budovideo's Rolled Up in the Cantagalo favela

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Favelada Take 3 and a New House for Me!

So, How do you find someone to move something big in the Favela?Keep in mind Uhual doesn’t do stair master moves

Try getting a fridge up there! ha!
Not my house though

Checking "corners" is a good start. Corners tend to attract a certain kind of enterprise which entails long hours of sitting and watching... among other things. Due to the nature of the job, said employees tend to be well informed of the comings and goings of people who may or may not be willing to provide certain services such as moving a fridge. In addition to this service, I personally find employees of said enterprise to be a highly effective form of "GPS", as I often stop and ask for directions. The first time I went to my new place at night I actually got lost in the windy, narrow streets. I ran into them hanging outside of a closed bar and they sent someone to take me home.

This is another ally that winds through huge rocks. Its an enclosed narrow passage with only one entrance and one exit.

But, are corners safe?
On guns in the Favela: Part 2
In my last blog I touched breifly on the subject of guns in the favela. And I mentioned that most visible guns are owned and operated by the police (emphasis on the visible). A lot of people that I talk to here romatiacize about the time before pacificication, the time before the UPP was established in the community. Times when drug dealers where omnipresent and guns and tables full of drugs were not an uncommon sight. Well, pacificiation put an end to the golden age of favela law in 2009. Yes, Favela law is a real thing which I have recently seen, no heard, being enforced (because I sure as hell was not about to look out the window), but that is another censored topic that may possibly come out in another blog. 

When cops stop you they always ask, "are you a drug user?"
I've been stopped and searched 3 times since living here. Several times they have tried to freak me out by calling out my name when I walk by. Once I turned around and asked how they knew my name and he replied, "It doesn't matter, just know that I know". So naturally I didn't feel bad getting in their face at 6:30 am and telling them I'm sending them off the US. because NO I'm not a drug user and if you going to take all my crap (gloves, handwraps, kimono, mma gloves, clothes, towel, soap, food, book, etc) and spread it all over the ground at least hold my protein while I put it all back!

The golden age may be over but there are still reminents. One of the only times I've seen (heavily) armed drug dealers was coming up the above stairs at night. I got halfway up when the passage became bottle necked by people queuing to buy drugs. I hesitated for a second at the bottom of the stairs but was was waved up cheerfully by a guy with a hand gun. I walked past several crackheads and several kids I know, hopped over a pile of money, several bags of various drugs, and had to stop  to let a guy pass by as he was playing with something along the lines of a Tech 9 or Uzie. They also have gernades. Tactically, I'm not sure how effective a gernande is, but yeah they have a lot of gernandes. 

Like I said before, don't do this at home. Drug dealers can be paranoid (as they often suffer from getting shot by police). One time they were questioning another gringo  as he was going into his house accross from mine. After he went inside the guy turned to me and was like, "No, there is something not right about him, he isn't a real gringo, you, your a real gringo, but him....". So, yes, drug dealers DO have guns. But to answer the question, are corners safe. I never worry about getting hurt from the dealers. I would, however, worry about being around the drug dealers and consequently getting shot by the police. 

Back to getting my fridge moved.
So, when you need to find someone or something, going out to corners or walking around the Estrada is the best way to get lucky. I found a nice spot close to the Rua with a lot of sun and an amazing view of the ocean to the right and Pavao to the left (the pictures where in the last blog). I didn't just pick the spot for the view, I also picked it because people are prone to hang out there. 

So, I post up. 

And it only took about two minutes till I hear a voice behind me (keep in mind ain't nobody speaking English in the Favela, this is not a convo in English),

"Hey! You box right, you know so and so? I'm her cousin!!!"... Score!

Yeah see this is me boxing. With Bad-Ass coach Claudio Coelho
and UFC strawweight Claudinha Gadelha

Yeaaah, I box. I know her.

Lets pause for a cultural note: Brazilians have this saying, "o brasileiro nunca desiste" that they never give up. And damn it's so true. They are also a very straight forward people when it comes to their romantic intentions. Where as an American will try to ask you to dinner and swoon you a little, a Brazilan will just be like, "I'm trying to come over. You going to let me in". Why is this relevant?!?! because its the only way that I can explain how within two minutes of me meeting this dude, he's insisting on paying my rent, talking about let’s see how things flow...

Brasileiros will be Brasileiros. So, screw it, I decided to be just as straight forward. Why pay my rent when you can just move a small fridge. So, my new friend and I continue to wait because, obviously, he isn't going to move the fridge by himself (his nickname either means mouse or little rat… and it’s not one of those ironic nicknames, kid was little so help was definitely necessary). Five minutes later along came Matty, at first he was reluctant to join the cause but we were soon able to buy his help with US$5.00. Damn did he save the day. He took the door off the fridge (so it would fit through the narrow passages, hauled the thing ONTO HIS BACK, and walked it up the stairs with Little Rat following behind doing minimum work.

It wasn't til hours later after I had finished moving, turned in my key (without getting shot), and ran to teach a little English when I got home and realized that I was missing a piece from my fridge.

Clothes rack and political poster.
It's election session and these guys faces
are littered all over the favela

So, how do you find someone in the favela?
Like I said you go to the corner, thats always a good idea, but Matty, had made a comment that he was once my neighbor when I lived in Pavao, so instead of going directly to the "corner", I went to the second best  place to find information: the bar.

Why the bar?
 Because there are some people that seem drink professionally and THEY also tend to be well informed about the comings and goings of people (albeit harder to understand). When I was living in Pavao I lived above a bar, so if he was my neighbor, someone at the bar should know where he lives. The stairs to my old steps also tend to attrach a certain kind of enterprise but I didn't recognize the employee so I deferred to asking a drunk. He confirmed that yes I was indeed close, so I moved closer to a little cut that I know houses a couple of apartments and sure enough a door opened, a face appeared, and I was soon pointed in the direction of Matty's house.

The rua. At the bottom is one of the friendly professional drunks of Galo. He spends his days drinking and picking through trash for goods that he can sell and his nights singing at bars. 

I found Matty. And I'm not going to lie, I was pretty proud of myself for having located the establishment using impeccable favelada hunting skills. Unfortunately, Matty gave the piece to Little Rat. So back to square one, spot 1, and step 1 to finding something in the favela. I went back to the "corner" and repeated the process until I found Little Rat’s house. Unfortunately, he wasn’t home and in the end I had to wait around 2 more days until he finally showed up one night at 10PM and put the door back on my fridge.

In the end, it took me 4 stressful days to move, I had to spend a large amount of time waiting and wandering around the streets looking for people. I walked up and down about a million stairs and ate a lot of crappy food, but my new place is off the hook!

View from my roof. You can See Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, and the big Crist statue!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Evacking Gaza: No time for MMA training

Part 2: Evacuating the Gaza Strip

Hanging out at BJJ Hacks film shoot at Mestre Terere's house
In Cantagalo. A lot happens in one year in Brazil.

Warning: Do not try this at home.
So today it’s been a year since I’ve been living in Brazil. 365 days ago today I arrived at Connection Rio at 7-8AM. My first sight of the “Jiu Jitsu lifestyle” was the pasty white legs and tighty whities of Belgium native Brist who opened the door for me before stumbling back to bed to sleep off a long night of drinking (He is actually back now). Due to a scheduling error, there was no house manager to greet me so I tiptoed through the house, eventually stumbling across one of the common rooms that was stuffed full with damp kimonos, bunk beds, and more pasty, white gringo legs. Boy did I regret not having enough money to stay in a private room the 3 months that I stayed at Connection Rio! After 3 months I made my escape, leaving the quiet suburban neighborhood at the base of Pedra de Gavea and moved to the tumultuous Favela of Cantagalo to live with the Fernando Terere’s secretary. This is where the story gets good. 

playing cards

 I stayed there for a little while, but since I STILL didn’t have my own room, I eventually jumped ship and landed in what I now know is called the Gaza Strip or Quebra or that place, you know, when you get off the elevator and go left.

I lived there for 3 months but soon found the need to leave because… well because it was a shit hole. It was my shit hole though, so I did love it in its own way. For the first time in 8 months, I could sleep in, walk around in my underwear, and not have to worry about boys peeing on the toilet seat all the time (where we get off telling guys to put the toilet seat down is beyond me... men are impossible, if you don't want to be sitting in pee all the time it is more effective to put the toilet seat UP after finishing). 

I finally had my freedom, but I also had to deal with a suspect landlord, a wall that was always damp and most likely moldy, and a limited amount of space. SOOO limited that when I wasn’t in bed I had to throw it up against a part of the wall that wasn’t damp! Life in the favela is definitely a big change from the million dollar homes that surround the Connection Rio hostel. 

I ended up dealing with that mess for 3 months. It would have been 3 months and 2 days but my landlord outright refused to let me stay the extra days I needed before being able to move into my new place.

My New Place:
Finding a new place took two days of walking up and down numerous stairs with my previously mentioned cria and searching out people like “nido” who has a room for 300 and lives in the bakery that closed down in the GDF or “Aunty from the church” who has 3 room for cheap, wait who is it for? You? Ok! Yeah 3 rooms. She is in the salon go ask for her down that street around 9 (this is why you need a cria. In America you look up an address in the favela you ask around looking for people to point you to other people who know where there is someone). 

Hanging out and having lunch at Terere's house while 
filming BJJ Hacks. You can see Jackson Souza's house from here. 
The blue tubs supply water to houses and also act as a 
drying rack for clothes. Roof tops are also popular places
for kite flyers

So, I find a new place but nothing can ever just be easy so long story short let’s just cut to Tuesday. I was supposed to move out of my house Monday (I’m also supposed to be in MMA sparring) and I’m sitting dejectedly on my front steps with an empty house save a fridge and the blankets that I slept with last night. I’m somewhat stressed out because A.) if you hadn't noticed I mentioned it was Tuesday and I was supposed to move out Monday  and B.) there are two things that I know about my landlord for sure… neither of them meeting the censorship of this blog but most likely falling under the jurisdiciton of ATF. So yeah I woke up Tuesday determined get myself and my fridge out of there ASAP.  

My fridge is my prized possession. It is also the biggest and should be the most expensive thing I own. It’s not actually... these are.

It cost me about 80 dollars to buy these two pieces of crap!
They are the only real pieces of furniture I own...

How is that possible? Two reasons. 
A. Everything in Rio is expensive and plastic things for some reason are double expensive.

B. I acquired my fridge via the Jeito Favelado (the favela way). What’s the favela way you may ask? Well, one morning, at an ungodly early hour, someone came screaming my name outside of my window. I get up open the window and it’s my friend's boyfriend asking me if I want to buy a fridge for R50 USA $23. So, we walk up one level to this nice apartment where I am greeted by some shady guy that looks like he could be a pimp or something. IRONICALLY he used to live in Maryland and is not moving to Sao Paulo since he couldn’t afford his rent. Viola. Fridge for me, along with a huge tub a mayonnaise, and some sketchy mustard in a water bottle. I saved myself at the least R300 that I would have had to dish out to buy and transport a used fridge from somewhere else.

End note. Back to me being dejected on my front steps with no Cria.

Along the Estrada, that is not an abandoned house, people live there
Thats not a pile of trash, kids play there. 
These politicians, I'm not sure who they are, they never come here
but cheers for spending your campaign money to throw more trash 
into the communities! They should be ashamed!

CutOnce again we are out of time. It's been a long day and I have wrestling in the morning. The third and last part will be out next week, freeing me up to get to my next topic of interest: Bomba... and not the gernades the dealers throw... I'm talking about the juice the athletes down! 

If your dying to read more about the favela check out Tales From Deep Half as my homeboy has also released a 3 part story on living here in the favela! I accidently sent him down into the Gaza Strip forgetting that he was a "straight up white boy" ... like I said you shouldn't try this at home... 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

On moving in the Favela

Part 1: Cantagalo, the lay of the land

It's officially been confirmed. You CANNOT drop a pin on your house if you live in the favela, sorry iphone user.

The view from Cantagalo overlooking Pavao/Pavaozinho
(You can see my old house from here)

For the last 9 months I have been living in the Favela here in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It has definitely been an interesting experience that I tend to avoid touching upon as to not scare the s*&t out of my parents. However, recently I have relocated to my third place in the favela, and after a stressful week of minimal training I figured I'd share a little about what its like to live here in the community.  I currently reside in Cantagalo, 3 blocks from the beach of Ipanema and home to athletes like Fernando Terere (alliance) and Jackson Sousa (checkmat).

Most people think that the term "favela" stands for a "ghetto" or a "shantytown", but it doesn't, in actuality "favela", is Brazilian for an absurd amount of stairs and/or hillage. Brazilian favelas line the mountain sides that rise above the affluent neighborhoods of Rio. The narrow streets and passages constitute an urban labyrinth that winds up the mountains of Rio. The higher you get the more confusing and potentially dangerous it can be. Close to the top of the favela, the houses and formal structures thin out and there is nothing but forest. If you want to look at the favela from a tactical perspective, its guerilla warefare at its finest. 

Kid running towards two women fighting in "quebra"

For those of you that aren't in the know, people build houses where ever they can find space to build. Climbing down into ditches, along ledges, or across roofs is not necessarily uncommon when trying to reach more remote places. I've lived in the favela for almost a year, but I don't tend to venture too far away from the main roads. Wandering around the favela is like wandering around in the woods at night... You may think you're going in one directions, but in actuality, you're completely lost. If you speak Portuguese, then it's easy to ask for directions, if you don't speak Portuguese however, like in the case of my gringo friend Moz, getting lost can be somewhat scary. While I  can easily find someone to point me in the right direction, he finds kids that point finger guns at him.

(Note: It should be taken into consideration that if no one knows me and I keep my mouth shut then I pass for Brazilian, Moz on the other hand is straight up white boy from England that does not managed to blend in in the least bit). 

On guns in the favela:
Are there guns in the favela? Of course.
Most of the visible guns, however, are owned and operated by the police. Emphasis on the visible part. Police walk around the favela with a ridiculous amount of guns and I'm not talking about your standard issue Berretta like in the States. No,no cops here roll with M4, M15s, and the occasional M16 as well as a handgun (Once saw a gun about that was about my size). And they point them EVERYWHERE which is somewhat disturbing. One time I saw a cop car coming up the street (the real one) with the trunk open. Hmmm, that's weird I thought to myself. The car passed by and it turned out there was a guy hanging out the trunk with a huge gun, go figure.

Getting into the favela:
There are four entrances into the communities of Cantagalo, Pavao, and Pavaozinho.  So when your moving, all of your stuff has to come in or out through one of these babies. There are many factors to consider when choosing the right entrance such as vehicle accessiblity, stairs, and hills. The main entrance that I use is an elevator in Ipanema that is at the metro. This entrance goes up to a place called "quebra" at the base of the favela at which point you have to go up about 100 more steps to get to the "estrada" or the main road. This elevator only runs till 12AM (11 PM on Sundays and holidays). Arriving past 12AM means a nice brisk walk up 28 flights of dark, dirty stairs.

The estrada... and good place to stand if you need something

So once you get off the elevator, the next step would be getting to the Estrada, or the "street". Its not really a street though...You can get through it on a motorcycle (if you good) but not in a car. Either way, it's the main "road" that cuts through to the favela and connects Cantagalo to Pavao/Pavaozinho. If you follow the estrada from the elevator it will take you to the "rua" or the street. This IS an actual street.

If you go down, the street forks and you can get to entrances 2 and 3 that lead to either Copacobana or Ipanema. These are the only entrances that are car accessible. It is, however, damn near impossible to get a taxi to take you all the way up the street due to the fact that its narrow and Brazilians drive crazy.

View from my window. Rooftops and Front doors

If you go up the hill, you'll find the UPP, or the local police station that was put in place when the favela was pacified. Beyond the UPP is a social project called Crianca Esperanza which is a building that houses a numerous amount of facilities including two jiu jiutsu academies and a boxing gym and several cheap places to eat. Crianca Esperanca runs several kinds of government programs that offer a grade school and technical classes for adults as well. The last entrance to the community is located inside. The second elevator will also take you down to Ipanema, but you have to be some kind of blessed to ever be able to take  his elevator because it barely ever works.

On moving in the favela:
Ok now that we've gone through geography 101 you might understand how moving under such circumstances can be a pain in the ass. Needless to say, Uhual is out of the question.

The elevator and walk way located at the metro station. 
View from the stairs. 

The first step to moving is finding a place to live. This can be difficult for two reasons. First, places in the favela are not only hard to find, they go quickly and you need to speak damn good Portuguese to find one. Second, finding a good (decently priced) place to live requires a cria, or someone raised in the community, preferably one in good physical condition. The quality of the place you find to live depends highly on the quality of your Cria. Employment of a Cria is essential if you want to avoid a painful syndrome known as getting Gringo'd. Symptoms of getting Gringo'd may include, but are not limited to: small and inadequate living conditions, expensive and uncomfortable transportation, and/or reoccurring financial losses.

And cut!
                                              To be continued....
                                                                                          I have a BJJ tournament to go to

Check out part II to find out about more about my cria and how I got all of my stuff up 100s of flights of stairs!!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Rio Open: 4 Step Guide to Losing

Losing sucks.
Well, I guess the fact that I still came home with a Bronze medal means I didn't really lose, but in my head I feel like lost. My friend told me that it's not losing if you learn something... and I did learn something, but I still feel like I didn't do nearly as good as a I could have. Oh well.

So I lost...
                           Now what?....

Step 1: Purge
Losing, no matter how good of a sport you are generally results at least 5 minutes of sulking in a corner wanting to cry OR if you're bold actually crying. Some people wait till they get out of the mat area to do in the privacy of the bathroom, while others run right into the waiting arms of teammates and give a good cry right there on the edge of the mats or ring. The first time I lost anything was in kickboxing to Tecia Torres at IKF World Classics. I managed to hold back tears until I was securely out of the venue with a White Russian in my hand (while she was inside signing autographed pictures of herself). People kept trying to comfort me telling me "oh she's a legend, there is no shame to losing to a legend". Well, thanks people but that didn't actually help! Losing is losing and it generally sucks no matter how you put it. It hurts, emotionally, and when you're in this sport, even physically (sometimes very publicly). So, step 1 to losing is to purge. Accept the loss, get over it, and move on to step 2.

Step 2: Binge
After making weight and then competing, it's finally time to refuel and regain your energy. Most athletes consume carbs and protein to get energy to achieve what one might call "beast mode".  AFTER competition athletes consume high amounts of sugar, processed food, and sometimes alcohol to achieve a state referred to as being "turned up". This can last for 1 week or, in drastic cases, this deviant behavior may continue until preparation for the athletes next fight begins. Binging (in Brazil) normally starts with a post-fight Acai. Acai, while supposedly good for you, is filled with sugar, making it the perfect way to start your post-fight binging. This is generally followed up by a meal, chocolate, cookies, and anything else you can get your hands on! Unfortunately, preparation for my next fight began before this competition even started, so my post fight binge included fish, salad, and beats! Yay! I walked through Ipanema yesterday and wanted to eat EVERYTHING! I finally just had to go back to my room and block out all temptation!

Step 3: Revel
Jiu Jitsu tournaments normally last all day, so once your sulking is done, it's time to enjoy the experience! If you compete regularly, then you get to know the people from the competition scenes. The staff, the photographers, the different teams, all people you've competed or trained with in the past, and, of course, your own teammates. There is more to competitions than just competing. After losing my second match, I went and sulked a little with some fellow gringos from Connection Rio and a Peanut butter sandwich. Then I went over to sit with the Nova Uniao team before going out to grab some lunch with friends.   

Ladies from the Nova Uniao Jiu Jitsu Family

On top of spending time with teammates, tournaments are a great place to meet people that you have met or trained with in the past or could potentially train with in the future. Mestre Terere showed up to coach my good friend from England and I got to sit in and take pictures of an interview he did for Gracie Mag.

Interview with Gracie Mag. Borrowing someone's hat and Iphone 5.

I also met several other Jiu Jitsu coaches and black belts that where here to compete. Later that night, I got to sit in and translate and amazing class taught by black belt Eduardo Castro from Half & Half in Sao Paulo. Coincidentally, I will be going to Sao Paulo at the end of the month, so hopefully I will be able to hang out there for a week or so and train with some friends after my next fight!

You can't win everytime, and the times that you don't, you shouldn't let losing get in the way of you enjoying the day with friends and family. Accept your loss, enjoy your day, and then move on to step 4: get your s*&% straight for the next fight!

Step 4: Revise
Well obviously if you lost something went wrong. So you're going to need to fix it. First off it's important for readers to keep in mind that the level of revision required is generally based on belt level. I'm currently in white belt purgatory. Generally, we white belts are known for being strange creatures on the mats that refuse to employ any other guard but the closed, insist on using force over technique, and often think that true belief trumps actual Jiu Jitsu moves (i.e. you can't, no matter how much you try, get a kimura from inside some else's closed guard, in fact, you shouldn't be doing anything other than trying to get out of said guard) and, therefore, will commit some of the stupidest, and often times, hilarious mistakes (that is when we don't just spend the whole 4 minutes failing to get out of/ or finalize from the closed guard).

Translating class for Gringos in Ipanema
(My favorite De La Riva sweeps!)

If you have a good coach step 4 shouldn't be too hard. Some coaches will meet you right at the edge of the mats with a, "What the hell do you think you were doing" type lecture while others will subtly incorporate it into your next rolling session. I have one friend that could break down a 20 minute analysis of a 4 minute jiu jitsu match, highlighting your strengths and weaknesses and giving you a plan of attack for your next match. No matter how your coach or teammates pass on the revisions, it's always a good idea to try to get a video of your match. Watching the match several times can help you understand the mistakes you made... in respects to jiu jitsu, it can also help you understand what you will and will not get points for.

Watching BJJ videos on YouTube is another good way to pick up new moves or details on old moves.

BJJ Scouts: Leandro Lo
De La Riva Spider Guard/ Hybrid

BJJ Scouts: Michelle Nicholini
Shin on Shin Sweeps