Sunday, January 19, 2014

Training with Terere

Training with Terere

Terere with Connection Rio Sponsored athlete and bad ass
 purple belt Abdallah Nabas

Terere is a cool person to train with because he is fun and always joking around during training. He is great at making everyone in the academy feel like family, whether they are students from the social project or tourists that will only be training a couple of weeks. Nabas scheduled his private lesson on Thursday, the day before Terere was leaving for the Europeans. I was actually surprised that he had time at all before flying out. Again that just goes to show you that he genuinely invests in his students.

Gringo Squad at Terere's Birthday Party

I met Nabas at the elevator that takes you up to the Cantagalo community so I could show him where the house was (and translate during the session). Terere was stuck in traffic so he ended up arriving about 20 minutes late. When we walked up the stairs that lead to his house his dad and mom who were waiting for us outside. His dad took us into the house and showed us up to the last two floors. The second to last floor is home to the new mats that were recently installed (and of course a nice stereo because, seriously, who trains without music?).The last floor is the roof of the house with the famed glass. 

Note: you can see Terere’s house from almost anywhere on my side of the community, his house is at the top of Cantagalo and it’s the only house with a glass railing at the top. In front of the glass on the roof is also the spot where most of his guest pose for pictures when they are invited to over for a BBQ.

The famed glass pictures:

The famed glass with a view of the Morro Pavao~Pavaozinho 
to the left and Copa below on the right. 

Terere's Dad and a student from Switerzland 
who has been staying at Terere's house

Terere and brown belt world champion Vlademir Alves

A lot of people wonder why Terere never moved out of the Favela after becoming so famous, these people have never seen the view from his roof. In front of you, ocean stretches out as far as you can see with cargo ships and cruise liners sailing in the distance. To the right is the Morro of Pavao-Pavaozinho where I live. At night the houses lights up the side mountain and you can always here Brazilian music coming from some distant bar.
From my roof you can see a little piece of the ocean, a basketball court, and a building that is under construction. From Terere’s roof you can see Copacobana, Ipanema, Pedra da Gavea, and Christ the Redeemer in the distance (you can also see my house). Nabas and I pulled up a couple chairs to enjoy the nice view while waiting for Terere. On the surrounding roofs people from the community where flying kites (this answered my question of how the hell they get those kites up so high).

This is somewhere in the CantaGalo community
Picture stolen from Mos (thanks!)

 As soon as he walked in he said hi, turned on the rap music, and started talking about Nabas’s game. Like I said before Terere is really fun to train with because he has such a laid back attitude and he is always laughing, smiling, and joking around, but the Terere that walked in that day was completely different. He spoke fast and formally, stopping frequently to allow me to translate. As he was turning on the (rap) music he started analyzing what Nabas was good at and how he would like to see his Jiu Jitsu evolve. Sometimes when you do private lessons the instructor will ask you what they want to work on, or they will teach positions that they are particularly good at although they may be unrelated to your own style. Terere had a different approach. He analyzed Nabas’s style while watching him roll at the academy and had thought about specific things he wanted to work on with him. (Note: like I said before this was an unscheduled private lesson, Terere could tell you about any of his students, whether they are there for a week or 5 months. He watches and analyzes everyone and always gives great feedback, even when you’re not expecting it or think you’re not being watched). He’s lesson was really competition oriented and he really focused on the mental aspect of rolling, explaining not just the positions, but the different concepts behind them as well.

At the end of the private class it started to pour down rain. Terere made us a protein shake and told us to hang out while he did another private lesson with a friend of his (black belt friend to be specific). It was still raining after that, so we hung out a little longer. Nabas got to roll with the black belt, and since I didn’t have a kimono with me, I sat and played with Terere’s Ipad. Afterwards when the rain let up we all drove down to the academy so he could say goodbye to all his students.

All in all it was a great private lesson, but it also made me realize how much I’m going to miss him the two months while he is gone…

Last training with Terere Before Christmas

Useful Information: 
Address:Rua Alberto Campos 12, Ipanema RJ, Brazil 
Phone: 3217-4194

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Projeto Arte e Libertade: Choking Out Children

Entrance to the social project. 

One of the major benefits about living in Connection Rio is that there are always people to drill with. Unfortunately, no one likes to drill with a white belt… except maybe my friend Moz. Well, I doubt he likes it, but he deals with me. My other good friend, he isn’t having any of this white belt drilling business! The feeling is mutual though, no one likes to train with white belts and I hate drilling with the higher belts because… well, because I don’t like to look like a twat in front of everyone (Twat: that’s the queen’s English for stupid apparently)!

Ferry ride over to the island

Well I’ve finally found the solution to my drilling fears: experimenting with small children. For the last three months I’ve been going to the social project Arte e Libertade and choking out 12 year olds. Now that might sound messed up, but I don’t feel bad because:

  1.     .I just started being able to choke them out

  2.  I said I was choking out 12 year old because the 14 and 15 year olds are choking ME out (in my defense, they’re big 15 year olds)!

So my new form of drilling positions is choking out children.
Beside the readily available supply of children to choke, the project has had an amazing impact on my life and the life of the students that attend classes there.

This would be one of the kids that I am NOT choking out.

Insert spiel about social project:

I started going to the social project in late October after being invited by Perninha, a brown belt that trains at Gordo BJJ (he is the one that is teaching me all these chokes to use on children). I guess after watching me get smashed by all of the bigger people at the academy, he took pity on me and brought me to the island so I would have smaller training partners. The social project has two different children’s classes depending on age, a small Muay Thai class, and then adults Jiu Jitsu. Apart from Perninha the only other person working on at the project is Eduardo Dias, or Tico as we all call him. He is the one that founded the project and it is actually located in his grandmother’s house.

Eduardo Dias AKA Tico
Founder of Projeto Arte e Libertade

When I lived in Barra da Tijuca, the social project Arte e Libertade (art and freedom) wasn’t that far away. Now that I live in Ipanema getting to Gigoia island requires me to take a bus over a mountain, walk down to the Passerala of Barra, and then take a short ferry ride (honestly why there isn’t a bridge to the island is beyond me). When I originally moved to Ipanema, I thought it would be a pain in the ass to come back to Barra two days a week. It turns out, going to the project has been one of the most stable things in my life since I’ve been in Brasil and it’s totally worth the effort it takes to get there.

Perninha's son in competition

What do I mean by stable? Living in the Connection Rio house was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change for anything, but no matter how great it is, it’s still a hostel. That means that people are coming and going. You meet great friends that are here for a couple of weeks… some of them like Martin from Ireland you can convince to change their flights and stay with you longer, but sooner or later everyone you meet will go home to their respective countries halfway around the world. There are only four people who I’ve met in the Connection Rio house that are actually LIVING in Brasil. These people are the only other consistent thing in my life along with the social project.

Mateo leading the warm up

The project is also one of the only stable things in the lives of many of the children there. I realized this the other day when Perninha, for the first time EVER, arrived 15 minutes late. There were four kids there and complete chaos. Instead of acting like their normal sweet and disciplined selves, they were running around everywhere practicing some twisted mix of Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, and what should have been their warm up, while I sat and watched. It definitely occurred to me that I should make them do their normal warm ups, but trying to reign in the level of chaos that I was witnessing with my limited Portuguese was not an appealing idea. I mean, the word for warm up itself is hard to say (I have since been told that I need to learn to run the warm up).

At the mere sight of Perninha arriving (via Jet Ski I believe), they attempted to get in formation. Perninha is very strict. Some BJJ schools are less formal, Gordo BJJ is not one of them. Students line up at the beginning of class according to belt level in rows of three with the center student standing on the line that runs down the mats. Anyone that comes late forms at the end of the line regardless of their belt level. When entering the project, students are expected to bow onto the mats and greet the instructors and their peers in order of belt level. During class students are expected to pay attention and not have side conversations, that goes for the kids that come to watch class as well.

Perninha and his son Diego

In addition to following the rules of the gym, Tico and Perninha are always reinforcing the fact that they need to listen to their parents, wash and take care of their own uniforms, do well in school, and stay away from dangerous places or situations around Rio (i.e. a skate park by the beach where a lot of girls were being assaulted). In short, they are providing a lot of structure and values to children who aren’t always getting it at home (as well as teaching them cool ways to choke people).

The results have been amazing. The social project has one an amazing competition team and one of the largest amount of female fighters that I’ve ever seen at one gym. Not only do the kids go to competitions to support each other but their family members and other people from the community are also making a point to go out and support the team.

Girls @ competition showing off their nails that are painted
red and black for Gordo BJJ