Saturday, February 21, 2015

UFC Porto Alegre Fight Camp

Priscila Souza, Jessica Andrade (UFC), Mariana Morais (Invicta FC),
Me, and Jady Menezes @ Nobre Arte in the Cantagalo Favela

The first time I met Jessica Andrade, per usual, I had no idea who she was. In fact, I thought she was a guy. She walked into Nobre Arte sporting long board shorts, a loose T-shirt and a Torque snapback that hid her long hair. When she pulled off her hat and I realized I was looking at (a short) female, I had to laugh to myself. I get a lot of comments when my dress strays from the average skin tight Brazilian work out apparel... most of said comments are directed not towards my style, but my sexuality. Its refreshingly American to see a girl in baggy clothes.

Exhibit A: Girls don't dress like this in Brazil
Reppin' V for Vitafor my new supplement sponsor.

That day I was so exhausted from sparring that I couldn't even stay for the class. Rubens, my trainer made some kind of comment about who she was as he walking over towards me smiling down at a picture he just took with her, but I brushed it off. All I could think about was my protein and BCAA waiting for me at home.

It wasn't until I got home and got some chicken and sweet potatos in me (fighters in Brazil only ever eat chicken and sweet potatoes) that I had the energy to google the giberish that Rubens had been calling this baggy pants wearing girl.

"Batty taca" or something.

...Or, ya know, UFC's 10th ranked Bantam weight, "Bate Estaca" thats Portuguese for "Pile Driver". Real name being Jessica Andrade. I knew exactly who she was once I saw the real name. She made headlines in 2013 for facing off against Liz Carmouche in one of the first UFC bouts with two openly gay fighters.

As a general rule, especially after Junior Dos Santo's  wife got mad at me,  I try not to take pictures with any of the UFC fighters that I run across. I'd prefer to be in the UFC with them as opposed to just posing in an Instagram picture next to them, so my focus is always more on watching their training habits rather than hounding them for photos.

But whatever... most of my friends don't realize running into UFC fighters in Brazil is like getting mosquito bites; its inevitable and sometimes really annoying (because they have cameras and you didn't do you makeup).

So, the second time I saw her, I took a picture for Instagram.

It wasn't until the 3rd time that she showed up to Nobre Arte for a sparring session that I became interested enough to climb out of my shell and talk to her little posse. Jessica trains in Curitiba at Parana Vale Todo (PRVT) under Guilliard Parana. She was in Rio as part of her all female training camp in preparation for UFC Porto Alegre on February 22nd where she will be facing off with Marion Reneau. She came to Rio with 5-6 girls from other events like Invicta FC in the US and XFC here in Brazil to do the boxing portion of her camp with Master Claudio.

The sparring session started and Jessica was one of the first in the ring (There is only one ring and two people fighting at all times. All sparring happens under the watchful eye of of Claudio). One by one the girls that came with her went into the ring. Behind them went the guys. Even people that came in late went in, while I stood there in my headgear trying to stay warm and un agitated by the long wait. I wanted to get in the ring, but I've been conditioned in Jiu Jitsu to never ask a higher belt to train. Similarly, if Claudio was going to have standing there waiting forever, then I was going to wait patiently and try to pick apart every mistake that everyone made as they entered one by one like I had been instructed to do by Rubens.

Interestingly enough I noticed that in 45 minutes of sparring Andrade didn't through a single straight punch (jab or straight right). This intrigued me because like I said before she's pretty short and I was interested to see how she would close the distance between herself and a much larger opponent. Closing the distance in a fight is hard for me, especially with some of the taller guys that Master Claudio matched me up with.

Well, apparently, I have been over thinking the whole issue because she just lowers her head, keeps her eyes up, and goes in swinging to the body like a lunatic.

Jessica Andrade

Ridiculously effective! 
I know because I tried it when I finally got to go in against one of Jessica's fellow 135 pounders. She had a hard right hand but I was definitely able to use the Andrade whirlwind technique to close distance. Picking up on that little gem made meeting her totally worth the while.

And to think. I was going to skip training that day and lounge around in my bed...

The last round in sparring. All out for 30 seconds.

I've been spending a ridiculous amount of time at Nobre Arte
BCAA's thanks to Vitafor Supplements

Philadelphia founded...
Universally loved...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Bloodbaths and Social Projects

My first week back at the social project after the Christmas/ New years festivities ended with a 9 year old breaking down the logistics of blood baths for me.

"There's a dead body and then, when they take it away, it leaves a ton a blood."

If I found the information unsettling, I can only blame myself. I had, after all, I had taken it upon myself to question the kid about the recent shooting that happened in my neighborhood.

He had come back after training to retrieve his forgotten house keys and I ran into him as I was leaving the project to head to the beach before bed. He was wearing shorts and some worn flip flops that were a little big on him. He choose to leave his shirt home that day but he was rocking a cell phone clipped to his thigh that made his pants sag down. He was only 9, but his attire and his attitude made him appear much older. He walked around Ipanema as if he owned it, twirling his key between his fingers and greeting people that worked on the streets as he walked by.

"So, have you ever seen one before?", I inquired.
This prompted a small explanation about how to climb over and/or skirt a blood bath. Keeping in mind that the narrow and uneven streets of the favela provide prime conditions for the pooling of water and/or blood. Given enough rain, some streets can turn into small rivers... or waterfalls. I have friends that live in places that have been deemed unsafe due to the potential for dangerous exposure to water or falling debris.

Police shootings and bloodbaths are things of movies to me, so it was somewhat disturbing to have a little kid talk about them as if he was telling me about doing his homework. We stumbled across the topic of bloodbaths because there was a shooting at the beginning of the week in our neighborhood. I heard a lot of rumors concerning the shooting death of  a cop, a dealer, and/or some kids.

So in order to clear up some doubts and kill some time while we were walking I decided to ask the little kid... cause I mean, kids and drunks always tell the truth...

it's just generally hard to understand...

This is the bonde car that takes residents higher up into the favela
The last station, station 6, is a place known as Vietnam

From what I gathered, a dealer, known as Playboy, was buying snacks by the Bonde Station (this is a cable car that goes up into the higher regions of the Pavao). The news said the dealer started shooting and that two people were hospitalized in the crossfire. My little friend refuted this, however, saying the cop shot first because of the law. His comment about the law was very interesting because I believe he was referring to the favela law and something pertaining to the rules of shooting at cops. I assume this rule would be something along the lines of not killing cops as to avoid war... or re-pacification... or basically BOPE coming in here and killing everything that goes bump in the night. Kids are good a regurgitating hard facts, but getting them to elaborate on detailed concepts like favela law is pushing it. So I ended my line of questioning and he switched the topic back to jiu jitsu.

I was correct, however, in assuming that he would know what was up. No matter who shot first the results remain the same: the dealer, Playboy, and two kids were killed in the shooting. The cop was not killed, although he may have been injured.

Although Cantagalo is a pacified favela, incidents like this one are not uncommon. There is a serious lack of infrastructure inside of the favela's to keep kids occupied and off the streets. They don't have playgrounds here and their soccer courts are concrete squares littered with trash and shit from stray animals. The educational system is a joke in this country so kids have a ridiculous amount of time to roam the streets. Thats were social projects come into play...

This would be me getting searched by the police 
with all of the kids from the social project behind me. 
I was PISSED!!! 

Cantagalo is actually replete with social projects. In addition to Terere’s project (that is actually at the bottom of the favela in Ipanema), there is a checkmat gym and another unaffiliated Jiu jitsu gym on the hill. They also have a huge building called Crianca esperanca that houses several social programs including the Nobre Arte boxing gym. 

The main social project I have been working with, Terere Kids Project, has grown substantially in the last year. Every month we receive donations via PayPal that I use to pay for kids competition fees. Competitions here can be kind of pricey! More importantly, we have been getting access to more kimonos! A kimono is key to training Brazilian jiu jitsu, however, they do tend to be quite expensive! With help from a friend I Ain't No Saint we have been able to get more gis!

Lets stop here and comment that this is the man’s legal name. Iaint Nosaint. The “T” is silent giving the Iaint a pronunciation similar to that of the name “Ian”.  I was particularly excited to meet this individual because silent letters are a pet peeve of mine! Kat Williams once asked, “When, I mean seriously, WHEN will you ever use a silent letter in your personal life”.

Rio 2014 would be the answer to the question!

So yeah getting back to the point. I Ain’t No Saint may not be saintly but he is a philanthropist and has donated quite a substantial amount of money to the kids of Cantagalo favela. Not only to ensure that our little ones look fresh in their new Cascagrossa Kimonos, he also dishes out skrilla on a monthly basis to keep Moicano, one of our sponsored athletes, killing people on the mats with his damn berimbolo.

Kimonos sent from to the project via USA

We were recently able to acquire 20 kids kimonos from Cascagrossa to give out to little ones that want to start training or just try out a class. So now, when I walk through the streets, everyone is always asking me about training jiu jitsu or how to get kimonos. In addition to the kids kimonos, the project relies heavily on used kimonos donations for the bigger kids as well. Guests from Connection Rio hostel in Barra da Tijuca have been very helpful in supplying A1 kimonos for the older kids. 

People often ask me why I don't move closer to Nova Uniao. Cantagalo is not the nicest favela in Rio but it is home, and I don’t want to leave my kids. Its nice to know that you have an impact on the community that you live in (no matter how small that impact may be). Galo may have its negative aspects; it’s not the cleanest favela for example. Well, actually, it’s more like the dirtiest favela I’ve seen, with the most openly blatant trafficking. It is, however, not too violent compared to other places like Rocinha or Complexo Alemao and the people here are incredibly nice. Despite having to hop over shit and around dealers, I feel at home here, and I don’t want to lose that. 

So Bloodbaths or not. Galo is home.

Favela Jiu Jitsu
The new Terere DVD set is coming out soon! You can preorder on the Budo Videos website. Definitely worth the money especially since I did all of the translating!!!!

Check out the preview for another look at the Cantagalo favela