Maverick Traveler

Location Independence, Geo Arbitrage, Individual Freedom

Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Brazil

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about the perfect travel strategy.  The idea is doing something fulfilling and rewarding while living abroad for an extended time.

The strategy is two-fold: one, nurture a skill you can apply in life, and two, create a balanced routine which is important for staying sane when living alone in a new place without a social circle.

When I was living in Rio, I applied this strategy by training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu almost every day.

De La Riva Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The Gentle Art

The Gentle Art

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art that emphasizes ground game, and uses joint locks and chokes to subdue an opponent.   It focuses on the use of leverage so that (in theory) a smaller opponent can subdue a larger opponent.  It was actually developed hundreds of years ago in Japan for samurais to use in combat, but in late 19th century a Japanese master brought it to Brazil, and Brazilians took it and refined it further.

While you may be already familiar with Judo, an Olympic sport that showcases some beautiful throws, keep in mind that Judo and Jiu Jitsu are not the same thing.  Judo is actually derived from Jiu Jitsu.  The main difference is that Judo focuses on stand up (throws), while in Jiu Jitsu, ground game is more important.

There are five belts in BJJ: white, blue, purple, brown, and black.  With regular training, taking various factors into account, it takes about 7-10 years to achieve the coveted black belt.  I’ve been training for about two years, and recently received my blue belt.

De La Riva Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The Legend Himself

Rio Training

Brazil, being the home and mecca of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an amazing place to train.  You can train pretty much anywhere in Brazil, from Florianopolis in the south to Belem in the north, but Rio is unique because of a dense concentration of world-class academies and a great beach climate to reinforce your motivation, unlike for instance Sao Paulo which is chillier and greyer.

There are many schools in Rio with various styles of BJJ.  Some give more preference to having good technique as opposed to brute strength.  Some strive to produce top competition teams; others are more relaxed.

On my first month in Rio, I checked out a couple of schools, ultimately settling on the Ricardo De La Riva academy in Rio’s Copacabana neighborhood.  De La Riva is a living legend in the sport, known all around the world, with franchise schools all over the world, and even several competitions bearing his name.  His style is more technical than other schools and the environment is relaxing and ego-free; both factors which were important when choosing a school.

She Would Kick Your Ass

She Would Kick Your Ass


The best thing about training BJJ in Rio is that there’s always tons of higher belts who are happy to assist and answer any of your questions.  Typical classes were about 20-25 people, and sometimes half of them were black belts.  You simply would not be exposed to such high talent in either US or Europe, where most students are beginners or intermediate.  I also felt everyone was friendlier and more encouraging in Brazil.

BJJ is an awesome physical workout.  During training you’re utilizing most of your body’s muscles, and even some that you didn’t know you had (the soreness will remind you the following day).  It’s also a great workout for your brain because, just like in chess, you and your opponent make constant moves, and if someone makes a mistake, the other can capitalize and submit the opponent.

Of course, when you’re not training you’re socializing.  I’ve met some great people across all kinds of backgrounds: from the rich kids living in huge mansions in Rio’s South Zone all the way to poor kids living in various favelas (slums) scattered across Rio, and everyone in between.  It was the perfect immersion into the culture and a great way to promote friendships.  Many people did not speak English so my Portuguese [link] quickly improved.  I had a couple of good friends in the class who would always correct my Portuguese and teach me new slang so that every time I went back home, my roommates (foreigners) always asked me if I learned any new interesting words.

All in all I believe having such a solid hobby on the side helped me a have a balanced life while living abroad for well over a year.  So regardless if you’ve never been on a mat, or regularly compete, definitely look into doing this on your next trip to Brazil.  You cannot get a more authentic experience, while learning one of the most fulfilling and rewarding martial arts in the world.

The Team

The Team

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    • 35th ARMY Airborne…..

      retired and serene……

      I found myself today…….

      I needed to stretch and work my muscles…

      Then…. I just had to dunk from the foul line…..

      Self control is the greatest skill a man define.

      I am less defined.

      It’s just who I need to be today……

      You are NOT as good at basketball as I am….

      I am a Christian.

      We only had to dig for the people who didn’t have Ebola in Somalia..

      So keep practicing.

      I can only be the man who knows winning isn’t everything.

      Michael Jordan

  1. Interesting, I’ve recently started training BJJ myself in London. Had my first sparring session last week and I know what you mean about soreness in muscles you didn’t know you had!

  2. how much did your training cost? what about rent? I’m interested in making this dream a reality within the next 14 months.

  3. Hi there, 

    Can you please give me the address, as I would like to check it out.  I am in rio now. 

  4. Can you please list a few different schools to train at while in Brazil…I will taking my 16 year old son to train there in June 2012. Addresses as well please.
    -Thank you


    • hello.

      Like you, I would also like my son to experience schools in Brazil.  could you share your information.


  5. Judo comes from Jiu Jitsu, an ancient Japanese fighting art as you say. Jigoro Kano took the Jiu Jitsu techniques that could be safely practiced without killing or maiming students, and created Judo.  His students then challenged traditional Jiu Jitsu practicioners in 15 fights, winning 13 and drawing 2, establishing Judo as the superior fighting art in Japan at that time. Judo was taken to Brazil in about 1920 by the amazing fighter Mitsuyo Maeda, who had studied under the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano.  At that time Judo was often referred to as Jiu Jitsu.  One of Maeda’s students was a man called Carlos Gracie, who after studying for a few years opened his own academy.  This is how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu came into being.  It is not the tradional Jiu Jitsu, it is in fact a derivative of Judo that focusses more on ground work whereas Judo focusses on ground work and very devastating throws.  In other words, Judo came from Jiu Jitsu, but NOT from BJJ.

  6. hey friend!
    i am planning to go to brazil to train bjj after i train for a muay thai fight in thailand! i was wondering if you could send me some good gyms and the prices! please! i would like a gym that would maybe serve food and maybe let me do work for them in exchange for classes. i didnt realize brazil was so expensive so i will have to be cheap while im out there. thank you so much!,
    [email protected]:disqus .com

  7. Hey
    I’m going to train in Brazil as well, I was wondering whether you know if Master Dela Riva personally teaches classes and which ones?

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  10. As a beginner I can say that for example my coaches and the other members have created a great learning environment. I think that’s very important for beginners to feel. Everybody is friendly and supportive and eager to further your understanding of jiu-Jitsu. The atmosphere is easygoing and everybody looks out for one another to avoid injuries. I have an excellent teacher, his instruction is very clear and he is able to breakdown complex moves in a manner all can understand and follow. He is rather young but already experienced purple belt. Due to the support of Club’s sponsor Biotexcom, he is able to compete at every major championship. He has definitely succeeded in creating a safe, collaborative, and enjoyable learning environment for beginners, all colored belts, and ladies too! I felt I was making amazing progress from day one. It is also an awesome workout!

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