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