Several years ago I stumbled across a Gracie Barra documentary on the internet that featured GB head instructor Marcio Feitosa while he was the head instructor at the original Gracie Barra in Barra de Tijuca, Brazil.
The cameraman followed Marcio around – not only in the academy, but to the praia (beach) and even on a hike up the famous Pedra Gavea rock – a landmark in Barra de Tijuca. There are numerous scenes of training in the academy, classes and an exhibition of technical jiu-jitsu in a roll between Master Carlos Gracie Jr. and Marcio.
I watched that documentary many times on cold Canadian winter days and I can tell you those images of the beaches, mountains and training jiu-jitsu in the natural beauty of Rio de Janeiro were very enticing!
The lifestyle of surf, beach and BJJ portrayed in the documentary inspired me to make my own pilgrimage to Rio to train Jiu-Jitsu at the source. My own head instructor had himself spent several years living in Brazil and training at the Gracie Barra Academy and his stories of the lifetsyle there fueled my dream to make the trip.
I decided at last to plan my own trip and experience the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle for myself. I have since taken two training trips to Rio and most recently spent two full months staying in Barra – within walking distance of the Gracie Barra Academy.
The training of course was excellent and I returned to my home academy with many new positions and technical details to share with the students. But the best part was the balance of the training with the activity and lifestyle outside of the academy.
I enjoyed some perfect days during my stay in Rio the perfect day in the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle goes something like this:
Wake up in the morning with tropical birds singing outside and the air already warm – no need for winter boots and a long drive through traffic to the academy. Slip on your Havainas, a pair of board shorts and your BJJ T-shirt and flip flop your way to the academy.
I preferred to train in the morning class before the heat of the afternoon sun. I learned how classes are structured within the weekly and monthly training plans to ensure all students are exposed to the technical knowledge in a curriculum designed to maximize learning.
Tired and happy after training, you and your training partners are ready to eat. A mixture of ‘gringos’ from all over the world and local Brazilians head over the ‘per kilo’ place where you can eat healthy foods like grilled chicken breasts, fresh raw vegetables, and the staple rice and beans. Healthy foods that fuel the BJJ practitioner and help you recover from your training session.
Along the main street are numerous ‘sucos’ stands where you can sit outside and get fresh fruit juices and the BJJ guy’s favourite food: açai. Perhaps my favourite memories of the trip are of talking about bjj and life with new friends over acai, laughing, practising my Portuguese vocabulary while watching the Brazilian girls walk by on their way to the beach.
If you want to train twice per day – the evening class provides a second session to get on the mat. The time in between allows you to enjoy the other aspects of life in Rio: go to the beach, do a little sightseeing at Sugarloaf or Cristo Redentor or share your adventures / boast to your friends back home on Facebook.
Near the end of my trip, one day after finishing up morning training, a familiar face came into the academy. Marcio Feitosa, visiting Rio (now living in California) himself came in and I got to meet the instructor I had been inspired by in that early documentary.
At the end of that pefect day of living the Jiu-Jitsu lifetsyle, you slip off to sleep that night tired and happy, knowing that you get to do it all over again the next day. As a Jiu-Jitsu guy it just doesn’t get any better than that!
If there is enough interest, I will write future articles on how you can plan your own training trip to Gracie Barra in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Credits: Mark Mullen
GB Black belt from GB Calgary, Canada