I’ve been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for six years. I never would have gotten involved in this sport if it weren’t for a friend opening up an academy and encouraging me to try it out. Although I outweighed him by fifty pounds, he beat me to a pulp, and then showed me how he did it. I love this sport. I love that it is both a physical and mental challenge, that the old and the weak can beat the young and strong with superior technique. I love the clash of different styles, setting traps that people fall into, switching gears fast, the weightless feeling the other guy has when a sweep is executed perfectly, the feeling of wrist-burn when I am attempting , to strangle choke someone until they tap or pass out. I love cheap moves - wrist-locking white belts, hand on the throat, knee to the groin, choking someone’s chin. I love the Brazilian refs who cheat for other Brazilians. I love that when Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was being tested in its infancy 80 years ago, the Jiu Jitsu guys took all comers, and broke the arms of the karate guys who challenged them. I love the unspoken pecking order, the top dog forced to submit to both his opponent and his pride when he loses. I love having functional, rather than vanity muscles. I love the aggressive tattoos and the don’t mess with me attitudes. I love watching people at the very top taking the game in directions that are simply beyond my intellectual grasp. I want kids so I can teach them. I want to do this for the rest of my life. I hope I’m training into my 90’s like Helio Gracie, the founder of the sport, yelling at people 70 years younger that their technique is poor, going to my grave with my gi drying in the closet.
Since receiving my purple belt a year ago, I’ve been training hard until I felt like a purple belt, and then parlayed that into preparing for this Jiu Jitsu pilgrimage. Other than for a couple of bruised ribs, I feel strong, to which I can thank my teammates, Bene my arch nemesis, and instructors. I’m a firm believer in mat time making the difference. There are no short cuts to the spar session laboratory. This trip to Brasil will not transform my game, but it will be a great opportunity to expose myself to different styles. And when am I going to be in Rio again? Rumor has it there are fantastic beaches, great surf, friendly natives, exotic beverages, and a gigantic statue of Jesus overlooking the city.
I’ve got a few great guys as my traveling companions. Spider Guard has a mind for the sport that I am insanely jealous of – he can pick things up fast, and is a born teacher with an eye for technique. Grover style is pure aggression, and when he smells any sort of opening, will seize it like a pitbull. “Chimmy,” who will join us half way through the trip, flails his limbs like the Tasmanian devil, his legs as coordinated and flexible as his arms, a tornado of speed.
My expectations are that we will train, surf, drink caipirinhas, visit the tourists sights, and have fun in what the natives call, the “marvelous city.” I feel extremely lucky to have this opportunity, to be able to take off two weeks of work in a terrible economy, and to have an amazing spouse who encouraged me to go.
Now, a couple of hour into my first, of two hops to Rio, it’s just a matter of getting there. See you in Rio!