There are many reasons why people waste their time in Rio. Of course, the city has many distractions that can keep you off the mat should you let your attention wander, but there are some common mistakes many people make when training BJJ in Brazil.
Here is a list of five of the most commonly seen mistakes people make when they’re here to train BJJ in Rio.
1: Expecting it to be amazingly different
Alright, let’s just put this one to bed right now. No, you will not be taught mind-boggling secret techniques the Brazilians have been keeping to themselves for decades. You won’t encounter revolutionary training methodologies that make your own efforts seem half-hearted in comparison.
In fact, what you will find is actually very, very similar to what you already know back home: a big group of people rolling around on a mat trying to choke each other out.
If you’re expecting something magical, then the truth is that you’re in for a disappointment. The way the Brazilians teach has been rolled out as the standard practice in gym across the world, so classes follow almost exactly the same format: warm up, technique, drilling, sparring.
What you will find is many grapplers with years of experience, more black belts on one mat than are in some cities elsewhere, and a depth of knowledge unlike anywhere else in the world.
2: Writing off the techniques as ‘boring’
When people arrive to train jiu-jitsu in Rio they expect to be exposed to techniques they’ve never seen before. Everyone secretly hopes to see some techniques that have until now been guarded from the eyes of curious gringos, but again, the reality is very different.
Almost without exception, the techniques that are taught in BJJ gyms in Rio are almost always fundamental moves and positions. You won’t see the teachers demonstrating a flying reverse berimbolo or an upside-down X-guard back take, but instead you will be taught core positions and submissions that work for everyone, regardless of skill level, size or age. After all, this is the BJJ that works.
That’s not to say you won’t see guys in the gym busting out slick moves in sparring, but these are techniques they’ll have picked up and developed by themselves or with a small group of like-minded training partners.
Regardless of your level, suck up your ego and treat this as a back-to-basics exercise. You may think you’ve seen that mount escape before, but look closely and you’ll probably find subtle details of pressure and movement that could completely change your game. More than once we’ve been blown away by minutiae that we’ve never seen before. Keep an open mind at all times.
3: Not knowing when to back off
When you first arrive to train jiu-jitsu in Rio you’ll be pumped up, full of enthusiasm and raring to go. “Training twice a day? Why not three times a day?” is a common battle-cry of those fresh off the plane, and is by far the most common cause of scuppering training plans of eager grapplers.
If you normally train a few times a week back home, or even as much as once a day, upping the volume of your training by over 200% in the space of a week isn’t exactly a recipe for success.
Let’s say you normally do five 90-minute classes a week. That’s seven and a half hours of training. If you suddenly jump to doing two sessions a day Mon to Fri, with another session on a Saturday morning, then you’ll have spent 16 and a half hours on the mat.
How long can your body hold out under such an increased demand? Barring injuries or illness, the average is about two to three weeks. We’ve seen this happen again and again. Guys come out here and charge into their new training schedule, only to end up destroyed when their body crumbles under the pressure.
Pace yourself, don’t be afraid to take a day off if necessary and above all listen to your body. What’s worse than coming to Brazil and not making the most of your training? Coming to Brazil and being unable to train at all. Listen to people who learned this lesson the hard way.
4: Trying to take home trophy taps
You’ve been paired up with an older black belt who’s tired after a few rounds of sparring. Though you’re only a blue belt, your youth and athleticism mean you’ve got him on the run. You go after him, hell for leather, trying your hardest to get that tap – because if you do, that means you’re one step closer to black belt, right? Wrong!
The only thing this will get you is a subsequent beatdown from the rest of the black belts. Be warned, they notice everything, and if you’re going after higher grades in an effort to show off or prove something, they’ll be more than happy to put you in your place.
Be respectful when you roll and remember that to tap is training is no big deal – it’s not a competition and it’s all a learning experience. And just because you caught a higher grade on an off day doesn’t mean the same thing can’t happen to you. Forget trying to take home trophies.
5: Not drilling by yourself
One thing you will find in Rio jiu-jitsu gyms is that not much time is given to the drilling of techniques. You’ll be given time to try the move out with a partner but few gyms run rounds of specific drilling, leaving you little time to get in quality reps against a resisting partner.
That’s why getting to class early or staying late is so important. Instead of just going straight home after rolling, stay for a few rounds and put in some work on specific positions. The effort will be likely noticed by others in the gym and they’ll usually be happy to offer advice or feedback, which can go a long way to plugging those holes in your game.
Taking responsibility for your own training is important in a laid-back culture like the one you’ll find in Rio de Janeiro. The teachers and coaches will never force you to put in any extra work than necessary, but they will always reward those who display a genuine desire to improve by giving you important advice.
Make the most of your time training jiu-jitsu in Rio and you’ll be amazed at what you can get back out of it.
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