The FightZone gym in Copacabana is home to one of the most powerful competition teams in the world, the all-conquering Checkmat.
Checkmat is one of the most prolific teams on the competition scene right now, thanks to their massive association of worldwide affiliates and elite level black belts. As a result, their Rio-based academy is high on the list of places many visitors wish to train at. Located right in the heart of the south zone of Rio de Janeiro, the area most popular with tourists, it is close to many hotels and hostels and the attractions of the city are never far away.
Formed in 2008 by brothers Leo and Rico Vieira, both multiple time world champions, the Checkmat team grew rapidly and expanded across the world, yet they retain a strong presence in Brazil. Leozinho lives and teaches in Sao Paulo, while Ricardinho remains in Rio not far from where the two brothers grew up. They both travel extensively, teaching and going to tournaments, but Rico can almost always be found on the familiar red mats of FightZone.
The gym is set at the back of a nondescript building sandwiched between a shoe store and a mini-market. The green gates and tiny faded sign give little indication of the jiu-jitsu powerhouse within. Walk up 2 or 3 steps and to the end of the long corridor to find the front door of the gym.
You will always find many visitors from around the world training at Checkmat. It’s not unusual to see people from the US, the UK, Canada, European countries and even Japan. There is a open-door policy to people from other gyms. Ricardo leads almost all of the classes himself. The techniques are taught in both Portuguese and English.
The warm-ups are your usual mix of running, breakfalls and bodyweight exercises. There is a strong conceptual bias to the tuition, and plenty of rounds of positional sparring. C Classes last for 2 hours.
‘King of the mat’ drills are popular and used frequently. There is rolling every class, yet Wednesday is known as ‘sparring day’, as Rico will match the partners (instead of just grabbing someone to roll with, as happens on the other days).
The attitude at Checkmat is casual yet the training is spirited and the sparring is competitive. Rico is a strong leader yet can often be found on the mats rolling, or joking around with the guys.
Probably one of the top 3 most competitive BJJ gyms in Rio de Janeiro Checkmat is full of young guys eager to become tournament winners, but it is also suitable for those who don’t wish to compete. The training is innovative and you’ll see positions and techniques popular on today’s competition scene. There is a strong camaraderie in the gym and this bond explains much of the team’s success.
Academy Fact File:
Head instructor: Ricardo Vieira, supported by Sandro Vieira (no relation).
Price: 1 class = R$350 / month (updated May 2015)
Matspace: Approx 100sqm
Facilities: Matted floors and walls, shower and changing rooms for both sexes.
Average number of BB’s at training: Between 5-8, 30 blacks belts training there regularly (not all at the same time)
Av number of people per class: 20-30
Speak English?: Just enough.
Location: Copacabana, 2 blocks from the beach, less than 5 min walk from Ipanema.
Suggested transport: Multiple bus stops within one block.
MMA / no-gi: No-gi.
Years open: 10.
Titles / champions / championships:
1st Place Europeans Adult (2009);
1st Place Europeans Female (2011);
1st Place No-Gi World Champions (2008, 2009, 2011);
1st Place Europeans Master & Senior (2010, 2011);
2nd Place World Championship (2011)
3rd Place World Championship (2010, 2009)
Notable students: Based at Checkmat Rio, Yuri Simoes, Marina Ribeiro.
36 Rua Francisco Sa
Rio de Janeiro
Well positioned in the southern end of Copacabana on Rua Francisco Sa, Checkmat is two blocks from Copacabana beach near the historic Posto 6. Only 5 minutes walk away in Ipanema is the subway station General Osorio, which has major bus links to Barra da Tijuca and subway to the rest of the South Zone. The location is difficult to spot first time due to the lack of an external sign.