One of the most traditional BJJ gyms in Rio de Janeiro, Gracie Tijuca is affiliated with Gracie Humaita and has produced some of the greatest grapplers in recent times, including legendary competitor Xande Ribeiro, pioneering female champion Leticia Ribeiro, and UFC star Vinny Magalhaes.
Gracie Tijuca boasts one of the largest mats in Rio,and they maintain a proud pedigree and still produce many active competitors. Though they have an excellent competition record they still make sure to promote the art of jiu-jitsu, making it accessible for hobbyists to train jiu-jitsu too. The gym is directed by 4th degree black belt Vinny Aieta, a close friend and long-time student of Royler Gracie.
Though located some distance away from the popular visitors’ hotspots on Zona Sul or Barra, Gracie Tijuca is easily accessible by public transport for anyone based in Copacabana or surrounding areas. Commuting time to the academy is around 30-45 minutes from Copacabana on the Metro, depending on the time of travel.
A Typical Class
The training at Gracie Tijuca is well-structured with an emphasis on both the sporting and self-defence application of jiu-jitsu. Beginners (iniciantes) classes focus on fundamental positions but also the traditional Gracie method of self-defence, such as bear-hug and headlock counters. For the more experienced practitioners, there is the open class (graduados). Here blue belts and above learn various positional techniques and roll. Beginners are welcome in these sessions but only after engaging in the ‘iniciantes’ program until considered ready.
Techniques are taught to the class in the traditional manner before the group is split into pairs to practice. Instructors roam the room correcting mistakes and offering feedback. Beginners classes focus more on technical instruction and practice than drilling or rolling. Open classes will feature a few techniques taught before rolling.
The huge mat allows for free, unimpeded rolling. Even when the class is busy, there is plenty of space. Rounds of sparring last 6-7 minutes, though sometimes more. The rolling is competitive, yet technical and often relaxed. Intensity varies depending on the proximity to a competition. Partners are usually left to pick who they wish to roll with rather than being paired up.
Along with their parent academy Gracie Humaita, Gracie Tijuca is a BJJ gym with a focus on the traditional side of jiu-jitsu yet not at the expense of competition effectiveness. The sheer number of active competitors, plus the excellent tournament results, prove that Gracie Tijuca is a a gym that offers something for all jiu-jitsu practitioners.
Though maybe off the beaten path for some visitors, it has a number of attractive qualities. The huge tatame is rare, with only a handful of BJJ gyms in Rio boasting such mat space. The added bonus of training with such high-ranking professors and a powerful competition team marks Gracie Tijuca as a place one may wish to spend time at before a competition. And because Gracie Tijuca is not located in the expensive (by comparison) South Zone of Rio, the price for training is among the lowest in the city.
Academy Fact File:
Head instructor: Vinny Aieta
Price: R$170 / month (updated June 2015)
Facilities: The dojo itself is a large matted area with nothing else, but there is also a weights gym next to the mat.
Av number of people per class: 35-45 people
Av number of BB’s at training: Anywhere from 5 to 15
Speak English: Yes
Location: Tijuca, Zona Norte
Suggested transport: The nearby Metro (subway) station Afonso Pena, which is also served by buses, is an easy 400m walk from the gym.
MMA / no-gi: No
Other martial arts: No
Years open: 20+
Titles / champions / championships: IBJJF Brazilian team titles, numerous individual IBJJF titles.
Notable students: Alexandre Ribeiro, Vinícius “Pezão” Magalhães, Letícia Ribeiro, Fabrício Morango, Jorge Britto, and many more.
Gracie Tijuca, Clube AABB
Rua Hadock Lobo 227, 4th floor
Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, RJ
The gym is only a few minutes walk from the nearby subway station of Afonso Pena. The neighbourhood is not considered dangerous but care should be taken in and around the station and any surrounding dark streets, which can often be quiet except for traffic.
The gym is on the top floor of a large gray building, easily identifiable from the street by the large sign outside. Rua Haddock Lobo is a busy 4-lane thoroughfare with heavy traffic, so be careful and make sure to use a crossing if coming from the nearby subway.
Leticia Ribeiro training BJJ at Gracie Tijuca video by Hywel Teague for BJJ Hacks