How many BJJ gyms in Rio have regular no-gi training? The answer is ‘not many’, although most gyms have one or two ‘sem-kimono‘ sessions a week on their timetables.
Most Rio-based teams with solid no-gi competitors are primarily MMA gyms. The majority of their training is done without the gi, although the no-gi sessions they do have are more MMA-orientated and will often include striking such as ground and pound.
There is also luta livre, which is a Brazilian submission wrestling style that bears a close resemblance to catch wrestling. Less widespread than BJJ, there are a number of gyms throughout Rio that offer this style of fighting and it complements BJJ well. Cross-training in both arts was once forbidden as they had a heated rivalry in the 80s and 90s, but things have changed a lot and now it’s fine to do this so long as you let everyone know.
The Brazilian summer, which runs from about November to March, is traditionally no-gi season and you will see more no-gi competitions on the calendar. But that doesn’t mean you’ll find more no-gi classes on the timetable – there will usually be extra sessions specifically for those who wish to concentrate on sharpening their no-gi technique ahead of tournaments, but these will be extra sessions arranged between training partners and coaches.
Gyms such as Brazilian Top Team (BTT) and Nova Uniao both have strong no-gi games thanks to their excellent jiu-jitsu pedigrees, their MMA focus and their links with noted luta livre practitioners.
Luta livre master Roberto Leitao can often be found on the mats at Nova Uniao showing techniques, while LL black belt and UFC fighter Milton Vieira is one of the members of the pro team at BTT.
For someone looking to try a gym with a 100% focus on no-gi, there is also the highly-regarded Renovacao Fight Team (RFT) academy in Botafogo, which also has a strong team of MMA fighters including Bellator veterans.
Of course, Nogueira Training Center and X-Gym in Recreio both have amazing no-gi with multiple world champions in both MMA, no-gi and BJJ, but again their focus is very much on MMA. Both gyms have BJJ classes, but these are in the kimono like everywhere else.
The focus in Rio is very much on training in the gi. If you want to do no-gi, you’ll find it difficult without getting on the mat with MMA fighters. Old attitudes persist, and you will usually be expected to roll in the gi before being allowed to train in the no-gi or MMA sessions.
MORE ABOUT LUTA LIVRE:
For a look at luta livre and to learn a little about how it is different in philosophy and approach to BJJ, check out this video from BJJ Hacks about UFC fighter Milton Vieira of Brazilian Top Team.
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