Saturday, October 15, 2011

Adventures in Sao Paulo, Part One

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When I found out my two favorite bands, Machine Head and Sepultura, were playing a show in Sampa while I was here, I had to buy a ticket. No way in hell could I miss this. When I found out that the Manifesto bar was throwing a Sepultura album party the night before, and that members of both bands would be there, there was no doubt I'd be there too. As a bonus, this was all taking place in the Vila Olimpia neighborhood of Sao Paulo, which is where Leo Vieira (multiple time ADCC, Mundials, Pan Am champion, et al) teaches jiu-jitsu. So, I booked a hotel room in the city, and thus began an incredible couple of days.

October 13, 2011

All told, between walking to the bus stop in my town, taking the (late) bus to the metro, taking the metro to the CPTM (train) to Vila Olimpia, and beating the pavement again, the first part of the trip took about two hours. And what was one of the first things I saw?

That's right. Hooters. Another shining example of American culture invading Brazil. I wonder if most Brazilians even know the significance of the business's name?

Located in the corner of a bigger, corporate gym, Leo Vieira's academy is about as nondescript as it could be. Had I not known exactly where I was going, I would have missed it. In fact, the first time, I strolled right by without realizing it. There are no logos, no building numbers, nothing. Very low key.

I still butcher Portuguese every time I try to speak it (even though everyone tells me I speak well for the short amount of time I've been here--they're just being nice, trust me), but I managed to work out a visitor's contract, find the changing room, and eventually the training area. Again, no Checkmat logos or anything of the sort. I wondered briefly if I was even in the right place. Maybe I had just signed up to train with some 12-year-old karate yellow belt?

I didn't wait long before someone else came in, a purple belt named Priscilla who took third place at the Mundials (Worlds--the most prestigious jiu-jitsu competition) this year, and second the year before. Guess I was in the right place after all.

Leo sauntered in next, about as chill and low key as his academy. I introduced myself as the guy who's been stalking him on Facebook, and we chatted a bit while more students--including a couple of guys from Sweden, a guy from Philly, and a bunch of super tough Brazilians--trickled in.

After a very short warm-up, maybe five minutes of easy stretching, we jumped right into technique. Without going into too much detail, we worked on fighting for butterfly hooks, and then a cool pushover sweep to side (or 100 kilo--take your pick) control. There was very little drilling from stasis; instead, we moved right into positional sparring based on the techniques we just learned. By the time we started rolling, I was already exhausted. Hadn't eaten since the turkey sandwich for breakfast, and my energy was seeping fast. Still, as I may have mentioned before, I try to never turn down a roll. So I didn't.

Supporting my argument on the differences between training in Brazil and training in the U.S., we spent most of the class sparring. Rounds lasted five minutes, and I think I rolled ten rounds. I can't remember clearly. It's all kind of cloudy now. All I really recall is that I've never tapped more in my life. Everyone there is so strong and so precise. These guys (and girls) obviously take their training very seriously.

Sometime during the class, Leo's brother Leandro wandered in, and I managed to get a picture with these two masters before my legs were no longer able to support my dead weight.

And after all that, I missed a sign on the walk back to my hotel and turned a ten-minute walk into twenty. By the time I finally made it to my room, I halfway passed out in the shower.

Thanks again to Leo and Leandro and all the others at Checkmat who welcomed me with open arms that day. I had planned on training there again on Friday, but it didn't happen. Stay tuned for the next installment of Adventures in Sao Paulo to find out why.

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