Boxing in Favela Rocinha, Hard Rolling at Nova Uniao—-Living the Dream

 The cool “winter” weather of Rio is gone and the sun has been out all week without a cloud in the sky. In our down time here at CR everyone has been out working on their tan at the beach or poolside here at the house. The warm weather at night has been perfect for grilling food out on the barbeque and enjoying a meal under the stars. Just because it was beautiful out doesn’t mean we didn’t spend plenty of time in the gym. The house is currently filled with dedicated athletes and competitors….so dedicated that a couple of guys chose to integrate low single leg attacks to their dance moves at a club here in Barra—that was impressive.


This week I went into Escola da Boxe Jorge Oliviera in Rocinha to train both muay thai and boxing. For those who don’t know, Rocinha is a large favela located near Sao Conrado. Jorge Oliviera, one of my boxing coaches, runs the school teaching all levels of fighters. The gym is located in the Complexo Esportivo, which is a government funded sports complex. The complex has free training in everything from judo to surfing for members of the Rocinha community. The boxing training area is located on the lower floor, and is a no frills training area (just the way I like it). Mirrors line the walls, multiple heavy bags hang, and in the middle of the training facility is the boxing ring. We warmed up with some light muay thai shadow boxing and worked into light technical sparring; one guy moving in for attacks and the other countering and moving. After a couple of rounds one of my boxing coaches Jean had us throw on some headgear and spar a few rounds of boxing. It was my first time sparring since hurting my ankle, but I felt great. My movement and defense felt good. I am working more slips to counters, but I really need to focus on letting my hands go. I was throwing my punches one or two at a time, and not mixing it up like I should. As other guys finished their sparring I did some hard bag work drills and hit mitts. We finished the training of with some technical muay thai work, because I don’t have any fights lined up we focused on more traditional MT (instead of MT for mma) and we spent a lot of time working kick defense and counters plus short elbow work.


On Friday afternoon I headed into Nova Uniao for bjj training. At the 4p.m. session we covered two sweeps from half guard. Rolling went good, but I have a bad habit of stopping in certain positions. I will flow and battle then get into a position and stop for a few moments and then start again. The problem is, against good grapplers it allows them to catch up and start improving their positions. It allows them to change from reacting to acting offensively. One of the black belts and I had an intense roll filled with a ton of scrambles. At one point while he was in open guard I managed to quickly hit a standing pass, as he scrambled I took his back and cranked a power half over and was threatening with a choke. He found a gap in my technique and eventually scrambled out, as he did the intensity elevated. He came at me with an aggressive flurry of attacks, fighting hard for chokes (and getting a couple). I used my wrestling in the scrambles trying to cut angles working to get my offense going again. While some may view his aggression and hard attacks as a negative, for me it was a compliment. I put him in a position where he felt like he had to go hard and attack hard. I enjoy the hard rolling and battling. To me it acts like a test of ones gameness; battling to overcome tough situations and adversity. After class we talked for a bit and he was a nice guy and I look forward to rolling with him more. After class Dennis offered some good pointers on technique and theories.


I grabbed an acai and espresso and headed back to NU, threw on a dry kimono and trained in the night class. We covered a nice choke and far side armbar from knee on belly. I felt good rolling, I focused on continual movement and opening up to go for submissions. One position I actively worked from was turtle instead of just blocking and defending I took more of a wrestling thought process and got hand control and worked sit-outs, hip-heists, and other wrestling techniques. While rolling with a good purple belt I hit a sit-out to a high turn in. Instead of finishing the entire technique I tried to transition to the kimura. I gave too much space and didn’t secure the position first which allowed him to hip over and take side control. It’s a work in process, but there is a lot more room to add in more of my wrestling for bjj. During that roll the guy sunk in a deep bow and arrow choke, I was just able to get my hands in to protect my neck, but it was tight. He kept adjusting and trying to get the finish, a couple times I would see a bit of black creeping in, but I was able to adjustment to survive and eventually escape as he transitioned to another attack. He looked at me and said in broken English, “strong neck” and we got back to grappling. In the roll I was able to work a nice armbar from the back. As I was cranking it and he was fighting it, he tried to roll through but I adjusted and got it in deeper; he didn’t tap but the instructor gave a warning for safety and I let it go. It had to be deep and there was no point in risking injury. After I caught the bus back into Barra, thinking about training and admiring the scenery I couldn’t help but think of how fortunate I am to be here in Rio. I really do love this place and it’s feeling more and more like home.

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