Time to Say Goodbye: Part I

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As I am about to leave Rio tomorrow, I have written this as my thank you letter to all my peoples who have shared this little adventure with me, if you read this expecting more of my full-on slap you in the face form of gangsta shit then perhaps wait for the next one.

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Three months ago if someone had mentioned wrestling and it did not involve the Macho Man Randy Savage then I would have had no interest in it. To me wrestling was always too aggressive and the shit kind of hurts too, I was all about that gentle art business, pulling guard and gracefully sweeping cats with perfectly formed technique. I had managed five years without learning the takedown game, which in itself is impressive given that I was forced to learn and rep takedowns every week, of which I managed to retain nada.

My homie, former collegiate wrestler and pro MMA fighter Torryn Heffelfinger is the friendliest, mild mannered, likeable, compete bastard that I have ever had the pleasure of befriending. Upon realising that it is actually better to play Jiu-Jitsu from on top, I went to dude looking for guidance. Over the last twelve weeks he has broken down his system of wrestling that he modified to work in the Gi. Dude has honesty got me thinking about my whole game differently, I am even starting to come round to the idea that guard pulling is for pussies. I was involved in a conversation when I first arrived in Rio where he explained that playing guard was just one big scramble, I assumed he had been dropped on his swede one to many times in the wrestling room. However, I now fully subscribe to this theory, you are never going to sweep someone who is equally good, picture perfectly, you have to fight like crazy to get on top. While this is very much a work in progress and I still very much suck ass, I just hope one day to be a bastard too.

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Living in the Connection Rio gaff for six months enabled me to learn absolutely no Portuguese BUT I did meet some awesome people. One of the most elusive and enigmatic cats I’ve ever met in my life was the homie Nabas. Within less than 24 hours of landing in Brazil this kid nearly had me arrested. The police rolled up on us automatic weapons drawn and accused us of breaking the law. Whilst we may or may not have been guilty of said crime, they could find no evidence to support their claim. After what was an excruciatingly lengthy period of time whilst Nabas explained in his rudimentary at best Portuguese that we had done nothing wrong. My mind was awash with images of being thrown in a medieval cell and being penetrated from all angles before being deported. Fortunately the police dudes seemed satisfied after helping themselves to fifty reals from my wallet, they offered us both handshakes before heading out looking for more gringos to extort!

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I loved living in the Connection Rio gaff, being around so many like minded cats to drill techniques and talk Jiu-Jitsu all-day, everyday. But after about 4 months I was starting to go insane by being constantly surrounded by twenty odd stinky ass dudes, I kept my sanity in those last couple of months due to my pro-wrestling loving homie John Lamb. My passion for 88-94 WWF and his intimate knowledge of the 95-01 era and our joint appreciation of mid 2000s independent promotions meant we would happy sit and watch hours of rasslin’ together daily. We did a run of ECW PPVs, smashed the WWF attitude era, watched the TLC matches repeatedly and covered 1995 WCW. Although I will struggle to forgive the homie for inflicting me with Hulk Hogan vs. The Giant in a monster truck battle. At first people mocked us for our kick-ass hobby but eventually we gained our own crew, deep down everyone really knows that pro-wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu make the perfect tag team. Whilst I was spending four hours a day traveling back and forth to train at Terere’s this dedicated ass dude was sometimes spending up to six hours a day on the bus to travel to GF Team. Once at GF Team the fun really started for him, after no hint of a warm up he would have to roll a minimum of ten rounds with some of the best guys in the world including the world’s most terrifying human being Rodolfo Viera!

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My goal of becoming completely fluent in Portuguese over these twelve months had not gone entirely according to plan. I have found myself in a whole host of situations where it was absolutely necessary to understand the words that are coming out of people’s mouths. I have been super lucky to have met the homie Nico. This chick has the dopest superpower, the ability to learn languages quicker than is humanly possible, what kind of person can pick up a language in two weeks? My Brazilian experience would have been incredibly more difficult if it was not for her, from hospital visits, to sorting shit at the bank, getting a CPF number, helping me move into the favela, translating techniques for me at the academy and a whole host of other things. As well as speaking the best part of four languages my homegirl is on some next level inspiration business. She left her home in The United States and comfy teaching position to move to Rio indefinitely and chase a career as a pro-fighter training with Junior Dos Santos, Jose Aldo and more of the deadliest cats in the world at Nova Uniao. This dream even led her to make the soul destroying decision to turn down a promotion to blue belt from Mestre Terere so the Gods of Jiu-Jitsu politics wouldn’t smite her down at her chosen club.

In addition to training full-time and working as official translator for Terere, she spends her ‘free-time’ doing volunteer work in the social project for children of the favela to train Jiu-Jitsu. She manages to hustle sponsorships which ensure that all the kids have a kimono to train in as well as making sure that they can all compete in Rio’s BJJ competitions. Many of these children due to their impoverished home circumstances come to training hungry, she has even found sponsorship to ensure a there is a food programme for them so they all get something to eat whilst at the academy.

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This was going to be a long ass blog so there is a part 2 coming tomorrow…

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