Gracie Tijuca-filling in the cracks...

I know it's silly to get nervous about training at a new academy, but I do. Regardless of how many schools I've trained at over the years throughout the States, when I am the "new kid in school", I still get a bit anxious about my first day of class like a 5 year old kid.

I'd been corresponding with Vini Aieta of Gracie Tijuca and Francis of Rio Sports Tours for a few months. So, when I walked in the door I was greeted with warm smiles and kisses on each cheek. My first day of class was part of the Rio Sports Tours Vini Aieta's Jiu Jitsu camp. We went over 2-3 different techniques and then it was time for "training" (rolling). Training consists of 4-5 x 6-7 minute rounds with a different partners each round. I especially thankful for the one-on-one advice and feedback from Vini and Francis who are both black belts. Since majority of the students in this class spoke English, it was one of the only classes I took at Gracie Tijuca that was taught entirely in English.

Even though I don't speak Brazilian Portuguese and have a very limited understanding of it, I didn't find it that difficult to take the Jiu Jitsu classes. I had to pay especially close attention to the tiniest of details that the instructor demonstrated physically. This was not as hard as it may seem since I am a visual learner anyway. Vini has excellent English and would always ask me after instruction if I understood. If I was doing something wrong or didn't understand, he would advise me in English on what I was missing and how to do it right.

A few of his classes were taught by one of his black belts who spoke very little English. Although we had a language barrier, we were able to understand each other enough to get the concepts across. One of my goals the next time I am in Brazil is to be able to understand and speak more Brazilian Portuguese.

Training at Gracie Tijuca was like I died and went to Jiu Jitsu heaven. I can understand why Gracie Tijuca has produced such amazing talent. The Quality of training is top notch. The Jiu Jitsu here is pure and so many of the tiny details are emphasized to make training smooth and fluid. I don't think that I've ever rolled with so many brown and black belts ever. Training here made me even more aware of the cracks in my game and provided me with the tools I need to fill in some of those areas. If only two weeks of training can make me feel like I am getting better each class, I can only imagine how much an impact a few months to a year would have on my progression.

Truth be told, I'd been feeling a bit stuck lately in Jiu Jitsu prior to my trip. Perhaps training somewhere new was the medicine I needed. I feel like I've learned a lot in a short period of time, perhaps that is because I really had to pay attention to all the little details that makes a world of difference. I've left Brazil with a renewed outlook on Jiu Jitsu and hungry to get back on the mats and learn. My training at Gracie Tijuca also gave me a fresh new outlook at my goals and what I intend to give back to the community. Winning championship metals is still on my list of things to accomplish, but it is how I win them and what I learn that matters more. I want to be the best I can be using the purest of Jiu Jitsu. I want to get my self defense techniques down, and maybe, but not immediately, I'd like to start working with and teaching children's classes.

It really meant a lot to me when Vini's wife and daughter came to watch one class and his wife told me ,"I really like how you represent women in Jiu Jitsu." It meant a lot coming from her and I like to think it means I am doing something right.

Of all the places I've trained, Gracie Tijuca has been one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. Vini and his students are amazing people. They made me feel right at home. They were all extremely supportive, friendly and helpful. I feel so very grateful that I've had the opportunity to train with them. I want to thank Vini, Rio Sports Tours and the students of Gracie Tijuca with all my heart for everything they did for me. It was really hard to say goodbye to Vini and his students. I must have looked like I was going to cry because Vini told me, "Don't cry, you'll be back!". Yes, I soon as I can!


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